Paying it Forward

by Joe Catapano on May 20, 2014

Photo of 60 undergraduate college students at ICANN's Washington, DC office

Last week, I experienced a flashback, a touch of déjà vu you might say, as we welcomed 60 undergraduate college students into ICANN’s Washington, DC office.

The year was 2004. I had just graduated from university and was about to enter a fragile job market in the United States. We hadn’t fully recovered from the bursting of the “Dot Com Bubble.” Major corporations, such as Enron, had cratered. The terrorist attacks of September 11th were still fresh on our minds and the country was only a year into what would become a prolonged military conflict in Iraq on top of the war already being fought in Afghanistan. There was a great deal of uncertainty for new graduates that year.

One thing was clear, though.  It was critically important for me to meet as many people in the workforce as I could from important, leading organizations no matter the field.   Those I did meet told me it was equally important for them to connect with the young men and women coming out of college to identify if students’ skills met their needs, and begin forming relationships with candidates in the search for talent.

Fast-forward to last week, and my colleagues and I found ourselves looking across the table at a few dozen students who are in similar, perhaps even more difficult, circumstances looking for work. The world is still recovering from a devastating recession, organizations are being asked to do more with less, and the marketplace for talent is as rich and competitive as ever with global organizations exploring talent from a larger pool of countries.

The 60 students we welcomed from colleges and universities inside and outside the U.S. definitely are getting a leg-up. Their participation in internships and seminars through The Washington Center provides challenging opportunities to work and learn in Washington for academic credit., and to make valuable connections.

ICANN joined a list of organizations that includes the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation visited by the students during their Washington stay. One group focused on cybersecurity, the other on political science and international affairs.  They received a detailed briefing from ICANN staff and we had a healthy exchange on the Internet ecosystem, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) stewardship transition, security issues, and the new gTLD program. ICANN staff also shared their “paths to ICANN”, highlighting their diverse backgrounds and the experiences they brought to the organization. Our point was that no matter what your field of study or degree, you never know where your work experiences will take you.

Regardless of the careers these 60 talented emerging leaders might choose to pursue, I’m sure they’ll be great at whatever they do.  They will innovate and take their organizations to the next level and in 10 years, who knows?  They might themselves where I am now – on the other side of the table sharing all they’ve learned along the way

Joe Catapano is Coordinator, ICANN Global Stakeholder Engagement for North America

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