Weekly Log – Field Experience
My field experience took place virtually over weekly conference calls with Dana Poynter. Because of the confidential and high risk/sensitive information Elavon works with on a daily basis, I could not get clearance to be in the company’s offices due to the security risk which is why my field experience was a virtual one. However, I found it to be an excellent opportunity to get experience in conducting business via conference calls, email, etc. as global business today is done this way every day.
The first few weeks of my field experience consisted of getting to know Dana, Elavon, and Elavon’s role in the payment/transaction process. I got to learn how Dana ended up working for Elavon and got to the position that currently hold. She joined Elavon in 1998 and has been with the company ever since. She never expected to be working in the field that she is with Elavon, but she loves it. It was very insight to learn her back story and a helpful reminder to keep my mind open when looking for potential jobs/career paths because you may end up doing something completely different than what you thought you would do.
My first assignment/task I was given was to do a company report of Elavon to learn more about the company and all it does in the payment industry. This was because I had a pretty limited knowledge/understanding of exactly what Elavon offered consumers. Doing this report was extremely helpful as I gained a lot of knowledge about all the benefits and services Elavon has and how they are progressing. I learned things about Elavon that I never knew before completing this first assignment. It was a very important learning experience as well as helped prepare me for the future tasks I would be assigned.
The next project I was given was to create a transaction flow from when the customer swipes their card at a merchant (i.e. retail store) to having the money withdrawn from their account to understand how all the pieces and steps of this process fit together. I created a flow chart of the entire process to get a good visual picture of how it works and where Elavon comes in. I learned the different terminology used in the payment industry and that Elavon is processor/acquirer in the transaction. There are also two parts that make up the entire transaction flow process. The first part is the Authorization process, in other words if the card is approved or declined, which consists of about 11 steps. The whole process takes less than a second for the approval or denial of the customer’s card. This approval or denial is based on the available funds in the customer’s account at the time of purchase .If there are sufficient funds, the transaction is approved; if there are insufficient funds, the transaction is declined. It was very valuable for me to map this process out, learn all the steps (of a basic transaction flow), and the role each of the five key players have in a transaction. I gained a much better understand of the role Elavon plays. They act as almost a middleman between the merchants (retailers, restaurants, etc.) and the card associations (Visa, MasterCard, etc.). Elavon supplies the terminals (the card readers you slide your card through) and sends the information/messages to the card associations.
The second part of the transaction process is the clearing and settlement process in which the funds are actually taken out of a person’s account and distributed to the merchant with the acquirer and card associations getting paid as well. This helped be understand why if I purchase something that I funds are not available in my account, but the transaction does not show up right away. It is because the merchant has to close out the terminal for the day which sends a clearing message to Elavon which gets passed along to the card association and then to the issuer (i.e. US Bank); then the transaction will show up on a person’s account statement. Overall, this particular assignment was extremely vital in helping understand not only the transaction flow, but the critical role Elavon plays in this process.
After I gained this knowledge and background on who Elavon is and role they play, I moved into working on the main project of my field experience: improving the communication lines within Dana’s department and to the rest of the company. The next few conference calls were learning what the current communication process is and how it functions. For confidentiality purposes, I can’t go into a great amount of detail, but after I learned how Dana’s team and Elavon communicates required mandates (updates/changes) amongst the company, I was able to come up with some suggestions and recommendations to (hopefully) improve the communication lines. I really got to see how vital effective communication is especially for Elavon because the payment industry is so fast paced and ever-changing/developing, so it is essential that important mandates do not get lost in translation.
My goal was to find ways to better communicate those important mandates to the company. I made some suggestions that included: classification key to rank the level (i.e. most critical, critical, moderate, etc.), having a one sheet memo with the top issues/mandates to give to employees on the company wide conference call to discuss instead of listening just listening to someone read every mandate that came out which makes the conference call more interactive for everyone involved and finding the right resource (employee) to create this one sheet memo who is extremely knowledgeable of the payment industry and Elavon as a whole. Dana has wanted to move in this direction of making the company wide conference call more interactive so she said my suggestions fell right in line with what she has been thinking for some time. This task not only showed me just how important good and effective communication is for all companies that want to be highly successfully in their respective industries but also the importance of reevaluate a company’s current communication methods/processes. I got to use and apply my analysis, problem-solving and critical thinking skills in the real world to help an actual company improve an aspect of their business: communication.
The final task I was given during my field experience was to actually create a draft of what information should be taken from the large document and included on the one page memo. Based on my discussions with Dana, what I had learned about Elavon and what seemed important to me, I create a one page template that included the most critical mandates and vital information employees would need to know to be able to effective discuss amongst one another during the companywide conference call. It was really exciting to create the document that I had suggested, and while I know it may not end up being what I created, I got to help play a role in developing this memo.
Overall, I feel the tasks I was assigned were both relevant and applicable to my degree and interests in a future career path. They were tasks and assignments that allowed me to do things that not only benefited myself, but that will hopefully benefit Elavon later on once Dana is able to implement some of the suggestions we developed together. I got to test out many of the different skills I have gained here at Ithaca College. This made my field experience a valuable and rewarding one that will only help me later on in my future job(s).