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Summer Internship: Economics major finds family environment with global company

Summer Internship: Economics major finds family environment with global company

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A man sitting at a desk staring at a computer monitor with over the ear headphones on in an office setting.

Image: Travis McDaneld ’23 spent his summer interning with Russell Investments as a data analyst with the global data operations team.

August 30, 2022
By Veronica Craker
Marketing & Communications

Travis McDaneld ’23 is entering his fourth year at PLU as an economics major, minoring in data science. When he enrolled at PLU, he had every intention of majoring in business, although he admits to not having any idea about what he wanted to do after graduation. But when he took a microeconomics class, he says it all clicked, and he knew what he wanted to study.

Through The Alumni & Student Connections Economics Mentoring Program, McDaneld spent his summer interning with Russell Investments as a data analyst with the global data operations team. Russell Investments is a global investment manager operating in 31 countries. McDaneld shares with us his experience interning with the company. The internship was so successful, McDaneld was invited to continue the partnership through the end of the year. 

How did you come across this internship?

I wanted to get into finance to get that financial industry experience, so I applied to a lot of internships, probably 30 plus. On top of that, my econ mentor, Igor Strupinskiy, felt Russell Investments would be a good fit for me because he had worked there previously. His working there had nothing to do with me getting the internship, but it was a funny coincidence, and he knew enough about the work to know that it would be a good fit for me. So I made that one of my applications, and that just happened to be the one I got an interview for, and I’m thankful that was the case.

Can you describe your duties as a data analyst? 

My job, most of it, is ad hoc. I perform some system checks. So there are lots of systems that data goes through on the way to the Portfolio Analytics and Reporting (PARis) system. I will do automated checks within a few of those systems with Structured Query Language (SQL), the database language, and basically, make sure the data is clean, valid, and accurate. If it’s not, I will often have to reach out either interdepartmentally or sometimes to external vendors to figure out why this is happening. That’s generally in the morning, and in the evening, I check data quality and validity in PARis and chase down problems that sometimes arise.

What are you enjoying most about this internship?

The people at Russell are incredible, not just at my team but beyond that. The intern program is a fairly important program to them in that we have coordinated education sessions and what are called “Meet the Business” sections – which is one of my favorite things.

It’s a big financial company and so you would think in a company of that size – things like the executive team, the administrative team – that these would be distant people. Still, Michelle Seitz, Russell’s CEO, works on the floor above us, and she’s an email away. We had a meeting with her and the rest of the executive team and just talked about the internship, and they gave us advice. That’s part of what I love about Russell Investments. There’s no feeling of elitism or discrimination because you haven’t been there very long. It’s a very healthy working environment.

More practically, though, I get to use the skills I’ve built over my time in school in an atmosphere surrounded by finance, which is close to what I major in and love. That’s an amazing opportunity to get to do before I’m even out of college. 

How did your internship differ from the work you do in the classroom?

Often in school, when you’re working with data, it’s very small data sets, but these are really large sets of investment data. It’s good to get experience automating manual processes, which companies with data roles are often looking to do. They want to find out how we can make this process faster and take the human hands out of it, not so that we can employ fewer people, but so that we can put those human hands on a more important task.

Getting firsthand experience, seeing those manual processes get automated  – that’s really huge. 

Why did you want to major in economics and minor in data science?

I liked the major because it taught me about the world around me. I’ve taken classes like psychology and sociology, and those definitely teach you a lot, but I feel like economics as a social science is incredibly applicable to day-to-day interactions. You find a lot in the decisions that firms make, the decisions that consumers make, and how those lead to the circumstances surrounding you. Not only that, but more, more practically speaking, it kept a lot of doors open. There are a lot of options out there for economics majors. You can go into law. You can go into data. You can go into public policy, politics, and all those kinds of things. 

Finally, why did you decide to study at PLU?

PLU follows the principles of a Lutheran Higher Education, which is something that is really close to me and that I’m a very passionate believer in. I’m not a Lutheran myself, but the higher education principles that come along with that, I think, are really important. I’ve always believed in an intrinsic value in intellectualism and in challenging the world around you, not taking things for granted. PLU acknowledges that and encourages it, which can be hard to find in contemporary schooling. I really love that about PLU.