Teacher Retirement System
Fall 2013 Site Review
Position: Government Relations and Executive Intern
Student: Government, Junior
Overall I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. I have consistently worked 16 hours a week, coming in both Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. I believe is worth mentioning that unlike most internship opportunities, TRS pays its interns quite well. For a second year in a row, TRS has been ranked on the Austin American Statesman’s list of the Top 10 Workplaces. As an employee of the agency, it comes as no surprise to me.
On any given day, I have a project to work on. Each project is different and carries a different weight. In the past I have been given tasks as simple as scanning documents, however I would like to note that it was on extremely rare occasions that I was given such petty tasks. On the contrary, I have been given numerous research opportunities. These research opportunities have repeatedly resulted in meetings with the top executives at TRS. As an intern in the workforce, I have learned that it is not the norm to be sitting at the same table as the top dogs. However, I believe that is what sets TRS apart. While there is still a sense of order and respect amongst the employees, it is evident that everyone is eager to help one another. As a state agency, TRS offers a wide variety of employment opportunities. As a public pension fund, TRS has an investment division, governmental relations department, legal department, auditing department, human resources, benefits division, and so on. I believe that having the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of people from different departments of TRS has shown me what fields I might find interesting in the future, and what fields I might shy away from.
Throughout my internship I was repeatedly given projects that were laden with responsibility. Rather than dreading these moments, I appreciated them, noting that most employers don’t place that much faith in their interns. If I could do it again, I would.
Summer 2012 Site Review
Position: Clerk II
Student: Asian Studies Senior
My internship at the Teacher Retirement System of Texas has taught me a lot of about how a government retirement system is run. Benefits Processing, the department I was in, helps process the benefits for retired members. I specifically helped in Death Claims, the team that deals with deceased members. For these claims, beneficiaries of the deceased teachers needed to be located in order for them to receive benefits.
Every day I would go see my supervisor and get a list of the files that needed to be worked. Typically these files were follow ups to beneficiaries that we had not heard from after sending them a couple of letters. I would first try to call the beneficiaries to see if they were getting our forms. If I could not find a phone number, I would send them a letter via TRS’ program. The program I used was a bit dated, as the user would have to enter numbers that would put together a letter. Currently TRS is upgrading their system and soon this program will be obsolete. If I opened a file that was either a couple of years old or that we had never heard back from a beneficiary after sending several letters, I would send a ‘final letter’ detailing that we would close the file if we did not hear back from them in a month.
I also dealt with old files which were a few years old. These files were usually more complicated than the follow ups I would do for recent files and would tend to not have a beneficiary named by the member. For these files I would try to find an obituary in order to see if the member had any relatives, and if so, to contact them.
Summer 2011 Site ReviewPosition: Analyst Intern
Student: Economics Junior
A typical day at an investment fund, in Austin, is not like your typical portrayal of Wall Street in movies and in other media. While people in investment management are all very busy, there is not any yelling, no blatant stepping on other’s toes, or any emphatic gyrations when performance exceeds expectations. Life at an investment fund is more subtle and relaxed. The hours are shorter than on Wall Street, fifty to sixty hours, as opposed to eighty to one hundred in investment banking. In my opinion, the people on the investment management side of finance are a bit more intelligent and focused on seeking the truth in the market rather than just making things happen as in the case of investment bankers who profit from action rather than significant analysis.
When I get in the office in the morning, around 8:00 AM, I check my email to make sure that I do not have any meetings that I have to attend for the day or any emails that I need to respond to that came in either earlier in the morning or after I left the past night. While I check my email, I check the markets in order to understand the trends over the past few days. I check the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index, the European FTSE, the German DAX, the French CAC 40, the Japanese Nikkei 225, and the Chinese Hang Seng. As I check the market throughout the day, I take notes about the highs and lows of the day. I am attempting to chart the patterns over the next five years just for practice in order to understand general trends in different markets. Even with five years of performance data, does not mean that I will be able to predict the market. A joke in finance is that there are people who know they cannot time the market and there are those that do not know…yet. That is, until they are burned and they enter the former group.
After that I attend to my work, depending on what my assignment is. I read research, check for exchange traded funds that contain stocks I may be interested in, thoroughly investigate those equities and write reports on why I think these stocks will outperform the market and how I came to that conclusion based on my research.
I usually stay in the office until about 9pm. At night the office is nearly empty and it is easier to concentrate on the my current analysis . On average, I work around sixty hours a week and I come in on the weekends for a couple of hours to finish up work. The difference between other’s job’s and my career, is that I enjoy what I do so I do not mind coming in on the weekends. It is the intellectual curiosity that will keep you afloat in good times and in the bad.