Business Center

Intern Success Story: Vanessa Hamm

By: Jean Anselmi, Process Improvement Intern

July 16, 2019

Neal, Alex, Chavirat

For many interns, a position at the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is the beginning of a career. However, for former intern Vanessa Hamm, her internship back in October of 2015 was the start of a new path in her journey to becoming the successful businesswoman and entrepreneur that she is today. CDOT provided her with direct change management experience, something she describes as: “Fantastic exposure to a really well-operating change agent network . . . that continues to be the example that I use in further client work of how effective a change agent network can be.”

Bringing a Different Perspective

Vanessa studied Sustainable Business Development at Colorado State University, which led her to work all over the world before setting foot in CDOT. She worked with multiple governments, gaining experience as a federal contractor here in the United States and working in New Zealand with the government to develop a Disaster Response Program. From there, she went to work for Medibank, a private health insurance in Australia. Despite the varied geographical locations of her positions, they all involved building programs and improving processes for organizations and customers.

She returned to the United States in 2015 and began pursuing a Master’s in Industrial and Organizational Psychology; “I was looking at different opportunities to look more into [organizational] health and culture from a global perspective and so I wanted to just get as much experience in change management as possible.” CDOT’s internship was the perfect opportunity. Her prior government experience made her curious about what it was like to work in state government, and she could tell from the start that Gary Vansuch and his team were passionate about what they did.

Challenges

Vanessa was not the typical intern due to her extensive background and professional experience. When asked about the challenges she faced during her time with CDOT, she said it was, “Very challenging to not be able to . . . step into a more active role and have more ownership of things.” Because CDOT is a state agency, “There were some limitations in the role in terms of what we could do and the type of changes that we could affect, the type of impact that we could have.” However, Michelle Malloy and everyone on the team at the time worked hard to do as much as they could within those limitations, and, “We started to see that it paid dividends while I was there.”

Advice: Leaving a Legacy

When asked about advice she would give to current and future interns of CDOT, Vanessa stressed the importance of networking strategically in areas that bring you joy and cultivate active listening. She also recommended asking yourself: “What's the legacy that you're going to leave here? What’s important to you personally that you want to contribute back?”

Vanessa has certainly left her own legacy at CDOT. She and another intern Amanda Gonzales began Brainwave, an opportunity for interns to teach their peers unique skills that they’re passionate about. Her name is also one that often comes up in conversations with team leadership; the way their faces light up even after all these years shows the positive impact Vanessa had at CDOT.

Where is she now?

One of the most valuable things CDOT gave Vanessa was her Prosci certification, which she describes as the “gold standard” in change management. This certification, and her active LinkedIn profile lead to her being recruited for a change management position in Florida. From there, she moved to Philadelphia to pursue her own business, Accendi Solutions.

Today she is working for Genpact, a global company that, “Focusses on artificial intelligence, particularly process reengineering.” Her role is as the Senior Manager for Organizational Change Management on the Americas team. Her time at CDOT directly influenced her path to her current position, and her experience with CDOT is something she fondly speaks to this day.

How Do I Hire Interns?

Learn about how to utilize CDOT’s internship program in your division by referencing the CDOT Collegiate Internship Handbook.