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December 14, 2017

5 Things I Learned at Waste Management as the Intern

By Abigail Mendoza


I spent the spring semester of 2017 applying left and right to internships, trying to build my portfolio and get my name out. I would apply to 1-3 internships a week every week, desperate to leave my subpar hostessing job at your local Houston sushi restaurant. Hostessing paid the bills, but honestly, I dreaded going to work. I always dreamed of what else I could be doing and I knew I was capable of more than food service like I’ve been doing since I was 16. I’m currently a 21-year-old senior at the University of Houston, studying Integrated Communications and minoring in Psychology. I aspire to be a creative director at an advertising agency one day, as my passion lies in being a leader and being the eye for art and aesthetics. After receiving news of acceptance into Waste Management, I was ecstatic because I could finally start a real desk job! It was a weird thing to get excited about, according to my friends. Was I really getting excited about a temporary 9 to 5 desk job? Indeed, I was. I was just supposed to stay for the summer, alongside my co-intern, Evan Neuhoff, but we were extended the opportunity to stay until December. So, what are the dirty details I uncovered while working at Waste Management?

1. We Aren’t Just a Trash Company

Since working here, I realized that there were so many creative opportunities here for me and creative projects that I could work on. It wasn’t just centered on waste, but also on recycling and sustainability. These topics really appealed to me because I consider myself a rather “green” person, trying to live as green and healthy a life to the best of my ability. It’s also been an interesting experience, especially since I’m currently in a corporate environment which people would assume isn’t really on the creative side. I’ve worked on numerous projects such as Facebook Live, weekly articles, and creative projects.

2. Corporate Is Full of Opportunity

Just like any other job, if you don’t make the most out of it, you’ll probably hate it. I’ve had friends ask me if I’m bored, and I tell them that I always have something to do, and am always busy. The corporate environment is something I don’t mind, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to explore what I like and what I don’t like for my future career. I can also safely say that a lot of surprises have hit me while working here. Some memorable moments of my time here would include the Facebook Live projects, visiting a landfill and Material Recycling Facility (MRF), delivering a diversity presentation in front of all the human resources vice presidents, and being able to go to New York with our President and CEO, Jim Fish for his Squawk Box appearance.

3. It’s a LOT of Work

“Intern” seems like a word associated with getting all the dirty work that your boss just doesn’t want to do and images of a student in a loosely-fitted suit struggling to carry coffee for the staff also comes to mind. But in reality, the work that I do here plays a big part in main operations and projects that my department works on for the company. I like feeling like a part of the team, and not just “the intern”. I’ve learned a lot about time management and handling stress. I’m currently taking 5 classes, take part in campus organizations, and balance the work and social requirements in my sorority along with working this job 2 to 3 times a week. I’ve learned to say “no” when I know my workload is overflowing and knowing it’s okay. I used to have a huge problem taking on so much and constantly being overwhelmed. It’s better to create good content than create a lot of subpar content that I know can be better.

4. Technology of the Future

One of the things that shocked me during my time here is the unique use of technology. I didn’t know that a company like Waste Management could utilize society’s food waste and turn it into energy. Other examples are how many of our trucks are powered by compressed natural gas, and all the technology in our neat trucks. It got me thinking that a lot goes into the waste industry and people tend to overlook that. It’s interesting once you know more about all that goes into the industry.

5. Recycling is Important!

If it’s one really big thing I learned working here at Waste Management, it’s that recycling is extremely important. I was never huge on recycling, but now I try to recycle as much as I can. I created a recycling quiz, and learned more about recycling than in all my 21 years of living. I didn’t know you couldn’t recycle plastic bags via curbside recycling programs—take them back to the grocery store instead! And when I tell my friends, they didn’t know either.

I’ve learned a lot my past few months here at Waste Management. I’ve made some friends, made connections, and learned a side of communications I never knew would provide me so many opportunities. The work environment is relaxed and not completely hectic, the people are all-around very kind, and there’s always something to do. I’m glad I was given this experience because it gave me that first push of confidence into the adult life which I’ve been scared and anxious to approach since starting college.