By Annie Loewen, Communications Intern
When I tell people I’m an intern for San Mateo County Transit District, I’m always asked what I do since most people don’t know what goes on at a public transportation agency. So I answer them:
“I’m the Communications Intern. I help out with the Peninsula Moves! blog, an internal employee newsletter, make flyers, draft news releases, create social media content, assist with outreach and work behind the scenes on our monthly promotional ‘Gettin’ To The Thing!’ video. Over the course of this internship, I’ve operated a boom mic, been on camera, jumped around in a hardhat for a safety video with MythBusters’ Kari Byron, helped film a dog on a green screen, gave a presentation to the Executive Team, caught a ride in our new articulated bus, toured bus and train maintenance facilities and crushed soda cans with a sledgehammer. That about sums it up.”
I’d never considered a career in public transportation prior to this internship, as I’ve been determined to work in the sports industry since high school. I happened to meet my future supervisor Elaine Tran at the career fair at Santa Clara University. As we talked, I realized that this internship would be the perfect opportunity to put what I was learning in class into practice. I also already felt welcomed thanks to Elaine’s warmth and friendliness from our brief conversation. I applied quickly thereafter.
After my first day, I realized that the District is a big family. My supervisor and other team members took a genuine interest in me and provided support whenever I needed it. People smile at one another down the hallways, and I got to meet employees from other departments, board members and executives who were willing and happy to talk to me. I felt comfortable here, and I was never afraid to ask for help. My team also made sure to include me in on projects outside my work plan just so I could get experience in various areas of communications, which means a lot to someone who is trying to build up her resume.
Elaine made sure I knew exactly what I needed to do for work, and always took the time to explain the different departments and inner workings of the District. She took me under her wing throughout the internship, and always remained supportive. She helped me feel confident in my work, even if I was doing something I’d never done before. I learned a lot from her, and I couldn’t be more grateful that I happened to run into her at the career fair. I also have to thank Elaine for keeping me well-fed throughout this summer as she introduced me to various delicious eateries around San Carlos.
My supervisor and the Communications team never treated me like an intern in the traditional or stereotypical sense. They gave me real work that was seen both internally by employees and our customer base. I was never stuck making copies for people, and the mere thought of me doing a coffee run for my supervisor visibly shocked them. The internship program as a whole provided lots of opportunities for growth as the HR department included forums, a Q & A session with the executives, tours of our maintenance facilities and even the opportunity to present our work to the executives at the District.
My fellow interns were awesome, too – the group of us grew closer as the program went on, and I was lucky to be able to work with most of them for August’s ‘Gettin’ To The Thing!’ video. We went out to dinners, rode the train, went to a Giants game (and they won, which made me very happy) and worked on projects together. Marina Plume, the Marketing Intern, and I worked closely throughout our internship. Together, we conducted outreach, redesigned the SamTrans Youth webpage and assisted with filming. I’m lucky to have had her by my side this summer (both figuratively and literally since we sat next to each other) as we worked well together and accomplished many tasks, while having fun at the same time. I met many great fellow interns from around the country and world who I never would have known, and I look forward to seeing the positive change they will bring to the transportation industry in their future careers.
The biggest takeaway from this internship, however, was the importance and impact of the work that the District is doing. The public sector is often thankless work (as I found out, Parks and Recreation is pretty accurate). It’s difficult to always make everyone happy, and as employees, that sometimes translates into having tough work days. But it was really rewarding to be out in the field and be a tiny part in helping to see the payoff of many District employees’ hard work and steadfast commitment to making our services better for the public.
I helped distribute the “Ride with Pride” stickers on the extra special service trains to San Francisco’ s Pride parade, which were packed with parade attendees who happily put their stickers on their clothing, water bottles, bags, and even phones. This month, I did outreach for our Try Transit program where SamTrans gave community college students free bus passes for two weeks. As a fellow college student, I have come to understand the importance and excitement around the word “free,” and many students expressed their gratitude for free transportation. I also assisted with the SamTrans booth at Facebook Festivals, where we brought our 40’ Battery Electric Bus to promote our new buses and the fact that we will be going all electric by 2030. We organized a scavenger hunt on the bus so kids could learn all about our buses, while their parents were happy to hear about our sustainability goals. I also was able to ride some of the first trips on the new FCX route. While there, lots of riders were excited for this convenient route and a few gave valuable feedback. It felt very rewarding to be a small part in the implementation of these programs, and I truly believe the District is headed in a positive direction.
In summary, I cannot thank the San Mateo County Transit District for one of my most fun jobs to date. I want to give a huge thank you to the HR Department and everyone I worked closely with this summer, especially Elaine, Tasha, Alex, Dan, Conan, Jeremy, Haroon, Christina and Marina – it was a great ride!