Summer/Fall 2012

Diversity/Careers Summer/Fall 2012 Issue

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Diversity In Action

State Farm needs IT grads

Students in computer science, computer engineering, information systems and related areas are encouraged to apply. Recruiters draw from a diverse candidate pool

State Farm (Bloomington, IL) is pursuing diversity by recruiting more than 120 interns a summer, half of them in technology, on campuses with large minority populations. "People don't know that State Farm has one of the largest technology workshops in the country," says Tracy Bobbitt, recruiter for the IT department. "We are always looking for students who have a passion for technology and learning."

State Farm is a mutual company, owned by its policyholders. It provides car, home and life insurance in both the U.S. and Canada, and ranked thirty-seventh on the 2011 Fortune 500. It employs over 66,000 people and is represented by about 18,000 agents. The company sells a hundred-plus insurance products, and processes about 35,000 claims a day.

Students in any area related to computer science, computer engineering and information systems are encouraged to apply to the eleven-week internship program. They work as systems analysts, coders or technical analysts, in software development, hardware operations, network security and the helpdesk. Students can be interns as early as freshman year, although most have completed their general classes and are working on core classes as juniors and seniors.

Bobbitt and her team visit HBCU campuses like Jackson State University (Jackson, MS) and North Carolina A&T (Greensboro, NC), and Hispanic-serving institutions like Florida International University (Miami, FL) and the University of Texas at Austin, among others. Recruiters also attend conferences sponsored by groups like Black Data Processing Associates, the Society of Women Engineers and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

For students unable to connect with a recruiter on campus or at a conference, State Farm's human resources representatives have contacts on every campus and with most professional technical societies. "The careers page at statefarm.com is a good place to get started," Bobbitt says.

Technology grads are needed to create new mobile apps, maintain data-bases and increase security. "We have more data than the Library of Congress," says Bobbitt. "We are always looking for ways to maintain it better and pull information out. Our website needs to be constantly updated and relevant." And of course it needs to be secure.

The goal of the internship is to hire interns as fulltime employees. In fact, three quarters of the students who worked internships in 2011 were offered fulltime jobs.

All interns are required to practice public speaking, with the assistance of Toastmasters coaches. They're assigned executive mentors in technology and are reverse mentors to execs in the marketing and legal departments, serving as a connection to the young adult market through social media and the Internet. Executives pick students' brains over breakfasts and lunches as students network with them and forge business contacts.

"Executives learn a whole lot," says Bobbitt. "They like to hear about what's of interest to college students." Recent discussions helped guide changes on the company's website.

State Farm reps give presentations in Bloomington high schools to explain to students how technology works in the insurance business, and other students visit the company campus. "By getting their feet wet in technology, we hope they will decide this is the path they want to take when they go off to college," says Bobbitt.

Interns are welcomed into company activities. State Farm has employee resource groups for African Americans, Asians, LGBT folks, Latinos/Latinas, men, Native American, parents and families, people with disabilities and women. Others focus on the various generations in the tech workforce, and a Canadian group brings together people who have been in public or military service.

State Farm's employee activity association has sports teams and dinners where students can volunteer. They also serve in the community, volunteering at preschools and nonprofits.

State Farm partners with the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and Local Initiatives Support Corporation, as well as multicultural partners like 100 Black Men of America, NAACP, National Urban League, National African American Women's Leadership Institute, the Asian American Justice Center, Japanese American Citizens League, National Council of La Raza, National Hispana Leadership Institute and more.

"People have the perception that insurance is boring and dry, but that's not the case," says Bobbitt. "Every piece of technology a student may be studying, we have it or touch on it."


State Farm

Headquarters: Bloomington, IL
Employees: over 66,000
Revenues: $64.3 billion
Business: Car, home, life and health insurance and financial services

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