My Journey to Becoming a Tech Junkie
July 19, 2017 | Express Scripts
Moses is a Software Development Engineer on the PBM Benefits and Enrollment team, working to use Agile methodology and cutting edge technologies to transform our product offerings.
As early as I can remember, my parents stressed the importance of working within a “professional” field where I could thrive. That’s exactly what I set out to do at the University at Buffalo as a pre-dental student, where I was asked to memorize and understand concepts I couldn’t even pronounce. From there, I moved to pre-law, but felt I was only going into this field to be viewed as successful by my parent’s definition.
Eventually, I sat back and reflected on what I enjoyed, which quite honestly, was tinkering with gadgets and trying to figure out how things worked. I enjoyed removing the magic from technology and realized that in of itself is the definition of computer science and engineering.
Finding My Fit
After graduating from the University at Buffalo with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, I received my masters from Columbia and spent the first eight years of my career at IBM as a developer and team leader.
Now at Express Scripts, my primary role is to design, enhance, and collaborate with internal business partners to help build better products for our customers. To accomplish this, I try to draw on my previous experience and look for innovative, industry proven ways to solve problems. I like to think of this process like playing with Legos. I start by creating a great building block and then continue by combining new ideas piece by piece until it turns into something amazing.
Recently, I was pulled in to assist with a user interface known as the Care Value Product Engine. My task was to normalize different data sets and determine what was actually needed to build a front end query engine. This project was fascinating for me not only because I was given the opportunity to utilize an entirely new technology stack, but I was able to see if my solution brought immediate value to our customers.
The Importance of Continual Development
While I’ve only been at Express Scripts a few months, I can really see the company’s commitment to improve and empower itself through the use of technology– one of the primary reasons I wanted to work here. The very idea of putting technology to work in the healthcare industry to help solve real-world problems is both exciting and noble.
There’s a real push from a company standpoint to better ourselves from top to bottom, everything from the development methodologies we’re using to the existing technology stack. No process, application or idea is set in stone – everything is up for discussion and potential improvement. We aren’t just relying on what we’ve always done, but instead are pushing the envelope, which is critical as an engineer.
If I had to offer one piece of advice to someone just starting out or transitioning to the technology field, it would be to continually work toward developing your skills and creating a sharper and more talented version of yourself. And, once you’ve been in the field for a while, I think it’s important to be the mentor you needed when you first started out by helping those more junior in their careers.
While it took a little longer than some to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up, I couldn’t be more thankful to have ended up where I am today. My pre-dental and law days are a distant memory; I’m a full-fledged technology junkie through and through.
Ready to use your tech skills to do work that makes a difference? Visit our career site for a full list of our open positions.« Onboarding Interns: The Intern Summit| From Combat Medic to Recruiter »
Onboarding Interns: The Intern Summit
July 13, 2017 | Express Scripts
Alissa is an intern on the HR Communications team focusing on employment branding and candidate experience.
The fall semester marks the beginning of college students’ search for summer internships. Like many others, I started by looking at job postings on LinkedIn. I wanted to intern for a company that made a difference and would allow me to improve my skills, as well as learn new ones. I came across an HR position at Express Scripts. At first I didn’t think much of it; I’m a marketing major with little knowledge about the HR or the healthcare field. But after reading the description I realized that my previous experiences went hand-in-hand with the job requirements. I accepted the internship hoping to finally figure out what I wanted to do post-graduation and be a part of the difference the company makes.
To kick things off, the intern program started with a three-day “Intern Summit” held at the St. Louis Headquarters campus. Express Scripts interns from all over the country came together for the joint onboarding session. Activities over the three days included campus tours, training and development sessions, executive speakers, networking events and more. Everything learned at the summit set us up to be successful for the following 12 weeks of the program.
Day One Activities
Day one started off with a tour of the Technology & Innovation Center. Upon first glance, I realized I underestimated just how technologically advanced the company was. We learned that the technology utilized saves our clients millions of dollars and that the pharmacy has a 99.99% accuracy dispensing rate. Yes, you’re reading that correctly, 99.99%!
Next stop was the Research & New Solutions Lab. Here, we had the opportunity to learn how the lab and teams develop new solutions to fit our client’s needs. I was impressed with how much collaborative effort happened between departments.
We finished the day with a social/networking event at the City Museum – my personal favorite summit activity. All of the interns, along with their managers, mentors and the talent acquisition team got to enjoy the opportunity to network and get to know one another on a personal level in a relaxed environment.
Over the course of the three-day summit, we had the opportunity to hear from various leaders, including several members of our executive team. Tim Wentworth even stopped by for a few minutes! How cool is it that the CEO took time out of his day to speak to the onboarding interns? During his chat, he encouraged us to always ask questions and be all in for our patients, clients and each other.
Every speaker did an excellent job of informing us more about the operations of the company and the importance of collaboration.
Growth & Development
If I’m being totally honest, I was a little worried that the training sessions could be boring. To my surprise, I really enjoyed them. We had the opportunity to participate in both an Ideation Session and the Franklin Covey Training on 5 Choices.
The Ideation Session taught us how to find new ways to think innovatively both in and out of the office. Franklin Covey training on 5 Choices focused on teaching us time management and productivity skills. It was impressive that we, as interns, had the opportunity to experience the same training as employees.
The Intern Summit furthered my excitement to work at Express Scripts during the weeks ahead. Now, I have a thorough understanding of how my work will make a difference in my department and for the company. I aspire to work here full time post-graduation to continue making a difference. I’m ready to make an impact on something bigger than myself and find new ways to grow both personally and professionally. I believe myself and the other interns will do just that this summer.
Want to join our intern class of 2018? Check out our career site for more information.« Embracing Agile: How Curiosity Turned into a Career| My Journey to Becoming a Tech Junkie »
Embracing Agile: How Curiosity Turned into a Career
July 5, 2017 | Express Scripts
Marek is a senior software developer on the Home Delivery team working to develop and implement new solutions to better serve our members.
As a child, Marek was endlessly curious. Even at the age of five he could be found taking household items apart to see what was inside. He was determined to figure out how and why things worked, which, among other things, resulted in a few close calls with an electrical outlet.
Marek’s appreciation for creation and the delivery aspect of technology continued into his college years where he majored in Computer Science. “When it comes to technology, I love the process of starting with a blank page and having nothing to go on but an idea. You’re able to slowly start to build piece by piece and eventually, you end up with a complete working application. This actually applies to anything that you do. You can create a car, piece of furniture or a software system – it all starts with an idea,” shares Marek.
Curiosity Turned Career
In his current position as a senior software developer at Express Scripts, Marek works on the Home Delivery team, supporting the consumer website. “My team builds what is the face of the company to the outside world,” shares Marek. “Our members use the website to manage their medications and view their benefits. It’s my job to make that easier for them, by coming up with new ideas and implementing improvements to the overall design.”
Marek and his team see solutions through from an idea on a piece of paper to a full blown application. “Sometimes I feel like a kid in a chocolate factory. I truly enjoy what I’m doing. I’ve been here 15 years and even though every day has its own challenges and opportunities, I find working here really rewarding. I leave at the end of the day with a sense of accomplishment, knowing that my work actually helps people,” Marek comments.
Leading the Way in Agile Methodology
Recently, Marek had an opportunity to play the role of “Agile evangelist” for Express Scripts. “In an ongoing initiative to make Express Scripts a truly Agile organization, I was sent to New York where I worked with an organization to learn Agile methodology and its main concepts like test-driven development and extreme programming. I was then asked to teach teams at Express Scripts how to properly execute projects in an agile fashion,” explains Marek.
Currently, Marek is working with two teams in Franklin Lakes to spin up an Agile workforce. “I have members of our teams participating in what’s called pair programming. Teammates sit together, both with their own display, mouse and keyboard, but sharing one computer. Both take turns on the keyboard – one writes code while the other reviews what has been written. I love doing this because teammates are given the opportunity to bounce ideas off one another in real time and get immediate feedback,” says Marek.
As a technology veteran of sorts, Marek has always been interested in improving the ways teams manage their work to deliver solutions to consumers. When Agile methodology first came up, it immediately caught his attention. “It’s an interesting concept because it focuses solely on the work required to deliver working software to an end user and removes any overhead which prevents development teams from being truly productive. You can read about Agile every day of the week, but until you actually practice it, you don’t truly understand its value,” he shares. “That’s why taking the time to not only read about, but practice new technology trends is essential to continually innovate.”
Putting value in investing time to learn about new technologies is what led Marek to implement a team activity he calls Tech Retro. “Tech Retro is a half-hour meeting we conduct in which every team member picks a recent technological advancement they find interesting and presents it to the team,” shares Marek. In a world where technology is always changing, Marek wants his team to stay at the forefront.
“My advice for anyone currently in the technology field, or those looking to make a career switch, is to make sure you don’t get comfortable with your skills and expertise. No one knows what big software framework or tool is going to become popular next, but if you are always on the lookout for new technology or ideas, you’ll set yourself up to stay ahead of the curve.”
Ready to turn your curiosity into a career? Check out our career site for a complete list of our open positions.« Having Pride: How I Found My Social and Professional Haven| Onboarding Interns: The Intern Summit »
Having Pride: How I Found My Social and Professional Haven
June 23, 2017 | Express Scripts
Jason (left) with his fiance Edwin attending a friend’s wedding.
Jason is a Senior Technical Product Owner managing the technology transformation customer relationship management application streamlining call center processes and improving patient experience.
At Express Scripts, I have come out of the closet more times than Cher had a farewell tour. But our open and inclusive workplace ensures that I can be exactly who I am, every time.
Throughout my career with Express Scripts, LGBTQ+ activists and allies have continued to make progress in securing basic human rights for my community, and yet many more inequities still exist. LGBTQ+ youth are susceptible to being suddenly homeless after coming out to family. Transgender people commit suicide or are murdered at exponential rates. And in many states, an LGBTQ+ employee may be fired or evicted without legal recourse. These and other acts of discrimination, all because of who we love.
For members of the LGBTQ+ community, our havens provide social and professional outlets, where we are accepted and respected. Gay bars and clubs, “artist” communities, and other social havens provide safe settings to express ourselves, make friends, and form lasting relationships. Professional havens ensure that we can find employment and housing to provide for our families and ourselves.
Until now, I have always considered Express Scripts to be a professional LGBTQ+ haven. Since starting with the company in 2004, I have moved through the organization in site operations and training, business analysis, IT business alignment, and to my current position in technical product ownership with Accredo, an Express Scripts subsidiary.
Early in my career, coworkers would ask questions about me based on cultural assumptions. At first, I didn’t know how to react, considering how skewed pop culture can be. I then realized my coworkers were trying to truly learn about the LGBTQ+ community and myself.
Regardless of what obstacles are put in our path, the LGBTQ+ community and its allies continue to work to defend hard won rights and focus on further progress. Over the years, Express Scripts’ diversity and inclusion has not only progressed but transformed. Express Scripts is now both a professional and social haven, actively celebrating the diversity of its people within and beyond its walls and standard work hours.
Express Scripts has created many employee resource groups (ERGs) — employee led organizations that allow the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues on causes you are passionate about — team activities, and internal social media channels to foster a diverse and inclusive work culture. As a member of EXPRESSions, our ERG aimed at informing the business and advocating in the community to advance LGBTQ+ equality, I connect with other members using Bonfyre, an internal social media platform. On this channel, you will see employees attending marches supporting LGBTQ+ rights, posting wedding pictures, celebrating Pride, and more. Having this level of engagement and support across the organization can be lifesaving for individuals, who have felt they do not belong in this world.
Through our cultural transformation, I no longer feel that need to come out to a colleague or a team. I am no longer Jason, who “happens to be gay.” I am now just Jason, who loves the beach; who plays video games; who gardens; who is getting married in October; and who is fortunate to work at Express Scripts.
Ready to find your social and professional haven? Check out our career site for a list of all open positions.« Get with the Program: 3 Life Hacks for a Career in Tech| Embracing Agile: How Curiosity Turned into a Career »
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.« The Recruiter Scoop: How to Explain a Work Gap or Lost Job in an Interview| Having Pride: How I Found My Social and Professional Haven »