Staff stick around for cool benefits and hot technology

Heather Hernandez had several attractive job offers after graduating from college in 2007, but an internship she'd had at USAA a year earlier made her choice easy. The financial services company has a great work environment, and its IT staff morale is high.

"It's a lot of fun," says Hernandez, a software systems engineer and WebSphere administrator.

To Hernandez, "fun" means working with a wide range of technical platforms and software languages, and participating in team-building exercises like company-sponsored paintball games.

Once on board, IT staffers tend to stay. CIO Greg Schwartz got his start 26 years ago as a programmer trainee. Steven Large, IT technical director, came to San Antonio-based USAA out of school, expecting a short stay before "jumping around" among companies to advance his career. That was 19 years ago.

For Hernandez, the greatest reward is that her ideas go right to the top. "They'll ask me to come to meetings and bring fresh ideas," she says. "It's exciting to even be asked."

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