Making it work

Smiling young woman sits near laptop displaying Postal Service website

The coronavirus pandemic is providing new learning experiences for the Postal Service’s summer interns.

USPS hosts about 50 interns each year, assigning them to 10-week projects that allow the college students to learn about the organization while helping to improve postal operations.

This year, several departments and teams — including Leadership and Career Development and University Relations — worked together to quickly adapt traditional internships into virtual experiences for 49 students, including 22 who found assignments in Marketing.

“This is the experience I wanted to have before I enter the workforce,” said MinhTu Tran, a Virginia Tech business information technology major whose internship involves analyzing USPS global marketing data.

America Sanchez, a junior at the University of Central Florida, originally thought her industrial engineering major wouldn’t be a good fit for Marketing — until she started her internship in May.

Sanchez is monitoring an Instagram collaboration between the Postal Service and a retailer, including reviewing the company’s catalog sales to gauge the initiative’s success rate.

“I’m using Excel tools and formulas, which is practiced a lot in my field,” Sanchez said.

Another intern, Casey Reblin, had planned to work with City Delivery, but was on board when Marketing offered the opportunity to help with sales contract data analysis.

“I’m really surprised that the stuff I’m doing — working with Access and Excel — is what we work with a lot in my school program,” said Reblin, an industrial and systems engineering major at Virginia Tech.

In addition to providing the interns with work experience, the organization encourages the students to get to know each other — just like they would if they were working side by side in the office.

“I have Zoom meetings with the other Marketing interns,” said Jonathan Obas, an information technology major at Florida International University whose internship involves creating a form that business customers can use to look up tracking numbers for bulk orders.

Nakesha Kemp-Hirst, a Strategic Planning and Business Analytics manager in Global Business who works closely with Tran, said it’s important for each intern to feel engaged in his or her work.

To help Tran get acclimated, Kemp-Hirst provided her with orientation materials and set up one-on-one video conferencing meetings so the intern could meet other managers in the department.

“We want this to be as meaningful as possible,” Kemp-Hirst said.

Front-line tips

Smiling postal worker stands in front of workroom bulletin board

A Postal Service employee’s conversations with two business customers has resulted in more than $183,000 in new estimated annualized revenue for the organization.

The first company, which sells organic health products, was looking for a way to reduce or eliminate shipping surcharges and use free package pick-up.

After Fran Lowe, a retail associate at McNeil Station in Austin, TX, spoke to a representative from the company, she submitted a sales lead through the Clerks Care program.

Rio Grande District Field Sales Representative Jeremy Grieser followed up with the customer and recommended Priority Mail to meet the company’s needs, resulting in a $97,740 deal.

Lowe also submitted a second lead through Clerks Care for a sushi restaurant that was looking for new ways to advertise.

Grieser contacted the restaurant and recommended Every Door Direct Mail, resulting in an $85,500 deal.

The revenue from both of Lowe’s leads has been added to the Postal Service’s Race for a $Billion campaign total.

The initiative — which is at $824.5 million, according to a June 24 ranking of all district contributions — aims to raise $1 billion through employee-provided sales leads before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

Additionally, USPS is conducting #LEADtheWayBack Month in June, aiming to collect 20,000 new sales leads from employees.

“Front-line employees like Fran Lowe are doing so much for our Race for a $Billion campaign,” said Mary Anderson, small-business engagement director at USPS headquarters in Washington, DC. “The opportunities are out there for all employees to participate in our June #LEADtheWayBack Month challenge and help Main Street USA bounce back from the pandemic.”

In addition to Clerks Care, employees can submit leads through the Business Connect, Customer Connect, Mail Handlers, Rural Reach and Submit a Lead programs.

The Sales Blue page has more information about the lead-sharing programs, including instructions on participating.

Street stories

Old-school sneakers next to boom box

It was born in the streets.

Hip-hop — the influential music, dance and art movement that will be honored with new stamps from the Postal Service this week — emerged in the mid-1970s at playgrounds and community centers in African American and African Caribbean neighborhoods in New York City.

The budget cuts of the era resulted in the elimination of music and art programs, prompting young New Yorkers to find new outlets for their creativity.

Some used city streetlights to power homemade speakers that brought music to block parties, while others practiced rhymes on street corners using portable tape players called boom boxes. Still others practiced dance moves on sidewalks covered with discarded cardboard or used markers and aerosol paint to decorate urban landscapes.

These four activities — DJing, rapping, break dancing and graffiti art — evolved together and eventually became known as “hip-hop.”

In the beginning, DJs were the heart of the movement.

Pioneers like DJ Kool Herc changed the way music was played, using turntables to mix back and forth between multiple records and extend the percussion segment known as “the break.”

Another technique, “scratching” — playing a record backward in a rhythmic pattern — excited break dancers, who earned their name through the amazing acrobatic moves they displayed during the DJs’ performances.

Rappers began performing over the DJs’ innovative beats, first as crowd control and general emceeing (“Everybody say, ‘Ho-oh!’”), and soon became featured performers who told more elaborate rhymed stories to the beats of the increasingly dynamic musical selections.

Hip-hop battles in rhyme and dance also provided New York’s youth with new ways to resolve neighborhood conflicts.

Meanwhile, graffiti artists — some of whom were also dancers and rappers — honed their mural designs on city subways before finding recognition in more traditional venues.

By 1979, the movement had hit the radio airwaves when Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” became the first hip-hop record to gain popularity in the mainstream.

It was an early sign of the widespread appeal that hip-hop would find in the decades to come.

This is the first of two articles on the history of hip-hop. Tomorrow: Hip-hop’s ongoing evolution.