Walk into the IT department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and you might expect to find employees with highly technical backgrounds in software engineering and cloud computing.
While those employees are a critical part of the team – they’re not the only roles that make the department a success. Across the 1,250-member IT department, there are more than 16 types of job functions working on nearly 20 different technology platforms to support both daily operations at Blue Cross and build programs for future opportunities.
The department is building a culture of career development and skill growth – which allows them to quickly adapt their teams to the ever-changing needs of technology and information in the health insurance business.
A ‘work hug’
For Maureen Ellen Beauregard, a director in Blue Cross IT, some of the biggest opportunities in Beauregard’s career came when her leadership offered her new challenges, even if she herself didn’t feel ready for them. For example, she was tasked with helping to lead all the IT work related to government mandates on health care reforms. The program spanned six years – and had more than 30 key deliverable dates.
“I remember getting the assignment, going to the first meeting and leaving intimidated by the volume and complexity of the work. This was in addition to my existing team responsibilities, so I expressed to my leader that I was a bit overwhelmed and her response was, ‘We know you are ready and capable of this work. We will help support you as you build your team,’” Beauregard recalled. “It was like I received a ‘work hug’ as IT leaders jumped in to support me by providing guidance, resource support and technical background on their areas.”
Beauregard is about to celebrate her 20th year with the company. Her career started in a contract role as an IT analyst. After four years, she was hired into the company as a team lead – a move she considers the best career decision she ever made. In her current role, she provides strategy and direction to teams across the department to ensure their work aligns with the business’s overall plan.
“I learned that rolling my sleeves up and building relationships was critical to the success of any work. As Leslie Knope from ‘Parks & Rec’ would say, ‘No one succeeds alone,’” Beauregard said.
Learning from mentors
Kim Hicks came to the IT department at Blue Cross in 2019 – a move she considered her biggest career leap yet. After starting with Blue Cross as a contractor in a different division, she was hired in 2014 and worked across several of the health plan’s core business departments.
Now, she’s a manager in the Enterprise Information Security department at Blue Cross. She secures funding for security initiatives and manages a team of delivery leads responsible for implementing these initiatives– even though when she started her job, Hicks said she knew nothing about security “other than hackers need to be stopped.”
It was a huge learning curve for her – but that didn’t hold her back from succeeding.
“I have grown from every role, leader and team throughout my journey. However, 2023 has been the most impactful, enlightening and transformative year for me,” Hicks said, explaining that was the year she joined four mentorship groups at Blue Cross.
Connecting with mentors across the company helped her grow her network, learn new insights from colleagues and implement them into her work.
“I always felt I was weak when it came to networking, especially with executives. Not anymore! These programs have empowered me with the confidence to initiate connections with virtually anyone and hold meaningful conversations,” Hicks said. “I have a dedicated notebook where I capture the gems and golden nuggets I am picking up along the way. I refer to it almost daily.”
Surrounded by support
Steven Wyatt is a business analyst with the IT Finance and Organization Operations team at Blue Cross. He helps manage the IT division’s budget and financial performance. In 2018, he was hired in to support the IT needs of Blue Care Network before the team was fully integrated into Blue Cross.
His path to Blue Cross was direct: after graduating from Central Michigan University with a business degree, he was offered a position straight out of college. He was a member of the inaugural IT Boot Camp class in 2018 – a program he is proud to still support.
Wyatt credits the support of co-workers and leaders at Blue Cross with his career success.
“Many of these people have helped me shape what kind of employee I want to be and continue to support my aspirations,” Wyatt said. “Surround yourself with good people and challenge yourself. Challenge yourself outside of your comfort zone to be the best employee you can be and add value to the people around you. If you stick with this, you will end up surrounding yourself with like-minded people that want to help you grow and succeed.”
Beauregard advises that while leadership teams can provide guidance, in order to grow your own skills and own your own career, you have to take the initiative and step outside your comfort zone to build relationships, learn new things and expand your network.
“Embrace change because it provides opportunities to grow knowledge and skills. It will be uncomfortable, but that means you are growing,” Beauregard said. “Look for opportunities to learn our business by partnering with other teams. Listen and learn from different leaders as you move through an organization to develop your leadership style.”
Hicks said her leader gives her ongoing support and encouragement – which has empowered her to apply her new learnings to her work every day.
“Don’t be afraid to seek out opportunities to grow. Talk to your leader about your desired career path. Doing so can open up opportunities you never knew existed,” Hicks said.