This CVS Manager Always Had Leaders to Count On
Throughout her career at CVS Health, Ebony Stewart has never shied away from taking the initiative. In fact, one of her biggest accomplishments came because she wasn’t afraid to suggest a project to her manager at the time. Idea? A new hire training program for CVS Specialty Pharmacies, specifically supporting patients who rely on life-sustaining medications.
“My colleagues and I wanted to make sure we were setting up pharmacy service reps (PSRs) in the future,” said Stewart, who still works in Orlando, where the program was first launched. to achieve success by providing them with proper training. “I can’t describe how gratifying it is to see a new hire walk in the door and take control of their role — and to know that I have to do something about it.”
Six years later (and numerous promotions), Stewart is now the chief operations officer overseeing the supervisory team and the PSR. “This is the first time in my career that I feel like I am part of a company that really invests in its employees and their growth,” she said.
Here, Stewart talks about her career path at CVS Health, how the company supports learning and growth, and why she has an open door policy as a manager.
You start your career at CVS Health as a pharmaceutical service representative. What does it take to be successful in that role?
A PSR is successful if they are willing to learn and collaborate with others, and most importantly, have empathy. The PSR role can be difficult because you come across patients who are on life-sustaining drugs, and unfortunately in some cases, you may never speak to them again because they have passed away. Even though it’s hard, it feels good to know you’re helping to save someone’s life.
What other types of career paths can someone develop at CVS by starting out as a PSR?
One can develop into any kind of career path as a PSR. That’s one of the things I love about CVS — the opportunities are endless. For example, you might transition to an operations supervisor or manager, a resource planning analyst, or a quality analyst.
You have moved into supervisory and management roles since joining the company. What steps have you taken to execute these promotions?
First, I learned as much as I could about the organization and mastered my PSR role. Soon after, I transitioned into the role of team leader, then supervisor, and four years later, I became chief operations officer.
I regularly meet with my leaders and discuss my aspirations, and we have come up with a development plan to help me reach the next level in my career. Most importantly, I have built relationships with people in my role and in the roles I aspire to be in.
What are your responsibilities in your current role?
As a manager, I make sure our PSR is providing world-class customer service to our patients. This is a team effort and we always interact with PSR to ensure that they are supported in their roles.
As my current and former leaders have done, I make sure I always make time for my direct reports to discuss their aspirations, opportunities, and ideas. During those meetings, we also create development plans to help them achieve their goals. It is important that I have a real open door policy and I am always ready to serve them. I strongly believe that people work for people: If people know you are invested in them and their career path, they will go to the end of the world for you.
Tell us about the project you are most proud of and how it came about in the first place.
I’m most proud of the new hire training program, which we call Nesting, that a colleague and I created for CVS Specialty Pharmacy in Orlando. I was part of the first class of staff there, and we have a great team of travel coaches and subject matter experts on hand to help answer questions we have when we get a call. However, they couldn’t stay forever, and Orlando’s top management was tasked with recruiting and training more than 500 employees over four months.
Thanks to the program, new PSRs are paired with a subject matter expert for two weeks on one-on-one calls. During that time, they also meet before taking calls to discuss various in-depth scenarios and each evening to share best practices and have their questions answered. We also created an assessment, which included following up on three face-to-face calls and completing a written test, to test each employee’s knowledge. Those who need more time will receive an extra week of training.
Also, I had to give kudo to my leader at that time. When my colleague and I walked into his office that day and shared our opinions, his only response was, “What a great idea! How can I help?” He had an open door policy and made us feel like our ideas mattered.He supported and challenged us to make sure we were operating at our potential. most importantly, he listened.
What types of learning and development opportunities have helped you succeed at CVS Health?
I have been successful in my journey taking DevelopU courses and participating in leadership seminars inside and outside of CVS. I also took leadership courses that the company offers through the Learning Center, and got to know different leaders across the business.
How would you describe your leadership style?
My leadership style is one in which I listen to and treat people the way I want to be treated. I listen, invest time, partner with leaders and peers who will support their success, challenge them, and most importantly, I truly care. Being a transparent and fair leader is key to my success in my role.
What’s the best and worst career advice you’ve ever received?
The best career advice I’ve ever received is to always put people first and do what I’m passionate about. That way, it never feels like work. You can be fired from a job, but you cannot be fired for your gift. So find your gift and you’ll always have a job. I know it’s for the best because following it has led me to where I am now, a career I love.
I would have to say the worst piece of advice is to never bite more than you can chew. I find that I excel in high pressure situations and that helps me to perform to the best of my ability. My response to that advice was, “I’d rather stick to greatness than gnaw on mediocrity.”
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