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The No. 1 place to work in IT: USAA scores a three-peat

June 18, 2012 06:00 AM ET

Schwartz says he's "especially jazzed" about setting up additional agile development labs, where IT and business unit staffers work together on projects. "We now have 20% of the projects in our portfolio running through labs," he says.

11 a.m. York stops for coffee at an on-campus Starbucks, which is surrounded by several "foxholes" and "campsites" -- rooms designed for small, impromptu meetings. "Wherever we find dead space, we create a collaborative area," she says.

Forgot your wallet? No problem. Employees can charge the snacks and beverages they buy at Starbucks, as well as the cards, gifts or other items they pick up in the on-site store. Their purchases are itemized, with the totals deducted from their paychecks.

1 p.m. The spacious, modern cafeteria, with a wide variety of hot and cold entrees and plated desserts on display, is among the amenities that Will McDowell says he missed most about USAA when he left to take a job at a publicly traded insurance company in the mid-Atlantic region.

"I really missed the campus, and more than anything I missed the team environment," says McDowell, who returned after a year and now is an IT technical director who leads USAA's mobile, social and Internet development teams. "At the other company, IT was more of an order-taking organization. Here, we really work hand in glove with the business, developing strategy and executing against it."

3-5 p.m. Software developer Seth Ethington arrives for an interview with Computerworld carrying a written list of the many benefits he personally values at USAA. At the top are the countless opportunities to innovate.

The majority of my ideas have either gone into production ... or they're on a road map to go into production."
Seth Ethington, software developer, USAA

"The majority of my ideas have either gone into production, so members are seeing changes, or they're on a road map to go into production," says Ethington. USAA also has submitted four of his ideas for patenting.

"Just having the opportunity to go through the patent process is very rewarding," says the 31-year-old father of two. "Financially, it's not something I'd ever be able to do on my own. USAA basically fronted all the money for me to go through the process."

Lyndsay Yerbic, 23, a software developer hired right out of Mesa University in Colorado, also has a written list. The benefit she values most: Nexus, USAA's social network specifically for recently hired college grads. She's a leader in the Nexus community, and she says one of her favorite activities has been coordinating the monthly technology seminars for IT workers.

Through Nexus, Yerbic has met friends, discovered volunteer opportunities and found co-workers with shared interests. She has also picked up tips for getting to know San Antonio and Texas overall.

"I never pictured myself in Texas until I pictured myself at USAA," says the self-described "Colorado girl."

Next: Spotlight: No. 2-ranked CareerBuilder sets projects on the fast track

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