DCPS Office Culture

By Senior Associate: Eunice Stefan

We are at the halfway mark of the UELIP summer program, and it’s been quite an eye-opening experience.  I work primarily in the Office of Human Capital (OHC) on the staffing team. In simpler terms, you could say it is the human resource office, but at DCPS central office, it is so much more. OHC includes Teacher Effectiveness, Principal Effectiveness, Recruiting and Selection, Data Analysis, Data Processing and Staffing.

My main project deals with project management and communications on the staffing team. My project involves interacting with people in OHC and lots of time on my laptop. I am in charge of tracking and monitoring a list of hundreds of teachers who we need to collect information from. On top of this project, I have been kept busy with other side projects, networking on my own and attending professional development events that UELIP has organized. As interesting and rewarding those experiences were, I will talk about an aspect of this internship that is not usually talked about.

The neatest thing that makes my experience special is the people who I get to work with on my team. Since we are all in close quarters in cubicles (my supervisor is at arm’s length from me), it’s been easy to feel like I am part of the team even only after a few weeks.  I also have been able to grasp DCPS office culture as I witness everyday interactions between coordinators, managers and directors on both work related and personal matters. My colleagues are able to intensely focus on their work, but also be available at a moment’s notice for another team member’s issues.

What I find impressive is the rapid transition from intense concentration on work to exchanging favorite ice cream flavors back to focusing on work. And moreover, the relationships that are developed between coworkers are genuine and personal so that discussing work is surprisingly engaging and fun. No, really.  I have seen this again and again in different contexts: during team meetings where we start off with a trivia game to warm up; in brown bag discussions where we give feedback to other teams we haven’t ever met;  at my desk while overhearing problem-solving between two co-workers. It is also amazing that in an office that consists of at least 500 people and spread out on four floors, every single person I have encountered is open and willing to talk to me whether it is about work, professional life or the best restaurant to frequent. This was new for me as my previous experience at administrative jobs had a strict binary relationship between work and fun. It was either one or the other.

I believe knowing how to communicate with each other is one of the most important skills you can gain at any internship. This can be pretty difficult if there isn’t a strong understanding on the infrastructure of an organization’s office culture. Along with the other skills I’m adopting on Microsoft Excel and Project Management, I most appreciate my widening definition of professionalism in the education field and what it should look like.

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