Parker Davis is a DME intern with the External Affairs Department and is also a senior studying international studies and political science at Virginia Military Institute where he is involved in a wide variety of different clubs and organizations. His responsibilities in External Affairs involve taking on projects or overloads from other departments in the VA, distributing them on Trello boards and sending them out to other team members which David and other External Affairs interns have to then monitor and make sure their drafts are posted in the right way.
During his time at the internship, Davis has had the responsibility of keeping the projects in External Affairs up-to-date and tracking the timelines of the projects that he and other interns work on from beginning to end. Public relations is one of the reasons Davis joined External Affairs. External Affairs is a new department at the DME Internship and Davis says that he is still trying to figure out how to better serve in his role as “informant” to others interns and the Department Head in External Affairs.
Davis’s advice to new interns is to not get overwhelmed about learning new things and that asking questions to your leadership is the best way to figure out what to do when you are flustered with the work of the internship.
A fun fact about Davis is that he was a double and extra for the TV show One Tree Hill and Eastbound & Down in his hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Use the audio player to listen to Parker’s full interview, or read the transcript below:
Ep 21: Grace Yang – DME Interns
Shannon Moran: The Department of Veterans Affairs does not endorse or officially sanction any entities that may be discussed in this podcast, nor any media products or services they may provide. Hello and welcome to the Department of Veterans Affairs Digital Media Engagement Interns Podcast. This podcast will focus on the experience and work of various interns on the Digital Media Engagement’s team who are working with us as part of the Virtual Student Federal Service internship within the department of Veteran’s Affairs. This podcast is two interns having a conversation about their experiences in order to highlight the work, as well as encourage application to this program and friendship amongst the interns. So please join us as we highlight and get to know some of the many interns that are part of our program. Thank you for listening! I’m back with Parker Davis, he’s from Wilmington, North Carolina. He is a senior at the Virginia Military Institute where he studies International Studies and Political Science. He is a DME intern with the External Affairs department. In his free time he plays lacrosse, he’s a part of the pre-law society, the investment group, their ethics debate team, model U.N., leadership book club, blood drive committee, a bunch of advisory boards, and he’s the head of the Southwestern Virginia Special Olympic Games. He’s also the head of VMI’s public relations staff. Thank you so much for being here today Parker, can you tell me a little bit about what you do for the internship?
Parker Davis: For the External Affairs, what we kind of do is take in different projects that overload from other departments that the Veterans Affairs has, and they send them to us to distribute it throughout our Trello board and send it to different silos. They work on it with them, we check up on them, see how they’re doing, and also check up on the people who gave us the task to make sure that everything is being met, the drafts are being posted in the right way, and they look all good.
SM: That’s great, so what has been your favorite thing that you’ve done within the internship so far?
PD: My favorite thing that I’ve done throughout the internship is keeping updated on everything. I get to see exactly how it works throughout the whole process of how a corporate structure works, how the federal structure works, and how things are supposed to function within a business. So you get to see from step one when the project’s assigned, all the way to the very end of how it went. You get to see the whole timeline from beginning to end.
SM: How do you plan on applying that to your life after the internship?
PD: So actually, right now I’m applying to a school. Being on the advisory boards allows me to apply those skills in this situation. Getting to see how projects are done in a professional setting allows me to apply it with my own leadership. It kind of crosses over into how I live my life now, and hopefully how I’ll continue to live once I get out into the real work, jobs, and corporate structure.
SM: So you’re also an International Studies major, how did you decide on that field and how did that make you decide to apply for the External Affairs internship?
PD: I don’t really know how I ended up being a Political Science major. I was really good at math in high school, and then I decided that I wanted to take on a major where I write all the time.
SM: Interesting, I am an International Studies major because I never wanted to do math again after high school.
PD: Yeah, I love math, it was awesome but I think it kind of got boring for me to an extent because we moved a lot when I was younger and when I transferred from North Carolina to Virginia for high school, I came out of the common core system which kind of set me back a couple of math classes. So I was kind of relearning all of the math that I had done. I was just sleeping through class because I knew all of the stuff and it was easy for me, so I think it just got boring. And with politics, the way it is now, you kind of want to learn why it is the way it is. I think that kind of pushed me to it, just figuring out the why of things, and why things are the way they are, and why things are so crazy.
SM: What made you then choose the External Affairs internship?
PD: So the External Affairs internship is actually very similar to what I do with Public Relations at school. You work with outside sources and kind of get their feedback and see how they’re doing, what they think of certain things, so at school I work with alumni, the student body, and administration to gauge on how certain things affect them and how they’re going to work together on certain things, and kind of get feedback on different things that come up. So with external affairs, I’m essentially doing the same thing. I’m going to different people, I’m getting the tasks that they need done, and then getting their feedback on how things look, distributing the work throughout, and watching the process along the way, making sure everybody’s appeased all the way through.
SM: Is this work something you want to continue doing after college and after the internship?
PD: It’s something that I’ve never really studied, it’s something that I’ve always just been, I don’t want to say good at, but it’s something that I was able to pick up very easily. So I think it’s something that I enjoy doing, it’s pleasurable. I’m a big go with the flow kind of person, wherever life takes me I’ll be content, so I don’t want to say that I’ll end up there but if I end up doing this stuff I don’t think I would be too upset with it.
SM: You have a couple more months left in the internship, what are you most excited about continuing to work on?
PD: Yeah so the External Affairs department is kind of new. We’re kind of expanding in our role, and now finally I think at the beginning of the year we just added a whole bunch of new projects within our own department that we’re kind of beefing up, whereas, it’s less distributing the work throughout and more actually doing the work, instead of kind of being a managerial standpoint. We are more so hands-on with the project, we’re the ones physically doing it, so one thing that we just started is kind of an ambassadors program with different veterans. We’re trying to create a relationship with them, stuff like that.
SM: So talk to me about what it was like to be a part of a brand new team. I know Dom has been really, really excited about the work that you guys have done. So what has it been like to be a part of a group that has been newly created?
PD: I think it’s one of those things where everybody’s trying to figure out their role. Even with the higher-ups, everybody’s new to the game. Everybody’s had their styles before, but those styles might not apply with this specific team. I think that comes with every team you start, but right now everybody’s trying to find their niche and just find out what works and what our role is as a department, and making sure that we’re not doing too much or too little, and just trying to find where we fit in the grand scheme of things.
SM: So do you have an example of a learning curve that took place, or an issue that arose where the team either decided to change directions or realized that the work you were doing was not quite what you wanted to continue to do? Were there any adjustments that had to be made?
PD: Yeah, I think that once you get into the role, at the very beginning it’s a big learning curve because one, you’re not necessarily thrown into it, but you’re given a lot of information, it’s kind of like a firehose and you’re trying to drink from it. You have to learn what Trello is, what Slack is, all these different new programs that maybe you’ve never used before. All along the way, you have to go on the DME Interns board, and kind of learn for your department. So you’re learning all of these new things, and along the way you’re getting assigned all of these things and you kind of have to learn on the fly. That’s not something that I’m not used to, but it was new to kind of see it in this environment and to see it in a business sort of structure.
SM: What would be your advice to someone who is in the middle of that process and is finding it very overwhelming?
PD: My advice, what I did was just go learn. If you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask. I mean, people are going to mess up, you’re going to mess up, that’s just a fact of life. So if you have a question that doesn’t have an answer that you can’t answer personally, go find the answer. There’s so many resources, there are websites that you can look at, YouTube pages, there’s the people above you that you can ask, and they’re more than happy to help. So personally for me, I had a question earlier like “Why don’t we do it this way?” and I ended up getting my question answered, and it all made sense. So just make sure that you ask questions, it’s a learning experience, it’s an internship, that’s what it’s here for, to kind of make those mistakes and learn from them.
SM: So how did you find this internship?
PD: I actually found this on LinkedIn, I think it was posted by the DME page, it was either liked by somebody or sponsored, but I saw a video of somebody being interviewed and talking about it, and I was like, okay yeah, I’ll go apply why not. I applied and ended up getting a response around early to late September at the time.
SM: So as someone who’s a part of the Virginia Military Institute, what has it meant to you to work for the Department of Veterans Affairs?
PD: It’s been really awesome, because you kind of work with a lot of these veterans, going to school a lot of them are your professors. I think at least four of my professors are retired officers, and all of the officers that run the school are all veterans as well. So being a part of it and helping something that can help them out is definitely surreal. It’s nice to be a part of something that is helping people you know.
SM: So what is the biggest thing that you have learned in your past couple of months with us?
PD: The biggest thing that I’ve learned is probably how to function better systems to move information through. So before working with my leadership stuff, it would be just a meeting, and we would get “Hey, go do this.” With Trello, you get to see it all. I think that’s really neat. You get to experience all these different pathways of how information is supposed to flow, how you’re supposed to give feedback and things like that.
SM: What are your goals that you hope to have accomplished by May or when you finish this internship?
PD: By the end of this internship I really hope to be more hands-on with it. Right now, we’re still kind of finding our role, and I’m still trying to figure out where I fit. I think I’m finally finding that role, but I hope to solidify that by the end for one, and two, I want to utilize these systems that are being put into place very well. Kind of how you have to communicate, go up the chain of command and figure things out and find information, and how information is passed down and then passed back up. I’m absorbing it all like a sponge, and trying to see which way works the best, what can be improved on and whatnot.
SM: How would you describe your role? What would you say your role is for the team?
PD: I would say I’m kind of the informant. I kind of go through and I’m the connection between the projects and our department head. So what happens is I’ll kind of check in with him on a weekly basis, and when I check in with him, I ask hey, what else do you need, what are you struggling with, what can we do to kind of help you in the process? So I kind of get to facilitate that information back and forth, I’m kind of the middleman in the whole situation. I get to be that helper and check in, which is good and bad because sometimes you have to be that bad guy, where you check in the next week and I say “We still don’t have that thing” and you look like the bad guy.
SM: That happens to the best of us. What are your goals for after the internship? What do you want to do for the next six months or the next year?
PD: After the internship and graduation, I just want to find a place, find a role, I’m not really sure what that is yet, I think like a lot of people in this world I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. Yeah so right now, I will just be content with finding something, especially with how things are going. I definitely think that the government side would be nice, working for the state department; I kind of want to do data collection, on the foreign governments, international relations side of things.
SM: What is your area of interest within the field, since it is so large? And no one ever quite knows what international relations majors do.
PD: Yeah, so I like the comparative politics side of it more. I’m kind of an elections guy, I like to study elections, look at the ideas, the companies, the international democracy, election agencies. I want to work with them, do stuff like that, look for a freedom house, things like that, and look at the democracy scores. Like we said when we were setting up America, it’s a democracy, but it’s also an experiment. So it’s ever-changing and you kind of have to look for those new things and how to adapt and change and make it better.
SM: So how do you apply that philosophy and that mentality then to the work within the internship, and how to adapt and make things better and learn from it?
PD: I think every week I try to think of a question. We send out weekly reports to our supervisors, and with that, I try and always give a question of how we can make something better. Whether I look like an idiot or it’s something small, I just send it. I always try to put something in there that I think could be done better or maybe could be adjusted to help people out a little more in their roles. Whether it’s me, the people above me, or somebody else that’s looking for feedback.
SM: Yeah, that’s great. For the ELT, the people that ask questions are all very helpful on the leadership side of things. So what is your advice to someone who has just started the internship?
PD: So for somebody who’s just started the internship, don’t get too flustered by it. There’s a lot of things that you kind of — like I said earlier, it’s kind of like drinking from a firehose, you need to learn to use all that new software and everything that you have to learn to actually get into the work of things and the internship. Don’t get too flustered by it, ask questions, absorb everything; it’s an internship, make the mistakes but learn from them. Just never make the same mistake twice. So after you kind of get rolling, just go for it.
SM: Thank you so much for your time, to wrap this up we always ask for a fun fact, so what is your fun fact? They can be about anything.
PD: I was actually on a TV show when I was little, where I live now, we are kind of a big film capital when I was growing up, so we had a lot of movies and TV shows, so I was a double and an extra on One Tree Hill and Eastbound and Down.
SM: Well there you go, that’s very fun. Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate talking to you and I know our listeners will get a lot of great information from this episode, thanks so much for listening, tune in next week. Thank you for tuning in to the DME Interns podcast. We hope you learned something about your fellow interns, more about our program, and that you come back and listen to us soon. Have a great rest of your day!