For an age group more at ease typing into a phone than speaking, the EAW experience may help strengthen office skills. In fact, students are expected to leave their phones in lockers before starting their shifts.
University of Utah student Khiyara Gassaway said working at the Discover call center “definitely helps with your patience when you're dealing with difficult customers or trying to get that cardmember on the line.”
Her job, like those of other students on the Discover floor, is to call Discover credit-card holders who are delinquent on their payments. The objective is to keep the customers on the line until they can be transferred to a financial specialist.
“This job kind of teaches you the stuff that school doesn’t teach you,” said Sera Ashman, an incoming junior working on the Microsoft floor while she’s studying at the university to become a video game designer. “I’m learning how to work with coworkers, how to work with a client and meet deadlines.”
The work isn’t for everyone. Some students at the university said they’d heard of the program, but didn’t want to commit the time. Others said it doesn’t align with their career goals.
This job kind of teaches you the stuff that school doesn’t teach you. I’m learning how to work with coworkers, how to work with a client and meet deadlines.
University of Utah sophomore Sera Ashman, on her work for Microsoft through the EAW program
Nick Liddell, a 24-year-old accounting and finance major, works at the business school’s investment fund, where he develops financial models for companies and completes venture capital deals for start-ups that have a social impact. The position is unpaid, but Liddell considers it more valuable than “the short-term financial gain” of working at the call center.
Other students said they’ve benefited from their EAW stints. One landed a salaried job at Microsoft. Another, Zachery Gabaldon, said he’s making $17 an hour as a supervisor and is back to the healthy but more expensive vegetarian diet he had to give up while paying for college.
Discover’s Hedrick said the company plans to hire EAW students not only in local customer service roles but also for jobs in business technology, math or analytics at its Chicago headquarters.
“The relationship is so new we’ve not had really any graduates yet,” said Hedrick. Nonetheless, he added, “We’ve got those resumes. We’re circulating them. We want to have some success stories with the recent graduates.”
In Arizona, 35 percent of the students participating in EAW last year were Hispanic and 15 percent were black; Hedrick said she sees an opportunity to “expand the diversity that we have within Discover from this pipeline.”
Kalapala, the student working tech support in Salt Lake City, credits his EAW job with Microsoft for helping him get a paid internship as a data architect for a large healthcare provider.
“I am very grateful for the experience,” he said. “This job gave me good leverage.”
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