Thursday, November 21, 2013
When I started at the Alliance to Save Energy, I wasn't sure what I was getting in to. While I understood I would have the chance to work with some of the experts at the forefront of energy efficiency, the only things I knew for certain were that my office was in Washington, D.C. and that energy codes were some sort of energy saving rule applied to building construction. Honestly, I was just happy for the opportunity to be a part of the team.
Nevertheless, in just three months, I have learned more than I could've ever hoped for. I've gained new skills, met amazing people, and really been able to dig in to the topic of building codes.
I started out working with BCAP’s (Building Code Assistance Project) social media team. I was in charge of finding energy code related clips and posting them to Twitter and Facebook. This was a good place to start considering that my primary job on Capitol Hill was to assist the press secretary in social media and press clips. I felt at home there, and the instant immersion was a great way to get my footing in the organization and field.
While the procedure of my first couple days was easy, reading and trying to understand all the content articles covered remained a doozy. I was new to the organization, and didn’t know what a building code was (which I’ll get to in the next paragraph), so it was kind of like reading another language.
Then, two team BCAP staff members took pity on my confused looks and gave me “the run-down.” This helped me contextualize what BCAP was and how energy codes played a role in everything… or “the who, what, where, when and why” as they called it. This was extremely helpful to me and ensured my continual progress with the Alliance. I knew nothing about building codes when I started the job and this new information was a great foundation to build on (pun intended!).
Next up, was my first team meeting. I was impressed with the Alliance’s efficient team communications. When I worked in a congressional office we had team meetings once a month which seemed normal at the time but in retrospect seems pretty inefficient. The weekly nature of these meetings got everyone on the same page and allowed issues to be worked out more quickly and in a team-environment.
For the past month, I’ve spent a majority of my time working with one of the staff members on updating an energy code related report. Most of the data that needed to be collected for this report required information from the 2000 and 2010 consensus data. Almost a day after I had gotten my assignment, the government shutdown took effect.
You may be asking yourself, “what does that government shutdown have to do with the report assignment?” Well, while the Alliance the Save Energy is not a government institution, the websites that have all the consensus data are. Because of the shutdown, I had to get resourceful and find the information through other channels. It was an adventure in research that I will never forget. Trying to navigate the web of pages on the internet was difficult, and often, ended in roadblocks erected by the government. Coincidentally, the day I finished collecting the census data, the government shutdown ended and all the websites I needed came back online. A lesson in patience and perseverance if ever there was one!
All in all this internship has taught me many things about how to make a difference—no matter what size. It has taught me to ask questions, how to do research when you get resistance at every turn, how to make the best of bad situation (gov’t shutdown), and of course, how to find a place of my own that meets every necessary energy code. I look forward to using the lessons I have learned, and the skills I have acquired in my career. I am indebted to the Alliance for putting time and effort into this internship project and I am proud to have this experience under my belt. They are good people fighting for a great cause, and I am lucky to have had the chance to work with them.