Creating an awesome work environment Pursuing opportunities for diversification and growth By Maddie LeBlanc July 20, 2020

Learn From Experience – How Internships Helped Nelnet Associates Succeed

It’s easy to forget the roles our full-time associates have braved to get to where they are today. Before they started full-time careers at Nelnet, many of our associates held internships (here or elsewhere). These experiences allowed them to learn new skills and put themselves out there – even when it was uncomfortable to do so. They got a jump start on their professional development.

To learn about the impact internships had on full-time efforts, we asked four of our associates to share their experiences.

Megan Gould, marketing specialist

Aly Faber, recruiter

Josh Jones, data scientist

Michael Predaina, IT software engineer

Q: What was your first (or most impactful) internship experience?

Megan: My first internship was in sales at Sandhills Publishing. I spent a lot of time doing cold calls, researching potential clients, and managing account relationships.

Aly: Development intern at the Lied Center (Lincoln’s largest performing arts theater). I loved it – I worked with high-level Lied Center donors and the development team on donor solicitation, event preparation/execution, and daily upkeep with our donor information/contacts.

Josh: In my first internship, I was part of the first Pathway Program cohort in 2016. I worked in eight different departments at Nelnet, so I was exposed to a lot of different aspects of the company. I interned again in 2018 with the data science team, where I mainly focused on building out machine learning models. My primary project was to model how likely a household was to become an ALLO customer. This helped extrapolate growth of our current markets and predict other communities where ALLO would be well-received.

Michael: I had an internship with Mercury Marine out of Fond Du Lac, WI. I was a software development co-op. I developed software and managed data for the engineers, accountants, sales, and marketing teams designing outboard boat engines. Since coming to Nelnet, I’ve been volunteering as a Nelnet Ambassador attending career fairs and hiring software engineering interns.

Q: What was the most challenging part of being an intern?

 Megan: The most challenging part was wanting to go 100 miles per hour at all times. With it being my first internship ever, I really wanted to prove myself and didn’t understand work-life balance.

Aly: For me, I sometimes had difficulty finding confidence in myself in certain situations. I’d say “oh, I shouldn’t speak up since I’m just an intern” or “I should run this by my boss” before submitting my work on certain tasks. I lacked the confidence to truly be independent and make an impact, whereas in my role as head of theatre recruitment at Nebraska Wesleyan, I felt empowered to make critical decisions directly impacting my coworkers and prospective students.

Q: What was the most rewarding part of being an intern?

Josh: The most rewarding part of being an intern at Nelnet was having a lot of autonomy. The more constraints associated with a project, the more innovation was needed to meet those constraints, so I appreciated that I was able to experiment with new algorithms and models freely. In fact, a lot of programs I wrote as an intern are now part of the data science team’s “best practices” codebase.

Michael: The challenge. Being able to adapt to real-world problems and apply the skills that you learn in school to design and create solutions is extremely satisfying.

Q: How did this internship equip you for your first full-time job?

Michael: Having an internship before interviewing for full-time positions gave me an incomparable lead on other candidates. I was able to give future employers direct examples of problems I had already tackled in a professional setting. My internship experience communicated to employers that I could handle myself in a real work environment.

Aly: My time at the Lied Center gave me the biggest lesson in professionalism. In working with high-level donors throughout Nebraska, it was vital to be on top of my game all the time. It taught me to be a better, more-well rounded professional.

Q: After coming to Nelnet, what part of the culture surprised you?

 Megan: The core value of open and honest communication is truly lived out. A lot of companies have core values written in their handbook or as a decal on their wall but Nelnet actually lives the core values out in every aspect of the business.

Michael: I am always impressed by the amount of care and focus software engineers at Nelnet put into developing and delivering quality products. It is rare that I make it through a meeting without hearing the phrase “so how will that change affect users?”. The other big thing that I take for granted at Nelnet is the robustness of the development process itself. Nearly every aspect of the development lifecycle/infrastructure is automated for me. Things like software quality analysis, repositories, dependency management, deployments, artifact management, approvals, and secure design methodologies are all handled by some existing process.

What makes Nelnet stand out among other companies?

Josh: Not to sound cliché, but we’re a family here. It feels really authentic and I can’t name a single associate who doesn’t have the best interest of others in mind. We truly want to see each other, and Nelnet, grow and succeed.

Aly: Nelnet truly cares about its employees. If something isn’t working right, they try to fix it. If you want to learn and grow in different departments or business lines, your managers support you. It’s really incredible and humbling to be at a company that truly lives their values.

These associates have not only grown immeasurably since their time as interns – but have also contributed greatly to the success and mentorship of Nelnet’s current interns. Looking to be a part of the Nelnet family? Check out our open positions.




Maddie LeBlanc

Campus Recruiting Intern