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Be Connected: Behind-the-scenes with summer youth employees for digital storytelling

All across the City of Boston, people are working tirelessly behind-the-scenes to make the City’s biggest and brightest ideas a reality. In our “Behind-The-Scenes” series, we sit down with them to provide a glimpse into who makes it all work, what they do, and how they do it.

In this edition, we sit down with two summer youth employees who participated in the City of Boston’s first-ever High School Digital Storytelling Internship to find out what they learned working for the City, how the experience prepared them for the “real world”, and what today’s youth really think about TikTok, millennials, and Beyoncé. 

Learn more about the Digital Storytelling Internship program.

I appreciate you guys talking to me today. We've heard from a lot of our employees that they have enjoyed working with the youth workers this summer. So I really wanted to be able to share a little bit about your experience with our workforce. Can we start by having you introduce yourself to them?

Tyler: Hi, my name is Tyler Ng and I'm 17 years old. I live in West Roxbury, and I go to school at Boston Latin Academy. I'm a senior this year.

Harrison: Hi, my name is Harrison Tran. I also live in West Roxbury, and I'm going into my sophomore year at Boston Latin School.

Stories From Our Employees: Youth 1
Tyler Ng (left) and Harrison Tran (right)

How did you guys find out about this opportunity and what was the application process like?

Tyler: I first found out of the digital storytellers team through the Department of Youth Engagement & Employment. They have the youth employment summer program as always. It was interesting because it was a bit later in the year when I saw the job posting. I was like, "Oh, there's a good opportunity for me." I wanted to jump on it.

You saw it posted online?

Tyler: Yes, I saw it posted on SuccessLink.

How about you Harrison?

Harrison: I saw it posted on SuccessLink too, and I just applied, everything came together and I was like, “Cool”. Yeah. Just pretty typical.

And did you guys know what “digital storytelling” entails when you applied for the position, or is that something that you learned on the job?

Harrison: Well, I looked at the job description, so I knew a little bit, but not obviously not everything.

Tyler: I also read the job description, however I figured from the name that we would be doing some sort of work with the news. I knew what Kristina did for the City, and I figured we'd be doing something similar. We ended up doing a lot more than I realized.

Awesome. Do you guys think of yourself as storytellers outside of this role?

Tyler: Kind of. Yeah.

Harrison: Yeah.

How did you feel when you were offered the position?

Tyler: I was excited. After the interview, my parents were like, "Oh, did you get it? Do you think you got it? When do you find out if you got it?" I was like, "Chill out, I don't know yet!" And then I got my answer, and I was just really happy to be accepted to something like this for the summer.

Haha, I’ve learned that it’s best sometimes to wait until you have all the information before you share life updates with your parents. That is exciting though, I don’t blame you! How about you Harrison?

Harrison: For me, I was also really excited, because this is the kind of job I want to do in the real world. This is the kind of job I would go to college for, so yeah. It's good to have experience with it.

Hey Harrison, I have news for you. This is the real world. Welcome. You're here. 

Harrison: Haha, sure, If you say so. 

So people say that the most memorable days on the job are your first and last. What do you remember about your first day?

Tyler: Honestly, I remember it felt really short. Above all, trying to remember everyone's name and get my schedule together. The most memorable moment was trying to figure out my contacts. I tried getting in touch with my fellow storytellers so we could all figure out, "Okay, what's next?"

Harrison: Yeah. The first day was kind of crazy. It was hard having a schedule for everything and looking into the future. Cause some things were unplanned, but yeah.

Yeah, I think we’re all dealing with some unplanned activities as a result of the pandemic. How did you guys manage to make connections with your colleagues and your managers in this new kind of socially distant, remote world?

Tyler: Honestly, I just messaged them through email at first, they put me in touch with our contacts over email and then I started collecting phone numbers. We also use this thing called Slack, it's a way of communicating informally with the team, and it was interesting because I feel like I actually got to know my coworkers pretty well using digital tools. 

Yeah. I've actually been surprised a little bit by how well I feel like I can connect with people virtually. For instance, I can see into your room Tyler, and you have polaroid photos and string lights decorating your walls. You start asking about things like that, and you get to know things about people that you wouldn’t otherwise. How about you, Harrison? How did you feel that you were able to connect with your colleagues?

Harrison: Just going out shooting, spending time together outside and hanging out basically. And having conversations with them and the people that we're interviewing together. That helps you get to know your coworkers better because it's just a general conversation. So I think that's the best way I connected with the people around me.

Stories From Our Employees: Youth 2
Harrison, Tyler, and a fellow Digital Storytelling intern get to know each other in between shooting

...Do you guys think you're better interviewers than I am? You can be honest.

Tyler: No.

Harrison: Nope.

I'm just kidding. It's harder than you'd think, huh? 

Tyler: Sure, yeah.

What would you say was the biggest challenge that you faced on the job and how did you handle it?

Tyler: For me, it was managing my own time. Our job is very, very flexible, but also kind of chaotic. It's interesting, because there'll be days where we don't have too many meetings. Then there are other days where it's back-to-back and it's like, "Okay, I've got to keep up to this and that at a certain time." But it's kind of enjoyable because it's a different lifestyle than what we're used to as students.

How about you, Harrison?

Harrison: I think the biggest challenge for me was editing, because we spent a really long time trying to get the clips together and trying to sync it up, and it was just a whole process.

Yeah. I had my first iMovie experience this summer and I thought that I could just figure it out the way I can figure out most digital tools, and I was...not very good. But you learn with practice, right?

Harrison: Yeah.

I bet you guys are a lot better at video editing than I am, anyway. So what are you most proud of accomplishing this summer?

Tyler: I think just completing the interviews that we did, because connecting with those people at first was very easy. Well, it wasn't that easy, but it was a lot better with Kristina [Vicario] and GuruAmar [Khalsa], because they definitely helped us a lot along the way. Then conducting the interview and trying to put everything together in the end. It’s just that the process is pretty much the same each time, but there are small things you don’t expect that create unique challenges along the way. It’s enjoyable to figure those out and get to the end. 

Harrison: I think the part I'm most proud of is going to all these different places in Boston and recording, interviewing and getting all that footage that in one week. We went to like, ten places across the City and interviewed like, eleven people I believe.


Harrison: It was kind of crazy for one week, but we pulled it off.

Tyler, you mentioned, Kristina and GuruAmar earlier. I wanted to ask you, how have they served as mentors to you this summer? How did they manage to help you know what to expect, and how to work in this environment? 

Tyler: Oh they definitely helped us out, because we were very lost at the beginning. This one time, we spent a whole week saying "Okay, we're going to try to do this one idea." But then we found we couldn’t really get anywhere, just trying to flesh it out on our own. With Kristina and GuruAmar helping us think it through, ideas started flying, and the process really started rolling from there. 

Harrison: They were extremely supportive. I feel like they were there every step of the way. When we started filming, they would give us advice about filming. When we needed people to reach out for interviews, they hooked us up with the right people. When we needed editing help, they helped us edit. So, they were a support system for us throughout the entire process. 

Stories From Our Employees: Youth 3
Seasoned employees like New Urban Mechanic's Kris Carter (pictured) mentored the youth employees throughout the summer

Amazing. That's awesome. How do you guys feel that this experience has prepared you for a career?

Tyler: As I said previously, I'm a rising senior. I've always been interested in digital media and things like that. I want to do something in that field as a career in the future. Maybe not as much videoing, but doing that part definitely gave me another side to the work, because I don't have that much exposure to those tools while I'm in school. So it definitely gave me a better idea of what goes into this type of career. And it's definitely put a bit of confidence in me, because now I have some experience with it.

How about you, Harrison?

Harrison: I think, working for the City of Boston, it's a big deal. It’s important work, so that's a benefit, and it's also a benefit to get experience in the field. That's what's most valuable.

Absolutely. And that'll put you ahead of your peers.

Both: Mm-hmm.

So, what did you guys learn about the City of Boston this summer?

Tyler: Well, it still blows me away how many departments there are. 

Me too, Tyler.

Tyler: Yeah, and when I got to know the City better I was like, "Wow, the departments are really kind of intertwined with each other.” I've only got to see a handful. By a handful, I mean probably 20 that were interacting with the DoIT team. I know there’s a lot more. It made me realize, "Wow, there's so many little things that need to be done in order to create this big thing that's known as the City of Boston." So that was definitely interesting.

That's why seven years later, I'm still working here. Because I'm learning something new about the City of Boston every day. How about you, Harrison?

Harrison: Like Tyler said, there's a lot of departments. But I also learned about new areas of Boston that I'd never been to before, because I've never had the chance. And now that I have, I'm learning all these new things about the City I’ve been living in all this time. 

That's awesome. What did you learn about yourself this summer?

Harrison: I learned that I can... This is a tough one.

You can think about it.

Harrison: I learned that I’m capable of working harder than I thought. Getting all the videos filmed in one week seemed like a big challenge, but I was able to do it. And I've also learned how to follow up with good questions when interviewing, because at first, when I was interviewing, I wasn't that good. And then, the more you do it, the more you get good at it. So I was able to pick up steam basically.

Do you have any interview tips for me?

Harrison: Don't focus on pre-scripted questions, focus on asking questions that...Let's say I was talking about apples, then the next question should be about apples. Focus on their response, basically.

Yeah. Have a real conversation.

Harrison: Exactly, yeah.

That's great. Thank you. I'll take that to heart. How about you, Tyler? What did you learn about yourself this summer?

Tyler: I learned that I'm more organized than I ever realized, and that’s a unique strength. Organizing the schedules came easily to me, but I realized "Oh, I can help my peers with that." And so I reached out, and I was like, "Do you guys need help with your scheduling?" Because I noticed that it was a bit difficult for others to keep up with it. So, yeah. 

Great. Do you have any interview tips for me?

Tyler: I say, look them in the eye and respond to them. Again, like having conversation.

Alright, let’s wrap up with some lightning round questions. As I mentioned, I'm 30 years old now, part of the millennial generation, and I'm starting to feel my age in terms of pop culture. So I'm going to ask you some pop culture questions just to gauge where I'm at in terms of being cool. Right?

Tyler: Okay.

Harrison: Sounds good.

TikTok or Instagram?

Both: Instagram.


Tyler: Yeah. Maybe we're old too.

I was just going to say, that's good because I have Instagram and I don't have TikTok, so I've got one check in the cool column. 

Harrison: Instagram just added a TikTok-type feature. It kind of stinks, but...TikTok is definitely for people who can keep up with it. It really depends in my opinion. It's also kind of niche, like it can be political or really specific. And the humor can either be really funny, or really stupid.

Tyler: Terrible. Yeah.

Next lightning round question. How do you guys feel about Beyoncé?

Harrison: I have no idea.

Tyler: Never listened to her.

Oh my God. Are you messing with me?

Tyler: I mean, she's an icon...but at the same time, I don't know her songs. 

Stories From Our Employees: Youth 4
The interviewer's reaction to that blasphemous response.

Yeah we’re gonna move on really quickly, because I don’t know how to deal with this information. What do you think of the millennial generation?

Tyler: They're okay.

Harrison: They're fine.

Tyler: They’re good teachers, I guess.

Oh thanks. That's good to hear. That's good to hear.

Harrison: Okay yeah, good teachers.

All right, well I’ve really, really enjoyed talking to you both, and I have to tell you that I'm walking away from this conversation feeling very inspired. Sometimes I still think of myself as a young person, and then I realize that you guys really are going to be the future of the City, and you're doing an incredible job already. So, keep doing what you're doing. Thank you so much. I hope you guys have a great school year and that you come back to work for the City of Boston again someday.

Tyler: You too. Good luck.

Harrison: Bye, thank you.

Got a suggestion for our next Behind-the-scenes interview? Let us know!

About the interviewer:

Erin Santhouse joined the City of Boston in 2014 as a scheduler for Mayor Walsh. She is currently a Project Manager for the HR Transformation and the lead content strategist for Be Connected. In lieu of providing further biographical information, she suggests googling “Kelly Kapoor quotes”.

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