On the first day of August, in an auditorium in Citi’s Getzville, N.Y., headquarters, three teams of college students presented their strategies to increase diversity through recruitment to dozens of Citi employees, a panel of judges, and their peers. Five of those students were from Niagara University.
The presentations, given in a “Shark Tank” like forum, were the culminating project of a 10-week, competitive internship program that offers students an opportunity to see what working at Citi is like.
If this doesn’t sound like part of a typical financial-based internship, that’s because it’s not. In addition to introducing the interns to the day-to-day tasks completed by the professionals who staff the company, the program helps these young people to develop the soft skills needed for success in the business world: teamwork, communication, and networking.
“Citi has a unique internship program,” said Cassandra Siwy, a rising junior from Orchard Park who is studying accounting. “Learning how to work with people, learning how to network yourself, learning how to work in a professional environment are all skills I learned while here that I never expected to get out of this internship. I think it is really a unique and special program where they really care about their interns.”
“Working at Citi was an amazing experience,” agreed Taylor Nusstein, a rising senior from Cowlesville, N.Y. The actuarial science major noted that there were numerous opportunities to network and shadow other departments. “Everyone is always willing to sit down and have a conversation, whether it is about work or not. I was able to talk to many different senior managers who were always willing to help out and give career advice. Making these connections has given me a network of people who I know I can reach out to to help me achieve my career goals.”
In addition to the recruitment project, the summer interns were given responsibilities within their individual departments and treated as full-time, integrated members of their teams. Siwy worked in product control, while Nusstein was part of the foreign exchange interest claims department. Kaci Szczygiel, a rising senior finance major from Lockport, N.Y., worked in asset servicing, while rising senior Alyssa Benton, an accounting major from Youngstown N.Y., was part of the OTC derivatives margin department, and Madison Buchholz, a business management major from Niagara Falls who will be a senior in the fall, worked in project quality assurance.
While their tasks may have differed, the warm, family-like environment in which they worked was apparent across all departments.
“I didn’t feel like just an intern, I felt like part of the group,” said Buchholz.
This company culture helped the interns become comfortable in developing their ability to present in a professional setting, network, and speak confidently, in addition to learning how to prioritize and meet project deadlines. In turn, the interns brought numerous benefits to the organization, as well, according to Jennifer (Chmura) Frost, ’09, operations manager at Citi who co-led the internship program.
“I love their energy, their fresh-mindedness, their charisma,” she said. “Their energy is just contagious for us. We so often get into a routine, and it’s nice to see a friendly new face, a smile, and excitement about a job.”
“The interns have been a great blessing to us this summer,” said Drew Morgan, ’07, MBA’08, who is part of Citi’s University Partnership program with Frost and works in market risk management. “They’re always coming up with ideas, they’re always eager to help us out, they’re always eager to want to learn about the business functions we have here in Buffalo, and at Citi throughout the world, so it’s always great to see the next generation showing eagerness and willingness to learn and understand the business that we do here every day.”
Gerald Ventry, '16, MBA’17, who works in evaluation control at Citi, appreciates the fact that students are learning different things than he did just a few short years ago.
“Just kind of picking their brain, because it’s still fresh, helps us gain what we can do with our regular work, whether they are subject experts on it or they know the resources to get better at it,” he said. “They’re well-spoken, intelligent, they’re not afraid to do anything they don’t understand, because they know they can get help. I think their willingness to take on things that kind of scare them or frustrate them is what keeps everyone wanting more interns.”
The summer internship program is a primary source for hiring full-time professionals, and that’s how Briana Page, ’17, a current MBA student, obtained her job in business continuity at Citi.
“I built a lot of networking skills while I was here, and my experience as an intern made me want to come back and have a career here,” she said. “I think that they do a really great job in giving you exposure to Citi itself, its culture, and the businesses, and everyone is very friendly and helpful, and I think that’s a huge reason why I agreed to start my career here at Citi.”
Page’s internship experience also inspired her to mentor two interns this summer, sharing what she learned and helping them to learn about the many opportunities available to them. She noted that Niagara is “making great strides in attracting students to do the internship”—when she interned in 2016, she was one of only three Purple Eagles.
While the number of NU students who intern at Citi continues to increase, the NU connection is already quite strong, according to Frost. Alumni Dana DiMatteo, ’17, MBA’18; Michael Burke, ’17; Kyle Thomas, ’09, MBA’10; Daniel Kelly, ’09, MBA’10; Andrea Lauzon, ’07, MBA’08; William Charles West II, ’09; Tina (Kim) Farley, ’08; Robert Morris, ’12; Khadijah Smith, ’18; Kristin Larson, ’08; Patrick Donovan, MS’18; and Devante Starks, ’17, MBA’18, are among the professionals working in the Getzville office.
“The Purple Eagles tend to find each other at Citi,” Frost said. “As much pride as we have for Citi, we also have that same pride for NU!”