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Staff Spotlight: Andrew and Aman’s Reflections on Public Works Partners

By Public Works Partners

May 3, 2024

Throughout the past year, Project Coordinators Andrew Nicolais and Aman Patel have demonstrated unwavering dedication to strengthening our organizations and communities. Aman excels in his hands-on engagement with communities, finding it deeply fulfilling, while Andrew has shown remarkable focus on organizational health initiatives, spearheading tasks such as strategic planning and the implementation of online training programs for initiatives like the Jobs Plus program. As their internships came to a close, Susana Pereyra, Public Works Business Development Manager, had the opportunity to sit down with them to delve into their insights and reflections.

Susana Pereyra (SP): Alright, diving in: what sparked your interest in joining Public Works

Andrew Nicolais (AN): It was the internship component of my Master’s in Public Health. I started last May, and it was meant to just be a summer internship that I stayed on for on because I enjoyed the work so much. I applied to Public Works because I really appreciate all the work they do with nonprofits and government programs. If you’re going into Consulting, I think it’s better to consult for the people who are trying to make things a little bit better.

Aman Patel (AP): I joined Public Works in early June of 2023. Like Andrew, I did this for the internship component of my graduate program. I think what truly prompted me to apply to Public Works was just a quick browse through the website. The firm’s strong focus on making a positive impact in the communities we serve stood out to me. During my interview with Benjamin, it became evident that everyone here is deeply committed to the organization’s objectives. Having the chance to work here sounded amazing, and the projects I heard about were incredibly exciting. It was simply an opportunity I couldn’t resist.

SP: Could you share a bit about some of the projects you’ve tackled at Public Works? 

AN: In Oklahoma City, we were renovating a pair of historic buildings located in a historically Red Line district. We worked with local community leaders to envision the future of the two sites, which was honestly a highlight of my whole time being here. It was my favorite project I worked on. Then for the most part, I’ve been mainly involved with Organizational Health projects like strategic planning for Acacia, and supporting the Jobs Plus program. We’ve also been reorganizing Google Drive, which turned out to be more complex and time-consuming than we initially thought. But we’re nearly finished, so that’s a relief.

AP: I’ve been involved in numerous external and internal projects, and the diversity has been fascinating. The most enjoyable internal project for me has been contributing to the development of our firm’s generative AI policies, which I began about three weeks into my internship. Being able to work on something so impactful for the entire firm early on and seeing it through has been incredibly educational and rewarding. As for external projects, the standout has been the Fifth Avenue redesign. Engaging in public outreach and surveying, including chatting with New Yorkers during their lunch breaks, was a blast. Additionally, conducting technical zoning analysis for Fifth Avenue was a unique experience that I doubt I could have encountered elsewhere. It’s definitely my favorite project.

SP: So, how would you describe the team culture at Public Works and how has it shaped your experience?

AN: I really love the team. The atmosphere is incredibly welcoming, and I’ve always felt fully supported by both the team as a whole and my supervisors.They took the time to understand my work style, productivity preferences, and how they could best assist me. Regular check-ins and their readiness to help whenever I needed it made me feel both valued and supported. Moreover, the informal interactions with everyone in the office, where we chat about our lives and daily experiences, are great. I think it’s a cool environment where you can just have a casual conversation with the CEO. This level of friendliness and accessibility is something I find unique for a consulting firm.

SP: There’s nothing better than a good watercooler conversation with Celeste…

AP:Yeah, I’d say ‘friendly’ sums up the firm pretty well. Everyone here is incredibly accommodating. What I appreciate most about the team is their commitment to my growth and development. Despite being an intern, they’re invested in my career journey in every possible way. They take the time to know me as an individual, ensuring that they’re not overwhelming me with tasks that don’t align with my skills or interests. The level of support and collaboration from everyone on the team is truly impressive. 

SP: Looking ahead, what skills did you gain at Public Works? And how do you think they’ll boost your graduate studies or future career?

AN: So this was my first time in consulting, and my first job in an office setting for that matter. There was just a lot that I needed to learn right off the bat like mastering the writing style—striking that balance between professionalism and accessibility. I had to unlearn a lot of the academic jargon and writing habits I was accustomed to. I also honed my skills in qualitative data collection and analysis, a departure from my previous work in biochem labs and research, which were more quantitative in nature. 

AP: One skill that stood out as paramount in my growth is mastering the art of adopting a business voice. Given the extensive writing we do as consultants, tailored for diverse audiences, having that business tone ingrained is invaluable. Josh explained it as a skill that becomes second nature with practice—you develop an instinct for which words to employ and when, whether to opt for bullet points or full sentences. It’s essentially about effective communication, and it quickly becomes ingrained in your thought process.

SP: Here’s the wrap-up: What does being part of Public Works mean to you?

AN:Public Works holds a special place in my heart. I’ve had invaluable lessons and hands-on experience here, aligning with much of what I studied in my MPH program. It’s been incredibly rewarding to put into practice concepts like community engagement, conducting surveys, and program evaluations with real organizations. It feels like a full-circle moment, validating the investment in my degree. Moreover, I deeply admire Public Works’ mission of empowering nonprofits and crafting urban designs that prioritize community well-being. It’s a refreshing departure from the divisive approaches of the past. I’m truly grateful for the opportunity and will cherish this experience for years to come.

AP: For me, it boils down to the core concept of positive impact, which permeates everything we do and deliver to our clients. Our primary focus is always on making a meaningful difference in people’s lives—striving for greater equality, equity, and human-centric urban development. This mindset is ingrained in our approach; we call it ‘Process with Purpose,’ and it guides every facet of our work with intentionality. It serves as a constant reminder that behind every project, there’s a human element. While metrics like reducing traffic and enhancing safety are vital, it’s equally crucial to never lose sight of the individuals impacted by our decisions. Throughout my time here, I’ve remained steadfast in this belief, continuously reminded of the importance of our work in positively impacting people’s lives.

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