On to Bigger and Better Things

August 2, 2011 Leave a comment

So Friday was the last day of the internship. My coworkers threw a birthday (for people born in July)/temps/interns party last week. Plus, they gave me a card and everyone signed it! I truly am grateful to have had the experience of interning at the Department of Transportation.

But now it’s time to take what I learned and use it for bigger and better things. And I’m starting NOW. Tomorrow, I leave to go to Philadelphia for the National Association of Black Journalists convention. It’s my first time going, so I’m sort of nervous, but I’m excited too. I’m sure all will work out for the best.

After that, it’s back to Chapel Hill. I’m excited to see what I’m going to do this year. I start my major (Journalism, Electronic Communication sequence) this year, and I know great things are ahead. Talk to you soon!

-John

All Things Must Come to an End

I don’t like to say that all good things must come to an end. Although it’s an old cliché, I hate it because it makes it like bad things never end (although sometimes it feels like they never do). Plus, saying that all good things must come to an end sounds so final. So, I’m saying “All things must come to an end.” And this internship is no different.

Today is the first day of the last week of my time here at the North Carolina Department of Transportation. It’s bittersweet. I’ll be glad that I don’t have to eight to five it anymore…well…for a while. But I’ve truly loved my time here. I’ve gotten to know some awesome people, improve my crafts, see my work in print, and have more fun than I EVER thought I would have in an office (a government office at that).

They say that an internship is key for getting a job. And I have to say, I feel really prepared for a job in government public relations (if that’s where I’m led). Granted, I don’t know everything there is to know about getting a job in government public relations, but I’ve learned a whole lot.

There isn’t too much new that happened. However, I did get to use the video camera! I shot an episode of NCDOT Now, the weekly broadcast from the department about all things transportation. I wrote the script for it as usual. But this time, I got to shoot the show. I didn’t edit it, but that’s okay. If you want to watch it, click here. Also, I had to go to the airport to shoot middle school kids that were touring the National Guard station there. I shot three interviews. They turned out pretty well from what I was able to hear and see.

Also, I went to the NCAGIO (pronouced na-ka-gee-o by the people in the office) meeting for this month. NCAGIO stands for North Carolina Association of Government Information Officers. The communications coordinator for Wake County Public Schools spoke about crisis communication. His speech was centered on the whole school reassignment controversy here in Raleigh. It’s nice to see how there’s an organization to help government information officers do their jobs even better.

But I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing these last few days. I already wrote a press release. I’m sure I’ll write a few more of those. I have to write my last NCDOT Now script. But I don’t know what else will be thrown my way this week. But I’m going to take it one day at a time, and be grateful for the time I’ve had here.

You’re a Part of the IMAP Family Now

Happy 4th of July!! Including this week, I have only four more weeks at the Department of Transportation. As I’ve said over and over, the experience has been invaluable. Well, let me jump straight into this post.

This past Thursday, I went to Winston-Salem to do a ride along with IMAP (or Incident Motorist Assistance Patrol). I was nervous because I didn’t know how long I’d have to be there. I was scared they’d try to keep me there until 9:00 at night (they would have had I not told them I wanted to be on the road at around six). I arrived at around noon and went to get something to eat.

When I arrived at the IMAP office, I was welcomed just like I was already a part of the group of IMAP drivers. The shift leader introduced himself first and then the driver with whom I spoke a few weeks ago. They were telling me some preliminary information as I shoved a foot-long from Subway down my throat. Then it was time to get to work…well, for them. For me, it was time to pull out my pen and paper.

Before I walked with the shift leader to his truck, he told me in a fairly jolly way that there were no rules to his truck. But then his tone changed to a more serious one. He said to me firmly, “But if I tell you to stay in the truck, stay in the truck.” It sort of intimidated me, but then I began to wonder if were there other folks that rode with him that didn’t follow his directions.

He told me that I was going to get out of the truck to get the full experience of being on the side of the interstate (IMAP only patrols interstates and interstate-styled highways in North Carolina). I was sort of nervous while I prayed that there wouldn’t be any massive accidents that would keep us on the side of the road for a long time.

But our trip started. The shift leader and I talked and assisted people and talked some more. The main thing he, and every other driver with whom I spoke, brought up was the satisfaction of the job. When IMAP drivers assist people, it’s usually when they are in distress and stranded on the side of a highway. So I’m sure those people are happy once they get the help they need.

I actually got on the side of the road (as the shift leader promised me)….twice. In both cases, I was with the driver I first interviewed, not the shift leader. In both cases, the car owners had flat tires. But there was only one case in which the driver actually changed the tire. In that instance, it was scary having cars zooming by me at over 70 miles per hour. Although I was trying to watch what the driver was doing as he changed a tire, my eyes stayed glued on traffic. Every time a car came past us in the right lane, I stepped toward the front of the car so I could run to the guard rail if need be.

Thankfully, no cars went astray.

The whole experience was an eye-opening one. The job of an IMAP driver is truly dangerous. But everyone we met was truly grateful for them.

I remember making a comment to the shift leader before we got in the  about how I would do my best not to intrude while I was in the IMAP trucks. He said, “Oh don’t worry about that. You’re a part of the IMAP family now.” I have to say I was amazed at how kind they were to me. I guess I thought that since they were men who have to work in jobs in which they have to “get their hands dirty”, they would be sort of gruff and short with me. But I got the complete opposite.

However, this trip presented me with a challenge. The drivers wanted me to take some of their suggestions and grievances about the IMAP program (not that they hate their jobs) and put them in the writings on which I’m working right now.  Since my job is essentially a public relations job, I can’t put it directly into my article or my press release. However, I know I need to let somebody know how they feel. Even if it doesn’t create change, the higher-ups can’t say they don’t know how the drivers feel. It’s a tightrope I’m going to have to walk, but I guess this is an example of the problem-solving skills needed in the professional world. I’m sure this whole situation will make for a nice interview answer in the not-do-distant future.

Check back for more updates and thanks for reading!

John Daniels, the NCDOT Spokesperson

So tomorrow makes five weeks since I’ve been on my internship. The half way point is here! So much has happened since I started. And I’ve learned so much. I’ve grown to love my office and the people in it. This week, a few happenings occurred.

First, I went to Winston-Salem again with my supervisor. This time, the other intern went with us (side note: I’m getting along with her great and we’re sharing our space really well). This time we went for a media availability. In essence, it’s a press conference without the whole air of drama, suspense, and scandal (think the opposite of Anthony Weiner). The media availability was to announce that construction was starting on a stretch of road near U.S. Highway 52 in the city.

We arrived, then two members of the local media showed up (the stations that were represented shall remain nameless in this post). My supervisor introduced her interns as if we were her children (our office really is much like a family, which I LOVE). And the media members started. They weren’t mean, but they were making snide comments about lowly being an intern is. The other intern said that one of the media members noted that he wished he had an intern to wash his work truck. I was really mad at that because I feel like interns should be valued as people who want to learn. In fact, I feel companies should be honored to have interns that want to work for them.

Seeing the actions of those two people really disappointed me and made me feel inadequate. But I guess that’s how the industry goes. However, I know I’ve been blessed in that my first internship has been one in which I’m respected.

This week also gave me my first media call! Here’s the explanation: When we issue a press release to the media, if any news outlets have any additional questions, they can call one of the public information officers and interview them. However, interns usually don’t take media calls because they don’t have the background knowledge of the department that employees have.

This week, smoke from a wildfire near the coast made its way to Raleigh. A newspaper in eastern North Carolina (which also will remain nameless) called wanting more information about a press release issued that told drivers to be careful while they drive in the smoke. Nobody in the office could figure out what other information there would be to add. So my supervisor’s supervisor let me take the media call.

I was SO nervous. I knew he was going to ask me some random question I couldn’t answer. But I called. He asked me the basic questions, which required me to reiterate the press release. That was easy enough. He probably just wanted a quote. But then he started asking extra questions about how the DOT would go about closing roads if needed. I couldn’t answer the question, but I was able to slyly get my supervisor’s supervisor on speakerphone to jump in and answer. The reporter didn’t seem to put off that I didn’t know the answer to his question. However, it then became evident that I was new to the department.

I was excited to see the article with a quote from me in the paper the next day…until I realized that we can’t view the paper online, and the department doesn’t subscribe to the paper. But I’ve been imagining seeing the article with a quote from me being labeled with something to the tune of, “said NCDOT spokesperson John Daniels.” We’ll see what happens.

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve updated you. But don’t worry, you haven’t missed much.

Welcome to “The Office”

I haven’t been writing much simply because much hasn’t happened lately. I’ve been writing press releases and doing research. But I’ve been busy. It’s nice to know that I have so many writing samples after only three weeks. I’ve written ten press releases, a speech, a welcome letter for an international conference, and I’m only writing more! I’m so grateful for what this internship is doing for my portfolio.

One new tidbit of news in my world is that I have a fellow intern in the office! When I started, I was the only one in the communications office. But a young lady from St. Augustine’s College started on Monday. It’s nice to have other young people in the office with me, considering how the majority of the office is over the age of 30. The only negative is that my cubicle space got cut in half to accommodate her. But it’s working out well and is seeming to be a “blessing in disguise.”

As I churn out press releases and other works of writing, I have random conversations with people in the office. And today was no different. I was talking to my supervisor’s supervisor about the Department of Transportation’s long term plan, called the 2040 Plan. It’s the department’s plan for what North Carolina’s transportation system will look like in the year 2040. Our office is working to get people to take a short survey on what they want to see out of the state transportation system. So if you live in North Carolina, click here to learn about the 2040 Plan and take the survey:

http://www.ncdot.gov/performance/reform/2040Plan/default.html

So while I was talking about that her, my coworkers decided to play a prank on me. When I left the computer, it was on Pandora. When I came back, it was on Forever21’s website. No problem. I just closed the window. But my desktop background was Forever21’s website too! My fellow intern told me she just came from the restroom and didn’t see the culprit (I knew better). Another coworker came up to me and “tried to figure out” who did it. But another coworker came up and was standing there listening. At the end she said to me, “Welcome to the office.”

And we have the title to this post. Though she didn’t put any emphasis on “the office,” my office really does remind me of the show. We have funny people, joking people, more sedate people and more. We don’t really have anyone who thinks they run everything though. Nevertheless, I love my office. I was afraid I would hate the office environment. But I got lucky.

Three weeks ago, i walked into the office nervous and a bit out of sorts. But now, I feel like a true member of the Communications Office at the North Carolina Department of Transportation. And even if I’m not, I’m being worked like one (which is GREAT!). If any other happenings occur, I’ll let you know. Talk to you soon.

John

Small to You, Big to Me

Temporary bridge and bents

Here is the bridge project. Pictured are the temporary bridge and some bents of the permanent bridges. Read the entry to understand more.

So this is the middle of my third week at the DOT. I’m truly liking it and it’s making me ponder going into this as a career after school. I was talking to one of my coworkers and he was saying that it’s easier to get into public relations (which is all being a public information officer is) than to get into reporting. I knew this already, but the reassurance was nice. It makes me feel that my journalism and mass communication degree isn’t for naught. He said that’s why he went to the “dark side.”

But as the time in my internship has passed, I’m really liking it. I’m doing a lot of writing that’s actually getting put into newspapers! Also, I wrote a welcome letter for a conference that’s taking place in Charlotte this month. The Secretary of Transportation read it and approved it! Though the people I work around probably don’t see things like this as big, I do. I guess because I’m not used to my writing being read by important people (aside from my teachers and professors) and by the general public.

Nevertheless, I got a nice lecture on the merits of customer service last week. I walked in to the customer service manager’s office, which happens to be in the communications office. Though I asked her a yes or no question, I ended up sitting with her for an hour as she gave me example after example of how being involved and empathetic toward people’s situations make happy customers and make a customer service representative’s job very easy. It seems that interacting with the public has been a huge theme of this internship. Since the DOT is a huge state government agency (possibly one of the largest in state government), it’s easy to be angry at the entire agency when things are wrong on the roads. But I’ve learned that the overarching purpose of the communications office is to put a face to the agency and to make people see that the people at the DOT are human too. They have emotions, they care, and they also make mistakes. And I have to say, the office, as a whole, does a good job. I’m glad to be a part of it. Even if it’s only for 10 (now less than eight) weeks.

Well Thursday, I went with my supervisor and the videographer to the Yadkin River outside of Winston-Salem. Interstate 85 crosses over the river in near Davidson County. But there’s a large curve that contributes to many traffic backups. So the DOT is building new bridges over the river to straighten out the bend. You can find more information on it here (if you choose): http://www.ncdot.org/projects/i85corridor/. While we were there, we walked on the temporary bridge built while the main bridges are built over the river. It’s really cool. And being on the temporary bridge being only feet from the bents (the T’s as I called them when I was young) that will carry thousands of cars was awesome to me.  Once again, this is something in which many may not see an importance. But I do. It’s an experience that most won’t have. I took pictures. When they’re posted to the DOT’s Flickr page, I’ll post the link. In the meantime, check out the picture at the top of this post.

Last piece: for the folks in western Wake County, if you didn’t know (like I didn’t know), tolls are coming to Interstate 540! Now when I brought this to my mother’s attention, she simply said, “I know.” But what she didn’t know is that if you plan on traveling down I-540 in the western part of the loop, you can buy a transponder and add money to it, like EZPass in the northeastern United States.

In closing, I plan on doing better updating you on what’s going on in the world of transportation and communication. Anyway, enjoy the rest of the week! Hump day’s tomorrow!

I Wrote My First Press Release!

Today concluded my first week of work. I have to admit waking up at 6:45 to be at work at eight in the morning and work until five in the afternoon is new. But it’s rewarding. I’ve learned so much this week. Everything from the parts of a bridge to how the DOT gets a press release on its website (more on that later). But most of all, I’m glad to be able to say that I’m making a difference in the daily commutes and travels of North Carolina citizens.

Let me start with yesterday. It was fairly uneventful day. I wrote the script for the script for the next webisode of the department’s short show, NCDOT Now {Youtube “ncdotcommunications” to see episodes}. When the episode premieres, I’ll give the link. Anyway, I was proud of what I did. The guy that shoots the show edited it and didn’t make too many edits. So I don’t think I did half bad for my first try.

I finished uploading pictures to the DOT’s Flickr site. Here’s the link to the set I uploaded:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ncdot/sets/72157626796229032/

In doing so, I also wrote the captions under each picture in the set. Although a fairly small task, it’s still nice to know that the whole state is looking at my work (the tagging, not the photography).

Today was a little more exciting, especially at the end. I did a bunch of research and phone calling today. I continued my research of ways to grow viewership of NCDOT Now. Also, the DOT has a mobile website. If you go to m.ncdot.gov on your cell phone, you get a really nice and simple website on your phone. You can check traffic updates, get information on rest areas and trains and a whole lot more. I started brainstorming ways to grow the number of hits to that site.

Doing so, I started watching Youtube videos from the department. They were really interesting. For example, I watched a video on a diverging diamond interchange. It’s a weird looking intersection in which traffic actually travels on the other side of the road! I can’t explain as well as the video, so watch it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HD-0QnUlLOQ&feature=channel_video_title

The video was REALLY interesting to me. It made me want to find ways to get the word out about what the DOT is doing. However, when the state is in a budget crunch, options are limited. However, I’ll continue to try my hardest to brainstorm.

As the day was beginning to wind down, I got an email on a road closure that’s to occur next week. The people needed a press release on it. Now I know what a press release is, but I hadn’t had to write one this week. I didn’t know how to write and publish one in the DOT’s format. And what made it worse is that my supervisor didn’t come to work. But I called her and she told me where I template was. And my co-workers helped me through it. So I wrote my first press release today! And I’m proud to say that it’s on the DOT’s website now! Here’s the link:

https://apps.dot.state.nc.us/pio/releases/details.aspx?r=4964

I texted my supervisor to tell her the good news and she said she liked that I took initiative. I just saw it as something that needed to be done. But either way, motorists in Davidson County will hear the news.

I have to say, it’s been a good week. I feel like I put in hard work, and I’m getting a lot out of it. If I’ve enjoyed myself this much in one week, it’s going to be exciting to see what’s going to happen in the next nine. I’ll keep you updated!

John