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Strengthening skills throughout the session

April 21, 2023 by Jacob Katz

Being a person who learns best by seeing and doing, my time serving as a legislative intern this session has been a truly optimal environment for learning and growing both personally and professionally. Through observing professionals in various agency positions and participating in the work with their guidance and support, I have strengthened skills such as empathy and self-awareness that, although may not be listed in job descriptions, are worth their weight in gold as the post-pandemic virtual divide continues to restructure the workplace. Members of the Legislature seem to recognize the value of experience-based learning, too. Legislation like SHB 1013 — a bill establishing regional apprenticeship programs — are waiting for the governor’s decision, the landscape and possibilities of experience-based learning are growing.

Having worked as a chef for almost two decades prior to my current foray into postsecondary education and policy, merely working in an office setting during this internship allowed me to work on different communication styles, manage deadlines and workflows, and identify opportunities for collaboration with colleagues both inside and outside of the agency. The fast pace of the legislative session was reminiscent of a Friday night dinner service, allowing familiar skills such as organization and adaptability to be honed and sharpened. The concise and efficient communication necessary to be heard over the hustle and bustle of the kitchen set me up for success in the Legislature as well; a world in which there is little time to mince words.

While I was able to strengthen some valuable skills held over from my time in hospitality, some that were paramount to my success in that environment had to be retooled to be successful in this new one. Although the tempo of the session itself was akin to that of my previous professional life, the bureaucracy and legislative process in general called for a level of patience with which I was unfamiliar.

When bills were introduced, wheels were put into motion instantly, analyzing the legislation, forming opinions and coordinating the specifics of testimony. The call to action mimicked the adrenaline of an order coming into the kitchen in which case kicked off a furor of activity: vegetables, proteins and starches sizzling as they make contact with the surfaces of hot pans and broilers; verbal calls being made up and down the production line, informing counterparts of the timeline on the component of the dish originating from their station; calls from the expeditor pushing to work faster and more efficiently, culminating in the service of the ordered items to the guests.

Now in the world of restaurants, unless an error was made along the way, that would be the end of the story. In legislation, however, it was often just the beginning.  As bills filtered through their policy and fiscal committees on their way to their chambers’ floors, amendments were filed, new hearings were scheduled, and some bills died. This seemed to provide a sense of variety and continuity all at once as I continued to work on these new versions of familiar documents and continued to advocate for students. This was much different than the almost instant gratification of watching the freshly prepared meals make their way to the guests.

As the session comes to a close and I look back on my very first blog post as a legislative intern, it is hard to find the words to summarize how impactful this experience has been. Advocating to implement change for students such as myself left space for authenticity in my testimony and provided a very personal connection with the purpose of the work. The State Board’s overall focus on equity in the community and technical college system and the opportunity to participate in several DEI conferences and workshops inspired me to further my own work in the area, leading to involvement with several coalitions in the Olympia and surrounding areas. In the coming months, I will be moving to Olympia to continue my educational career in political science in hopes of continuing a career in the advocacy space.

As I sign off for now, a little reminder to be kind to yourselves and each other.

Last Modified: 4/21/23, 3:47 PM
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