USAA Employee Seizes Opportunities To Explore New Career Path

Spencer Widell.jpg

Spencer W., an employee at USAA, with his family


When Spencer W. came to work at USAA 14 years ago, he didn’t know anything about our mission. What he did know was what he wanted to do for a living – at least, that’s what he thought at the time.


“I didn’t know much about USAA, it just seemed like a good opportunity,” recalls Spencer. “At the time, I didn’t know anything about our mission or who we serve. It didn’t take long to get a good appreciation for that, though.”


Spencer’s career began as a financial advisor in the former Financial Planning & Advice organization, where he helped members secure their financial futures by identifying the products and services that would best fit their needs.


“Once you start hearing their stories and connecting to our mission, it becomes something larger than just a job,” says Spencer. “The USAA mission starts to feel like an actual mission. We are here to take care of the servicemembers who have taken care of us.”


With the help of USAA’s employee education benefit EdAssist, Spencer was able to become a Certified Financial PlannerTM and obtain other financial certifications. His career path was clear – he was developing skills in his field and had found a workplace with which he deeply connected.


Then came the plot twist.


“One day I got an email about a professional rotation opportunity for data analytics,” says Spencer. “I read through it and thought it sounded cool, so I decided to give it a shot.”


Spencer enlisted in an 18-month program with data analytics where he began developing skills in coding and navigating databases. Eager to learn more, Spencer once again turned to USAA's EdAssist benefits and enrolled in a master’s program in business analytics at Grand Canyon University.


Just a few years later, Spencer found himself in a new career as a data scientist in the Life Company.


“As a data scientist, I talk to my business partners to understand the problems that make it difficult for them to make our members’ lives better,” explains Spencer. “With that information, I use technology and analytics to develop data solutions to solve those problems.”


In other words – Spencer is now in a role that is completely different from his original path. However, despite the differences, the mission remains the same.


“When I was a financial advisor, I would read disclosures and share information to ensure a member understood all the benefits and features of a product prior to the sale,” he explains. “Now, as a data scientist, I am developing a disclosure detection model to identify whether those same disclosures are read during a call. This experience of being on both ends of the spectrum has really opened my eyes to how important our mission really is because it ensures everyone is working for a common goal.”


While changing paths isn’t easy, Spencer says it is worth the work to seize the opportunity.


“You start at a certain place, but that doesn’t mean that’s where you’re have to end up down the line,” he says. “There are so many different opportunities and paths to follow at USAA. If you want to push yourself and put in the work, there are so many options to explore.”


Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. owns the certification marks CFP® and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ in the United States, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.