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Two sisters, two companies, one realization

By Amy Lohmann '14
September 26, 2011

Seniors Kari (left) and Esti Zimmerman utilized the resources in St. Olaf's Center for Experiential Learning to land internships that gave them a new perspective on working for a large corporation.

Kari Zimmerman '12 has an entrepreneurial spirit that she was sure would get lost in a job with a large corporation.

Her twin sister, Esti Zimmerman '12, has long planned to parlay her love for teamwork into building a company of her own.

Yet after the two spent the summer interning with well-established corporations — Kari with Piper Jaffray and Esti with Ameriprise Financial — they both reached the same conclusion: a career with a large corporation could suit them quite well.

"My experience working at Piper Jaffray changed my mind," Kari says. "Their employees have the opportunity to be creative and have their voices heard. This entrepreneurial spirit inside a large corporation inspired me to want to work for a company like Piper."

Esti was similarly won over by her experience at Ameriprise. "The dynamic, team-oriented environment of a larger corporation really appeals to me, as I am used to surrounding myself with high achievers in the classroom and on the softball field here at St. Olaf," says Esti.

Despite their initial reservations about the corporate world, the two sisters used the resources provided in the St. Olaf Center for Experiential Learning (CEL) to search for internships that would simultaneously help them hone their skills in their respective fields and learn the ropes of corporate life. Utilizing the resources in the CEL enabled Kari to connect with the substantial number of St. Olaf graduates at Piper, who provided insight into the culture of the company and how she could best market her skills in the interview process.

Both Zimmerman sisters found that their internships provided them with projects that required responsibility and follow-through. Kari completed weekly economic update reports that were sent to all the employees in her department, and also spent time writing sections of an economic newsletter for clients that is published weekly on the company's website. "I worked with another intern to create a training presentation to instruct new employees on Piper's procedures on issuing municipal bonds," she says.

Esti spent much of her time at Ameriprise working on two big projects. She created a monthly strategy packet for all 11 fixed-income sector teams, spoke with portfolio managers to understand their strategy, and used databases to gather other data about fund performance.

"I also worked with the marketing department and evaluated some of Ameriprise's mutual fund performance compared to their competitors' funds," she says. "For this project I wrote value proposition statements and sent this marketing material to financial advisors to help them understand which funds they should be promoting and selling to clients."

In addition to adding to their resumes, both summer internships provided the Zimmerman sisters with valuable insight into what they'd like to do in the future. "Interning at Ameriprise allowed me to better understand that working in a corporate setting entails working and communicating with co-workers constantly," says Esti. "You don't just sit at your desk in isolation for eight hours; it's definitely a team-oriented environment, and if you don't know how to contribute to the team, you will not be successful."

Kari's internship gave her experience and skills that she could not have nurtured in a classroom. "My internship gave me the responsibilities of a regular employee and thrust me into the world of fixed income — a world I knew very little about before," she says. "There was definitely a learning curve at first, but the opportunity to perform significant work and ask many questions allowed me to develop in ways a classroom experience cannot provide."

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or