Intern Q&A: Simon, Research Intern

Simon Walker has interned with williamsworks since April 2015. He recently graduated with a BA from the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies, with a focus on International Political Economy. Simon is the 2015 recipient of the prestigious Jackson School Leadership Award for his demonstrated academic excellence and leadership potential.

Simon sat down to talk about his experiences in school and as an intern at williamsworks .


Q: What did you do before returning to college?

A: Before I transferred to the University of Washington from Shoreline Community College, I was an auto technician.  I studied at an automotive trade school in Arizona, and I ended up at Audi Academy – a manufacturer-specific training program. After finishing school, I went on to work for a few Audi and Volkswagen dealerships for a few years. I started to become more interested in the world around me and somewhat disinterested in working on cars, I didn’t see myself doing it for the rest of my life.  So I decided to go to Shoreline Community College to study politics and economics with the goal of transferring to the University of Washington (UW). I ended up transferring to the Jackson School of International Studies at UW Seattle.


Q: What did you study at UW?

A: International Studies – which is a very broad, interdisciplinary program. I guess if I had to choose two things I enjoyed studying within the Jackson School, they would be forced migration studies–how refugees navigate the international refugee regime and gain asylum—and international political economy—the study of economic systems, markets and their relationship with political systems.


Q: Why did you choose to study international studies at UW?

A: Well, I had originally returned to Shoreline [CC] to study political science and play soccer. I hadn’t even known international studies was its own discipline at this point and I saw a course offering called “States and Capitalism,” which talked about some really interesting stuff – discussing the rise and spread of capitalism from 1500 to 1700 and examining how trade had begun to change the world. It looked extremely interesting, so I took the class and it really spurred my interest so I took the next course offering.  After that I was hooked, so I changed my major to international studies and began to pursue a direct transfer to the Jackson School.


Q: How long have you interned for williamsworks?

A: About 4 months, I’ve interned with williamsworks all of this last spring and continued on into the summer.


Q: Why did you want to intern at williamsworks?

A: I became friends with a williamsworks intern while working with the Jackson School Journal (the Jackson School’s undergraduate academic journal). She thought that I would enjoy the experience and explained that it had been an excellent learning opportunity for her. So I looked into what williamsworks was all about and what they had accomplished in the short time they’ve been in existence. I found their work to be very impressive, and I really wanted to be around and learn from individuals who were experienced in making the kind of work that williamsworks accomplishes happen.


Q: What type of work have you done since you joined williamsworks?

A: A lot of different things. Some of my work has involved researching and analyzing different nonprofit organizations as prospective partners for clients, other times I’ve been involved on the strategy side of things—building industry landscapes to help us understand what a client might be interested in and best positioned for and pursuing and recommending avenues that make the most sense. Database analysis is also something that I’ve spent a lot of time with among many more experiences. In short, I’ve been able to get my hands into all kinds of different things – it’s been such a great experience.


Q: What’s something that has happened with your internship that you didn’t expect?

A: I didn’t really expect to feel like I’m an important part of the team as an intern. I didn’t expect to be treated with value and asked my opinion about things or be given major projects and the responsibility to complete them on deadlines. I think it’s really rare to be treated as a valuable asset as an intern and to be trusted with important tasks. That’s something that surprised me on day one, and the experience has greatly contributed to my growth as a researcher and strategic thinker.


Q: What are your plans now that you have graduated?

A: I plan to explore the job market in Seattle, prepare for the GRE/GMAT and start applying to professional schools. I’ve become really interested in professional degrees because of the exposure to hard skills that I would get. My experience at williamsworks has sort of changed the trajectory that I was on as I wanted to pursue an academic graduate program for most of my time as an undergrad. After gaining experience in the consulting world, I see project management and development as something that I could do as a career. I would love to be able to apply what I’ve learned at williamsworks in the humanitarian space. I’m part of International Rescue Committee Seattle’s young professional group, Generation Rescue, or GenR. A lot of the stuff that we do here in Seattle is increasing awareness of issues and fundraising for the IRC in Seattle. I’d love to continue in that sort of work as a professional.


Q: Has this internship shaped or changed your future plans in anyway?

A: Yes, definitely. As I said, I was originally planning on continuing in academia.  I’ve always wanted to be part of organizations like IRC and MercyCorps, but it was always hard to envision exactly what I could do for such organizations. After working with project managers and directors at williamsworks – learning from them and seeing what the field of project management entails, I definitely see myself enjoying a similar career while contributing to humanitarian work.


Q: What is your dream job?

A: When I returned to school for a second career, I had planned to pursue something that allowed me to feel like I’m really making a difference in the world. I would eventually like to teach, but first I want to get out there. I think one of my ideal careers would be to be a project manager in some type of crisis management unit. I know that UNHCR has a crisis team that arrives within 72 hours after a crisis breaks out and starts working to keep as many people safe as possible. I know Mercy Corps, USAID, and others also have response units that do this as well. Other than that, anything that allows me to make a positive difference in people’s lives while earning a living would be perfect.


Q: If you could travel one place, where would it be?

I’d like to see East Asia, or Asia in general. I’d love to see Thailand, and experience their cuisine, Seattle has some great Thai food, but I’ve heard that the real thing is something that’s a must to experience.