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No. 1 Place To Work in IT: USAA

The money and benefits are extraordinary, but what IT employees seem to love most are the traditions of innovation and service.

By Julia King
June 20, 2011 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - Just how great is it to work at USAA, Computerworld's No. 1 Best Place to Work in IT for the second year in a row?

"Well, I don't want to make it sound like it's all candy and rainbows, but it really is pretty nice," says Brett Lewis, a lead technical architect and 23-year veteran of the San Antonio-based financial services company.

First he ticks off a long list of generous benefits, which include an annual holiday bonus equal to two weeks' base pay, health insurance subsidized at the rate of 87.5%, access to any of three state-of-the-art fitness centers on campus at minimal cost, 24 days of vacation after a year on the job, and a tuition reimbursement benefit of $10,000 annually. "What keeps me here is that you couldn't ask for a better place to work," says Lewis.

In February, each of the company's 22,500 full-time employees, including 2,135 in IT, also received a whopping 18.4% performance bonus, the second highest in the company's history. The highest bonus -- 18.8% -- was paid out in 2010, when USAA also took the top spot on the Best Places to Work in IT list.

Yet even more exceptional than the benefits, according to Lewis and other IT staffers, is the company's overall work environment, which emphasizes innovation, collaboration and, above all else, service.

USAA's customer base comprises 8 million U.S. military members, veterans and their families around the world. And it's not at all unusual for members of USAA's workforce to express great zeal for serving this particular customer segment.

"My No. 1 favorite thing about working at USAA is being on a team that has a single goal," says Emily Bubela, a senior research engineer and self-described military brat, who joined the company eight years ago, right out of college. Growing up in a military family, the first check Bubela ever wrote was on a USAA account, and she has had car insurance with the company since she was a teenager.

"USAA has been in my DNA for a long time," she quips. Now, working at the company, "there's never a question about everybody's priorities. It's always the same. What's best for the member is the guiding principle," she says.

"We have a strong and noble mission, and we believe in it," says Jackie Head, executive director of database and storage management. Every month, one of the company's military members is profiled in a short video. "It gives us a sense of the people we serve," Head says. "It's that emotional side that keeps you very much in sync with who your customers are."

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