How To Turn Your Internship Into A Job: 3 Ally Financial Interns Turned FT Employees Tell All

Natalie Graves (left), Rochelle Vargas (middle), and Morgan Cullen (right)
 
 
Names: Morgan Cullen, Natalie Graves, Rochelle Vargas
College & Major: Morgan attended the University of Michigan and double majored in Honors Political Science and Communication Studies; Natalie graduated from the University of Michigan and double majored in Economics and Political Science; Rochelle Vargas received her MBA from Wayne State University 
 
 

What department did you intern in and what year? What is your current role/department?

MC: I interned in the marketing department in integrated advertising and events and currently work in the marketing department in enterprise marketing as a marketing analyst.

NG: I interned in insurance in 2013. I am currently a senior pricing analyst in auto finance, and prior to this role I spent two years in Insurance (2014-2016) and two years in risk in consumer auto credit (2016-2018).

RV: I interned in audit and am currently a lead auditor, data analytics in audit.

 

What was your hiring timeline- right after your internship?

MC: I was hired right after I graduated from college. I finished my internship August 2016, graduated April 2017 and started at Ally full time May 2017.

NG: About a month after my internship ended I got a call from Ally recruiting offering me a full time role for after graduation. It was great timing, as I had not gotten fully into fall recruiting, and it was great to have a job locked down at the beginning of senior year.

RV: I received an offer two weeks before my internship ended and I started full time right away.

 

What were your intern responsibilities and do they translate into your current role?

MC:  My main internship responsibility was managing project workflow and effectively communicating a lot of information to people. Clear communication and attention to detail were essential components of my daily work as an intern. I still use those skills every day in my fulltime role.

NG: My main summer project centered around job aid documentation for a new system insurance had implemented. Another big project I worked on dealt with report creation and figuring out the causes of data quality issues and report discrepancies. That project helped me build valuable technical and problem solving skills that I still use to this day when pulling and analyzing data sets.

RV: As an intern, my responsibilities mirrored the entry-level staff auditor role. I assisted the team with audit testing for one insurance audit and had other responsibilities to help the department (create a new layout for Audit’s Sharepoint site/TeamRoom). In my current role, I am still performing audit testing at a more advanced level and now have more of an oversight/admin role with the Sharepoint site/TeamRoom.

 

How was your Ally intern experience? Did you know you wanted to be at the company long term and did you make any special connections like a mentor?

MC: As an intern, my team really took the time to understand my career goals so they could make the program most beneficial for me. I learned valuable skills, did meaningful work, and truly felt like I had a seat at the table. Beyond the day-to-day responsibilities, the Ally family is so willing to help out and share their experiences. Every employee I met with that summer raved about their experience working for this company and encouraged me to make the most of my internship.

NG: I loved my internship experience, which I didn’t expect going in. I figured getting an internship was a “check” you needed on a resume for future employers and that I’d hopefully learn a bit along the way. I can honestly say looking back that it was an awesome summer that set me on the path to where I am today. Coming into it I figured it would be a very “stiff” culture since it’s financial services, and that I’d have to play the “be seen but not heard” role, but I was proven wrong very quickly. Everyone was friendly, willing to lend a hand, and valued my opinion and questions even though I was an intern. I also really appreciated the open-door policy that the executives had. Overall there was a big emphasis on learning, even amongst those employees who had years of experience. Plus, the teams kept it fun for us. As soon as I left I knew I was going to strongly consider Ally after graduation, and luckily they offered me a role very shortly thereafter! I did consider one other offer out of state, but in the end Ally’s culture was a perfect fit, and I knew the company was going to continue to grow and that would mean a lot of opportunity to gain exposure to different areas. I would absolutely recommend the program to students. You will learn a lot just by being in a corporate environment and absorbing how the company works and how people interact. On top of that, projects are picked intentionally to give students the ability to make an impact and to ensure they learn a wide range of skills. 

RV: I had an amazing intern experience! At the time, I knew I wanted to be at the company fulltime and made a lot of special connections outside my department (with HR, Communications, Auto Finance, Marketing) which attributed to my awesome experience. I had an assigned mentor in my department but leaned on one of the Early Talent leaders who led the internship program at the time as an additional mentor. I would highly recommend the Ally internship experience! The program has grown since 2014 and now includes events (panel sessions, social/volunteer events) that I wish we had in my intern class.

 

Was it important to you to join a company like Ally that supports diversity and inclusion and has benefits in place that support women in particular? 

MC: It was important for me to join an organization that supports diversity and has policies that support women to know that everyone is seen, heard and respected. I needed to know that my company does not first look at my identity as a way to dictate my professional potential in an organization. Seeing diverse women represented in leadership roles throughout the organization and concrete actions like forming employee resource groups shows me that Ally encourages me to be my authentic self and my professional aspirations are not limited by my identity here. It is abundantly clear that Ally is invested in building an inclusive workplace not just because it is good for business, but because it’s the right thing to do.

NG: I believe it says a lot about a company and its culture when they take actions to support diversity in the workplace. It signals that they want employees who will bring diverse backgrounds and perspectives to the table, which in turn can help make the workplace better and drive better business results. I also think it makes employees more comfortable and willing to be themselves, and that makes coming to work each day more enjoyable. I’m very proud of Ally’s Employee Resource Groups. They give employees a real sense of belonging, and can serve as a great way for people to develop their skills, grow their network, volunteer in the community, and get involved in a broader purpose at the organization. I serve as one of the Talent Pillar Leads for Women ALLYs in Detroit and we work to form relationships with female groups on campuses and at various professional organizations. The financial services industry has a bit of a reputation for being heavily male, and the work we do gives college students the opportunity to see other young females succeeding in the financial services industry. We enjoy getting to provide career guidance to the students and talking to them about paths here at Ally. The company also has fantastic benefits for all employees; in particular, we have 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents, which is industry-leading. While I’m not at that stage in my life yet, it’s comforting to know that later down the line I’ll have that benefit available to me. Plus, I think it says a lot about who we are as a company that we provide it; it shows that we don’t just talk about diversity and inclusion, but we take actions that make a difference and make our workplace better.

RV: Being the first woman in my family to graduate with a Bachelor’s in the United States, it was very important to me to work for an organization that supports diversity and offers work/life benefits. With the relationships I’ve created through my internship, I was fortunate to land a spot on the Talent and Development pillars of the Women’s Employee Resource Group to plan events for the Detroit chapter and network with upper management within the company. I love that it’s important for Ally to engage women in the workplace. I was part of a sorority in college and being involved with the Women’s Resource Group reminds me of the relationships I created and the camaraderie that was built to encourage and empower the career-oriented woman. In addition, Ally’s generous maternity leave benefit makes me proud knowing I work for a company that values employees and their families.

 

What did you learn in your internship that you carry with you to this day in your role?

MC: I learned that while it is important to be knowledgeable, it is just as important to do your daily work with empathy. Understanding is more than subject matter, it is recognizing the humanity of those around you. Through that lens, applying your knowledge and ideas will make a much larger impact not only on the organization’s goals, but also workplace culture.

NG: No matter your title or where you’re at in your career, you have an ability to make an impact. What might seem like a small task to you can be a big win for your department or the company as a whole. Take accountability for your mistakes. They are going to happen, especially when you’re new to a role or take on growth projects, and that’s to be expected. Don’t let them bog you down mentally, and make sure you learn from them. I’ve often found that the mistakes I’ve made in the past are some of the biggest learning opportunities I’ve had so far. Never stop learning. The employees I interacted with were always pushing us to learn, and it amazed me how many sessions the company had for their employees. The more you can learn about different groups and areas of the business, the better your work product will become and you’ll start to really pull in those perspectives, ideas, and knowledge into everything that you do.

RV: Don’t be afraid to ask questions and challenge the status quo.  

 

What are some tips you would offer first time interns to make the most out of their experience?

MC:  I would encourage interns to ask questions, learn as much as possible, work as hard as you can, and meet with as many people as possible!

NG: Network: This doesn’t mean trying to meet as many people as you can, but rather making an effort to form meaningful connections with people and to learn from them. I found throughout my summer here that anyone I reached out to, no matter their level, was willing to teach me and give me insight into their career path. As someone who was unsure of what I wanted to do after college, this was invaluable. Plus, you never know who you’ll end up working with in the future.

-Put yourself in uncomfortable situations: I’ve noticed both during my internship and when I’ve taken on new roles that while it feels awkward at the time, situations where you’re out of your comfort zone are where you grow the most. 

-Never turn down an opportunity: Always raise your hand and don’t turn down projects, even if they don’t seem interesting to you. It’ll show that you’re energetic about taking on new tasks, and you will learn a lot along the way. For example, if you are really strong analytically but want to work on your communication and organization skills, and you’re given the opportunity to manage a small project with a few people, go for it. The more well-rounded you can become, the better.

-Challenge us: You’re bringing in a fresh perspective, and we need that! If you see a process that seems inefficient, or have ideas about a new way of doing things, share that with your team. It’s a way to pick people’s brains on how and why we do things, and it’s also another opportunity for you to leave your mark long after your internship is over.

-Be open to feedback: The internship is a great opportunity to develop a wide range of skills, and you’re surrounded by people who have years of experience on you. Come into the summer knowing that this can be a transformative experience; a big way of achieving that is seeking out feedback from peers, managers, and executives who are all here to help you get better.

RV:  Reach out to others outside your intern class and your department to grow your network. You never know what connections might help you later in your career or in your personal life. To make the most of your “real world” experience, don’t be afraid to shadow entry-level associates in your department or ask if you can help with some of their tasks. Not only do you get a glimpse of what you could be doing full-time, being proactive goes a long way.

 

If an intern wants to get hired at their company, what advice would you give?

MC: I encourage all the incoming interns to work hard, meet with as many people as you can, and be present. Go beyond your day-to-day responsibilities at your desk. Ultimately, be curious, hard-working, and enthusiastic.

NG: Show an interest in the company – where it’s been, where it’s going, and how the big picture ties together. If you ask those kinds of questions, it shows that you are interested in being here long term. I’d also say do your best to integrate yourself into the culture as quickly as possible. Ally is a large company, but we have many communities within it that you can get involved with.

RV: Participating in an internship doesn’t guarantee you a spot full-time. You are consistently being evaluated so make the most of your experience by mastering the assignments you’ve been given and challenging yourself to go above and beyond with either the work you performed or the relationships you build.