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Explore: A Stretch Opportunity for Employees to Advance Their Careers

By Michael A. Bukach2022-04-14

For high school and college students, landing an internship is a cause for celebration. But is career exploration still an option after you land full-time employment? At CoverMyMeds, we say yes! Explore: A Stretch Opportunity is our company’s version of an internal internship for employees on our user-facing Patient and Network Services teams.

For high school and college students, landing an internship is typically a major cause for celebration. They’re an excellent way to dip your toes into an industry of interest, and they often serve as the platform from which future career paths project.

But what happens after you land full-time employment? Does the drive to expand your transferable skills and explore areas of intrigue simply come to an end?

We hope not! That’s why, in 2018, CoverMyMeds developed our company’s unique version of an internal internship for employees — the Stretch Program. And in 2022, we’re excited to revamp that program and give it a fresh name: Explore: A Stretch Opportunity.

If Explore is anything like its original counterpart, Katherine Cruzado, project lead at CoverMyMeds, thinks it’ll be a smash hit.

Katherine was part of the inaugural Stretch Program in 2018. She started as an account coordinator in 2017 and stretched into a role focused on new hire orientation. In 2022, she’s playing a key role in coordinating upcoming initiatives for Explore.

“I can confidently say I’m where I am today thanks to the Stretch Program — I can’t overstate its impact on my growth,” Katherine said. “Not only did the program help me network with folks I otherwise wouldn’t have, but I also got exposure to the employee experience space I currently work in.”

Stephanie Tripi, program manager at CoverMyMeds, has been helping coordinate the Stretch Program — now Explore — for almost one year. According to Stephanie, 2022 feels like the right time to spice things up.

“CoverMyMeds employees are always encouraged to ‘stretch’ their talents, so we wanted to find a word that truly differentiates what Explore offers,” she said. “It’s a unique opportunity because participants have to apply to the 15-week program, and it’s only offered twice per year.”

Additionally, Stephanie said, Explore provides an avenue for business units at CoverMyMeds to receive project support from stretch delegates without having to interview, hire and train an external candidate beforehand.

Diving into detail about CoverMyMeds’ internal internship

Currently, PA payer specialists, benefit payer specialists, intake associates, account specialists, account coordinators, senior account coordinators and case managers on our Patient and Network Services teams are eligible to apply — that includes employees based in Scottsdale, Arizona. During the 15-week program, participants dedicate 16 hours of their 40-hour work week to Explore — the other 24 hours are spent on their core responsibilities.

To make the program even more comprehensive, this year’s stretch delegates will also participate in a “learning pathway” that includes e-learning, classroom training and real-life applications to grow competencies that can be leveraged within their day-to-day responsibilities, as well.

The learning pathway will consist of three different blocks — Explore, Expand and Execute. Each block will be three weeks long, with Explore covering constructive feedback and goal setting, Expand covering critical thinking and decision making and Execute covering presentation skills and interview strategies.

This year, a few Explore roles up for grabs include digital marketing specialist, software developer, data analyst, talent acquisition specialist and health and wellness assistant.

To get a better understanding of how Explore: A Stretch Opportunity truly impacts employees at CoverMyMeds, we sat down with three past participants to learn about their individual experiences and where they’re working within the company today.

I initially came to CoverMyMeds because I wanted to pivot my career, and we have a reputation for investing in our employees.

Mari Huangassociate research analyst at CoverMyMeds

Employees encounter life-changing opportunities through Explore

Mari Huang: account coordinator/case manager turned associate research analyst

Mari Huang started at CoverMyMeds in October 2019 as an account coordinator — right before the COVID-19 pandemic forced employees to work from home. Although her first year at CoverMyMeds was far from ordinary, Mari began virtually networking with her peers almost immediately.

“I initially came to CoverMyMeds because I wanted to pivot my career, and we have a reputation for investing in our employees.” Mari said. “With encouragement from my manager, I messaged people in human resources and data analyst roles to ask to shadow them for a day. Turns out, I love data!”

Mari was eventually promoted from account coordinator to case manager, but she still wanted to explore her newfound passion, so she applied for and accepted an associate research analyst stretch delegate role. Communication and collaboration were key since Mari had to balance two job responsibilities at once, working two days per week as an associate research analyst and the rest as a case manager. However, she felt fully supported by her coworkers.

Halfway through Mari’s Stretch Program, she got offered a full-time job as an associate research analyst — a position she still holds today. For employees entering Explore in 2022, Mari said doing preemptive legwork is essential to making sure you’re passionate about the role you’ll be stretching into.

“If I didn’t shadow a data analyst before applying to the Stretch Program, I’d have no idea how much I love the research and data side of business,” Mari said. “The Stretch Program is the ultimate goal — but there are so many other opportunities to explore areas of interest. All you’ve got to do is ask.”

It’s been eight months, and my new title still makes me smile.

Thomas McLeanAssociate Software Developer at CoverMyMeds

Thomas McLean: account coordinator turned associate software developer

Although Thomas McLean applied for and accepted an account coordinator role at CoverMyMeds in December 2019, he always harbored a not-so-secret passion for software development.

“It was right there on my resume from the beginning — ‘aspiring software developer,’” he said. “I applied to CoverMyMeds because we’re a top healthcare technology company, and we also encourage the lateral and vertical movement of employees.”

So, when Thomas learned about the Stretch Program and saw an associate software developer project available, he jumped at the opportunity to apply.

In his free time, Thomas had already taught himself Python — a high-level, general-purpose programming language. But to be successful at CoverMyMeds, he also needed to learn another programming language, Ruby.

“To speak the language, you have to know the language — my Stretch Program experience was almost like a 12-week coding bootcamp,” Thomas said. To help get him up-to-speed, Thomas’ manager asked him to develop a guess-the-color game in Ruby. He also got to shadow software developers as they worked on production code in CoverMyMeds’ software.

Throughout his time as a stretch delegate, Thomas learned enough about Ruby “to be dangerous,” as he explained. In fact, he impressed his manager so much he was offered a full-time job as an associate software developer a week before the program’s end.

“It’s been eight months, and my new title still makes me smile,” Thomas said.

As an associate software developer, Thomas also had to learn Elixir — which is now his favorite programming language. His initial experience as an account coordinator, he said, helps him educate his fellow programmers to better understand how the Patient Services technology stack gets utilized by front-line employees.

Kaira Schneider: account coordinator turned marketing events coordinator

Prior to joining CoverMyMeds in 2020, Kaira worked at an advertising agency as an entry-level employee. Although she enjoyed that position, she was eager to explore opportunities at a larger company like CoverMyMeds.

“There weren’t any entry-level marketing roles open at the time, so I applied for an account coordinator position,” Kaira said. “After joining the company, I messaged a few people, including Joe Guenther, director of digital marketing and marketing analytics, to casually connect.”

About a year later, Kaira entered the Stretch Program as a digital marketing delegate on Joe’s team. Right off the bat, she felt challenged — but in a good way.

“I had to balance my delegate duties and my normal job, but Joe was very understanding,” Kaira said. “Beyond digital marketing, the program also taught me about time management, project prioritization and how to effectively communicate with my managers.”

When Kaira’s time as a delegate ended, there wasn’t an immediate need to hire a full-time employee on the digital marketing team, so she returned to working as an account coordinator 40 hours a week. However, Kaira’s coworker sent her the link to an events marketing role a few months later. She applied and got the job.

Kaira recently attended HIMSS22 in Orlando, Florida as CoverMyMeds’ marketing events coordinator — a positive experience that validated her choice to join the marketing team. For employees who are considering Explore in 2022, Kaira has some advice.

“Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself by networking with people throughout the company,” she said. “Everyone is super nice and happy to help — if I never reached out to Joe initially, I might not be where I am today.”

Applying to 2022’s Explore: A Stretch Opportunity programs

This year’s first Explore program will run from April through July; the second iteration is currently scheduled for August through December. To be considered, candidates must submit an application, 15-minute video interview and written endorsement from their manager.

“I want to encourage as many folks as possible to apply to Explore, including our Scottsdale employees,” said Katherine Cruzado. “It’s built for team members to take advantage of, so take the leap. Whether you become a stretch delegate or not, you’ll receive feedback on your application and walk away with a better understanding of every position CoverMyMeds has to offer."

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