Secrets to Success

By Colleen Leonard

Category: 2014 Spring Alumni

Glenn Schneider

In the beginning as a programmer, NIU alumnus Glenn Schneider didn’t envision climbing to an executive position at Discover Financial Services, an Illinois-based company recognized for giving back to its employees and communities. Instead, Schneider says he worked hard, looked for challenges to solve company issues, and didn’t shy away from jobs that appeared daunting. As a result, he was rewarded with opportunities for advancement.

“I was never one that said I need to be in a particular job in two years, five years, and eight years and then I’m going to be the CIO in 15,” says Schneider, Discover’s senior vice president and chief information officer.

His ingredients for success are simply energy, motivation, and passion, he says. He credits NIU’s career counseling services for putting him on the right track. He began as a meteorology major, but realized that he enjoyed economics after  meeting with a counselor. He ended up majoring in both economics and computer science with a minor in statistics.

You have to get out and understand how the concepts you’re learning in the academic environment are applied in the corporate environment. -Glenn Schneider

Just before he graduated in December 1983, Kemper Financial Services granted him an interview for a programming position and he landed the job. Kemper pursued him after reviewing his resume on file at NIU.

Schneider’s experience at Kemper began his management journey and helped him land an application development role at Discover 10 years later. In 2008, after 15 years with Discover, he was promoted to chief information officer. He is responsible for all technology, which includes web development, point-of-sale technology, data analytics, and the data center. One of the reasons for his longevity at Discover is the ongoing opportunity to work with state-of-the-art technologies that deliver innovative business solutions.

Although Schneider didn’t intern during college, he believes that internships are necessary in today’s job market. “You have to get out and understand how the concepts you’re learning in the academic environment are applied in the corporate environment,” he says.

The company, headquartered in Riverwoods, recruits primarily from Chicago-area colleges to fill about 25 paid technology internships each year.

Many NIU students have been hired because they not only have the educational background, but also demonstrate energy, motivation, and passion, Schneider says. As part of the job search, he recommends researching a company’s values, mission statement, employee programs, worklife balance, and career development opportunities.

Based on its awards, Discover is one of the best places to work, gives back to communities, and provides a work-life balance for its employees. Last year, Discover ranked 38th among Computerworld’s 100 best places to work in information technology.

The company, which markets credit cards, bank accounts, and loans, has made the list for 11 consecutive years. Discover placed 16th on Glassdoor’s 2012 list of the top 25 companies for work-life balance. Glassdoor, a website that offers an inside look at jobs and companies, determines rank through employee feedback on working for the company during the past year.

Because of its financial education program for public high schools, Discover was named the 2013 Corporate Citizen of the Year by The Executives’ Club of Chicago. The program, Pathway to Financial Success, was created two years ago to provide education curriculum to high schools so students can make sound financial decisions. Discover has made a five-year commitment to provide $10 million for the program to high schools across the nation.

The Fortune 500 company also has a reputation for supporting communities. The company matches employee donations to charities and encourages volunteerism. Each September, employees participate in Discover Cares Month on company time to work on large-scale projects for community organizations. Schneider’s technology group has helped charities by developing landscapes, creating murals, and building swing sets, park benches, and picnic tables.

As a way to give back to the community, Schneider serves on the board of a local youth service organization. He has worked as a volunteer for the organization for about 10 years. Crisis intervention, counseling, support groups, homework assistance, and recreational events are some of the services provided by the nonprofit agency to benefit children and their families.

Helping people is also the main reason that he enjoys his position at Discover, Schneider says, with the goal of building loyalty through a better customer experience and great products.

“The bottom line is we’re helping people,” he says. “We’re helping people spend smarter, manage their debt better, and save more to achieve, quite frankly, a brighter future, especially in this day and age.”

The NIU Alumni Association and Discover have recently joined forces to create the official card for NIU alumni and friends. Click here to apply