Business Center

Intern Success Story: Pernilla Paquette

By Niles Koenigsberg, Process Improvement Intern
Posted: May 1st, 2018

Pernilla Paquette

Pernilla Paquette
Brand Asset Manager, Centura Health

Coming into the Office of Process Improvement (OPI) as an intern might scare some people, but Pernilla Paquette was never afraid. Moving from her native country of Sweden to America had already toughened her up and made her realize she could handle anything. While working as a full-time intern for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Paquette was simultaneously finishing her 4th degree: her Masters of Business Administration at the University of Colorado Denver. Despite all her years in school, she never gave up her passion for learning, even as a Process Improvement Intern.

A Passion for Tourism, and then Healthcare

Coming from Sweden’s Lund University with a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Social Anthropology, Paquette had an interest in anthropological tourism. “It wasn’t until I moved [here] that I realized that role doesn’t really exist,” Paquette stated. She came to Hawaii, where she not only met her future husband, but she studied Business Administration and Hospitality. Together, they moved to Colorado right before the Recession hit. It was around this time that Paquette realized she wanted to change her career. “I felt underutilized, I wanted to be stimulated, and to give more to my work.” She shifted her focus towards healthcare and, since Lean methodology was gaining momentum in healthcare, Paquette saw the process improvement internship with CDOT as the right place to start.

Internship Highlights

Every intern is different, and every intern that leaves the OPI knows how much they have accomplished. Paquette remembers how her larger projects inspired her future career direction and how the little tasks prepared her for that career. In her largest key project, Paquette examined the processes of how CDOT encumbered funds. She spent an enormous amount of effort tracking employees and processes, from beginning to end, just to understand how the funds at CDOT flowed. Paquette recalls how her encumbrance project made her feel particularly interested in project management, but “the key takeaway was to not be scared of big scary problems.”

Paquette found the leadership of the OPI director, Gary Vansuch, to be of paramount importance. Thanks to his mentorship, Paquette learned the ins-and-outs of Lean concepts and methodology. Reflecting sentimentally, she greatly values how the experience helped her cultivate the soft skills necessary for her role at the time, and for her future career.

Furthermore, Paquette reflects on the career opportunities that the internship provided for her. She was given the chance to conduct informational interviews with outside organizations, take courses provided by other public sector businesses, and build the connections necessary for her next job. Fortunately, CDOT’s internship helped her land her next internship role at Centura Health. The tremendous learning opportunity worked out well as Paquette is now the Brand Asset Manager for Centura Health.

Brave Experience

When Paquette reflects upon her internship with the OPI, she remembers the value of the projects, the people, and the little details, but she had one key takeaway from the entire experience. “The courage,” Paquette said, “the experience building courage.” Coming from a background in hospitality, Paquette quickly realized how difficult it would be to break into the healthcare industry. However, the courageous effort that Paquette poured into her projects at CDOT helped her understand the value of taking risks and why she should put herself into challenging roles.