Networking near the campus pond last fall led Stormi Peterson ’15 across the pond to an Aegon internship in the Netherlands during spring semester 2013.
Conversations with trustees Deanna Ver Steeg ’94 and Terry Garvin ’72 put Peterson in touch with a finance manager at Aegon’s corporate headquarters in The Hague, where she planned to study abroad.
“Basically, a strand of networking created the position for me. The department was not actively seeking an intern, but they graciously found a place where I could develop my skills outside of the classroom,” Peterson says. “I lived in the country about a month learning the Dutch language before I began working at Aegon.”
The accounting major from Exira, Iowa worked three days a week, developing a budgeting template for the corporate center, which was in the midst of a software transition.
“I started with a blank Excel spreadsheet and was able to build a user-friendly, yet complex document for budget holders to fill in,” she explains. “I also built the templates to compile themselves according to cost centers and departments. Throughout the process, I had to meet the needs of the expense team, department heads and the budget review committee.”
Thanks to working with a number of departments, Peterson was able to problem solve and meet the conflicting demands of several offices. In the process, she developed general business skills, such as organizing meetings, conference calls and professional lunches.
But the biggest challenge working abroad was the Dutch management style. Peterson had to work with less guidance than she was used to—she says employees have a greater level of authority in the Netherlands. She took the opportunity of autonomy as a signal to go beyond her manager’s expectations where she made changes that made the model better than before.
Her greatest satisfaction came from self-teaching a range of Excel functions and new found management skills. “I had a solid base knowledge of Excel when I entered the internship but by the end of my time at Aegon, I became extremely proficient in several aspects of the program. Secondly, I was impressed with my strong ability for self-management and organizing my time according to priorities, along with management of users’ expectations. It was interesting to notice my negotiating skills also develop.”
The Aegon internship confirmed Peterson’s career interests in cost accounting, analysis and academia.
“I was able to see at a global company the stress that financial accounting guidelines and tax laws place on employees. Conversations with budget holders also made me particularly interested in budget control and possible efficiencies that could be derived.
“Working in a corporate setting additionally made me value the academic community, so I am becoming more invested in the idea of being a professor one day.”
Central faculty members too played a key role in Peterson’s internship success and her developing interests. “I would say that both the introductory computer class, along with the ‘Quantitative Methods of Business and Economics’ course taught by Brian Peterson, were extremely helpful in creating that basic academic knowledge.
“More importantly, the learning environment Central creates influenced my ability to conduct meetings, accept criticism and ask questions.
“I am grateful to all of those involved in attaining my internship at Aegon in the Netherlands. This experience has opened my eyes to the ease and great reward of networking—a 20 minute conversation turned into an opportunity of a lifetime.”