Business Center

The stories that stay with you: A CDOT Internship

By: Nathanial Kern, Human Resources Intern

July 24, 2019

Nate Kern

“It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered…Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something.” –Samwise Gamgee (Lord of the Rings)

The quote above, I believe best describes my internship experience with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). Sure, it has been a short journey, only 5 months, but it has given me invaluable experiences that I did not know I had to gain.

When I first started this internship, there were many times I wanted to turn back, like when I had to complete data analysis and come up with a “new” way of showing different data for the five Regions of CDOT based on the exit survey. I struggled. I was not sure if I was going to make it. However, I believed in what CDOT was doing so I pushed forward, creating new data analytics in the form of commentary analysis.

Another challenging opportunity arose soon after the CDOT regions project when I was given the opportunity to develop the new exit survey that is now sent out to all of CDOT. Once again, I had to complete a large scale project within a system I had never used before. But, by teaching myself google surveys and how to link questions I was able to develop a tailored survey with my HR director that is now used throughout CDOT.

However, the most challenging assignment was when I was brought in on the RISE team. There, I really had the opportunity to figure out what the “story” was that CDOT wanted to tell to high school students and other underrepresented groups at CDOT. I was able to work between the Central 70 project team, the Civil Rights unit, maintenance, and human resources to develop a plan to help build the skills for these groups of individuals in transportation construction. This was by far my greatest achievement while at CDOT.

It was the work on these two projects among others that in these last 5 months made me realize that the quote above makes so much sense here. What we do here at CDOT is as much about the stories we create as it is the choices we make. In each of the cases above, there was a “story” developing, something that would impact how people would view CDOT. These views were guided by the choices we made on the above projects and how those projects were executed. However, the passion and care brought by the people involved in these projects beyond just my own involvement demonstrated that there is something special going on here. Sometimes the question asked during conversations on the above projects was will we turn back or will we keep moving forward with our actions because of our dedication to CDOT’s mission.

The CDOT internships are about the stories and connections you make. You must ask yourself what you want out of your internship and define the story you want to tell, in one hand, while considering the impact your decisions and choices will have on the lives of your fellow Coloradans. The people you work with have stories, your projects have stories, that one time you really flubbed up the meeting has a story, and each of those stories are opportunities for you as an intern to figure out what you want out of this internship, and how you are going to get there.

Of course, you will not always have the answer. For example, I was given a survey with data from an outside agency and asked by my superiors in human resources to identify areas of improvement surrounding women in the workplace. It was a very nerve racking project because there was not a guide and I had to figure it out from the ground up. But that is the joy of working here; that is the fun, awesomeness that is being an intern. Yes, you may not always make the best choices or have the right answers, but you will have the opportunity to figure things out.

After having worked in the private sector for many years before starting this internship, I can tell you first hand that there are awesome things going on here. You have the opportunity to develop innovative solutions to problems, figure out how to best execute new ideas, and, most importantly, enjoy the “story” you create.

That is what I am going to take from my intern experience with CDOT as I move into my next role as a Human Resources Employee Relations Specialist, with the Kansas Department of Revenue. So, to all you interns starting or finishing your story, good luck, and I wish you to have success in your future endeavors.

How Do I Hire Interns?

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