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An intern’s guide to City Light – a look back with the 2021 cohort

Summer is in full swing. That means City Light has welcomed a new cohort of enthusiastic, talented and curious interns.  

In late June, 30 new college interns joined City Light, stepping into a wide range of roles across the utility, from building electrification to natural resources, project management, engineering, customer experience and so much more. Seattle City Light has one of the most extensive internship programs in the City. The program supports the City Light Strategic Plan by helping to attract and train a high-performance utility workforce. The interns will learn valuable skills designed to enhance their education.

As we welcome this new group of interns to the utility, it’s also a good time to reflect on what the past cohort experienced at City Light. While most interns who came onboard last year are now embarking on new chapters, a handful of interns will continue their journey with the utility.

Communications Intern Isobel Powell
Communications Intern Isobel Powell

I was one of 39 interns in the 2021-2022 cycle. Navigating a new position in an ongoing and ever-changing pandemic was a unique experience. Many of us began our internships fully remote, while others worked in the field from the start. The hybrid work environment didn’t deter City Light Internship Coordinator Lindsay Ohab from developing opportunities for interns to connect with each other and other work groups across the utility and departments at the City.

The first few months featured casual virtual meetups and networking sessions for interns to chat and get acquainted with the utility. One of my personal highlights was attending the Professional Engagement Series. City Light’s leaders led virtual sessions with a focus on leadership skills, the City’s Race and Social Justice Initiative, the value of transferable skills, and the future of innovation at the utility. To round out the summer, interns participated in an Intern Showcase, which featured virtual portfolios that included project descriptions, reflection papers, and more.

Over the past few months, as the world began to open back up, my internship experience expanded. As the Communications Division intern, I get to work across the team on both internal and external communications projects. The experience has been rich and fulfilling. I’ve helped build a supportive and engaging work environment by managing our employee spotlight profiles and Photo of the Week series. I’ve attended and supported some of City Light’s first in-person public events since the pandemic began.

Transitioning into a hybrid work environment meant that I was finally able to meet and collaborate with my team in an office atmosphere. The remote-ness and uncertainty of starting an internship during a pandemic was daunting, but after a year at City Light, I have developed meaningful skills, experience, and memories that are unmatched!

I was curious about the experiences of my fellow interns. So I reached out to a couple members of the 2021-2022 intern group and invited them to share their experiences and talk about their roles, which were very different from mine – structural engineering and internal accounting.

Structural Engineering Intern Kevin Hernandez
Structural Engineering Intern Kevin Hernandez

Structural Engineering Intern Kevin Hernandez jumped into his projects right from the start. “My favorite project that I worked on during my internship would have to be the seismic evaluation and upgrade of the Union Substation Control Building. This project was assigned to me shortly after starting,” Kevin explained. “One of my primary tasks was building a 3D linear dynamic model to subject the building to earthquake accelerations consistent with the location and geology of the site. This was to predict the expected demands on the structural system.”

The most rewarding part of Kevin’s internship was working alongside his team. “Having the opportunity to work closely and learn from a group of exceedingly talented engineers and other professionals throughout my internship has been the most enriching. I have been fortunate to receive mentorship and guidance in both my practical knowledge and professional development,” Kevin said.

While working with structural analysis programs, he also built valuable communication skills. “Having the privilege of learning the basics early in my career puts me in a position to further my skills and understanding much more efficiently down the line. I’m grateful to have had plenty of time spent as an intern preparing technical documents which encouraged me to consider the intended audience. I also strengthened my communication skills daily through a mixture of mediums, all of which have helped further my comfort level and skill in speaking publicly as well as developing proper habits and etiquette in communicating.”

General Accounting Intern Nhi Nguyen
General Accounting Intern Nhi Nguyen

General Accounting Intern Nhi Nguyen recounted her most memorable experience – assisting her team members during audit season!

“This experience provided me with plenty of opportunities to learn, grow and develop. I was happy that my position allowed me to help them through their busy period,” Nhi said. “I found that I improved my communication and teamwork skills every day that I worked with my team. I learned the importance of using concise language in explaining my work and paying close attention to the details of my projects while ensuring consistency and accuracy. This internship was also a great opportunity to learn how to prioritize tasks and effectively manage my workload.”

I asked Kevin and Nhi what advice they have for this year’s cohort of interns. They shared these tips to make the most of an internship.

“Seize this opportunity and be relentless in your pursuit to learn and grow as both an individual and as a professional,” Kevin said. “As an intern, you will be faced with challenging and unique tasks that take you out of your comfort zone, but you will be surrounded by a team of highly capable professionals willing to provide clarity and guidance throughout your journey. Above all else, remember to have fun and explore your passions!”

Nhi added, “Don’t hesitate to ask questions. This not only helped me learn more, but also allowed me to develop my communication and interaction skills. Make sure you are willing to learn and take the initiative. Be ready to gain experience from the smallest exercises. Those things will help you later. And lastly, be yourself!”

I couldn’t agree more with my fellow interns. As both Kevin and Nhi demonstrated, the role of a City Light intern is full of real-world experience and plenty of learning opportunities. I encourage new interns to pursue all the openings that come their way, whether that be a challenging project, a networking opportunity, or a professional training that just sounds interesting.

Good luck to the utility’s next wave of future leaders!