Come Sit With Us: 3 Career Stories from Women in Tech
October 5, 2017 | Express Scripts
The inspiration to choose a career in technology could come from anywhere. It could start by taking a challenging college course, playing with an old computer or being inspired by parents who work in the field. No matter what sparks the interest, technology benefits when women and men contribute and implement ideas together. That’s why Express Scripts is partnering with the Sit With Me campaign to encourage women in tech to tell their career stories.
We sat down with three rock star women on our technology team to hear about their career progressions. Here’s what they had to say:
How did you choose a career in technology?
Karri Bach, senior director, Digital Engineering: I always had an interest in electronics and technology. My parents encouraged me with techie toys like electronic wiring kits. When I was in second grade I used it to wire a burglar alarm on my bedroom door to keep my sister out of my room. During my first year at Mizzou, I took an Excel-based accounting course where I learned to write macros and was hooked. I changed my degree to Computer Science the next semester.
Renee Durr, senior software development engineer, Digital Engineering: When I was around 10 years old, my mother bought an old IBM computer. I was so fascinated that playing with it became a part of my daily routine. After high school I joined the military. My ASVAB scores were high, but the computer field was closed. I was determined and decided to take night courses. After my military term ended, I pursued a degree in Computer Technology at night while working as a secretary. One day all of the secretaries received new computers, but they stayed in the boxes for weeks. I decided to set up my computer. Word spread, and I was asked to set up the others. The Data Processing manager was impressed and offered me a job. From that day forward, I have been blessed to continually progress in this field. Even with 24 years of technology experience, there continue to be challenges. But I’ve decided that failure is not an option!
Jeanette Rushford, associate programmer analyst, Digital Engineering: My mom worked as a computer programmer and my father was a network administrator, so I grew up around computers and role models working in the field. My parents encouraged me to go into computer science. I studied International Human Rights and then started a career in Study Abroad, which is where I implemented new study-abroad software. I realized then that I wanted to pursue a technical career. I went back to school to pursue a second bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. One month before I finished my degree, I was recruited for a programmer position. The rest is history!
What advice would you give to women interested in a career in technology?
Karri: There are websites like freecodecamp.org and egghead.io where women can get started with self-study. LaunchCode is a St. Louis program that trains people of all genders and places them into paid apprenticeships with local companies. We’ve hired close to 60 incredibly talented engineers from the LaunchCode program in our St. Louis and Franklin Lakes offices. If you are not in the St. Louis area, search online for local boot camps and technical training programs.
Renee: If you have a desire to be in the technology field, let nothing stop you. Challenges will come. Be persistent in what you believe and you will succeed.
Jeanette: Don’t doubt yourself! You will not understand everything right out of the gate or even further along in your career because there is always a ton to learn. That continuous exploration is the nature of the field. If you find yourself as a curious problem solver who likes to think analytically, this would be a great career for you.
How do women bring additional thinking or perspective to technology?
Karri: Diverse teams are more likely to avoid the group-think trap. Teams that include women have been shown to solve problems more effectively and innovate better than single-gender teams. And it goes beyond gender ― we’re building technology products for people of all walks of life. Having diverse teams allows us to build solutions that are more creative, have broader appeal and reach more people.
Renee: There is a study that suggests that men’s and women’s brains are wired differently. I believe this to be true. If you’re in a room with a group of men, more than likely they are thinking the same way. A woman in that same group can offer feedback from a different perspective. My day-to-day interactions cause me to believe that we think differently, but we complement one another. Diversity in the workplace is extremely important. We can be a great team together.
Jeanette: We offer the female perspective when designing new products that women will consume, especially in the healthcare industry and women’s health field. Instead of a “one-size-fits-all” mentality, we bring diversity and a woman’s perspective to projects.
Interested in bringing your perspective to our technology team? Check out our career site for a full list of open positions.
Oh, and if you’re attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, stop by and see us! We’ll be at booth #3051!« From Supermarket Cashier to Coder| Bringing Hope and Help to Haiti »
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| Come Sit With Us: 3 Career Stories from Women in Tech »
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.
« The Intern Files: The Importance of a Mentor| From Supermarket Cashier to Coder »
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.
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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