Business Center

Internships: Opening Doors to Opportunity

By: Ginger Kloska, Project Management Intern

March 10, 2020

King

Mike King started his internship in the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Multimodal Planning Branch in May of 2013. In January 2014, he was offered a permanent position in the same branch. Today, he is the Assistant Director for Electrification and Energy in the Office of Innovative Mobility, where he works on projects related to electric vehicles, energy, and alternative fuels.

More than an Internship

When Mike started his internship at CDOT, he was finishing up his graduate program at the University of Denver. Like many students near graduation, he was searching for a job relating to his degree in International Development with a focus on Sustainable Urban Development. At the time, a majority of the internationally-focused jobs were on the east coast or overseas. Yet, Mike had fallen in love with Colorado and aimed his job search to stay in the state. This led him to look for public sector positions with organizations including the City and County of Denver, Denver Regional Council of Governments, and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

He applied to an internship in transportation planning with CDOT. The timing was perfect since his onboarding lined up with a major effort in Multimodal Planning, the 2040 Statewide Transportation Plan. During his internship, Mike worked hands-on and played some important planning roles. Mike explained that he learned valuable skills through this approach. For him, being entrusted into such an important project right away was the best way to learn.

Opening Doors

The internship led Mike to his position today. Mike explained his most impactful project saying, “Jeff Sudmeier, who was at the time the head of the branch, asked if anybody was interested in helping to manage some CMAQ grants, which is the federal program for Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement. The reason I put my hand up at that time was because it was related to alternative fuels, so I was interested in that and I said, ‘I’ll get involved. I’ll help out.’ In hindsight, that was a really critical moment, but at the time it was just my approach to volunteer for anything because I could learn from it. In particular, I wanted to be involved in alternative fuels because I knew that it was what I was interested in long-term. Over the years, I think a lot of my role in Alternative Fuels and Electrification and all the things that I do now stemmed from the fact that I was willing to dive into it and learn. At the time, it wasn’t really a big part of what CDOT was doing, but over time I became the person that knew a lot about it. As the importance of the field has grown over the years, my role has grown with it because now there’s more to do and I’m the person that’s been doing it the longest within the Department. So when there’s a project, because I put my hand up six years ago, people come to me today and say ‘you’re the person that knows all about this.’”

Advice for Other Interns

Mike’s advice for other interns is to volunteer for as many opportunities as you can. He explains, “For good or for ill, a lot of your career can be defined by the areas that you already have experience in, so it’s beneficial to dip your toes in as many things as you can early on. It will give you more options down the road since you can build on those initial experiences and increase your focus on the areas that are most interesting to you without getting locked into one niche that you are good at but might not be your passion.”

How Do I Hire Interns?

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

Colorado: The Official State Web Portal