Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving, examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Denver: We visit the best corporate cultures of nonprofit organizations and social good businesses, but there are some wonderful work environments in the governmental sector as well. And one of those would be OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. So today, we’ll be heading down to 1100 New York Avenue in Washington, D.C. to hear from some of the members of the OPIC team.
Steven Smith: I think that people often have a perception that government is bureaucratic. OPIC, in the time that I’ve been here, and I’ve been here now for 20 years, it’s the opposite of that. There are a lot of us here who are from or come from the private sector. The way that we look at what we do, it’s very easily measured as what happened with other financial institutions. So, we can see what we’ve contributed from day-to-day.
Steven Johnston: So, as I’m talking with friends and family, that’s usually what they come back with is, “That sounds like a really cool place to work. Your job has a lot of meaning”, and it really does and that motivates me every day when I come to work, that it’s not just a bureaucratic job pushing paper and getting things done. There are days that feel like that, but most days, you can see a connection between the work that you participate in and the end result, which is making a difference in someone’s life on the other side of the world.
John: The second reason I love my job is because of OPIC itself and how we’re organized. We’re very non-hierarchal. We’re a very small organization that makes us be nimble, and I feel that at any point in time, I could go right into our front office and talk with anybody and senior management about any issue on my mind. And that’s different from the typical government model where you have a larger bureaucracy in different offices.
Julia: And so, the reason that we came to OPIC really is a combination of both the dedication to the mission of OPIC as well as the choice to serve the US government as a federal employee. And so, it’s really a choice and as many people, when we surveyed, they said an honor to work for the US government and to represent the US Government abroad. And as we heard from our new CEO today, OPIC is widely-recognized abroad and a lot of these developing countries and we are, as OPIC employees, the face of the US Government in a lot of those countries. So it really is an honor to serve the US Government in that way.
Steve Lucas: We travel a lot, but some of our co-workers does not in their day-to-day activities or duties. So a lot of the times when we are traveling, we are exposed to various foods and various cultures and things of that nature. And so on International Day, we bring everything we’ve learned and everything we’ve been exposed to for that particular day and have various decorations and souvenirs that we’ve gotten from these countries just on our day-to-day travels. And we expose all of our employees to these various tasteful, delicious dishes that some of our colleagues might not have had the chance to go or partake in.
Julia: And so, a couple of the ways that we’ve done that is through credit roundtables. So every other week, our credit policy group selects an OPIC employee to come and share some of the knowledge that they have about a specific deal or a sector and make a presentation to anybody who’s interested in coming. And then it usually starts off a conversation about halfway through presentation and very rarely people actually get through the whole presentation because everybody has a lot of questions and wants to learn more about it. And this has really kind of helped instill this culture of going and asking your colleagues for help and constantly learning from everybody else around here.
Amanda: One thing that’s great about OPIC is that it’s efficient and it’s small and that’s what makes it nimble. As an agency, we’re able to respond quickly to events that happen overseas and be able to create impact that way. And I think one other point that makes us unique within the government is that we’re self-sustaining. We’re self-sustaining agency and that makes, I think, the culture here different. A lot of folks here come from the private sector. They have that background and that influences the culture here.
Ryan: I think to me the wow factor is that I’ve worked at OPIC for 20 years, I still like coming to work. I find it interesting. I find it fulfilling and those days which are better or worse than others, you know that the next day will prove better. And so I [take] that’s a compliment to an organization where you can continue to say that.
Denver: I want to thank all those who participated in this segment: Steven Smith, John Didiuk, Steven Johnston, Julia Robbins, Amanda Burke, Steven Lucas, and Ryan Bequai. To hear this again, read the transcript, and see pictures of the participants in the OPIC offices, just come visit denver-frederick.com.
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