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My journey as an intern: making an impact at ONRR

July 28, 2023

During the challenging times of the pandemic, I stumbled upon a remarkable opportunity that not only allowed me to gain valuable experience but also make a meaningful difference. The Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) internship program opened new doors for me, leading me to intern with the Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR). In this blog, I will share my journey of how I discovered the VSFS program, what drew me to intern with ONRR, and the impact it had on my career goals.

Discovering the VSFS internship program

As the pandemic restricted in-person opportunities, I learned about the VSFS program through a friend who was interning in another agency. Intrigued by the idea of virtual internships, I decided to apply and was fortunate to be accepted as an Analytics Intern with the Department of Veteran Affairs’ Digital Media Engagement Team. My positive experience during the summer encouraged me to apply again when applications opened for the regular school year.

Choosing ONRR

While exploring the possibilities, I came across ONRR and its open data website. This was my first encounter with a user-friendly and informative website created by the federal government. I was captivated by the wealth of revenue and disbursements data available and recognized the opportunity to gain experience in analyzing such crucial information.

Learning new skills

The internship at ONRR provided me with the chance to learn and master new skills. I gained proficiency in using GitHub for larger repositories, including pushing, committing, and branching changes. Additionally, I acquired knowledge in product management and UX/UI design best practices, which proved invaluable throughout my time at ONRR. Participating in user interviews for the recently redesigned website taught me how to guide users and extract actionable insights from their feedback.

Surprises and challenges

One of the biggest surprises during my ONRR internship was the involvement of every team member in the design process. From the product manager to the UX/UI designer, and even myself as a data intern, we collaborated to create and iterate designs, aiming for the best visualizations and displays. However, this also posed a challenge as I had limited experience with design work and visualization best practices. Through this internship, I had the opportunity to work on various visualizations, including homepage charts and renewable fact sheets, which helped me expand my skill set.

Making a difference

Without a doubt, I can confidently say that my work and the collective efforts of our team at ONRR have made a tangible difference. My contribution involved updating and ensuring the accuracy of the data displayed on ONRR’s public websites. Moreover, I worked on design projects and addressed issues that were eventually implemented on the live site. Additionally, I was involved in internal projects, such as the development of a data checklist to enhance our data verification process before publication.

Memorable projects

Among the many projects I had the privilege to work on, the fiscal year renewable fact sheets stand out as a personal favorite. From visualizing disbursements data to gathering revenue and production data, I had the opportunity to be involved in various aspects of creating the visuals for the renewable fact sheets.

Career goals and the internship’s influence

With my goal set on becoming a data scientist, my time at ONRR has been instrumental in paving the way for various opportunities. During interviews and professional settings, I proudly mention my work at ONRR and highlight the significance of providing accurate and transparent data to the general public. This internship played a vital role in securing internships with the Securities and Exchange Commission and a seasonal job with San Francisco’s Department of Elections. As I approach the completion of my master’s program, I am thrilled to continue my journey in the public sector at the local government level as a San Francisco Fellow for the upcoming year.

Note : Reference in this blog to any specific commercial product, process, or service, is for the information and convenience of the public, and does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the Department of the Interior.

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Matt Sao: Data Intern the Office of Natural Resources Revenue.