At American Family Insurance, we’ve developed our internship program to be a great opportunity for ambitious students to engage in professional and challenging work along with the opportunity to be a part of our talent pipeline for future full-time openings. Please read the following interview with two of our recent College of Letters and Science Interns to gain insight into their experience of being an intern that converts into a full-time employee with American Family.
1. James Ziglinski was a 2015 and 2016 Information Services intern who became a full-time employee in January 2017.
2. Matt Ruesch was a 2016 Information Services intern who became a full-time employee in September 2016.
How did you apply to American Family Insurance for your internship?
James: I found out about the position at the UW Computer Science career fair. I gave the recruiters my email and they sent me links to positions I could apply for. I was able to apply with my LinkedIn account, which was awesome.
Matt: I attended the UW Computer Science career fair and met a representative who began the process.
What was the interview process?
James: A few weeks after applying I received a call from an HR representative to set up an in-person interview. I could not attend in-person, so I ended up doing it remotely. They reserved a video conference meeting for me near Madison’s capitol and were very accommodating to my needs. I was interviewed by two managers (who later became my direct supervisors). They asked some technical questions, but the majority of the interview was behavioral based questions. After getting through the initial hurdle of being in an interview, it was actually just a pleasant conversation with some cool guys.
Matt: The interview process was very smooth. It started with a simple phone interview, which led to an in-person interview at the AmFam headquarters in Madison. The two people I interviewed with were very friendly and helped me feel relaxed.
What did you get to work on and do you believe it brought value to the organization?
James: I worked on 2 teams as an intern. While on the Native Android Team, I did proof of concepts (POCs) for various Android apps the company was thinking about building. We presented these to the whole company at the end of the summer and a couple of the POCs were continued and used. When I was part of the mobile-web team, we were tasked with rebuilding an internal website. It was actually really fun and we were given a ton of freedom. Again, at the end of the summer, we presented our website to the entire company and to this day, people still tell me how they like the new website much better than the old one.
Matt: I found myself working on numerous projects. One of the projects involved building a Life Insurance Calculator from the ground up, using Angular 2. I learned what it was like to have changing expectations and goals and found myself truly adopting one of AmFam’s six important core values: Agility. I believe I was able to bring value to the organization through my work.
What experiences did you have during your internship, outside of the work?
James: I was given opportunities to learn about various areas in the company and even took an all-day class about the overall insurance industry. We also got to do some career building courses, took a trip to DreamBank, and were given tours of different areas within National Headquarters; all during the workday, while getting paid. Outside of work, we went on a Betty Lou cruise and went to a Brewer’s game in the AmFam box at Miller Park. There were also tons of intern meet ups. I was lucky enough to develop close friendships with some of the other interns and we still get lunch together a few times per week.
Matt: AmFam offered many valuable opportunities during my internship to learn about the world of insurance, as well as a visit the DreamBank. My personal favorite experience was visiting the fully working smart home at the Applied Learning Center.
What was the best part of the internship?
James: The freedom. I was given room to breathe and do my work. Nobody is micro-managing you, but the support is there if you need it. The company is really focused on you developing as a professional, while completing work for them. As a programmer, it is essential to spend time keeping up with changes in technology, so the freedom really allowed for me to grow in areas that interested me.
Matt: It was immensely satisfying learning a new technology, Angular 2. Being among the first people in the company to pilot it and apply it in a practical way was a unique experience.
Describe the company culture.
James: Very laid-back. Everybody has things going on in their lives, so work-life balance is important. The company embraces this and actively strides to make work not get in the way of life.
Matt: The culture is my favorite aspect of AmFam. I have yet to meet a single person who is unwilling to help me. Everybody has been nothing but friendly and helpful since I started here and I can’t imagine a more comfortable work environment.
Were you hired as a full-time employee after your internship? If so, what was that process like for you?
James: I was lucky enough to continue my internship into the fall semester and was given a full-time job offer on one of the last days of the 2016 summer internship program to begin in January 2017.
Matt: I was offered a full-time position near the end of the 2016 summer internship program. After I accepted, the transition was very smooth. I moved to a real team and quickly began to integrate. It was a seamless process.
What do you find exciting about being part of American Family Insurance as a full-time employee now?
James: Aside from the pay and benefits, the potential. I have been full-time since January and am working on an awesome project, using modern technologies, with great people. One of my biggest fears as a programmer was getting put on team where I would be given backlog tasks for a year, which didn’t happen. It is really nice to know I am creating future opportunities for myself, while also getting my work done.
Matt: I love being able to contribute to web applications that are used by millions of people. It’s amazing to realize so many people will interact with and benefit from applications I helped build. In the short amount of time I have been here, I already had the opportunity to significantly contribute to an application recently launched and is in use online.
Looking to the future, we will continue to use our internship program as a pipeline for future talent because it’s been so successful for us. Currently, we’ve extended full-time employment offers to over 50% of eligible 2016 summer interns and look to exceed this in 2017. We know by offering talented student interns full-time employment we’re able to gain employees with diverse cultural and academic backgrounds, who have an established commitment to our customers, which is very important to us.