The summer of 2014, I was employed by Capital One as an intern in the Technology Development Program (or TDP). I must say, I was highly impressed by the program and felt it was one of the better intern/development programs out there. Anyone who knows me knows I am a pretty critical guy, and as such I have many suggestions to make the program better. However, in this article I would like to share what I have learned as well as how the internship was “styled.”
Prior to diving into my internship experience, I feel I owe my readers and apology. Over the past month I have been neglecting this website. This was because I was finishing up my internship, am in the process of moving, have been working on Selenium Factory (for Capital One) and another (secret personal) project, as well as contributing to Top Financial Advisor. I am sorry I have been neglecting you, my diligent readers, but I am indeed back (after I move this weekend)!
Now, for my Capital One internship review!
Selecting Capital One TDP Internship
I originally applied to Capital One online after they visited my school and I saw that they were at a career fair. I did not meet with anyone, nor really do any research on the company. At this point I was trying to obtain practice interviewing, which I discussed in my article, What I Look For In An Interview. I was selected for the interview, a day or two later and had the in person interview.
The interview was fairly easy, and was not in any way technical. I had a developer asking me about projects, different tools I used, why I chose those tools, what my five year plan was, etc. Honestly, my interviewer seemed rather tired or bored, and the interview lasted maybe twenty minutes.
Following my first interview I received a call the next day saying I passed the first interview and that they would like to fly me out to Richmond for a “power day.” In essence, I went to Richmond and was interviewed by three or four managers, each was testing various aspects of my abilities. One presented me with a “business problem,” which was a fairly simple problem any business would face (i.e. to go with option A or B to solve a problem). Another of the interviewers tested my technical skills by presenting me with a simple program which flipped a string and asked me what it does. I glanced at it, tossed it back and told the answer (that was a quick half hour technical interview…). The final interviewer was my favorite, to be honest I think we spent most of the time discussing one of the projects I was working on in my spare time.
After the six hours of interviews/hanging around, we had dinner and I was waiting for my flight back to Champaign IL. Apparently, all of the interviewers had a meeting and discussed who they were going to accept because I saw my last interviewer come out. He came up, shook my hand and told me he hopes to see me at Capital One this summer. I received official confirmation at 9pm that night, receiving the offer from HR as well as documents.
At this point I had several job offers I was toying with. Capital One was offering pretty good compensation, especially considering it was within driving distance from my grandfathers house (where I ended up staying). However, I continued applying to companies, interviewing and what not. At one point I had an interview with Goldman Sachs, Enova, Interactive Intelligence, and Yelp back to back. That was when I said enough is enough, I looked at my offers and accepted Capital One (in a large part) because of the conversation I had with my last interviewer, who also came out and shook my hand.
Having a personal touch in the interview process went a long way, and it made a lasting impression. Even better, every other intern I saw was wearing a suit and I showed up in a T-shirt and jeans and Capital One still gave me an offer.
Working as a TDP Intern
I worked in the Chicago offices at Capital One, and I should mention the culture is fairly different there than at the rest of the company (though not extremely different). The people at Capital One are not what I would necessarily call technical. Apparently, for most of Capital One’s history they did not do any software development, however starting in 2013 (late 2012) they decided they were going to (as they put it) become a tech company.
I do not know if this is necessarily possible, but “they put money where their mouth is” so to speak. Their goal was/is to hire several thousand software engineers over the next few years (to already augment their ~5000). However, many of the people I met were not exceptionally skilled programmers. On the other hand, they were very skilled business types, as you would suspect at a bank. In part, this is because I was working at the old HSBC office, which Capital One took over a couple years earlier.
That being said, everyone I worked with was more than happy to give me space to complete assignments and I rarely felt any form of bureaucracy impeding my work. Rather the opposite to be honest, being in intern I surprised to see my impact on the company. Further, Capital One actually gives the interns more access to hire ups. For example, I had the VP of Card Technology call me on my cell phone today to hear about my internship and tell me he hopes I come back and work for Capital One full-time.
By giving me the freedom to complete my assignments, even though many of the others were not as technical, I was able to accomplish quite a bit at Capital One. Giving interns (such as myself) access to hire-ups at the director and senior director level let me make suggestions on how to improve the company, several of which were considered and I believe will be implemented. More over, by winning the intern Case Competition (beating out 28 other teams), I garnered respect and was given access to even more leadership (the judges of the competition were all VPs). Even better, my team managed to make most of the leadership laugh and it was commented we (particularly Patrick Donovan, our best speaker) made Quality Assurance fun.
Given the openness to new ideas I experienced at Capital One, I would recommend it as a place to work if you are interested in working in a bank. Regardless of the fact Capital One is not necessarily up to the standards of a tech company such as Apple or Google, they are pretty good compared to Discover or Chase (in regard to technology). Further, Capital One has several business advantages (such as having few actual branches) and they aggressively pushing becoming a software company.
Meaning, if you are looking for a job in software development Capital One has a good outlook. Within the next few years they intend to hire several thousand software developers and they will need managers. If you can come in the next year, it would be possible to run the wave to managing some of them. This is the main reason I am looking at Capital One as a potential place to work. To be honest, my motive this summer was money (as well as some soft skill practice), however for full time I am looking more for experience. Since Capital One has a desire to grow I can make a large impact and move up quickly, gaining experience, eventually starting my own company.
Capital One TDP: Your Brand
I discussed a large portion of my Selenium Factory project in the article, Selenium Factory, an Idea, that your personal brand is everything at Capital One (or really anywhere for that matter). In the article, I explain in my rather egotist way of building your brand at Capital One. Part of the reason it was so egocentric was because it is your brand. The point being, you must be willing to promote yourself to promote your brand (but not to the point of making people dislike you). This was one of the biggest take-aways I have from my internship. Promote yourself through what you are good at.
For example, I am a fairly capable programmer and was able to make a big impact through identifying problems and fixing them. My solution was good enough and matched enough with Capital One’s goals that not only did it win (tied) us the competition, but they are working (or seem to be) willing to make an investment in the project. There were five other teams that made it to finals with us and that is the picture below, it was available on the Capital One’s Campus Careers Facebook page.
After it was announced that we had won, every day I walked into the office someone I never met gave me a nod in greeting. It was a good feeling, not to be noticed, but for my work to be recognized. I want my projects to succeed, I attended next to no social events at Capital One because I don’t care about playing the business games (and politics). Let me change the world for the better, everything else can just get out of my way. The personal brand I was going for was future CEO, innovator, or just plain ‘good’ at my job. I wanted to be known for doing a job well, not being liked for telling a funny joke (though… I think I can sometimes do that too).
Capital One TDP Internship: Closing Remarks
I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed my Capital One experience, and regardless of whether or not I return to Capital One I respect the company as a whole. My manager Chris Whyde was great, he let me work from home when I needed too and trusted me to accomplish assignments I was given. Everyone I met there was relatively nice and I rarely felt as if there was anything “cut-throat” going on.
For a bank, Capital One is an excellent place to work if you are interested in having a life outside of work. I worked four to six hours every day (including weekends) and always felt relaxed. The flexibility for a bank was astounding and as long as you completed your work no one ever complained. Many people (in the Chicago office) work three days a work on sight, two days off, on Friday there is about a quarter of the people there.
I would not consider Capital One a tech company (yet…). Although they are aggressively pursuing bulking out their software development, it’ll take time. They just do not have the Silicon Valley software development culture or skill level yet. However, they are offering excellent compensation, providing awesome new workspaces, starting research labs (where you can kind of work on what ever), and buying startups. That being said, in five years I would say they will definitely have the skills, as for culture, they currently have a good culture. Although it may not be exactly be like startup, they are always open to new ideas and as long as you can justify it, they’ll help you make it happen.
Capital One has one of the best cultures I have seen for a bank (based on talking to people), and if you are interested in a blend of technology and banking I would have to say Capital One is an excellent choice. I was surprised at the amount of exposure I had to executives, the depth at which they listened (they are implementing some of my ideas), and the ability to grow.
One thing I have not mention yet, is that you are allowed to transfer around in the company and they actually try to pressure you to move into different roles and constantly learn. Personally, I will likely stay in one place, and hopefully will be able to work in the research labs (what they call innovation labs) if I do work for Capital One.
Due to the substantial offer I received from Capital One, as well as all the above, I can see myself working for them for a couple years after school (though I am applying to graduate schools as well). Obviously, that would depend on my girlfriend, family, and whether I can get in the innovation labs, as well as other offers (and if my own business takes off). Although I am not trying to directly sell Capital One in this article, it is a good company to work for and as such here is their career website. As I said, I do not know if I will go back, however I am considering it and would say it’s a 40/60 chance at this point (still have to apply to other companies, graduate schools, etc.).
Regardless, I highly recommend a Capital One internship to anyone who is looking for an internship!