Out West student blog

Overcoming the Distance


Sindhu during a trip to Iceland in March 2019. Ahh...to be able to travel again. (Photo credit: Sindhu Nathan)

By Sindhu Nathan, PhD '22

Hometown: Austin, TX
Chemical Engineering
Intern, California Energy Commission

This summer, I’ve been able to do some really interesting work as a technical communicator by helping with the Vehicle-Grid Integration Roadmap Update--which will be published later this year. In particular, I worked up an introductory graphic that motivated the report and highlighted some of the key findings--this is to help a legislative staffer or a member of the public quickly get an idea of what is going on and help them assess what to read. I got to engage in some writing as well, synthesizing equity issues in the report (how can we be sure everyone has access to the clean transportation they need and can get all the benefits?). The office has adapted extremely well to the virtual format--everyone uses collaborative, shared documents, and we're equipped to talk to each other across many platforms (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Amazon Chime--so many to choose from). Researching the technical details, engaging in the public workshops, and getting to sit in on working meetings that tackle these hugely complex issues has taught me so much about how California stakeholders need to work closely together to achieve the progress the legislature and executive branch mandate. 

As for personal growth, navigating the virtual space was hard at first. My first internship in 2015 taught me that I needed to be extremely proactive in asking questions, seeking opportunities, and networking to make the most out of an internship experience. I’m thankful to have had that experience ingrained into me before this summer, because working remotely forced me to put those skills to the test in order to contribute to the Energy Commission’s mission. Remote work opens the doors to be connected to a lot of really interesting people--you just have to ask. It was hard to not be able to meet people organically around the building or through a meeting I sat in on, but overcoming that challenge has allowed me to foster really exciting connections to scientists, lawyers, and policy leaders who have helped me grow my understanding of California’s transportation sector and have motivated to pursue public service more seriously. One example was a series of conversations I had with equity leaders across the Commission. I first spoke to the lead in my office on equity issues about helping her with her work because ensuring an equitable transition is so essential to me. She, in turn, connected me to the staff, team at the Public Advisor’s office, and Disadvantaged Advisory Group to really dig into the equity questions the Energy Commission is seeking to address. This has fired up my passion for energy and environmental justice. Setting up these personal conversations has allowed me to build genuinely meaningful connections beyond a brief wave in the hallway. Accelerating the growth of my networking skills has been a great learning experience, and I hope that I can foster these connections in my post-graduate career. 

While I’m sad to be closing out my internship in a couple of weeks and especially disappointed I won’t get to meet the office in person this year, I’m thankful to Commissioner Monahan for giving me an interesting challenge to learn about and also give me the flexibility to explore the breadth of what’s going on at the Energy Commission. I’m optimistic that before my time at Stanford ends, the world will become a safer place and I can get up to Sacramento to meet these changemakers soon!

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