How Internships Shaped Careers Of Three C-Suite Executives

Elements, Avantax And Absolute Engagement Senior Leaders Share Personal Experiences Of Internships Changing Their Lives And Careers

Janeesa Hollingshead, Contributing Editor, Wealth Solutions Report

After Memorial Day, summer gets into full swing, with all its traditions, from long evenings at baseball stadiums to weekend barbecues. The internship tradition is also alive and well after some interruptions during the pandemic, and unlike many summer activities, this one holds promise to steer the course of a young person’s life.

Not every internship ends in shaping a person’s career decisions, but many do.  While internships are fun not only for the interns but also the professionals hosting them, many of today’s interns will become tomorrow’s leaders.

We asked three wealth management executives to share their stories about how internships changed their careers and lives, as well as words of encouragement for this summer’s interns and firms hosting them: Reese Harper, the CEO of Elements, Jennifer Hutchins, the Co-CIO of Avantax Wealth Management, and Vanessa Oligino, the Chief Client Experience Officer of Absolute Engagement. Their stories and thoughts are below.

Jennifer Hutchins, Co-CIO, Avantax Wealth Management

Jennifer Hutchins, Co-CIO, Avantax Wealth Management

I was interested in learning more about being a financial advisor and inquired at a reputable local investment office to see if they would allow me to intern over the summer, and they cordially agreed. Although the job was only a couple days a week for a few hours without pay, I was excited for the experience and the opportunity to see what a day in the life of a broker was like.

I enjoyed roaming the office of over 20 advisors and talking to them about their profession. I noted that everyone was very adept at their job and really seemed to enjoy their work. Each advisor had their own niche within the practice.

Fast forward a year after graduating from college and I applied for a job at this same office. And to my delight, the office hired me. It was wonderful to join a familiar team! And while I ended up pursuing portfolio analysis and management, I learned invaluable work skills and life lessons at this firm, skills for which I am extremely grateful.

I recently spoke at career night for my alma mater and encouraged the students to pursue internships during their college years. It can be a stepping stone to a future opportunity, or it may help expose a route that the student determines is not as desirable as they first thought. Either way, I believe an internship is a wonderful learning opportunity as a young person tries to navigate the daunting path after college.

Vanessa Oligino, Chief Client Experience Officer, Absolute Engagement

Vanessa Oligino, Chief Client Experience Officer, Absolute Engagement

As a junior in college, I landed an internship with the new student orientation office planning the welcome events for incoming freshmen. I thought I would help plan a few fun parties all while making some extra cash over the summer. My boss had other ideas – she informed me she was not in need of an assistant – she needed a program designer and leader.

That summer I learned how to research and present ideas, manage a budget, select and deal with service providers and recruit volunteers, as well as the necessity of leaving no detail to chance.

Most importantly, I came to understand that even if I didn’t have the experience, with the right support and resources, I could learn and succeed.

When the freshmen arrived, I was ready. With a thousand butterflies in my stomach, I stepped on stage and welcomed more than 2,000 students with their parents and unveiled our plans. To the next generation of interns, I would say, seek out those opportunities attached to managers that have a genuine interest in what you can offer. Be present, be curious and give your best every day.

Reese Harper, CEO, Elements

Reese Harper, CEO, Elements

Internships are key for uncovering the true nature of wealth management, a sector that’s always evolving. Schooling alone doesn’t give you the full picture – I learned that firsthand. I didn’t study wealth management initially, but my internship experience changed my path.

It’s important for young professionals to dip their toes into potential careers through internships. This hands-on experience helps avoid career doubts down the line and encourages commitment even in the face of challenges.

Simply put, internships can guide you towards a job you love.

Janeesa Hollingshead, Contributing Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at

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