Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology
Sears Holdings Corporation



December 2011/January 2012

Diversity/Careers December 2011/January 2012 Issue

Women of color
Pharma & biotech
Systems engineers
LGBT tech pros
Grace Hopper in OR

Asian American BEs
News & Views
Regional roundup
Supplier diversity

Diversity in action
News & Views

DRS Technologies

Diversity In Action

USAA takes both its mission & its people very seriously

This financial services company for the military community and families has been recognized as a number-one IT workplace for two years running

Like its members who have military missions to fulfill, USAA takes its mission very seriously, and every employee there knows it.

Dan Herrington is assistant VP for business continuation, and executive sponsor of college recruiting for IT. "I was involved in an evaluation of our cyber capabilities by the Department of Homeland Security," he says. "They asked questions about our policies, and I said, 'One of the interesting things about this company is the unique and incredible focus our mission gives our employees!'

"Most companies have a mission statement on the wall, but very few employees can tell you what it is. At USAA, employees can tell you what our mission is with certainty: 'to facilitate the financial security of its members, associates and their families through provision of a full range of highly competitive financial products and services. In so doing, USAA seeks to be the provider of choice for the military community.'"

Information technology is extremely important to fulfilling that mission. As technology evolves, USAA is seeking techies with cutting-edge knowledge, ideas and can-do attitudes to serve its special customer niche.

IT pros at USAA "handle every end of the spectrum of IT," Herrington says. It's a big shop with some 2,500 employees, and they do networking, development, application maintenance and IT architecture: the full gamut of IT.

USAA also looks for people with knowledge of mobile technology and Java platforms, and sees the need for mobile technology skills growing. "It's more mobile than the Cloud right now," notes Ryan McQueen, senior IT recruiter.

Herrington explains that although a person may have great IT skills, USAA also seeks candidates with "a culture fit. Will they do well in a collaborative work environment? We expect people to work in a team and have great ideas but also be able to accept constructive feedback to improve the idea. So we need proof of collaboration and proof of learning agility. After that we can teach them any specialized programming skills they need," Herrington says.

At USAA each position has "scalability:" employees are not tied to one area but can choose to advance through the organization and grow their careers laterally as well as move up the ranks, says J.D. Netterville, director of staffing.

"We tell them, 'Don't drop anchor too deep in any of the technical pools.' We not only give them the opportunity to move around but we expect them to move around and acquire breadth of knowledge," Herrington says.

USAA "casts a wide net" to attract qualified applicants, Netterville points out. The company seeks well-rounded candidates who have agility, motivation and strong interpersonal skills.

Projected hiring for 2012 includes fulltime college grads and interns, Herrington says. In 2011, 70 percent of interns were entering their senior year of college. A third of them were given the opportunity to return in the summer of 2012. By the time they finish college about 60 percent of returning interns could be hired into fulltime positions.

Netterville says experienced IT pros are also expected to be hired in 2012, with an emphasis on those who are familiar with banking or financial environments.

To recruit diverse people, USAA heads to HBCUs and professional organizations. "We actively recruit at NSBE and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and we participate in SHPE and others," Herrington says.

A member of USAA's executive management team is the executive sponsor for each target school, building and nurturing relationships with diversity- and military-affiliated organizations on campus.

USAA's new-employee orientation covers diversity awareness training, and managers attend a management development school. The company also offers Web-based diversity compliance training.

An IT rotational program gives employees opportunities in a variety of areas at USAA, McQueen says. Employees may be reassigned for a year or rotate from one group to another. They can also apply for other jobs in the company.

A team from the HR office addresses outreach, community affairs and programs. In keeping with its military focus, USAA has deployment-support groups for people currently involved with the military. Each manager at the company does weekly or bi-weekly career counseling throughout the year.

For technical pros who want to stay hands-on, the IT organization includes technical Fellows: employees who have "extraordinary depth of technical knowledge accompanied by great breadth" but don't have direct managerial responsibility, Herrington explains.

"Our technology space is very broad and very complex. We have the whole spectrum of financial services. We work hard to integrate services across all channels where we interact with the membership.

"Nearly every technology you've heard of, we use here. The Tech Fellows are in high demand to help integrate projects."

In addition to their technical duties, more than 7,800 USAA employees and retirees reported more than 368,300 volunteer hours in 2010; many more hours were logged by family members who also volunteered. Volunteer activities included mentoring schoolchildren, reading to children, serving as pen pals for local schools, cleaning parks and playgrounds, sorting food at local food banks and visiting wounded service members.

USAA "takes care of its employees," Herrington says. The company owns and operates a child development center near each of its major campuses. It has fitness centers on campus, plus recreation facilities like softball fields, basketball courts and organized intramural leagues. "Another great thing is the company store in every major facility," Herrington says. McQueen adds that onsite cafeterias include well-known franchises like Subway, Wendy's and Starbucks.

A concierge service is available to help employees with errands, and teleworking as well as flextime are available. The company also offers domestic partner benefits.

"We've been recognized by Computerworld as the number one place in America to work in IT," Herrington reports. "We've been in the top one hundred for the last fourteen years and first in the nation for the last two years."



Headquarters: San Antonio, TX
Employees: 23,500
Revenues: $17.9 billion in 2010
Business: Financial products and services for U.S. military service members, veterans and their families

Back to Top

Defense Intelligence Agency
Philadelphia Gas Works Rockwell Collins
Johns Hopkins APL HNTB
National Radio Astronomy Observatory National Grid
Union Pacific State Farm
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Telephonics
Intel Office of Naval Research


U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chesapeake Energy Westinghouse Advertisement CNA Hess