By Eric Nakano
My very first job was as a cashier at CompUSA when I was in high school. Working there was like being a kid at a candy store and most of my paychecks went towards the very stuff that I helped sell: laptops, cd burners, and the newest photo printers. In fact, my love of tech companies and their gadgets was so strong that prior to Nancy Pelosi and Margaret Thatcher, I had the company logos of Apple and Motorola on my school binders. But as a policy student, I never thought I’d work for a technology firm again. Until now.
This summer, I am interning at the Technology CEO Council. The Council is made up of CEOs from some of the largest companies in the industry: IBM, Dell, Micron and Xerox to name a few. The Council coordinates technology policy positions among its member companies and lobbies Congress on issues that affect the industry. Before I go into what I do at my internship, two questions that I always get asked are 1) Do I get to fly around the country rubbing elbows with the likes of Michael Dell and Ginny Rometty and 2) Do I get discounts on stuff made by their companies. The answer is no, and no.
The CEOs only meet a couple of times a year and largely leave decisions on policy positions to their governmental affairs staffs. But that means that I’ve been given some great projects to work on and the analytical work I do can influence what positions these companies ultimately decide to take. Right now for example, I am working on a policy memo analyzing the effect that implementing recommendations made by the Simpson-Bowles Commission would have on our member companies. The project is utilizing skills I learned from three different classes.
In fact, on any given day, I am using skills and terminology I learned from Sanford. At a meeting last week, a staff member from one tech firm explained how moving technology manufacturing back to the U.S. from China would be significantly more expensive because the U.S. lacks the same ecosystem of high tech factories and suppliers found in China that keep prices low. Oh! I exclaimed in my head. He’s talking about economies of agglomeration (thanks Clotfelter!).
Beyond the policy analysis I am doing (minus Stata and Bardach thank God!), I am learning a lot from my bosses. The Technology CEO Council does not have its own staff and instead, the bipartisan lobbying shop, Mehlman, Vogel and Castagnetti, run the organization. This has been good for me for a couple of reasons. First, I am finally able to see what goes on in a K Street office and second I am able to work on projects that interest me for their other clients.
The firm also takes takes great care of their employees. The kitchen is always stocked with fruit, cookies, chips and sodas and they even have a Starbucks coffee machine. Last week, one of the partners gave me tickets to a Nationals game
where I sat three rows away from the field with another Sanford classmate interning in DC. I am also learning a ton. Collectively, the staff has about a century of experience working on the hill and on policy in general they’ve made a great effort to include me in all of their high-level meetings and briefings. Although my internship is half over, I feel I could easily do this work for a year and still be learning a lot.
Check out the Technology CEO Council: http://www.techceocouncil.org/
Mehlman, Vogel and Castagnetti: http://www.mvc-dc.com/
How I got my internship: http://www.tfas.org/tisdale