“We’ve been thrilled with the young candidates we’ve gotten from St. Thomas, so why go anyplace else?”
Utilimarc likes hiring Tommies. A lot. Over the past eight years, the Minneapolis-based fleet-technology company has almost exclusively hired St. Thomas graduates. Along with two of the company’s three partners having St. Thomas degrees, nine of the 10 nonpartner employees at Utilimarc are St. Thomas alumni or students.
“We’ve been thrilled with the young candidates we’ve gotten from St. Thomas, so why go anyplace else?” Utilimarc CFO Tom Nimmo ’89 MBA said. “It has worked out well with them coming in as interns. It’s a paid internship. What’s nice about that is you can test them out and we haven’t been dissatisfied yet. Plus, they can learn the skills and then, when we offer them positions, right away they can be 100 percent productive instead of trying to get them up to speed.”
In 2010, Michael Huhn ’09 was the first nonpartner the company hired. When it came time to expand Utilimarc’s workforce, Huhn turned to Mike Axtell, an associate professor and director of St. Thomas’ actuarial science program. Over the years, Axtell has helped Utilimarc get the word out about jobs and internships to students majoring in math, actuarial science, statistics or computer and information sciences.
Axtell believes the St. Thomas Mathematics Department does a good job at instilling analytic and communications skills in its students, making them desirable employees to companies such as Utilimarc.
“A lot of industries have so much data they don’t know what to do with it, so they need people with strong analytic skills who can then communicate the results to whoever needs to consume that data,” Axtell said.
The company wants job candidates who are able to solve complicated problems, said Huhn, Utilimarc’s lead analyst/project manager.
“Our mantra as an organization is trying to automate instead of bringing in extra people, so as we’ve brought on people, we’ve brought on the right people,” he said. “That’s been really beneficial, and St. Thomas has really helped with that because when you bring in the right people who have the skill set you need to be able to make complicated processes simpler, then as an organization you can grow much faster. You don’t necessarily have to be tied up with always waiting for people to come onboard.”
Analyst/product developer Paul Milner ’12 credits his St. Thomas liberal arts education for helping him thrive at the company.
“I know some of the student body thinks, ‘Why would I need this general ed class? I’m just going to be doing science,’” Milner said. “But especially at a small company like us where you need to wear 800 different hats, I think that helps a lot. We need folks who are really savvy mathematically, but are also able to communicate well with customers. Those extra skills you get from the liberal arts programs make everybody here rounded out and allow them to take on those different types of roles.”
Intern Maria Ishmael, a senior majoring in statistics, called Utilimarc a “campus away from campus.”
“It’s been really fun,” she said about her paid internship. “I’ve been learning about different programming things we do here and then just the practical application side of what I’ve been doing in my classes. Because here we primarily work with a lot of data stored in databases and then this semester I’m taking a database management class – it’s a direct application. I feel ahead of the curve in my classes now.”