The Quad Summer Internship Series
Irina Plaks, National Defense Industrial Association
Position: Government Policy Division Intern
School: University of Georgia
Major: International Affairs
how did you get the internship?
First I was accepted into the UGA Honors in Washington Program, which provides students with a stipend to come intern in DC for the summer. Then came the hard part of finding an internship. I scoured the internet looking for things that fit my interests and I must have sent over 30 applications and heard back from maybe 5 of the places I applied. NDIA’s Chairman is actually a UGA alum and he got in touch with the Honors Program, they passed along my resume, and my mentor called me for an interview and offered me the job! At that point I had another offer from a think tank I had applied to, but when it came down to it, I thought that NDIA would open up more opportunities for me and it was more aligned with my interests.
What’s a typical day for you like?
After I grab a cup of coffee in the morning, I read over my emails and check the news. Then depending on the day, I’ll either research defense acquisitions and the defense industry, work on drafting sections of reports for Congress, or put together contact lists for various luncheons and events that we host. Some days are slower than others, and some days I get to do really cool things like go to think tank conferences, breakfasts with Congressmen, or meetings with the top defense contractors in the country.
What is your favorite part about this opportunity and what is the most challenging part about it?
My mentor is all about helping me make the most out of my experience, so since day one he’s been more than willing to let me tag along to all of these awesome events and meetings. That’s definitely my favorite part so far. The most challenging part was coming in knowing almost nothing about the defense industry and hearing everyone around me speaking in acronyms nonstop. The learning curve was very steep.
What advice would you give to future interns to maximize their experience?
Be as friendly and helpful to the people you are working with as possible! One of my first days my mentor told me about one of his more memorable experiences when his old boss started yelling and screaming at him. His response was “I’m sorry sir, my job is to try to make your life easier, and if I am not doing that well, then please tell me what I can do to make that better.” That’s the type of helpful attitude they’re looking for and it will definitely pay off. If you show that you are grateful to be there and more than willing to help out, then they will be more than willing to help you make those crucial connections!
How will you apply the work you’re doing here to your college experience?
I would say that my internship experience is much better preparation for the real world than almost any of my college classes so far. I’m learning hands on how different parts of government work together with the private sector and going much more in depth into defense policy. That is almost impossible to replicate in the classroom.
Is there anything else you would like to add about what makes your internship unique?
NDIA is the largest defense association in the country, so we’re always at meetings with defense contractors, consultants, and government officials. There is no better way to network!
If you have any more questions about the position or Irina's experience tweet her @IraPlaks