Pursuing opportunities for diversification and growth | By Maddie LeBlanc | December 7, 2020

Nelnet Intern Alumni: Where Are They Now?

There’s nothing we love more than cheering on our interns and alumni – no matter where their dream job takes them.

That’s why we reached out to four previous Nelnet interns taking on their post-graduate endeavors. While transitioning to full-time positions, our intern alumni are making waves wherever they find themselves.

To see how Nelnet has left a lasting impact on our interns, hear from some of our brightest intern alumni:

Mary Woodruff, university recruiter at Microsoft

Derek Mikus, commercial real estate investment analyst at Principal Global Investors

John Lukowski, law student at Nebraska College of Law

Maya Mercer, market analyst trainee at Norfolk Southern Corporation

Where are you working now? Tell us about your position and company!

Mary: I am a university recruiter at Microsoft – a global tech company headquartered in Redmond, Wash., striving to achieve their mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. In my role, I wear many different hats focusing on internal recruiting operations. I work with our current interns as their main point of contact and roll out full-time and internship offers to candidates, answering questions and negotiating when necessary. I am also currently stretching into the Intern Program Team where I am helping run our Global Intern Events and work on operational excellence. As a side project, I am our team’s morale chair.

Derek: I’m at Principal Global Investors. I work on the commercial real estate team as an investment analyst. We analyze real estate investment opportunities for our clients that offer attractive risk-adjusted returns.

Maya: I’m currently a market analyst trainee at Norfolk Southern. Norfolk Southern is a railroad company that operates in the eastern half of the US. In this role, I create reports and conduct analyses to help sales, marketing, and customer operations make better decisions. On Dec. 1, I started a new role as the assistant manager of asset planning. In this role, I’ll also be conducting analyses, but with a focus on train equipment. Additionally, I’ll get to work with customers to help with equipment issues.

John: I am in my first year of law school at UNL. I am currently preparing for my first round of finals.

How has your life changed since taking on your current position?

Maya: As with most recent grads, going through the transition from a college student to a full-time employee is quite the change! Learning how to adapt to the different schedule, workload, etc., has been challenging yet rewarding. This transition has felt like a wild ride, but it’s been exciting and adulting is pretty fun. To make things crazier, I moved to Atlanta, Ga., without really knowing anyone. Although there are many unknowns in my life today, I’m beyond grateful with how things have turned out.

John: Since I began law school, I have reached a new level of “Zoom fatigue” that I did not know was possible. Beyond that, I have been exposed to a whole new line of academia. I studied finance, accounting, and math in undergrad, which involved concrete solutions to most problems. In the realm of law, however, there is usually no such thing as a clear answer.

Derek: First off, due to COVID-19 I started my full time job remotely which has been an interesting experience. Thankfully, I had previously interned for Principal so I am not a completely new employee, but it has been a lot of work getting up to speed as an analyst while being completely remote. Also, switching from a college life schedule (sleeping in until 10 o’clock) to working 40+ hours a week has definitely been a transition.

Mary: I have grown up quite a bit since taking on my current position. I moved to a new state, started on a new team in which I knew no one, and learned what it is like to manage the recruitment process of top tech talent at a large scale. Overall I am incredibly grateful for the past year and a half since joining Microsoft. I have expanded my skillset and abilities more than I could have imagined all while staying true to myself and meeting some awesome people along the way.

What is one skill that you learned at Nelnet that you currently use in your daily life?

Mary: Empathy. I had this skill fairly developed in my personal life, but once I joined Nelnet I learned how to utilize it in a corporate setting. I want empathy to be at the core of everything I do both in and out of work and I saw that demonstrated over and over again at Nelnet.

Derek: One skill I learned at Nelnet that I used in my daily life is to problem solve and ask questions when you don’t know something. Being a pathway intern taught me this well because rotating through 4 different departments within an organization means there is a lot of new things being thrown your way so you have to get comfortable asking questions and problem solving on your own.

How did Nelnet equip you to thrive in your current position?

Maya: Nelnet was my first internship, so I owe them a lot! They helped me learn how to navigate working on teams to produce results. Today, I feel I’m able to tackle challenges independently because of the solid foundations Nelnet helped me develop. Additionally, the people I worked with at Nelnet allowed me to understand the value I can bring to a company. As a young professional who sometimes struggles to find her voice, this means a lot.

John: Law school requires you to stay focused and organized. There is a lot of information overload with all the subjects you need to learn. Working at Nelnet during undergrad allowed me to learn how to stay productive while maintaining a proper balance between my work, school, and personal life.

Derek: Nelnet equipped me to thrive in my current position by helping to teach me the importance of effective communication. I was able to work on my presentation skills and business writing skills, which are all things I use in my current role at Principal.

Mary: Nelnet gave me the confidence to believe in myself and my work. I had incredible mentors like Jessica Schumacher who built me up and allowed me to see what I was capable of accomplishing. My mentors and managers gave me the space I needed to grow. Nelnet also instilled a work ethic in me that I use every day in my current position.

Do you have any advice for current Nelnet interns?

Derek: Ask a lot of questions and make as many connections as possible. You never know where the connections you make during your internships can lead to after college or later in life.

Mary: Push yourself and be kind to yourself. Nelnet is a wonderful, forgiving, and safe place to learn and fail. You will have amazing days and not so great days. Keep your head up and know you are growing which is the best thing you can do. Finally, use your time at Nelnet to find what makes you happy. It’s a huge company full of opportunity so take advantage of that!

Maya: Lean into what interests you. If there’s an area, business problem, or project that sparks any curiosity, ask your team if you can get involved with it. If you’re anything like me, you didn’t know (and still don’t know) exactly what you want to do with the rest of your career. My managers at Nelnet were always very supportive of exposing me to areas that sparked interest.

These associates have taken their first steps towards their dream lives – and we couldn’t be more proud to hear how Nelnet has empowered them to thrive in their current career.

Interested in jumpstarting your career with a Nelnet internship? Check out our available intern opportunities.


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