The Chicago Experience

Just over a week ago, my classmates and I received the opportunity to travel to Chicago, where we visited an Allstate insurance agency and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME). Allstate was the first of our visits and it proved to be wildly different from all of our expectations. One of the details I noticed first, was the office space appeared to have an originally industrial build that had been re-designed to create a more friendly environment. While walking through the space we passed lounge chairs, open-work spaces filled with collaborating employees, an office kitchen with a company chef, and even meeting rooms with giant gongs, all before ending our tour in the office game room, which held a bar, a giant flat-screen TV, ping-pong tables, and free snacks. It was there that we were allowed to ask several of the employees any questions we had. We wound up learning a lot about Allstate’s future aspirations and the growing trend of companies designing laid-back environments for their employees. Where many of us were expecting well-dressed zombies locked away in cubicles, we were instead greeted by an energetic and passionate air that seemed to resonate within everyone we met.

CME was on the other side of town and housed the more professional, office building look we had expected prior. The building was massive, and we were only allowed entry after we had passed through security. Within, Greek looking embellishments were placed against the walls as we entered, creating a very different tone than we had previously experienced. We were then led to their data room, which could have been mistaken as NASA’s headquarters. Ever-active, flatscreen TV’s lined the perimeter of the massive room, while dozens of desks — each with a computer and 8 separate monitors — filled the rest of the space. We learned about the importance of regulating the market, as well as the actions that are taken when problems arise. We were then led to a modest meeting room where we were able to learn from and ask employees different questions. Here we learned about the effects of a failing Deutsche Bank, the security measures that have been put in place since The Recession, and several other interesting happenings. It felt as if we had just scratched the surface of what CME had to offer and I couldn’t help but wish we had been allowed a second visit.