Communications Innovation

From intern to full-time: How Sugar Land is fostering a culture of growth 

Sugar Land has a long track record of turning its interns into full-time employees – and former Data and Innovation intern turned Digital Communications Specialist Naomi Genova is no different. 

Since the inception of the City’s internship program, over 20 interns have either directly transitioned or come back to work at the City in a full-time capacity, including current Sugar Land City Manager Mike Goodrum. 

When a full-time job in Sugar Land’s Communications Department was offered to Genova after her six-month internship with the City’s Department of Data and Innovation, she said it was an easy choice.  

“It was a no brainer for me because the culture of the organization positively impacted my internship experience,” Genova said. “The support that we had was constant and you could tell that there was always an effort to make us feel included, even though we were interns, from the beginning.” 

Elainie Nguyen (left) and Naomi Genova (right)

In early 2023, the Department of Data and Innovation started collaborating with the University of Houston-Sugar Land to solve city challenges in a new way while working with the top talent studying locally.   

“As a City, we proposed three challenges to this group of students hoping that they could use the knowledge they’ve learned throughout their time at UHSL to help us brainstorm some innovative solutions we could implement quickly,” Rachel Owens, assistant director for Sugar Land’s Department of Data and Innovation, said.  

Owens said that one of the challenges was about raising awareness of Sugar Land Animal Services. She said many residents didn’t realize the City managed an animal shelter, and they were looking to boost awareness of the shelter to increase overall adoptions. Genova and fellow intern Elainie Nguyen were tasked with making Animal Services more visible. The interns proposed an event that would promote the shelter’s location and encourage pet adoption.  

As part of her internship, Genova leveraged skills she learned from her courses at UHSL to bring a fresh perspective to the Department of Data and Innovation.  

“She really took our marketing to the next level,” Owens said. “She created designs related to priority projects. She created tote bags. She also helped us look at our website and figure out how we could best optimize it and what options we had to make it better for the public.” 

Although their proposed event was postponed indefinitely, staff all over the city were able to recognize Genova’s talent and dedication to the organization. Genova started her full-time role in June on the City’s communications team. 

“Sugar Land is a good place to be curious and wonder,” Genova said. “Through my internship, I was able to realize that the work that I do and that I’m passionate about can help others. It opened my mind to public service as a career.”  

The positive internship experience not only influenced Genova’s decision to pursue a career in public service, but highlighted the City’s commitment to nurturing and supporting their interns regardless of where they land careerwise. Elainie Nguyen, Genova’s fellow Data and Innovation intern, now works as an intern for HP. 

“My first impression of the City was that this was a place for growth,” Genova said. “This city encourages you to put your skills to the test and see what you can do with them, even if you don’t know where you can grow in the first place. Even now as a full-time employee, that culture and that way of thinking is still there. And I’m excited to learn how to understand our residents and do my best to provide the best type of content for them on social media.” 

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