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A goalkeeper with a mind for data analytics

June 30, 2015
By cnp
Posted in Business Administration

Spending the summer developing training modules and dashboards for a new business intelligence tool may not sound like an ideal summer break for most people, but for Austin Benner it's perfect.

Benner, a University of the Ozarks senior business administration major from Houston, is spending 12 weeks this summer interning at the AT&T corporate headquarters in Dallas. He’s having the time of his life working as a paid intern at one of the world’s top companies.

"It may not sound real exciting working on training modules and dashboards, but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else," Benner said. "A typical day is comprised of working on my projects, going to lunch with other interns, and jumping in on a couple of conference calls. Although it sounds bland and mundane, the work is very enjoyable and meaningful and the people and culture make it an awesome experience."

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Senior business administration major Austin Benner is an all-conference goalkeeper for the Eagles’ soccer program who has spent the past two summers working as an intern for AT&T corporate headquarters in Dallas. Benner plans to pursue a management career in data analytics following his graduation from Ozarks in December.

This is the second consecutive summer that Benner has worked for the multinational telecommunications corporation that was ranked 12th in the most recent Fortune 500 rankings. After working there last summer, he was asked by his supervisor if he wanted to return this summer.

"I applied cold online last summer and was fortunate to get a position," Benner said. "Over this past Christmas break, my boss asked if I wanted to return under one of his direct reports. This brought me back to the company in the same organization and overall group but with a slightly different focus."

Benner, who is scheduled to graduate in December, believes the internship can be a stepping stone to a career in management and data analysis.

"This is helping me work towards a career that combines business knowledge, skills, and understanding with data analytics to go more toward a data management and analysis route rather than what you would consider traditional management," Benner said. "Ideally, I’d like to be in a high level management role in customer experience. I believe my strengths lie with analyzing and understanding data and being able to relate it to a business model to make decisions.  I have a customer-first mentality because without them, you have no business."

Benner is hoping the internship leads to a full-time position with the company after graduation.

"This internship is helping me prepare for my career by giving me hands-on application of business statistics, software packages, and dashboard design while also helping me network with employees and present to senior management and leadership," Benner said. "I’m also learning the ins and outs of a company that I hope to work for in the future."

He is already starting to think and talk like a high level manager.

"I have a desire to fix customer perception of the telecommunications industry," Benner said. "I don’t want people to hear that I work for AT&T and then have them tell me that their service stinks. Instead, I want people to enjoy their experience and have positive interactions with the business and the industry."

Benner said his classes and professors at Ozarks have prepared him well for the challenging summer internship.

"My professors gave me good letters of recommendation and references and were always available for advice if I needed it," he said. "An Advanced Decision Making class taught by Mrs. [Cindy] Lanphear pretty much defined what I am doing as an intern. It was my first practical experience with data and Excel. We analyzed the local hospital’s emergency room process and feedback and that experience was very helpful. Most importantly, Ozarks has been excellent in teaching critical thinking, something extremely important for my internship, considering all of my analysis is centered on being able to make logical conclusions about data and how it should be used. From talking with other business leaders, it seems that they look for critical thinking as the most important skill because other skills can be taught one way or another. They want the things they can’t teach."

Benner, who is an all-conference goalkeeper for an Eagles soccer team that advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament in 2014, said he is excited about his senior season that will begin when the team reports for fall camp in just over a month.

"The success we had last year doesn’t mean anything," Benner said, "To me, the goal this season is to win our conference and go the NCAA tournament. We will have a young team again but we have a lot of talented players and I think what we will have that we haven’t had in the past is a deep bench that will give us better quality throughout our roster. If we put in the work and effort that we need to, I think we can have a very successful year."