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My Securian Financial internship experience

Gaining meaningful work and building applicable skills create a valuable career kick start

by Samuel Smidt, application development intern, Securian Financial

Before I launch into my summer internship experience, I want to provide some brief context on my journey to Securian Financial.

I was born and raised in McKinney, Texas, a northern suburb of Dallas. After deciding I had enough of the Texas lifestyle, I concluded the best next step was to avoid sun for half the year and attend the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Initially I studied biomedical engineering. But, I found out I'm not the best at physics, and I switched to computer science. After a year of learning how to create a “hello world” program in 20 different coding languages, I met Raven Jones, a Securian Financial recruiter, at a “reverse” career fair on campus where she told me about the Securian family and internship opportunities. 

Fortunately, after one virtual college semester and two interviews, I was offered a position as an application development intern within Securian Financial’s Enterprise Technology division.

COVID-19 creates ambiguity for college students

But it wasn’t nearly as smooth as I just described, because COVID-19 has caused ambiguity for students trying to kickstart their careers. I felt anxious in the beginning of lockdown as some of my friends lost their internships. These jobs are so vital for gaining trust of future employers and setting oneself apart from other college students.

Once I found out Securian Financial would still offer its internship program this summer as a virtual experience, I felt overjoyed. Securian’s commitment to the program also gave me a great early impression of the company, because it made clear its passion for interns.

Meaningful work is real here

Now that I’m halfway through the program, I can still see that commitment every day. Securian Financial has made me a part of a big family by emphasizing a culture of community through associate resource groups (ARGs), listening forums and encouraging intern social events.

Even though I’m not a full-time, salaried employee, I feel very welcome and that I contribute to the larger picture, which is hard to achieve in a virtual environment.

The work I’ve done supports daily business operations. College students I’ve talked to worry they’ll do grunt work during an internship and often take comments from company recruiters that their interns do “meaningful work” with a grain of salt. I shared that view going into this experience, and it has been heartening to do purposeful work that negates that perception. 

Software tools, Agile workflows and independence

The specific work I do as an application development intern is with Securian Financial’s annuity product line. We deal with all the information that comes in for annuity applications, validate that information, and efficiently and securely move it through our processes that help our business area deliver for our customers. 

We also securely serve that data to our various web platforms for our financial professionals to use to better serve our customers. I personally helped develop an application to automate an incoming data import process that was manually done through email. 

In the process, I’ve learned how to use multiple software tools to help automate tasks and incorporate the appropriate codebases. I’ve also learned my team’s workflow during application development, which follows the Agile methodology. I will undoubtedly use these concepts in my career, so I’ve enjoyed being exposed to so much applicable information.

Most important though, I’m able to work independently, which illustrates the respect Securian Financial gives its interns. I’m challenged to tackle problems head on and find my way to a solution. But I’m not alone in my work, either. When I’m in a mental pretzel, my team members are always willing to guide me in the right direction.

The reality of working remotely

While the work experience and overall opportunity has been great, the one — albeit uncontrollable — downside is that it’s difficult to make solid connections with colleagues in a virtual environment. In the beginning of the internship we had plenty of virtual meetings to learn about the company and do group intern training. It’s nice to go into “breakout rooms” and talk in smaller groups, but it just can’t replace physical interactions.

So, if there’s one thing I challenge Securian and/or future interns to do if the virtual work environment continues, it is to keep searching for interesting and engaging ways to build rapport amongst associates.

In conclusion, I believe Securian Financial has a wonderful company culture and is doing its best to deliver a worthwhile internship experience amid the chaos in the world right now. I would highly recommend any eager young professional to get their first taste of industry experience with the Securian Financial family.

Samuel Smidt is a Securian Financial employee and therefore has a financial connection to Securian Financial. His statements were given freely.

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