From Supermarket Cashier to Coder

September 20, 2017 | Express Scripts

Gail F. is an associate programmer analyst supporting the supporting the Specialty team as they transition to newer architecture.

One year ago, I was a supermarket cashier with a bachelor’s degree in English, taking software development classes at a local community college. Today, I’m a programmer for Express Scripts – a Fortune 22 company. How did I make such a career jump? With a lot of help from an organization called LaunchCode, an educational nonprofit that provides learning resources and job opportunities to students in the technology field at zero charge.

After hearing about LaunchCode on the radio, my mom suggested I sign up. Thinking the organization strictly connected technology related employers with potential candidates, I brushed it aside. After all, I was still a long ways off from earning my associate’s degree in software development. But then, I discovered that LaunchCode taught a Python class. I knew a little bit about Python and thought it was a good language for beginning developers to learn. After doing more digging I discovered the class also taught Web essentials. Safe to say, I was hooked.

I applied to LaunchCode in the spring of 2016 and passed the screening tests, which determine applicant’s aptitude and problem-solving ability, not computer knowledge. In July 2016, I officially enrolled in LaunchCode’s coding class, which was provided at no charge and came with a bonus: I earned 12 credit hours at my local community college. This helped me stay on track to earn my degree. (Thanks to the training LaunchCode provided, I don’t need a degree to be a strong performer in my current role with Express Scripts, but I like to learn and finish what I start.)

LaunchCode’s coding class was intense, and moved at a brisk pace. For 20 weeks, I spent six hours a week in class. The rest of my time was spent reading assigned materials, watching videos and working on practice exercises and coding assignments. By the time the class ended, I not only knew Python, but Java as well. This allowed me to build simple web applications and successfully write code.

After completing the course, LaunchCode worked with me to find a job. That’s where Express Scripts comes in.

Express Scripts needed Pega developers, so they partnered with LaunchCode to help them find this talent. LaunchCode created a short Pega class to identify a group of potential candidates. I was selected to take the course – and when I finished, I was hired along with 23 of my classmates as a paid apprentice.

During my 90-day apprenticeship, I was paired with a programming partner to help me navigate my day-to-day work, as well as a buddy that helped answer basic questions, like how to find the company gym. During this time, I was amazed by how receptive and responsive the company was to change. It was also an amazing feeling to know that the work I was doing was actually helping improve someone’s life.

When my 90-days came to a close, I was offered a full-time position. As one could expect, I was quick to accept. My current position has allowed me to quit the supermarket and do something I’m truly passionate about – programming. I’m a problem solver, which is what a programmer is tasked with doing every single day. In my free time, I am also a teaching assistant for LaunchCode because, without them, I wouldn’t have landed my dream job so quickly.

Ready to start doing what you’re passionate about, like Gail? Check out our career site for a list of all open positions.

« The Recruiter Scoop: Flipping the Script and Making Your Answers Hit Home|

The Recruiter Scoop: Flipping the Script and Making Your Answers Hit Home

September 5, 2017 | Express Scripts

Chris K. is a senior recruiter responsible for hiring the technology talent to drive Express Scripts’ culture and technology transformation.

When walking into an interview, candidates are typically well prepared. They’ve studied up on the company, prepared answers for standard behavioral questions and pulled out specific examples from their work experience that demonstrate their strengths. But, there’s one thing they often forget: making sure their answers hit home.

As a technology recruiter for the past 15 years, I’ve found that candidates usually have good answers prepared for basic “tell me about a time when” sort of questions.  Assuming these interview questions speak to the true focus of the role – and you provide answers backed up by great examples – you’ll do very well in the interview. But what if this isn’t the case?  How do you make sure the role is a fit for your career goals – and position yourself as the solution to fit the team’s needs – all in the time allotted?  The answer is simple: uncover the manager’s ‘pain points’ early.

Let the Leader Lead

Although being assertive is a good thing, as an interviewee you don’t want to immediately jump in and start pumping the hiring manager with questions. Instead, get a feel for the cadence of the conversation and then begin inserting your questions.

Flip the Script

Most interviews start with a role overview, and then move to prepared questions related to the role and your experience.  You don’t have to wait for the interviewer to finish asking questions before asking yours.  Dig into their questions to show an active interest and to help uncover what is most important to them – their pain points.

For example – let’s say the manager asks you to share an example of a time you successfully completed a project.  You can gently flip the script by saying something like: “You know I’ve managed quite a few projects in my career, but I want to give you an answer that’s most relevant to your need.  Please do me a favor and tell me a little bit about how your team manages projects today and in what specific areas you’re looking to build bench strength.”  By flipping the script, you’re identifying their true pain points and providing yourself the opportunity to give an answer most relevant to their need.  You’re also gaining in-depth knowledge of how the team works and whether that’s a good fit for you.

Do Your Homework

Remember that the key to success is preparation.  Study every detail of the job description.  Turn each requirement into a question and prepare an answer with a specific example of a time when you’ve met that need.

LinkedIn should also be your new best friend when you are looking for a job.  Check out the profile of the hiring manager and any others on the interview team.  Where have they worked?  What roles have they played?  How has their career progressed?  Understanding these things will give you both perspective and an opportunity to provide examples that really speak to the team. Now, when the manager from the previous example asks you to describe a project you’ve managed, you can add something like: “Our approach was similar to the methodology you likely followed at company ABC”.  This shows you did your research and can relate.


Last but not least, be sure to come to the conversation prepared with enthusiasm and a smile.  Remember, companies hire as much for attitude and aptitude as they do for technical skill.  A great attitude and enthusiasm goes a long way.

Feel confident in your ability to flip the script in your next interview? Check out our career site for a list of our open positions.



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The Intern Files: The Importance of a Mentor

August 29, 2017 | Express Scripts

Ashley S. is an intern on the HD Web Optimization team working on epics.

What do you want to be when you grow up? This is the one question that I, along with my fellow millennials, are constantly asked. As more of us are entering college and earning degrees, we’re searching for jobs that not only set us up for a successful career, but allow us to make a difference in the world around us. However, while “what do you want to be when you grow up” may be simple to answer, knowing how to get there may be a more difficult task.

I discovered my passion for technology my freshman year of high school when I took on the role as a programmer during a group project. From there, I was inspired to enroll in computer and engineering classes – each one reaffirming that computer science was the right career path for me.

Advancing My Skills

After my initial exposure to coding, I became obsessed with continually improving my skills. That’s when I learned about Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA), a national organization for minority students and professionals focused on charting the future of the IT industry. I became a member during my junior year of high school and qualified to compete in the annual High School Computer Competition. As part of this competition, high school students compete with a team for eight hours to build a website, present their final product and complete a computerized written exam. Mentors and instructors from the BDPA assist students, which is how I first became connected with my mentor, Artem. Meeting Artem and seeking his help and guidance played a crucial role in not only the advancement of my coding skills, but my career progression as a whole.

In college, while I was completing my sophomore year at Florida A&M University, Artem told me a little bit about his employer, Express Scripts, and urged me to apply for a summer internship in the HD Web Optimization Department. During an interview with the hiring manager, Jeffrey, I learned I would be part of a team writing code that 83+ million patients see every day. He described the role as “moving the Titanic” in regard to the change my work would bring. That’s when I was hooked.

Meaningful Code

Soon after my internship began, I reached out to both Artem and Jeffrey to see if they could help me find a way to participate in the BDPA conference at a colligate level. I loved competing in high school and wanted to find a way to stay involved with the organization. Express Scripts leadership heard about my journey with coding and offered to sponsor me in the competition.

To compete, participants were given two months to create and develop a fully functioning android app and present it at the annual BDPA conference. At first, I didn’t know where to start. I thought back a few months prior to when I traveled to Silicon Valley with a group of diverse students interested in technology. Much like me, they knew they wanted to pursue a career in technology, but lacked the guidance on how to get there. I realized that connecting with Artem was the turning point for me and not all students are lucky enough to have that kind of support in their careers. I wanted to find a way to match technology students with mentors to help them in the same way Artem helped me.  That’s when I came up with Mentor Match.

Creating Mentor Match

Mentor Match is an app set up to match college students early in their careers with an experienced mentor who shares similar interests. The app enables real time collaboration and cloud technologies through messaging and maps. The messaging system gives users the ability to communicate one-on-one or through group chat, offering students more flexibility in their mentorship. Users also have the ability to view multiple mentors’ current locations, so they can meet in person if needed.

Throughout the process, my mentor, Artem, was always happy to answer any questions I had or just act as a soundboard to bounce ideas off. When the competition rolled around, Artem and Jeffrey even drove me all the way to Cincinnati and took on coaching roles to prepare me for my presentation. I can never thank them enough for the time they invested in me. However, I’m happy to say their time and confidence in me were not wasted as I placed first in the Mobile App Competition, winning three scholarships – and the satisfaction of my hard work paying off!

From participating in BDPA  in high school to being sponsored by Express Scripts as an intern at the recent conference, I’m very grateful for my experiences. Without the guidance of my mentor, Artem, I would have had no idea where to begin my career journey. My hope for Mentor Match upon launch is that it will connect mentees beginning their journey in the technology field with mentors who can offer them guidance on how to achieve their career goals, because I’ve hit the jackpot so far with mine.

Want to find out what opportunities an internship with Express Scripts can offer you? Check out our career site for more information.  

« Securing the Right Job – and the Company| The Recruiter Scoop: Flipping the Script and Making Your Answers Hit Home »

Securing the Right Job – and the Company

August 17, 2017 | Express Scripts

Justin is a senior security analyst working on the Threat Evaluation Team and performs Engineering for the Security Scanning platform.

In today’s world, cybersecurity attacks are everywhere – and those working in the industry are tasked with not only identifying the flaws in their security system to prevent attacks, but also responding should an attack occur. Sounds like fascinating stuff, right? I think so too, which is why I work as a senior security analyst on Express Scripts’ Information Risk Management team.

In my role, my responsibility is two-fold. First, I make sure we are assessing new and emerging threats to our systems, and engage the right teams to rectify situations as necessary. Second, I make sure our systems are performing vulnerability scanning, which is used for audits, ensure remediation efforts, and provide risk information to decision makers.

I discovered my love for technology when I was very young. I loved to tinker with computers to make systems work. For me, it was simply not enough to build a web server. Instead, I built an auto updating web server with application firewalls, network intrusion prevention and alerting for issues.  While completing personal projects like these, I found that I get what I call a “nerd high” when I finally get an integration to work.

In college at Missouri Science and Technology, I studied information science and technology while working for the university help desk. It was during my time at Missouri S&T that I became acquainted with Express Scripts at a career fair. I completed two back-to-back summer internships before becoming a full-time employee in 2010 after I graduated.

Since starting full time, I transitioned into the cybersecurity field while working on my master’s degree at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Currently, my team is focused on automating our threat identification and remediation processes to better adapt ourselves to respond to changing and evolving threats. We are working to become more responsive than ever and provide the right amount of intel at the right time.

What I love most about this job is that no two days are the same. When a new threat arises, there’s a good chance we haven’t experienced it before. You can’t just jump on Google and search how to rectify the situation. Instead, you have to perform evidence-based intel research to understand the attack vectors and mitigating controls in place to reduce risk. Once this has been done, you have to provide a remediation guide to appropriate parties.

At Express Scripts, we are encouraged to keep what works and get rid of what doesn’t. We fail fast and learn from our mistakes to make ourselves better. Recently, we went through an Agile transformation, which helps us to do just that. We no longer spend time debating the best approach to take and instead make decisions quickly that allow us to react to threats in almost real time.

What’s really fascinating for me is the realization that I’m working to secure one of the largest pharmacy benefit systems in the world. This is a huge responsibility, and one that impacts our patients’ livelihood. It’s a great feeling knowing that your work actually matters, and is working to help others.

Interested in being part of our team? Check out our career site for a list of open positions.


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Why I Returned for Internship Round Two

August 4, 2017 | Express Scripts

Mary Kate is an intern in the Financial Planning & Analysis department currently working to create an Integration Playbook for the Finance organization.

Two years ago, with my senior year at Duquesne University quickly approaching, I decided to add some industry experience to my resume and began searching for my very first summer internship. Hoping to return home to St. Louis for the summer, I discovered lots of great finance and accounting opportunities in the area.

After many hours of research, I was most fascinated with an extremely large company that I had never heard of: Express Scripts. A recruiter from the company reached out to me, and I  spoke with a few members of the Internal Audit team before being offering an internship position for the summer of 2016. I was very excited to accept the offer, but also slightly intimidated because this was my first dive into a corporate environment.

Learning my role as an internal audit intern

From day one it was apparent that the company as a whole, as well as the Internal Audit department, and internship program, were highly engaging and fast paced. The projects I worked on never ceased to amaze me.

On a regular basis I had the opportunity to work directly with senior leaders on projects that actually contributed to the company’s success. No two days or weeks were ever the same. One week I performed actual analytic detail testing that directly fed into the workflow of audits. The next allowed me a glimpse into several audits at various stages in their life cycle, and the ability to participate in meetings with process owners to learn how their departments functioned. From there, I got to try my hand at assisting management with compliance audits. Never once was I given “busy work”.

The impact of my summer internship

When the summer was over and my internship wrapped up, I returned to Duquesne ready to start my senior year. In talking with my business school professors and peers about my internship experience and all the relevant projects I worked on, I realized how unique my time at Express Scripts was. Few other students were given the opportunity to hear from senior staff on a weekly basis – which helped me garner a sense of involvement across the entity- or participate in intern-wide volunteer and social events, which provided a great way to connect with interns outside the office. I couldn’t help but feel lucky for the time I spent interning at Express Scripts and the knowledge I left with. It was clear that I had grasped a better understanding of the finance and accounting industries and I was able to gain a real understanding in my courses.

Returning with a new perspective

As my senior year progressed and I began looking into full-time opportunities post-graduation, I just couldn’t shake Express Scripts from my head. Reflecting on the values of the company and my phenomenal experience from the past summer, I made the decision to return for my second internship – this time in a different role. I was excited to build upon my skills gained in Internal Audit, and continue the relentless hunt to understand the Finance organization.

This summer, I’m working as an intern in the Financial Planning & Analysis department.  My main project these past twelve weeks has been developing a Finance integration playbook that could be used for  future projects.  During this time, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with several high-power decision makers in the Finance department and draw upon their experiences to influence future companywide initiatives.

By accepting a new role, I gained a fresh perspective and had the ability to continue my professional development and overall understanding of Finance operations. While I’m thankful for this company for many reasons, I most appreciate leadership’s ability to continuously create an intern culture where even those who return for round two are never let down and learn something new every day.

In fact, I’m blessed to announce that I will be returning for round 3 in a few short weeks, this time as a full time employee.

Are you ready to join the intern class of 2018? Check out our career site for more information.

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