Get with the Program: 3 Life Hacks for a Career in Tech

May 24, 2017 | Express Scripts

Phil is the vice president and chief technology officer at Express Scripts, working to build a core competency in technology that differentiates Express Scripts in the health care industry.

When I take the time to look back at my early years, going back as far as my pre-college days, I have to chuckle at how hard I tried to avoid a career in technology. In high school, I was known as the computer nerd and when I got to college, I knew one thing: I didn’t want that title to follow me for the rest of my life. I took classes in just about everything in college – though admittedly, I was never the best student – before I finally stopped fighting the idea of a career in tech and realized I actually liked it.

I got extremely lucky growing up in Silicon Valley in the ‘90s. My first job straight out of college pretty much landed in my lap. A friend of mine needed some software work done and, having taken a few CS classes as an undergrad, I took him up on the offer. After a few months of being a subcontractor for a friend, I was able to land a job at bona fide software company, SBT, writing accounting software in FoxPro. After that, I jumped around a lot in the late ‘90s playing the part of code monkey for hire, contracting for whatever startup in San Francisco that would pay for my services. From there, I held various engineering leadership positions at companies, including Yahoo, Zynga, and American Express, before landing in my current role as vice president and chief technology officer at Express Scripts.

While I’ve come very far in my career – from being the kid that avoided computer classes like the plague to someone that leads a team of incredibly talented architects – I owe much of my success to the incredible mentors I’ve had along the way and the lessons they’ve taught me.

So, if you’re considering a career in technology, or really any field for that matter, here are some life hacks I’ve accumulated over the years that I wish I would have learned sooner:

1. Find a balance between technical chops and influence.

Knowing your stuff is important, yes, but being able to use that knowledge to influence others is infinitely valuable. Early in my career, I would rail against leadership, other engineers, or anyone else who didn’t agree with my approach, wanted to go fast instead of “doing it right”, or didn’t see realities that were obvious to me. What I didn’t recognize was that everyone has different perspectives and that no one follows the grumpy guy who looks down his nose at the rest of the world. As I’ve matured, I’ve realized that you need to build credibility and trust in others, speak to people with respect, and use terminology your audience can understand and relate to. If you’re mindful of these things, the odds are good that people will follow your lead.

2. Recognize that there is a difference between being right and being effective.

Like most engineers, I’ve always been convinced in correctness of my positions vis-á-vis technology… but I frequently alienated those around me. For example, in 2002, I joined a small startup (TuVox), taking over engineering from one of its founders. When I looked at the code he had written, I was horrified. So much was “wrong,” by my definition. I spent the next ~8 weeks coding day and night to “fix” the problems he had created. In the meantime, I didn’t explain what I was doing, or create new features that the startup desperately needed, and I ended up destabilizing the codebase. This approach got me fired and all my code rolled-back. In short, I might have been right about the app’s deficiencies, but that didn’t matter in the end. A more mature engineer would have found a way to both deliver what the business needed and overhaul the code at the same time.

3. Always be hungry to learn.

In today’s world, technology is changing and advancing at a rapid pace. No one knows what language, tool, or skill will be critical five years from now. When I was starting out, however, I assumed that I could just learn a language and make that my go-to skill. How wrong I was when I tried to jump from SBT on the merits of my FoxPro. I quickly found myself having to change my moniker from “FoxPro Engineer” to “Engineer who knows FoxPro (amongst other things)” in order to stay relevant. One of the biggest pieces of advice I have to anyone in technology right now is: don’t get too attached to what you’re doing today. It won’t be around for too much longer and you need to either learn what’s next or be at risk of being marginalized.

Ready to put your tech skills to the test? Check out our career site for a full list of all our open positions.

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The Recruiter Scoop: How to Explain a Work Gap or Lost Job in an Interview

April 20, 2017 | Express Scripts

Tamla is a Senior Recruiter for Accredo, Express Scripts’ specialty pharmacy.  She identifies passionate nurses across the country to assist our patients in their homes by educating them about their ongoing chronic illnesses.

The Recruiter Scoop: How to Explain a Work Gap or Lost Job in an Interview

Most of the time, when I tell someone what I do, I’m met with a plethora of questions. You see, as a recruiter, I’m sometimes seen as the interview expert – with the “inside scoop” on the right way to answer any interview question.

While I’ve received lots of questions over the years, there are two I get most frequently: how to explain a gap in your resume and how to explain being let go from a position. And sometimes, these two go hand in hand.

When candidates have been let go or have a long gap in their work history, they think they will automatically be put in the ‘no’ category. However, in my opinion, that’s a large misconception. I think sometimes candidates forget that recruiters are people too. We understand that life happens unexpectedly and things change.

So, when the question comes up – which it undoubtedly will – here is my advice:

Be Prepared

Make sure you’re prepared to answer. If you had to take time away for personal reasons, just say so. Recruiters don’t necessarily need to know every little detail surrounding what kept you from your work; they just need to be able to tell the hiring manager when he or she asks.

Follow Up With a Positive

If you’ve been let go, simply explain the situation and follow it up by saying something like, “I’m ready to move on and pursue other endeavors.” This keeps the conversation light, avoids painting you in a negative light and refrains from bashing your previous employer.

Be Honest

The most important thing to remember in both of these scenarios is to be honest. Being let go or having a long gap in your work history isn’t going to blacklist you from getting your next position. Some company cultures or positions are not always a perfect fit for everyone, which sometimes isn’t discovered until after the candidate accepts. Just because you weren’t a perfect fit at one company doesn’t mean you won’t be at another.

Remember, being prepared, positive and honest during the interview will help you make the best impression and will display positive characteristics the interviewer will recognize.

Ready to rock your next interview? Check out our career site for a full list of open positions.

« Finding Opportunity Outside of Your Comfort Zone| Get with the Program: 3 Life Hacks for a Career in Tech »

Finding Opportunity Outside of Your Comfort Zone

April 3, 2017 | Express Scripts

Katie is an HR Business Partner supporting the Sales and Account Management client group.

Have you ever felt the inkling to try something new at work, but don’t because you’re scared you’re not experienced enough or are worried about failing? Yeah, me too. However, about a year ago I decided to take a leap of faith and try out an entirely new role and you know what I found? Sometimes growing your career means stepping out of your comfort zone.

I started my career at Express Scripts in December 2010 as a recruiter. My passion for people ignited my drive to grow in the Talent space. As years passed, I found myself transitioning from an individual contributor into a leadership role; ultimately ending up in a senior manager position within Talent Acquisition. As my leadership career continued to grow, I was learning every day, but I felt a pull to try something new.

Taking the First Step

When I was approached about taking an HR Business Partner (HRBP) role, I was a bit uncertain. The role was not only new to our company, but completely new to me as well. After many conversations with trusted leaders, I began to get excited about pursuing the position and bringing my previous experiences to the new team and the business groups I would support. I knew I would miss leading a team and, although the HRBP role warranted leadership skills, I continued to question how smoothly my skills would transfer over.

I also wondered how the move would be perceived by my peers – ‘Will it be seen as a step down?’, ‘As a step up?’, ‘Will I look as if I wasn’t a good fit anymore?’… These questions and more played a feedback loop in my mind. But then I took a step back and realized that my career journey was just that – mine. I became fueled by the opportunity to learn in this new space and realized this was a development opportunity I was ready and willing to take.

The Right Fit

Upon accepting the position, I was aligned to support the Sales and Account Management (SAM) client group, which was growing tremendously. Therefore, there was a high focus on the full talent spectrum; from attracting and developing talent, to succession planning and building our talent bench. My experience in talent acquisition lent itself well to these discussions. I found myself bringing thought leadership to the table and in return receiving great feedback from the business groups I supported.

To say I have learned a lot in my new role wouldn’t do the experience justice. I can’t stress enough the importance of putting an investment in your own personal development – and that’s not possible without open dialogue with leadership and the confidence to make a move. There is value in seizing the opportunities that make you feel uncomfortable and reaping the rewards of doing so successfully in the end. My message to you is, take the chance to step out of your comfort zone and own your development – had I not, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Ready to take your leap of faith? Visit our career site for a full list of our open positions.

« New Sales: Charting a New Path Forward at Express Scripts| The Recruiter Scoop: How to Explain a Work Gap or Lost Job in an Interview »

New Sales: Charting a New Path Forward at Express Scripts

March 27, 2017 | Express Scripts

Bill S. is the President of Sales, working to create a word-class selling organization at Express Scripts.

When Bill Spehr first took a meeting with Express Scripts in August 2016, you could say he was a bit skeptical. With 30 years of sales and marketing experience within the healthcare sector, he isn’t easily sold. However, as the role was described to him, Bill couldn’t help but be tempted to learn a little more.

“I was first drawn to the quality of the leadership team and the direction the company and department were headed. Improving the healthcare delivery system is a big motivator for me so knowing that Express Scripts has the best platform to enable positive change made the move easy,” Bill shared. After learning more about the sales function at Express Scripts, Bill officially accepted the position of president of Sales in December of last year.

Now that he has been in his position a little over 90 days, Bill has his own vision for his role and the department. “The company’s commitment to new business growth came with a realization that we needed a fully dedicated team,” shared Bill. Essentially, various areas of sales focus – like Health Plan, Government, and Employer – are now together under one roof.  “This allows us to work more efficiently and focus more of our attention on selling or, more specifically, on making it easier for prospective customers to buy.”

Bill’s goal over the next few years is to build upon the recent transformation and create a world-class, data-driven selling organization that allows the company to sustain growth. “Making prescription drugs more affordable and accessible is top of mind for the largest payers in the U.S., so it’s an extremely exciting spot to be in, but it’s not for everybody. To be truly successful here you need to understand customers better than they understand themselves, be unafraid to challenge the status quo, and focus intensely on  how our value proposition improves customer business results,” shared Bill.  Recent data shows that customers are overwhelmed by the amount of data and the number of decision makers involved in complex purchases. Buying PBM services is no different.  It’s our job to help customers through this process so that acquiring our services is easy.

When asked for advice he would give anyone currently working in sales – or thinking about sales in the future – he shared, “Know your customer and always bring value to every meeting, call or interaction. And if you’re completely new to sales, find a mentor.”

Express Scripts will be investing substantially in the new sales sector of the organization in upcoming years. “Right now, we’re looking for experienced sales people from all different industries and backgrounds – not just from the PBM space – with the ultimate goal of bringing different thinking and diversity to the team,” Bill commented, “It’s what our customers expect.”

To learn more about Bill, visit his LinkedIn profile.

Think you have what it takes to work in sales? Visit our career site for a list of all open positions.

« Pursuing Passion: Taking a Chance on a Career in Tech| Finding Opportunity Outside of Your Comfort Zone »

Pursuing Passion: Taking a Chance on a Career in Tech

March 23, 2017 | Express Scripts

For Jay, his love for computers started at a very young age. Growing up in China, he fondly remembers writing love letters with Microsoft Word and using computers heavily in school. When it came time for middle school, Jay took a programming class to learn Visual Basic. While he could easily follow what the teacher was doing, he had a difficult time understanding the coding aspect. “I began to get discouraged and thought I was never going to be very good at programming so I sort of gave up,” Jay shares.

Switching it Up  

When it came time for Jay to start college, he came to the United States to attend school at Missouri University of Science and Technology. “Even though I felt a tug to major in something computer related, I ignored it and decided to choose a field that would be easier to get a job in come graduation. I landed in accounting,” he says.

Given the language barrier, Jay had a hard time understanding many of his teachers and the accounting material. However, he admits that his heart just wasn’t in it. “I saw other international students all around me majoring in fields they were passionate about, regardless of the ease of getting a job post-graduation,” he recalls. Jay decided to take a chance and switched his major to Computer Science. “At the time, I had no idea that computer and programming related positions would become such hot jobs,” he shares.

Making a Connection

During a hackathon hosted at his university, Jay met a representative from Express Scripts. “We started talking at the event and I expressed my interest in becoming an iOS developer,” he recalls. “I was impressed by the rep’s passion for the technology industry and how open-minded he was when it came to adopting new practices and programs. After our talk, I knew I wanted to work there after I graduated.”

A week later, Jay sent an email to one of the contacts he met during the hackathon containing links to all relevant projects he worked on during college. The contact forwarded the email to another leader who brought Jay in for an interview. A few weeks later, Jay was extended an offer. “I’m so thankful the contact took an interest in me,” he says. “After all, she’s one of the main reasons I was noticed.”

After graduating in 2016, Jay accepted a position as an associate programmer analyst with Express Scripts in the company’s newly opened Austin office. “The job is never boring. I feel like I learn something new every day and I’m always challenged, which – as a programmer – is crucial,” he shares.

Meaningful Work

Jay and his team recently had the opportunity to work on building the company’s Digital Benefit Guide (DBG). This application allows members to download a digital member ID card to be stored on their mobile devices. Any updates to their health plan or benefits will automatically update the digital card on their phone, eliminating the need to mail members a new card every time there is a change.

While this was a fascinating project for Jay to work on, he was able to experience the advantage it gives patients and members firsthand. “I have allergies that require me to take medication regularly,” he shares. “ When I went to my pharmacy the last time for a refill, I was told the card I presented was expired and unless I could produce one that was updated, I would be unable to get my medication.”

Fortunately, Jay was able to download his member ID card through the DBG, show the updated card and receive his medicine. However, this was a teachable moment. “I realized that without the DBG I helped build, I could have gone without my medication,” he says. While it may not have been a huge issue for Jay, it could have been life-threatening for other people with far more serious conditions. “I was extremely proud to be working at Express Scripts that day because I was able to experience firsthand the impact of the work we do as a company,” he comments.

Thinking back to college, Jay is so thankful he decided to follow his passion and trade his major in accounting for computer science. “My problems with programming in middle school disappeared in college. I understood the content perfectly,” shares Jay. “Now, it is my sincere belief that in most cases, people are good at what they are passionate about. My advice to others is to choose a job or a field you love so that you can wake up and say ‘yay, it’s Monday’ rather than ‘yay, it’s Friday’.”

Jay is an associate programmer analyst in Express Scripts’ Austin office, working to document, design, develop, and test web applications and services.

Ready to do what you’re passionate about, like Jay? Check out our career site for a list of our open positions!

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