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Giving Interns a Voice: POLITICO Summer School

On August 3, I joined over 300 interns at summer school. You may be wondering why anyone would be excited about school in the summer, but POLITICO Summer School was hardly your typical academic program. The event, hosted by POLITICO’s Mike Allen and Emily Schultheis, featured introductory remarks by Qualcomm’s very own Bill Bold, Senior Vice President of Global Government Affairs and a former Congressional intern, followed by a panel of famous former interns: NBC’s Chuck Todd, White House Deputy Communications Director Jen Psaki, and Sergio Rodriguera, chief speechwriter to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Interns in Washington D.C. and at Qualcomm headquarters in San Diego, as well as and students from Indiana University and the Univerity of Texas, participated via webcast.

After sharing some of the ups and downs of their internship, which ranged from counting trashcans to picking up hard copies of newspapers in Times Square at 4AM, the panelists took questions from us, the interns, about anything from “sealing the deal,” to getting a full-time job — to being that intern, and, of course, our post-graduation employment prospects.

A few themes emerged, including the cliché-but-impossible-to-undersell importance of networking, and strategies for leaving a lasting positive impression on everyone you work with. These concepts seem particularly true In D.C., and especially in the tech sector. As Todd pointed out, “It’s entirely possible that your intern could one day be your boss.” Other interns voiced their concerns about immigration and innovation policies and how Washington is working to protect U.S. competitiveness.

I was impressed with the focus on the future. What’s great about interns, Bold suggested, is our eagerness to work, coupled with our fresh perspective on decades-old dilemmas. As a 2009 college graduate, I have seen firsthand how the economic climate has limited the opportunities available to the best and brightest of my peers.

Many of us have gravitated toward precisely the dynamic fields that companies like Qualcomm are enabling – technology, education, science, health and social media.

But to turn awesome internship opportunities (like my own) into permanent jobs in the U.S. economy, Washington needs to implement policies that promote innovation. From my perspective, doing so creates a triple-win scenario: people all over the world benefit from the development of new technologies that increase efficiency and improve their quality of life. The American people benefit from staying at the cutting edge of these technologies. And my friends and I benefit from participating in the most truly global economy the world has ever seen.

POLITICO’s Summer School provided a forum for future leaders in technology and policy to learn from today’s leaders — and each other. But it also created a dialogue for decision makers to learn from us. My generation is pretty inspired and inspiring, and if we’ve learned anything from the economic downturn, it’s how to persevere.

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