Gorove Slade was pleased to welcome three terrific interns to the firm this summer! During the summer months, Amit, Lauren, and Lena were integrated into the company – attended coordination meetings, helped write reports, and collaborated on a project they chose to present to the firm at the end of the program. Before returning to their respective schools, the interns had an opportunity to talk about their overall experiences and reflect on their time at Gorove Slade.
What were your expectations coming into this internship program?
Amit: I was interested in learning through a very hands-on experience – what firms are actually doing to improve transit and transportation, how to incorporate multi modal systems and support multi modal systems. Improving transit and bicycle infrastructure is something I wanted to learn more about. Gorove Slade seemed like a great place to do that.
Lauren: Coming into it I was really eager to learn more and learn from new people in a different company. I was most excited to try a different type of engineering from my previous internship. I was more excited to learn about what transportation engineering actually is outside of roadway design and also from a traffic viewpoint.
What interests you about transportation engineering?
Lena: I’m really interested in multimodal transportation.
Lauren: I like the technical part of engineering, but I also like how it’s really policy oriented. It has to do with a lot of personal interactions with people in the community.
Did you learn anything useful through the internship?
Amit: I think I was hoping for a broad range of experiences that speak to as many different facets of transportation planning and engineering as possible. And that’s definitely something that has happened. I‘ve been able to work with Excel on growth of trips over time and trip generation. I’ve been able to use programs and platforms that I haven’t used before like ArcGIS and Synchro. That’s been cool, to see the tools that professionals are using in the field and gaining exposure to that.
Lauren: Synchro was super useful which I had never even heard of before I came here. During the introduction session I was super overwhelmed, but as I’ve gotten used to it, that’s been really useful. I really like writing reports, any of the memos, I really do enjoy that and seeing all the different actions that go into it – the planning, engineering, and the graphics.
What surprised you?
Amit: I didn’t really understand coming in all the technical aspects so it was more of a learning process, this is how in depth we go on a day to day basis. The one thing that was cool after doing a CTR report on pedestrian facilities, I started looking at sidewalk lifts as I was walking down the street or looking at crosswalks going ‘oh does that one meet what I think the code says it should be.’ That was something cool I came out of it with. In a similar way looking at the number of lanes that streets have and thinking ‘okay what might the background or the rationale of why this street has this many lanes, or two turn lanes vs one turn lane.’ That was something I definitely came out of it with.
Lena: I feel like I’m surprised at least once a week because I learn something new about how things run. I didn’t know schools had to have a transportation plan and pickup/drop-off is different than any other place. That was cool to learn. Even parking garages, it’s kind of cool to understand how they work and what goes into that. Even when I didn’t work on those things, it was cool to hear people talk about it or present about it.
What was the internship project?
Amit: At the beginning of the internship, we were given a prompt to create a project that would improve Gorove Slade as a firm. Wide range of things that we could do. It was nice to have the freedom of exploring any topic that we thought would help the firm and have it be something we were interested in. I think most of us if not all of us were interested in GIS and the different capabilities of that. We also saw during the scoping process and the project start up process, often times some of the first conversations we had were what are the other projects in the area of this project, what’s the zoning in the area, how are the intersections, things like that. So we created a map that blocks projects that Gorove Slade has worked on and has further information on zoning and other data fields that are often used or looked at during the project start up phase. We made that map, it looks really fancy, and it was a lot of fun to do.
Lena: It’s definitely different than what you typically do as a transportation planner or engineer. It really brought me outside of my comfort in terms of the software we used and thinking about how we can design this so that everyone can use it and I really got to use different things that I’ve learned so far outside of engineering, I got to use some coding and GIS, that’s different than what the company typically uses it for so that was cool that we got the opportunity to do that.
How was the process of working on the internship project?
Lena: We first heard about it during our first week and we had an introduction meeting. Maria went over what we were supposed to do and then we had about 2 weeks to come up with some ideas for what we wanted to do with that. We asked around people in the company around us, what do they think would be useful in helping to make Gorove Slade a better place. Once we chose an idea then we started to look into the basics of what do we want to do, how can we add to that, and how can it be useful. From that we kind of split up the work in terms of who would do what and just made sure that every week we accomplished something and checked in with each other and Maria too.
Lauren: At first it was definitely super open ended it was kind of hard to come up with an idea because the subject was so broad. I’m pretty sure Amit came up with the idea, he wanted to work in GIS which I thought was cool I’ve done it a little bit in school but never really played around with it on my own so this gave me the opportunity to learn as I was doing it. It was cool to think about how much we got done in 8 weeks of work that we built this whole thing, how much information it holds, and it has a lot of potential I think.
Amit: The intern group met once a week with a project manager, Maria and we would gain feedback on what we did in the week and report any issues we were having any breakthroughs that we had as well and just got guidance on how we could improve the project and that was super helpful in making sure the project stayed relevant and useful to what the firm needed. We were also able to talk to other people at the firm in terms of learning of how to use GIS and that learning was very important in making the tool more helpful and more comprehensive than what we initially planned.
What did you learn from the experience?
Amit: I think from the workflow perspective, it acts as a lunch and learn presentation which is something that it seems like everyone at the firm is doing so it was cool to be able to do a similar workflow or balance to at least mimic what members of the firm are doing. It was definitely valuable in terms of organizational and time management perspective. I think I also enjoyed the freedom of being able to explore a topic that we were interested in and relevant to the work Gorove Slade was doing. It acted as a facet to augment our experience here or add to it in a way we may not have been able to do if we were exclusively working on the reports that we would normally be doing.
Lauren: I think for me personally the process of teaching myself ArchGIS and teaching myself how to use that, not a challenge, but just learning something new. Lena and Amit are a little better at it than I am. IT was a good learning opportunity. We had a lot of challenges trying to figure out going forward if there’s a more efficient way of doing it. Finding the addresses was super time consuming. Going forward we don’t want people to have to search manually through scoping documents and graphics, that was our big challenge.
Outside of the office, what your summer like?
Amit: I love DC, especially compared to San Francisco. I love DC, I love all the weirdly angled streets and it’s very green and the food’s been awesome as well so I can’t complain about that at all. Very walkable. I’ve been able to get to wherever I want with metro. Every weekend I’ve been doing something interesting that I couldn’t do anywhere else with the number of museums. There’s always something to do.
Lena: It was really cool, I’ve never lived in the city before it was really fun exploring and especially by bike which is a different experience. Not having a car so biking, walking and transit you really get to experience the city that way. I went to a bunch of different parks, restaurants and areas in the city. There’s so much to do so I don’t think you could ever get bored here.
How do you like to spend your free time in DC?
Lena: I did so many things every weekend. I have a list of things or places I wanted to get to each weekend even to just stop by. I don’t think there’s anything big, I just like discovering parks or trails even when I wasn’t intending to go there. I really love the Klingle Valley Trail, I wasn’t even planning to go there so that was really cool.
Amit: My dream Saturday plan for coming to DC, get out early in the morning, take the metro to either Dupont Circle or Adam’s Morgan, get some food there. I really enjoyed the National Building Museum as a planning nut, that was fantastic, I really enjoyed going there. I’m a sports fan, so a DC United game was a ton of fun. I’d recommend going to a Nats game as well. Adam’s Morgan was awesome, it reminded me of Berkeley. There were a lot of people out on the street, exciting things going on, and tons of food options.
Lauren: I’ve lived here my entire life, I’m very used to the area, very familiar. I’m a huge sports fan, so definitely any sports, I went to a Nats game last weekend, so that was fun. I went recently to the pedal boats at the Jefferson memorial. I like anything on the water, there’s great fishing spots in DC, anything outdoorsy. I also really like Georgetown and the monuments.
What advice would you give future interns?
Lauren: I would say definitely network! The reason I like Gorove Slade so much is because it’s such a small company. I really liked being able to meet everyone, I would encourage future interns to network with as many people as they could within the company. I found it really useful to hear a bunch of different perspectives because everyone works on something different. I think we do a lot of really notable projects too, that can give you a good push to work on something well known.
Lena: I would definitely say to not be nervous about anything. I would just say be yourself, it’s a fun place to work and you’ll see it when you interact with people here.
Would you recommend interning at Gorove Slade?
Amit: I would definitely recommend interning at Gorove Slade. It’s a lot of fun and it’s real experience, you’re doing real projects that are going to be submitted to DDOT and VDOT. I think the main thing I’ll say is that I didn’t feel like any of my time here was wasted or that what I was doing was going to be saved in a drive folder and never looked at again. Even the tasks that seemed simple and straightforward, found their way into a report, or ended up being background information for some kind of calculation. That was something I appreciated a lot, I felt like what I was doing was actually going to be helpful. I also learned a lot. The way I framed it in my head is in school, or in class we do a lot of theoretical thinking, “why does this framework of looking at transportation work” or “why would we do this or that” but interning at Gorove Slade it was very practical. Here’s the issue that we have find a way to get it done, make sure that it gets done on time. I think that’s an important experience to have that’s separate from what you’d have in the classroom. Made me think in a different way and a more practical way. I would recommend it. Be ready to learn quickly but it’s a lot of fun.