by Storm McNerney

During the last semester of my undergraduate studies at San Jose State University, it seemed as if I was the only person without an internship. I knew the importance of finding one. After all, many of my peers had already interned at places such as LinkedIn, Google, and Apple. But those internships always felt out of my reach.

Luckily, I heard about Pivotal’s paid summer internship program through SJSU. After having received professional development training, I connected with their team.  They presented me with two internship interviews they thought would be a good fit for my upcoming degree in communications and my passion for advocacy work.

I accepted an amazing internship at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, though I have to say, I was really nervous on my first day. With a sporadic work history and very little professional experience, I was also pretty unfamiliar with policy work, which, as it turned out, was the area I was going to work in all summer long!

My first assignment was to write a policy brief about the zoning of affordable housing. Matthew Quevedo, the Senior Associate of Transportation Policy, was my supervisor and mentor. Matthew was approachable and always available whenever I needed help, as were the other full-time employees who worked across Policy. I’m proud to say that the brief I wrote was well received and even went before a voting council!  

Working with such dedicated policy professionals means that I learned not just about transportation policy but also about housing, environmental, health, and education policies. All the interns – called Coordinators – were given a chance to shadow CEO Carl Guardino for a day, and staff encouraged us to build connections that could help us find “real jobs” after graduating.

After having struggled with homelessness and poverty, this internship taught me that I can adapt anywhere. It definitely helped me to feel more confident when I applied to entry-level post-graduation jobs. Currently, I’m a Job Developer in the WorkAbility program at Campbell Union High School District, serving as a resource and advocate for Special Education high school students. My ultimate goal is to work alongside at-risk youth and be a resource for them just like others were for me.