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Brian Tanaka '15

We Are Knox...

Brian Tanaka


Bloomington, Illinois

Economics and Music Double Major

During his summer internship with the strategic resources department of 

State Farm, Brian Tanaka developed a project called, "Innovative Solutions
Toolkit: How Can We Learn More Quickly What Works, and Discard What Doesn't?" This hands-on, reusable toolkit is aimed at speeding up the processes directly related to the innovation team at State Farm. He spends his days researching, in meetings, and actively testing researching tools on his peers at the Reseach and Development Center.

What inspired you to pursue the project?
I was inspired to pursue this internship based on my interests in innovation. The Research and Development Center is a very interesting place that allows State Farm to explore opportunities that full-time employees may not have the capacity or time to be able to pursue.

Can you give an example of how your classroom experiences at Knox benefited you in your internship?
One of the most beneficial experiences I have gained from Knox is working in group projects, and being able to carry and create your own future. Knox allows you the opportunity to excel or not excel; the decision is solely up to you. This is not a common characteristic we can find at many other colleges or universities. Knox has given me the opportunity to take my future very seriously, and it is certainly starting to pay off through my summer work.

Another bit of experience I gained from Knox was when I learned where my music background could be applied. Up until 30 minutes before the presentation, my project lead was helping to polish my presentation. He stated that because we were coming down on time, that he would rely on my past performance experience and desire to thrive off of a crowd. Generally, the project lead may not have done that with another intern -- but we had a very positive relationship that allowed my project lead and me to trust each other. Being aware of my audience was a very valuable skill to have gained in the past that continues to benefit me.

Brian Tanaka '15What has been the coolest part of your internship so far? The coolest part of my internship has been creating something that may be used in the day-to-day operations of a company as large as State Farm. Knowing that the work I'm putting forth motivates me to work harder each and every day of my internship. During the last week of my presentation, I met with a full-time State Farm associate who will carry my project on past the summer, as I laid the foundational work.

Another awesome experience I had was visiting Next Door Chicago, inspired by State Farm. This is a coffee shop and also a location that offers free financial coaching, targeting 20-somethings and 30-somethings. The beauty of this project is that everything is free for the consumer -- State Farm only wants to collect your research! Currently, financial advice is something missing from the young generation, and it is only a matter of time before a company figures out how to innovate on this market -- hopefully it will be State Farm. The best part is that if you go in for coaching, State Farm will not try to sell you a single product -- all they want is your time, and hopefully for you to receive financial coaching as a benefit in return. This was awesome to see how a company as large as State Farm is involved with creating small communities and collecting very valuable data in regards to the future of our generation.

What have you learned so far in your internship?

I have learned so much that couldn't be learned in a classroom. The amount of real world information in regards to business has been incredible to my professional development. I have learned many strategies regarding start-ups, including business model canvas, customer development, and The Lean Startup, just to name a few.

How do you think this opportunity will benefit you in the future?
This summer internship is extremely beneficial in regards to my education, but most importantly, my personal development. This internship has granted me full-access as an associate at State Farm, and I have the ability to take courses regarding insurance or management, etc. even if it does not pertain directly to my summer project/work. During my internship, I scheduled many job shadows, including with talent management, the innovation team, creative services, and an investment officer in the real estate division.