Learning about government jobs

Matt Tice and Daniel J. Hopkins were good friends while attending American University’s undergraduate program. Now, working for the Department of Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency respectively, the two are part of the next generation of Washingtonians working to change the world.

Tice, 24, works in one of the newest departments in the federal government. With more than 230,000 people in more than two dozen separate agencies, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working to streamline itself as it enters its second decade of existence.

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Tice, of Mt. Vernon Square, is working in an Efficiency Representative fellowship that will end in May. His mission: reduce costs, streamline processes, eliminate duplicates and allow for better customer service representation.

“DHS is really growing,” Tice said. “There’s a lot of young people working for them, and they do a lot of retentive efforts. You really appreciate the work you do there and feel rewarded.”

Tice, who worked in U.S. Customs and Border Protection before his fellowship, said feels challenged with the task of helping people realize agencies such as TSA and FEMA are part of DHS and need to work more cooperatively and cohesively. “That is one of Secretary [Janet] Napolitano’s core missions,” he said.

A typical day for Tice includes getting into his Tenleytown office around 8 a.m. and leaving at 4 p.m., with plenty of activities in between, including creating databases and meeting with the various 22 agencies comprising DHS.

“It’s nice being back up here near AU,” he said with a boyish grin. “Sometimes at lunch, I walk around campus.”

Tice’s internships at the Boston Globe and a Los Angeles-based production company helped him become wiser in dealing with people, he said.

“I’ve also learned that multi-tasking is incredibly important,” he said. “The workplace is not like college where everyone is there for the same reason – people come from diverse backgrounds.”

Tice, who studied journalism at AU and turned down a writer’s position for ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” said he appreciates where he is and the opportunities afforded him by working for the government.

“When I graduated a few years ago, I went on interviews all over the city,” he said. “Don’t expect things to happen immediately. Take small victories and keep working — don’t be discouraged.”

Hopkins’s experience – as a program analyst in the Chief Financial Office at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – has been somewhat different to that of his friend.

The bespectacled Hopkins, 25, of Bloomingdale, received his master’s degree from AU in public administration with a focus in environmental management. He began working as an intern at the EPA through a mock interview the university.

“The woman who came to analyze our interviews came to me at the end of the process and told me to apply to the EPA,” Hopkins said. “I was hoping they’d tear me apart, but needless to say, it was a nice surprise.”

Hopkins’ day typically begins around 9 a.m., and most of his day involves corresponding with states and other parts of the agency. He calls his office of roughly 40 people a hectic and fun place.

“There is a real sharp dichotomy of young and old in the office but we all do mingle,” he said. “It’s good to learn from people who can say ‘yeah I did this 20 years ago.’ ”

Hopkins admits he is sometimes inundated with work, but that the rewards are worth the stress.

“One of those things going into undergrad, you imagine you’re going to do these things like work for the Senate and then you see how hard it is to land something like that,” he said. “Personally, I feel very lucky and am working to make this opportunity count and make my experience worthwhile.”