Meet Michael Gatheru—who just received his undergraduate degree from UCLA in Environmental Science. Michael joined ESA as an intern during the Spring 2021 session, and was recently hired on as a full-time employee in our Water group. Hear more about Michael’s internship experience at ESA from a recent interview with Barbra Calantas, who led the development of ESA’s Education, Outreach, and Internship (EOI) Program along with Lindsey Sheehan.
Q: What were your goals for your internship?
Michael Gatheru (MG): I know when I initially applied, I was looking for experience related to the water industry and wanting to understand it better. After getting more exposure to Community Development, I saw that I really enjoyed it, too. I wanted to improve my writing, get better at understanding municipal codes, and talk to people that already have experience in the industry to learn what they know. I really enjoyed working with people in different departments and having multiple projects to work on with others. I especially enjoyed working with GIS.
Q: What opportunities did you have to learn and grow?
MG: Initially, I was hoping to use the internship to better understand how watersheds are managed, but there so many other opportunities that came up during the internship that went beyond my initial goals. Working with Byron Amerson and the GIS team, I got to work on a community zoning map. I realigned attribute tables and created a new shapefile with communities in one attribute table. It was helpful for my technical skills and reinforced what I had learned in my classes. I also really enjoyed getting to work with Shannon Wages on the Community Development team—reading through the history of different communities and looking for opportunities to improve them. Another example was working with Crescentia Brown on a project description—I really got to understand how it plays an integral role in the CEQA process.
Q: Was there someone who encouraged your development?
MG: Three people for sure—Alisa Moore, Elizabeth Kanner, and Crescentia Brown—but, actually, I feel like everyone I worked with really cared about my development. They contacted me every single day to check in, made sure I didn’t have questions. I feel like everyone really nurtured my growth.
Q: What else would you like to share about your internship experience?
MG: One thing I really appreciated was that there are so many different opportunities at ESA. For instance, some interns had very unique interests—like someone who really wants to do environmental justice—and people find opportunities to give you. You aren’t just confined to work with one department.
Also, the employee resource group for Black employee-owners has been very helpful—getting to understand the experience of other Black people here, having a safe space to de-stress, and talk about the world around us. I have really enjoyed being part of this group.
Q: Would you recommend ESA to a friend as a great place to work?
MG: Absolutely. I want to go back to my school and tell everyone to apply for this internship. I want to tell everyone at my school and other environmental science friends about ESA.