Job Title: Senior Program Manager
Type of Company: The lower house (Assembly) of New York State legislature.
Education: BA, Political Science, Johns Hopkins University MA, doctoral studies, University of Pittsburgh (ABD)
Previous Experience: I did research in university setting, then worked in County and City government before moving to the state level.
Job Tasks: My primary responsibility is to manage the legislative agendas for four different legislative groups (two commissions, one committee and one task force.) I direct a small staff that helps research issues and develops legislation for introduction, and, we hope, enactment into law by the State of New York.
We may hold a public hearing or roundtable discussion to get input from experts and the general public. We also look at developments in other states, the federal government and research by scholars to help gather background material. We look at economic statistics, agency documents and published reports or conduct a survey. My job is to direct the other staff in their research efforts, to translate our findings into a product that can be readily used by the legislators, and to work with the legislators to help define their priorities.
Our group also works on projects at the request of the house leadership. Our products may be a short memo, a long research report or proposed legislation. Projects may need to be completed right away or may extend over several months or more depending upon the issue. Two of the entities that I work with are involved in technology-based economic development. We often travel to universities or high tech companies to discuss how the State can help their efforts and to see how successful state investments have been in creating jobs and economic growth.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: For me, there are two very positive aspects of the job: the variety of work and the sense of public service. We often look for the "best practice" in public policy and then try to find the way for the state to adopt this approach. This often means learning new things and then, ideally, seeing your research applied to a real problem that will help the state's citizens.
The most difficult part is often there are too many demands at the same time, and it is hard to plan long-term.
Job Tips: Balance your studies. Technical knowledge is very helpful, but the ability to communicate that knowledge is just as important. Still, a field of expertise in science, law, or finance is essential.
Work on team projects. There are too many situations that require a collective effort and collective knowledge.
Additional Thoughts: I initially saw this job as a temporary position, and that I would eventually take an academic teaching position. However, I'm still here and I'm not bored. I've developed expertise and I continue to find new things that are interesting and important.
I never completed my Ph.D, which I regret. If I had to do everything over, I would still work for the legislature, but I would have pursued a degree in either business or legal studies instead of earning academic credentials.
The most important personal quality is the ability to be flexible. Legislators are very diverse; so are their staffs and so are the issues.
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