In this episode of DME Intern Podcast, we have our special guest Duncan McGuigan. Duncan is a Swiss American citizen and currently attends Portland State. Both of Duncan’s parents are artists which may have influenced Duncan to work in different fields, such as art, education, and food service. Duncan is a European studies Major and wants to pursue a master degree in Berlin when he graduates. He wants to work in International Affairs or Public Relations (PR), preferably in Germany. Duncan hopes what he is learning from the DME internship can “solidify me as a responsible, capable adult.”

Duncan is currently the Social Media Director Officer (DO) for Twitter outreach on the VA’s Twitter account. Use the audio player to listen to Duncan’s full interview, or read the transcript below:


Shannon Moran: The Department of Veterans Affairs does not endorse or officially sanction any entities that may be discussed in this podcast, nor any media products or services they may provide.

Hello and welcome to the intern podcast here with the Department of Digital Media Engagement. My name is Shannon Moran, and I am an intern and Executive Team Leader here with DME. I help run multiple podcasts within our platform, and host this one as well. We work really hard to make sure that you, the listener, get to learn more about what we do here within our DME program, tour fellow interns, and hopefully you can learn more about the other departments that we have within our program, and maybe compel you to apply if you are not an intern with us. That being said, I hope you enjoy!

Today I have Duncan. Both of his parents are artists. He is a Swiss-American citizen who started out in community college before taking time off to save up for university, and he now attends Portland State. He works in a pretty wide array of areas such as art, education, and food service. He plans to graduate and pursue a master’s degree in Berlin. He is a European studies major and he wants to work in international affairs or PR, preferably in Germany.

Hi, how are you today Duncan?

Duncan McGuigan Stull: I’m doing great actually, thank you.

SM: You are a European studies major?

DMS: Yeah, that’s correct

SM: So how did you decide on that field?

DMS: My mother is from Switzerland, and I always knew that I wanted to eventually do some work out in Europe. After doing some traveling I ended up in Berlin out there. I just fell in love with the city and decided that I really wanted to try to go to school and work out there. When I came back I changed my major from Econ to European Studies to give me a background to pursue a masters degree in Berlin. So, my European Studies major comes with some aspects of European politics, history, and also language.

SM: Right, so what languages do you speak?

DMS: I speak… my German is ok, I used to speak it when I was younger with my mother, but since then I’ve a bit fallen off. I’m taking classes for it again, for my major.

SM: That’s awesome. So what exactly do you do for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs?

DMS: So I am Department Officer for Twitter Outreach. So I help out with the organization of articles to be tweeted out by the VA twitter account. As well as a few other aspects.

SM: So what does it mean to be a Department Officer, as opposed to being a regular intern?

DMS: I have slightly more responsibility, and I try to take some of the burden off of our department head, now ELT. She does the work of about 10 people, so a little more responsibility. I help transfer articles, decide what’s appropriate and what’s not, rather than just posting them and scheduling them to tweet.

SM: That’s fantastic. So how did you find out about the internship?

DMS: I got an email from the head of my department at Portland State. I immediately started researching it, and I was like… I was just blown away. I was like, this is so cool. Like I would love to be a part of this. I guess this isn’t really exactly the question, but then I hit up my friend who has worked a number of these similar internships and he walked me through the steps of how best to apply, which I think really helped.

SM: That’s awesome, so how long have you been an intern with us?

DMS: About 17 days now.

SM: What are you most excited about for this internship?

DMS: A lot honestly. I really enjoy the events that we are doing. The Making Connections Mondays and Resume Friday. I think that’s really exciting. Also, just what the experience here can lead to for me is equally exciting.

SM: What would you like the experience here to lead to, for you?

DMS: Something in the industry that I want to pursue. Rather than a job in the restaurant industry or… something that I can work on while going to school that actually builds towards the career that I would like for myself.

SM: What is that career?

DMS: So yeah. I would love to be in PR, or ideally I would love to work in Germany dealing with America. Either on a client level or on a public relations level. I would love to just be a go-between for the countries, and I can use my experience in both cultures.

SM: What has been your favorite project so far?

DMS: I gotta say, I’m really excited to be on the podcast. I’m very much looking forward to going and hearing my voice when it comes out. I don’t think I’ve heard a recording of myself since I was like seven years old

SM: It’s a little weird. The first time you’re going to be like — is this what I sound like?? By now I’ve gotten used to it but it has definitely taken a while.

DMS: Okay. That’s what I was kind of a little bit dreading but I think it should be interesting.

SM: My first episode I ever did, I made everybody in my life listen to my episode before I could listen to it. I needed everybody to tell me if I sounded bad or whatever. It took me a long time to listen to episodes and interviews that I’ve recorded.

DMS: Yeah. I totally get that.

SM: What has been your favorite thing about the internship so far? You’ve completed the onboarding process, you’re on Slack, what’s been your favorite thing?

DMS: I was really excited to get made Twitter DO. I have some experience with the software, you know, Salesforce, Trello, etc. The old ELT Atifa vouched for me and said that she thinks I would be, I guess, formidable. I’m excited to get to more responsibility.

SM: It is fantastic how quickly within this program you can move up. And how you can be promoted, I moved from onboarding to ELT in less than 48 hours.

DMS: Yeah. It’s pretty exciting, right?

SM: It is really cool! Unlike most other internships.

DMS: Yeah it is. It’s very fluid, it feels like.

SM: Right so… Most people, myself included, would think — Twitter intern. You sit there and you write tweets. But I know there;s so much more that goes into that. So what… walk me through what that process might look like.

DMS: Compared to Facebook and Instagram I guess, on the Twitter side we are looking for a little bit more of a personal outreach. We want to actually touch people’s lives a little bit. A lot of our followers are either veterans or journalists, and people that have a vested interest in the things we are tweeting out. WE are looking for articles or things to post that people can genuinely connect with, rather than just smile at I guess. Whatever you do on Instagram.

SM: Yeah that’s really important work. Genuinely because it helps people better understand what we do, and how the resources at the VA can assist them in their lives.

DMS: Yeah.

SM: So what are your goals for internship, when you finish this in however many months?

DMS: I want to build up my responsibilities here a little bit just by showing that I am capable. And then, I don’t know, hopefully be able to transition my work here into something adjacent. Something similar, maybe in media or PR. Maybe another internship. I just hope this solidifies me as a responsible capable adult, you know?

SM: Yeah that’s, that’s awesome. You know, the best, most important part of the internship is we do the work most of the time for free. In return we get these skills that we can take to our next jobs. So that’s the tradeoff in this situation. So what is, I know you want to get your master’s degree in Berlin. What is next for you after… I know you said you want to work between the US and Germany. But what is life for you after the internship, what do you want to do going forward?

DMS: So I have a little over a year left in my degree here. I think what i’m going to do is try to compress my language courses into one summer quarter where I can take all 3 german credits that I need right away to graduate a bit earlier. And then, I am most likely going to buy a ticket to go to Berlin. I have some friends out there that I will probably stay with for a bit. Then I will try to find a job, work on my German while I am there, and at that time start applying to schools. There’s a few that I’ve already talked to. Being a dual citizen actually helps me a lot in the application process, but I want to get out there and get situated first. And then, you know, just see which way I want to go at that point. But I definitely would love to go. I would love to do my masters in communication, or business management, or something a little more specialized than European Studies.

SM: Right. So how has COVID impacted this experience for you as far as planning out the next 2, 3, 4 years for internships and all that kind of stuff. How has it derailed some of your plans, or changed them, or impacted you in that way.

DMS: So my plans are not so messed up. But it’s absolutely destroyed any sort of schedule and my work on self discipline that I had before. Not exactly… Before all of this I was in the gym five days a week, I had a schedule, I was in bed at a certain time, awake at a certain time. I was eating at a certain time. Everything was going so great. And then this covid thing happened and I spent the last freaking five months inside not going to the gym. And I’ve managed to stay productive, but it’s completely ruined… it’s really hard to maintain a schedule now with how many things are unavailable I think.

SM: Right so then what have you learned from this time that you will then be able to apply to careers and life moving forward.

DMS: A LOT of communication skills. I’m communicating with people on Trello, Slack, email, Reddit, you know. All… probably I wouldn’t have looked for this internship online if it wasn’t for Covid, I would’ve looked for something in person. It’s just given me a really great boost in terms of online communication. I assume that in the future a lot more business will be done online because of this pandemic.

SM: So what is your advice to either a brand new intern who maybe wants more responsibility, or someone who is maybe looking at applying to this internship or doesn’t know how it might apply to their career path, any of those things.

DMS: This internship has a lot of moving pieces, a lot of interns. It’s pretty fast moving. Just trust yourself and even if you’re not totally sure if you’re doing the right thing, just do the work anyway. Just make sure you are moving forward. Sooner or later you will release you actually know what you’re doing.

SM: Yeah that’s very much how all of us are going through life right now as well, especially as college students… that’s kind of… that’s so funny. Tell me a fun fact about yourself as we start to wrap this up.

DMS: I love to cook, I guess

SM: What’s your specialty?

DMS: I do some really good fried chicken. Let’s see, what have I been cooking lately? I do a really good sauteed kale pasta with vodka sauce. I like that a lot… what have I been cooking… I’ve been eating a lot of salad honestly, nothing interesting. But yeah I love to cook, especially I like Japanese food too.

SM: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day for this Duncan, this was really fun! Thank you for tuning in to the DME intern podcast. We hope you learned something about your fellow interns, more about our program, and that you come back and listen to us soon. Have a great rest of your day!