When a friend told her about Nelnet’s Pathway internship program, Lauren Kubat had no idea she’d soon be conducting research and analysis that would help shape the direction of the company. A sophomore accounting student and an aspiring attorney, Lauren sought internship experience that would allow her to apply her critical thinking and analysis skills to real business problems.
While participating in the Pathway class of Spring 2019, Lauren explored three Nelnet departments, helping her better understand Nelnet’s businesses and her own career interests. After completing her Pathway internship, Lauren became an executive projects Intern, where she directly supports Nelnet’s leadership team by executing a breadth of research and analysis projects.
How would you describe yourself to someone who’s never met you?
I am from Omaha, Nebraska and a current junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying accounting. I would describe myself as an intellectual, determined individual who also possesses a very silly, fun, and creative side.
Throughout my life, I have always been an ambitious and driven person. These characteristics tend to manifest in a lot of goal setting. The minute I wake up, I grab my color-coded agenda and a pad of sticky notes to map out the day’s tasks and my goals for the week. Visually, I find this works for me in seeing exactly what needs to happen in order to generate the best outcomes. Outside of my responsibilities, you can always find me reading, ready to try something new, or singing a #1 Broadway hit.
What are your career goals?
After completing my undergraduate degree, I would like to attend law school. Following graduation, I would like to focus my career on business law with an emphasis in mergers and acquisitions. I see myself assisting in critical company decisions to help build and grow modern American business.
What led you to Nelnet?
At UNL, I am a member of the University Program Council. My sophomore year, one of my fellow council members, Mary Woodruff, was working in Nelnet People Services. She is someone I look up to as a mentor and she strongly recommended I apply for the Pathway Program. After doing my research, I especially liked the way I could get such a diverse range of experiences in one internship. What sold me was the application process because it requested a self-written poem and a drawing. This was unique; I loved the idea of working somewhere that valued my creativity.
Tell us about your experience in the Pathway Program.
I participated in the Pathway Program in Spring 2019. At the time, interns rotated through three different departments. I worked in Internal Audit, FUSE Coworking, and U-fi. In Internal Audit, I was able to put my major to the test by assisting in the preparation for the external audit and SOX compliance (which helps prevent accounting errors and increases data security).
Afterward, I enjoyed my time at FUSE Coworking, which is home to a variety of Lincoln start-ups. FUSE demonstrates the way Nelnet’s culture extends beyond office walls and into their communities.
My time at U-fi was spent brainstorming ideas to improve the customer experience on the refinance application. Working in FUSE and U-fi sparked my passion for start-up culture because they are innovation-oriented and allow me to utilize my creative and collaborative skills.
During the Pathway Program, I was presented with an opportunity to interview for the executive projects intern team. I was beyond excited that I could possibly stay on with Nelnet and further demonstrate the impact interns have at this company.
What is your role as an Executive Projects Intern?
As an executive projects intern, I am assigned tasks from the Nelnet executive team to research and present. These projects could be anything from financial modeling to extensive market analyses. The thing I love most about executive projects is the variety of requests that come our way. This has provided me the opportunity to see and understand the diversity of Nelnet’s business lines and the way they impact the company at large.
What does a typical day in the office look like?
Up on the 9th floor of the Wells Fargo building in downtown Lincoln, the executive projects interns sit with the risk management team and about ten other interns. For me, a typical day in the office starts with saying good morning to the friendly faces around me and opening my email. Afterward, I update the executive projects white board, which lists our current outstanding projects. Then, it’s time to start on the requests. Sometimes this involves scheduling and attending meetings with different executives, drafting reports and analyses, making spreadsheets, or all of the above.
What’s your favorite Nelnet memory?
My favorite Nelnet memory is the Intern Olympics event from Fall 2019. It was held in an area of green space in Lincoln’s Haymarket District. All interns were split into teams with a different executive as their leader. It was a beautiful day outside! Nelnet interns and executives participated in relay races, Nelnet trivia, and a water balloon toss. It was so much fun; the best part was seeing the execs work with the interns to compete!
How does your internship here fit into your broader career path?
As an intern, I have learned so much from mentors and managers across every department I have worked in. My current managers, Mark Pence and Matt Dunlap, both attended law school at the University of Nebraska. They are always willing to provide advice and opportunities to help develop my understanding of their role as in-house legal counsel. For example, they frequently extend invitations to sit in on their meetings and they will assign specific projects that may link back to a legal decision.
The executive projects internship is a versatile role that allows me to generate conclusions and think critically about data every single day. I’ve learned that I enjoy this kind of work, and just how much I value a company that invests in its people! Without Nelnet, I would not have this vision of where I see myself in five years or the outline of steps it will take to get there.
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