She’s back, albeit in a slightly different location. Kirsten Silveira has moved from Lawrence, Kansas to Baltimore, Maryland. How did she make the decision to leave the comfort zone of the Midwest? We’ll let her fill you in on “The Decision.”
by Kirsten Silveira, City of Baltimore Budget Management Analyst
July 8, 2014
If you’d asked me three months ago where I’d be spending year two of the KU MPA program, I probably would have looked at you like a deer in headlights and told you (jokingly): “as of right now, I’m in search for a city with stellar public services because I’m certain I’m going to be homeless.” Realistically, I knew I would find the right job in the right city for me – but I was freaking out as my cohort began to lock down opportunities one-by-one. As you might remember, I wound up happily employed with the City of Baltimore as a Budget Management Analyst in the Bureau of Budget and Management Research. My goal here is to share with you my journey — from deciding what I wanted to applying to getting the offer.
To give you a little background, the University of Kansas MPA program accepts a dozen or so students and puts them through one year of intensive coursework. The second year is then spent in a full time internship/fellowship or, in my case, a job; the program has a 100% placement rate. The cohort comes back together three times during that second year for professional development and reflection on how our classroom knowledge interfaces with the workplace.
Before applying to any positions, I took a step back to understand what kind of experience I wanted in my second year. I had mentors recommend the internship route for its unparalleled exposure to the city manager’s office. I had others say that, with my experience with the City of Fort Collins and City of Olathe, I could apply for a job if that’s what I wanted. This essentially left me alone with my feelings – what did I want? So, in true type-A fashion, I made a list.
- An environment that promoted a mentorship and collaboration
- A supervisor who encouraged continuous professional development
- A progressive organization that is committed to innovative practice
- Midsized-to-large coastal city (I really, really love the ocean…#keysgirlproblems)
For me, step two was obsessively searching for jobs through ICMA’s job hub, ELGL’s job postings, regional and state municipal associations and sifting through the job announcements forwarded to the cohort by the school’s coordinator. I applied to a number of jobs and a few internships and nothing was panning out. Then, one morning I got an automated email for a Budget Analyst posting with the City of Baltimore. (Yes, I was the weirdo who signed up for notifications from every city I would want to work in). Reading the description, I felt comfortable that the skillset I’d picked up in Fort Collins and Olathe would prepare me well for the analyst 1 level job. So I applied.
The City of Baltimore intrigued me – on one hand: it’s a political, strong-mayor system with a pretty daunting economic forecast; on the other, it’s one of the only cities successfully utilizing Outcome-Based Budgeting and a 10-year Financial Plan to guide critical decisions. As I dove into research, the position became more and more intriguing – a Good Government Book Club, Lean Government Projects, a robust Citizen Survey and the opportunity to make an impact on what I’ve found to be an incredible community. I even tried my hand at an interactive budget workshop the organization posted (maybe more than once) – Balance Baltimore.
Shortly thereafter, I got a phone call to set up an interview with a senior budget analyst who immediately made me feel like I could find that mentorship relationship I was looking for. I had a Skype interview a week later – which included a excel exercise and explanatory memo (thank goodness for my KU budget class and working for the Olathe Budget Division) – and made sure I asked questions that would tell me if Baltimore was the kind of place I wanted to work. It was. It is.
When I got the offer a week or so later, I realized I didn’t think about salary, benefits…really any of that. Nobody really talks to you about how important those decisions are – so I’d suggest really learning about this before you have 24 hours to respond to a job offer.
I was incredibly overwhelmed and, had it not been for a supervisor at Olathe and my trusty mom, I probably would have had a mental breakdown. I built a mock budget in excel with educated estimates of what my monthly expenses would be vs. my take-home pay, spent way too long trying to figure out Maryland taxes and eventually emailed the aforementioned senior analyst asking for her help. Her response really sealed the deal for me. She shared the take home pay for the position to the dollar (she had been paid that salary in the past), sent me the best neighborhoods to live in, estimated how much she spent on various things each month. She even passed along social rec leagues I could get involved in. Her willingness to aid me in the decision process confirmed for me that the Bureau of Budget and Management Research was a place where I could feel comfortable asking questions as a new public administrator.
Now I’m here. It’s been about a month and I’ve taken over my agency portfolio – Baltimore City Police Department, Sheriff’s Department, Circuit Courts, State Attorney’s Office and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. It’s been a whirlwind, but every day I feel like I’m doing meaningful work and operating in an innovative environment where we try new things, ask hard questions and make very real financial decisions. There has been a learning curve, coming out of a manager-council focused MPA program – but that just adds to the challenge!
Why Baltimore is a big question – one that I find more answers to each day.