An opportunity for college students to gain real-world experience at a Fortune 500 company.
Published on July 27, 2022
At the heart of Markel’s longstanding support of workforce development programs is the summer internship program. From May to August each year, this paid internship gives college students exposure to a professional working environment while learning about the operations of a global insurance company.
"The primary objective of our internship program is to provide a real-life work experience and insurance industry education,” noted Mary Allen Waller, Global Director of Community Engagement at Markel. “Each day provides an opportunity for our interns to contribute to the success of a Fortune 500 company while preparing them for a successful career.”
For the US version of Markel’s summer internship program, various departments host one or more interns for 12 weeks. The interns have opportunities to perform the same work as a full-time, entry-level Markel employee would handle. Responsibilities may include working on a project-based assignment that the host department is unable to complete due to other priorities.
Along with performing entry-level work, interns undertake a small-group research project during the summer. These team projects allow interns to work collaboratively with each other to gather actionable research and data for Markel. As an example, one project assigned by the host department has an intern team researching the topic of inflation trends in property and casualty claims. Interns are often the only one in their department for the entire summer, so the small-group project gives them the opportunity to bond with others in the program. IT interns complete hands-on technology projects, which culminate in a “Demo Day” presentation for IT leadership.
Josh Dinkins, a Markel underwriter and former intern, mentioned how this program gave him a platform to put his knowledge from school into real practice. “The Markel summer internship taught me lessons and experiences that couldn’t be learned in a classroom,” Josh said.
"It gave me great insight into exciting lines of business within insurance, which helped me understand where my interests truly lie."
“Markel’s program was detailed and focused, and my daily schedule was curated based off of my prior knowledge and interests within the wholesale insurance industry,” said Noah Lucas, a Markel Specialty Underwriting Trainee in primary casualty. “The internship provided me with a well-rounded experience in which I was able to learn about multiple lines of business, network with insurance professionals both internally and externally, and work hands-on alongside underwriters on deals.”
To track their progress during the program, an intern receives two performance reviews. First, an informal review at the program’s midpoint serves as a check-in to see how well the intern is progressing and reveals whether he or she understands the expectations of their role. The end review is more formal, but it also helps Markel consider the interns for future employment with the organization.
“The summer program is basically a 12-week interview,” Mary Allen explained. “At the end of the program, we may want to offer a rising college senior a full-time opportunity at Markel following their graduation. The performance appraisals help us think through their qualifications.”
Interns also have a support system in the form of a mentor buddy. A current Markel employee—usually within the host department—connects with an intern regularly throughout the summer. The mentor buddy also answers any questions that an intern may feel uncomfortable to ask their department head or offer professional guidance.
The interns enjoy having someone in addition to their supervisor to speak with, especially about Markel. A mentor buddy also gives them another perspective of different roles within Markel and encourages socialization with other employees.
“My mentor played a pivotal role in my transition to going full-time at Markel,” said Maggie Phipps, Internal Auditor at Markel and an intern during the summer 2021 program. “I could ask her any question–whether it was related specifically to Markel or advice on starting a career as a young woman in finance. I value my relationship with my mentor greatly. She is an amazing role model who is always willing to help me in any way possible. I’ve looked up to her ever since starting the internship and have been very lucky to work with her since.”
Scott O’Sullivan, Markel’s Director, Underwriting and Production and mentor to Josh Dinkins, believes mentors serve a critical role in the internship process and should embrace helping the younger generation. He noted that the level and quality of the support provided to the interns can determine whether that individual viewed the experience as truly valuable. Scott also stated that mentors can also benefit from the relationship, such as learning from interns how to use technology more effectively.
“I did my best throughout Josh’s internship to include him in discussions with various trading partners to give him first-hand visibility into how our approach to a deal can change as we seek to align our objectives with those of our diverse trading partners,” Scott explained. “Importantly, I think it’s helpful for our mentors to embrace the mantra of ‘There is no such thing as a dumb question.’ More tenured insurance professionals often forget how certain terms or concepts become engrained in our vocabulary and ways of life. The more context we can provide to the interns, while helping them get their questions answered, the more likely they are to remember these nuanced concepts and ultimately become valuable support to the team.”
Learning the Markel Style
The learning opportunities in Markel’s summer internship program extend beyond department assignments, research projects, and mentor buddies. Interns become familiar with the Markel Style, the company’s corporate compass. These opportunities include employees from different parts of the company speaking to the interns about their departments. The employees explain how their work supports what Markel does and how the company operates. This educational series also builds awareness of different career opportunities at Markel outside of insurance.
“Giving our interns a broader understanding of why they’re doing the work that they’re doing helps them become more effective in their responsibilities and have a more enjoyable internship experience,” Mary Allen commented.
In addition, interns attend sessions featuring tutorials on personal branding as well as spreadsheet and presentation software. They also learn how to live the Markel Style by attending a volunteer event. The volunteering aspect gives interns a first-hand experience of Markel’s commitment to the community and what it means to be someone who wants to pursue excellence—two components mentioned in the Markel Style.
For many interns, though, the executive lunch is the highlight of their summer. Interns meet in small groups for lunch with members of Markel’s executive leadership. Interns have face time with Markel executives to learn more about their own career journeys. Markel’s executives equally benefit from the lunch, using the time to share their wisdom on the future workforce as well as get the interns’ thoughts on Markel’s business operations.
“As members of Markel’s executive team, we all enjoy the opportunity to spend time with our interns while they are with Markel,” said Sue Davies, Markel’s Chief Human Resources Officer. “We learn about their experiences and answer questions they have about our business, our culture, and our careers. In addition to our providing information to the interns, these interactions are a form of reverse mentoring and a valuable chance to hear the students’ perspectives. By bringing fresh and diverse pairs of eyes to our business, the interns can offer helpful insights.”
From intern to full-time employee
After their summer internships at Markel end, many interns take part-time roles at Markel during the school year or return the following summer for another internship, sometimes in the same department or in a different department. Other interns, however, receive a more enticing opportunity: full-time employment at Markel upon graduating college.
“The Markel internship introduced me to a company culture that I knew I wanted to be a part of,” stated Maggie, who received a full-time offer months after completing her internship.
“It can be nerve-racking finding the right place to start your career. However, the Markel internship made the choice much less stressful. I knew I would be working in a supportive environment where my team would help me learn, grow, and succeed. Markel is special in that it’s a place where people want to build each other up, emulating the Markel Style along the way.”
Noah mentioned that the internship made him better prepared for his transition to a full-time employee at Markel. “One thing that really stood out to me and this internship was the attention that they paid to me individually,” Noah said. “Although I was interning in the Alpharetta, Georgia, office, Markel arranged for me to meet with the company’s executives and gain a better understanding of Markel as a whole. This personalized experience went a long way in showing Markel’s dedication to investing in young professionals and their drive to continue to grow as a company.”
Since Markel started to formalize its summer internship program in the US, the conversion rate of summer interns to full-time employees has risen each year. In particular, the Information Technology department has experienced significant success in gaining full-time employees through the summer internship program.
“The market for tech talent is highly competitive, and we’ve been fortunate in recent years to have many former interns accept permanent roles at Markel,” said Lloyd Scholz, Managing Director of IT, Technology Enablement. “Through the summer internship program, we work hard to provide real-world experiences to students exploring potential careers in technology. Just in the last year, two former interns joined the software engineering and business systems analyst teams. I look forward to seeing what opportunities the future years bring.”
A great place to intern…and work
Markel’s college summer internship program illustrates the company’s commitment to workforce development for both higher education and for high schools. Markel also supports workforce development programs like the high school work-study internships at Cristo Rey High School in Richmond, Virginia, and Partnership for the Future, a Richmond-based equitable college access program co-founded by former Markel Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alan Kirshner.
In the spirit of the Markel Style, program stakeholders are constantly finding a better way to improve the summer internship for future participants. The program is tweaked each year through feedback from interns and mentors. The feedback—along with campus recruiting events and Markel’s growing relationships with colleges and universities—help ensure that the summer internship program continues to be a valuable pipeline for future Markel talent.
“We would like to see our interns become future employees and embrace the Markel Style in their everyday lives,” Mary Allen said. “We want them to walk away knowing not only about the great career opportunities that the insurance industry offers but specifically what a great employer Markel is—and to encourage their classmates to apply.”
To learn more about Markel’s internship opportunities, visit the US early careers page.