Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Uhh, what's an "offset"?

When I initially read the internship listing on AU's CareerWeb, the ad had mentioned "reporting annually to Congress on offsets in defense trade". And I'll be the first to admit that at first glance, I had no idea what that was really-- I thought to myself, "Uhh, what's an 'offset'?"

Naturally for my interview this was something I was going to have to learn about and be at least a bit well versed in. So of course I got down to research. Well as it turns out that offsets are the practice by which the award of contracts by foreign governments or companies is exchanged for commitments to provide industrial compensation. In the context of defense this could mean mandatory co-production, licensed production, subcontractor production, technology transfer, and foreign investment.

So how is this important at all?-- Well it's critical from a national security standpoint and when it comes to influencing foreign policy. It could increase the industrial capabilities of allied countries, standardize military equipment, and modernize allied forces. Suddenly, I started to get reminded of my days at DHS. Okay, so then I started to understand the relevance of these so-called "offsets". Information about these offsets eventually gets compiled into a report and sent to Congress. And apparently I was going to be doing that.

Well I thought that might mean I'd be making copies of the report. Standing over a Xerox machine or binding the reports, perhaps? Of course, I'm just an intern after all, right? Wrong. While the Bureau has a template of how the report is to be written, I'd be editing the report and crunching the numbers in it. I'd be helping write an actual report to Congress. I thought that was pretty cool.

So then came the day that I had to learn to do it. One of the analysts who usually writes the report was showing me to how assess data from the tables for a few minutes and then I was off. Much of the report was able to stay the same in terms of language but all the data would be different. Some of the calculations were a bit difficult to manage. And of course getting all of the data from DoD and the Census Bureau was a bit time-consuming. Soon though I got to plugging numbers and after awhile I had finished Chapters 1-4 of the Report. I think when I head back into the office on Friday I'll begin writing up Chapter 5. The finalized version will be out by the end of the year I think, so feel free to check out my handy work!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My first week of work!

It felt like it had been forever since my interview this summer. During the interim I had completed all of the required paperwork and went back to the Hoover Building to get finger printed. Finally though, the day had come for me to start work on Tuesday!

I woke up much earlier than I was used to since classes started and of course our coffee maker was broken but I think that first-day excitement was what managed to keep me awake all day. All in all, I would say I had a great first day of work. I got my badge at the Security office first thing and then I was off to the third floor to SIES to begin working. Unfortunately when I had arrived most of the people within my office were out at mandatory training all morning but I met them around lunchtime. Everyone was so warm and friendly. As far as actual work goes, I started working on something called CFIUS-- basically it looks at acquisitions of U.S. companies by foreign ones and how that will impact the U.S.' defense industrial base. So let's say Airbus was to buy Boeing-- we would review that and study its potential impact on the U.S. defense industry. For an economics major, it's actually really interesting.

Later I got to meet the Director of all of SIES which I really appreciated. Her name is Karen and she was very approachable and down to earth. I have to say that it was nice for her to schedule time to meet with me-- some employers just look as interns as little underlings that don't merit any attention so it gave me a great first impression of SIES in general. Later on she invited me to a roundtable discussion on the Bureau of Industry and Security with the European Communities. There were economic advisors from most of the embassies there and members of the EU Commission as well. I had never expected to attend something like that on the first day! I was one of two interns in the entire room so I felt very privileged to attend. All in all, not a bad day :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Interview Day... Not what I had expected.

Every job I have had since I was 15, aside from a brief 2-week stent in retail, has been in an office somewhere. I have done internships in defense contracting, human resources, administration, government, legal research... you name it. I felt like I was shopping around the workplace for a field that best fit my interests.

After searching through the many listings on American University's career web, I came across a position that perked my interest-- an internship at the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security. As an economics and international studies major at AU, I thought this position could serve as a nice marriage of my academic pursuits and so I eagerly applied. A few short weeks later, I had heard back from the Department and they wanted to schedule an interview with me. Finally a job in economics... I would be landing the perfect internship. I wanted to ace this interview.

A few days thereafter, I was on my way to the Hebert Hoover Building for my interview. Naturally, I was a bit jittery but I had left early so I wouldn't run into any trouble. Before I continue though, I should warn you before you read on that this post isn't about how to give the perfect answers at an interview; it's about the importance of maintaining your composure.

Well, here I was crossing K Street toward the metro. I could see the crosswalk flashing up ahead: 21 seconds. I knew I didn't have the time to make it up to the corner to cross so I just ran across the street and got to the curb without problem. As I made it to the other side, praticing potential answers in my head, I heard a scream and a loud thud. I turned to my right to see a woman getting hit by a commercial truck in the middle of the crosswalk. My jaw dropped. Everyone stopped. I felt like I was in a movie.

There she laid on the ground, motionless. And there we all stood in shock. All of the papers she had been holding had floated down to the ground and people then began checking to see if she was OK. After making sure the ambulance was on its way, I headed down to the metro. People just a block away at McPherson Square had no idea what had just happened. Neither did the interviewers in the Hebert Hoover building.

Here I had planned to review my resume on the metro and instead all I could think about was that poor woman. My ability to focus was gone. Luckily, when I arrived for my interview (miraculously on time) they weren't ready to see me yet. As I sat in the lobby stunned. I breathed. Should I tell them? Would they even believe me if I did? I breathed again.

Within a matter of seconds, I had decided that I should not reveal the incident to my interviewers. It would only serve to distract me from the interview itself. I then pulled out practice interview questions and my resume and started to go over them. Shortly thereafter, an analyst came to escort me to my interview. So my advice is this: no matter how prepared you think you may be, always set aside a few minutes to compose yourself before an interview. It's a lot more important than you may ever realize.