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February 10, 2009

Finance Student Gains Valuable Knowledge with Insurance Internship

By Treven Wisz

The experience I had as an intern at Wausau Insurance will provide much value as I begin my career after graduation. I learned both technical skills and how to work as a team to accomplish goals. My requirements for the job were broad, ranging from double-checking someone else’s work to running my own projects. The people involved with the internship program really know how to train someone to be successful in the future. I also created numerous friendships that will hopefully last for years.

The first week of the internship consisted of taking numerous insurance/finance courses and earning certificates upon completion. By the third day, I was getting trained on the basics of Microsoft Excel as well as continuing with the courses. The second week I learned how to use the database system as well as more advanced Excel skills. This initial period of the internship was spent getting acquainted with the systems in place and studying insurance terms. If it was not for my friendly co-workers who took me out to lunch and who came to talk to me throughout the day, I would have been extremely overwhelmed.

After I felt more comfortable with everything, I began assisting with preparations for an important finance meeting. This was initially a struggle because I still had much to learn about how to use Excel and the database system. However, my mentor guided me through everything and let me learn through my mistakes. I felt like I asked too many questions, but at the end of the internship, everyone said that was a strength of mine. I didn’t just assume something and “dig myself into a hole.” Instead, I asked for clarification when needed.

The finance meeting I helped prepare signals the start of the planning season, so I had to use past data to create and update templates for the meeting. It was a lengthy process as I had to first learn how to obtain the specific data and arrange it properly in Excel. I also had to “pull” planned and actual data from the database system and use it to create the templates. This was a time-consuming process because there was so much to learn and more than one way to do everything. Some things my mentor and I created were things he didn’t even know were possible. Through the use of all the systems and a lot of brainstorming, I was astonished at how much can be done with data. I was thoroughly satisfied when these templates were completed and I saw the tangible results of my work.

Throughout the summer, I also completed various weekly tasks for other employees. This was actually enjoyable because of the variety of things I worked on each week. While training with a co-worker, I noticed that the process of completing one of these tasks could be shortened using some Excel techniques I learned. This remarkably shortened the time I spent and produced the same product in the end.

Throughout the internship, I enhanced my leadership skills by working on a number of different projects. One such project required me to use financial ratios to analyze data from different companies with Wausau Insurance data and create charts comparing the results. Last year’s intern, who is now a full-time employee with the company, helped me through certain struggles and allowed me to use what he had created the year before. This project consumed many hours and produced numerous headaches, but I was proud of my work in the end. I was grateful for having taken my finance courses when beginning this project. I presented this information to the finance team. My presentation went well, and I even used the geometric mean and taught the team how it can be more accurate than the arithmetic mean. They seemed to enjoy this part of the presentation and mentioned the possibility of using the geometric mean in other areas in the future.

The other project that enhanced my leadership skills was the “Business Continuity Plan.” My job was to update everyone’s information and develop a disaster scenario with the appropriate actions taken. This was a fun and interesting project which I presented to the finance team.

I am thankful for the opportunity to be the finance intern at Wausau Insurance. My finance internship provided me with an opportunity to use the skills I learned in my finance courses as well as learn new things about the insurance industry. My Microsoft Excel skills are increasingly better than they were before the internship, and my ability to problem-solve is also improved. My speaking ability even improved because of the opportunity I had to present projects to the finance team. I made so many friends. I am proud of the work I completed and have more confidence in myself because of my time with the company.

Treven WiszTreven Wisz is a senior finance major from Mosinee, WI. He plans on graduating in May 2009. Although his career plans are uncertain as he is still exploring different career opportunities, Wisz is giving serious consideration to entering the insurance industry.