Concluding My Summer at the ITA

As my time interning at the ITA draws to a close and I reflect on my summer, I feel that I have learned a lot and accomplished the goals that I set for myself at the start of the summer. I have learned about how the U.S. government supports international trade through assisting with that work in my day-to-day tasks. Similarly, through attending intern events and talking with ITA employees, I have learned about the opportunities available at the Department of Commerce, and in the broader field of international trade. In fact, one of the things that I am most proud of this summer is how proactive and outgoing I was about conducting informational interviews. Through them, I have learned that there are many more career paths in this field than I initially realized. Finally, I have improved my communication skills, adapting them to the worlds of business and government. The style of communication there is much more direct and concise than the academic writing that I am used to, but I hope to apply what I have learned to my assignments this upcoming year.

Additionally, I learned a lot about myself throughout the summer. I found that I did well in the environment of my internship. Being remote, it was a very independent environment, but I appreciated that the regional managers were available to answer any questions that arose. I also found that I really enjoyed learning more about the companies that I researched, and the challenge of conveying my conclusions as efficiently as possible. Furthermore, I found that it is important to me to know that the work I am doing matters, and I have gotten this satisfaction through my internship.  I plan to use this insight to identify which companies I think will be a good fit for me when I apply for jobs this upcoming year.

There are several pieces of advice that I would give to students interested in a summer internship at the ITA, or more broadly in government work. One of the most salient is to not be afraid to speak up, be it a question or a desire to work on a particular topic. In all likelihood, the employees will be happy to talk with you and keep you in mind when something relevant to your interests comes up. This is especially important with remote internships since you need to be more deliberate about communication. Also, I would recommend that you take advantage of any networking opportunities that arise, since they are only available for a limited amount of time. Whether you are attending events specifically for interns or are reaching out to a particular person to learn more about their job and career path, every conversation is a chance to learn more about the company (and broader field) in which you are interning. This aspect of internships is very much what you make of it, and I recommend taking advantage of the opportunity provided.

(2) Continuing my ITA internship

This summer, I am interning at the International Trade Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. So far, it has been consistent with what I expected in some respects, but very different in others. I knew going into this internship that most of my time would be spent conducting due diligence, that is to say searching databases, completing checklists on the U.S. companies seeking help from the Advocacy Center, and reporting any negative findings. However, I was not expecting the sheer breadth of topics and issues that I would learn about/be exposed to. On any given day, I could be researching companies that sell, or hope to sell, anything from heavy equipment to software to governments anywhere in Europe, Central Asia, or the Western Hemisphere. Overall, it has been a great experience so far. I feel that I have learned a lot, both about international trade as a field of work and about the International Trade Administration.

One of the things that surprised me is how different my WOW internship has been from my typical life as a Brandeis student, especially regarding how my day is structured. As a student, I am in class for, on average, 3-4 hours a day, and, aside from my work schedule and the campus activities I am involved in, the rest of my time is unstructured. As long as I have my readings and assignments completed by the time they are due, it does not matter when I complete them. Meanwhile, the schedule for my internship is much more set (9-5). During those hours, I am working on tasks at my internship, and when it is outside of those hours, I can go for a walk, hang out with friends, etc. Neither schedule is inherently better or worse – for example, it is nice to have a firm sense of when I am done with work for the day – but they are very different mindsets.

Furthermore, I feel like I am building and improving many skills through my internship work. The most significant of these are my abilities to conduct research and think critically, which I continue to hone through conducting due diligence and constantly asking myself if something is a red flag. I anticipate that these skills will be very transferable to my life on-campus and my future career plans. The ability to find and process information efficiently and critically is invaluable in any job or classroom, but, since I hope to get a job that involves researching and presenting my findings, it is experience that should prove valuable.


Lastly, I am gaining some useful, tangible skills through my internship, such as how to use Salesforce and a few new databases. While they are not difficult to learn, they are sources that I anticipate using again in the future since they are very commonplace in the work world.


(1) Getting Started at ITA

This summer, I am interning at the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) Advocacy Center, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. ITA is located in Washington DC, but I am completing the internship remotely. The mission of the Advocacy Center is to promote U.S. exports by helping American companies win contracts with foreign governments. For example, imagine that the Spanish Port Authority wanted to modernize their breakwaters. If a U.S. company pursuing this contract requests the assistance of the Advocacy Center and is approved, the U.S. Government is then free to advocate on behalf of the company for that particular contract. This could mean anything from a Cabinet-level secretary drafting a letter of support to a foreign decision maker, to having someone from the U.S. embassy in Spain meet with someone from the Spanish Port Authority to discuss why this company’s bid should be selected, or simply to make sure that things like project technical specifications aren’t skewed against U.S. industry. While receiving advocacy is not a guarantee of winning the contract (like any sale, the company would need to be competitive in terms of factors like cost and quality), it can help.

During my summer internship, my primary task is to conduct due diligence on companies requesting advocacy. To do this, I search through the information the company has submitted to the Advocacy Center, information available via the public record, as well as some Commerce Department databases to make sure that they meet all eligibility criteria and that they are a company the Advocacy Center could feel comfortable endorsing. For example, if only 2% of the new breakwaters would be made using U.S.-sourced materials, then the U.S. Government’s time and resources would likely be better spent assisting companies whose work is more beneficial to the American economy. Similarly, should my search show that the requesting company has questionable activity in the past, the Advocacy Center would not want to risk embarrassment to the U.S. Government by allowing high-level U.S. officials to advocate on the company’s behalf. As such, the work that I am doing supports the greater organization by making sure that the Advocacy Center can focus its efforts on the cases most likely to be successful and that reflect positively on U.S. firms.

While working to support the ITA’s goals, I have a few goals that I hope to achieve this summer. The first is to learn more about how the U.S. supports international trade, which I am accomplishing by being immersed in ITA’s working environment and learning about the work they do in-depth. I am also learning about the types of companies that pursue international trade through conducting due diligence research on them and sitting in on staff meetings where I hear about the projects on which others are working. Additionally, I am working in a professional environment, gaining a better understanding of the opportunities and career paths that the U.S. DOC offers and the skills needed to be successful here. Since I am interested in working in public service, this is an experience that I expect will prove valuable in the future. Finally, a third goal is to enhance my communication skills and ability to work collaboratively since I believe that this is something that can always be improved. To that end, I will continue to ask questions, interact with my supervisor and peers (e.g. weekly staff meetings), and incorporate feedback about my performance.