Courtney Karkas

Internship Spotlight – Courtney Karkas, Aetna

Eller PDC Coordinator Student Stories

Courtney Karkas is a Business Management major set to graduate in May 2020.  This past summer she interned for Aetna as a Human Resources Summer Associate in Hartford, Connecticut.

How did you get this internship?

I found this internship opportunity on LinkedIn, and applied via the company website. I went through an initial phone screen, and then 3 rounds of interviews.

What was a typical day like?

No day was the same by any means, but my days would begin at 8am when I would come into the office and first check my emails. Then, at 8:30am I had a daily meeting with one of my managers, where we would discuss my agenda for the day, the projects I’m working on, and any questions I might have. Following this meeting, my schedule was fully based on my calendar for the day. I would often have chunks of time that I would specifically set out for me to work on my projects, so I wouldn’t be distracted. At Aetna, we have a lot of meetings, so on a typical day, I would have around 8-11 meetings. These included team meetings, educational sessions for interns, project-related meetings, and networking meetings to meet with professionals one on one. I would typically have lunch from 12-12:30pm, and my day would end around 4:30/5pm.

What was your favorite part of the experience?

My favorite part of the experience was getting to be fully immersed in a new place and a new company. I am from California, and I moved out to Connecticut for the summer without knowing anyone there, and I was honestly very nervous. However, Aetna put us into wonderful apartments with other interns, which allowed me to make friends right away. Additionally, the company set up many events and networking sessions for the interns to get to know each other more, but also get to know the full time employees as well. At work, I was challenged with meaningful projects and great responsibilities which allowed me to feel like I was a full member of the team. On the weekends, I was encouraged to explore the East Coast, which led me to embark on multiple trips around the New England Area. All of these factors combined, allowed me to feel like Aetna was a home away from home, and a place I could see myself working in the future.

If you worked on a big project, please describe it below:

This summer I was on the HR team that supports our Medicare business within Aetna. We have over 5,000 employees in Medicare, and my team provides consulting and strategic services to the top executives within Medicare. My largest project was conducting a Client Satisfaction Survey in which I reached out to our most prominent leaders in Medicare, and asked them questions about how our HR team is doing in providing these services. Instead of using an online survey, I held 50 one on one meetings with the top professionals in Medicare. I spoke to them over the phone, and had open and honest conversations about our HR team. After these meetings, I ran a data analysis on the trends and themes that I found, and I presented these findings, along with proposed recommendations to the Medicare HR Team, my boss, and then the Senior VP of Human Resources. This was the first time a project like this was done, and I was able to recommend that this survey be completed again in the future, but also across other areas in the business. This was an incredible project that gave me exposure across the business, helped me to take initiative and lead/create a project all on my own, and allowed me to really impact the company moving forward.

What did you find most challenging about your internship?

The most challenging part of this internship was being so far away from home. I am from California and go to school in Arizona, so being in Connecticut was a major change. A majority of the interns were from East Coast schools, so initially I felt like an outsider. However, everyone was so kind and welcoming to me, and living with other interns really helped me to feel comfortable in such a new environment.

What advice do you have for other students looking for a similar internship?

Don’t doubt yourself!!! During my internship search, I wasn’t confident that I could land such a big internship. I knew that I was competing against students from all over the country, and I didn’t know how I would stand out. However, I was completely myself in all of my interviews and that allowed me to really show who I am, but also learn if the company would be a great match for me as well. Even once I got this internship, I was a bit doubtful of my skills, considering a majority of my internship peers attended ivy league schools, but I continued to be myself and hold my head up high, which really allowed me to thrive in such a big company.

How did Eller prepare you for your internship?

Eller prepared me tremendously for this internship. With all of the presentations I’ve done in Eller, the case competitions, and the networking events I’ve attended, I was really able to shine as a strong communicator during my internship. I had no problem taking the lead on group projects as I have done in Eller, I was comfortable presenting in front of crowds, and I was eager to network across the enterprise. These were things that a lot of my colleagues struggled with, as their schools did not prepare them in this way. I felt very confident in my social skills, and I credit that to my past Eller experiences.