Investing in the next generation of diverse technology talent at Evernorth

To create a strong pipeline of early career technology talent, and create equitable opportunities for underrepresented students, Evernorth has partnered with Access Point – a program designed to provide accelerated hands-on technical training and mentorship.

To stay ahead of the curve for our members, clients, and ecosystem partners, we need to invest in the next generation of innovative, world-class technology talent. And, importantly, we need to create opportunities for historically underrepresented talent to ensure we are fostering a diverse, well-rounded workforce that can push the boundaries of what’s possible.

There is a significant shortage of skilled tech and IT talent, and the tech industry lacks in diversity, equity, and inclusion – 68% of businesses say their tech teams lack diversity, and a mere 8% of the tech workforce is African American/Black. In addition, African American/Black women are paid significantly less than their white counterparts.

To create a strong pipeline of early career technology talent and create equitable opportunities for underrepresented students, Evernorth has partnered with Access Point. Access Point is a program designed to provide accelerated hands-on technical training and mentorship to create opportunities for students from historically underrepresented communities.

We sat down with two of our employees who recently completed the Access Point program and then started full-time technology roles at Evernorth to learn more about their journey.

Developing highly skilled, early career technical talent

Though Access Point, Evernorth identifies open technical roles and is matched with highly motivated high school or community college students who seek a career in technology. Access Point makes a multi-year commitment to develop, train, and mentor participants until they are ready to take on a paid apprenticeship, and eventually a full-time role, at Evernorth.

Joseph Mugo, an application developer at Express Scripts, Evernorth’s pharmacy benefits manager, is a member of the first cohort of Access Point graduates. Through Access Point, he learned front-end and back-end software development in languages including JavaScript, Spring Boot, and React. He also learned approaches to project management, learning the ropes of Agile software development and fundamental skills on how to communicate with business stakeholders, for example.

“From the beginning, we received very hands-on training – but importantly, we as a group had a support system of teachers and mentors who gave us constant feedback and helped us tackle problems in real time,” Mugo said. “And, the mentorship continues to this day.”

Rebekah Tippy, who joined Access Point’s second cohort in May 2022 and is now an application developer at Express Scripts, said she appreciated the opportunity to put her studies into real-world practice. “In college, things can feel one-sided – they teach you how to write programming languages, but through Access Point and my apprenticeship at Evernorth, I was able to apply and practice these skills and connect them to the bigger picture.”

She added that program also taught professional development skills that helped her get ahead. For example, she learned how to present to senior leaders and about business dinner etiquette.

Finding a fulfilling career in health care

In finding the best talent for technology jobs, Evernorth competes with other highly innovative tech companies. Working with Access Point allows us to strengthen our talent pipeline, helping us shape careers and introducing people to the impactful work we do each day.

Mugo and Tippy weren’t initially looking for roles in the health care industry, but both were drawn to Evernorth because of the purpose and impact of our work in improving health care.  

When Mugo started the Access Point program, he knew he wanted to pursue software development in some form and was interested in landing a role in the tech industry. He ultimately decided to pursue an apprenticeship at Evernorth after listening to the advice of his peers and mentors. “Seeing firsthand the impact we have for patients really made me broaden my view,” he said, recalling his experience touring one of Express Scripts’ specialty pharmacies.

Tippy shares that sentiment. She weighed options in finance, tech, and agriculture, but ultimately was drawn to health care because of its many complex challenges and opportunities – a perspective shaped by Access Point.

Creating opportunities for historically underrepresented talent

In addition to developing skilled early career talent, Evernorth is committed to creating opportunities for historically underrepresented communities – a key mission of the Access Point program. Evernorth’s partnership with Access Point strengthens opportunities for those who are historically underrepresented, with a focus on early career opportunities for women and African Americans/Blacks, to ensure we are fostering the most diverse, well-equipped teams to tackle health care’s biggest challenges. Research finds diversity in the workplace leads to better decision-making and enhanced innovation, resulting in a more engaged and productive workforce. This is crucial in our line of work, as diversity also better equips us to be able to walk in our customers’ shoes and better represent our diverse set of patients.

Mugo shared an experience from early in his journey in the Access Point program, when he attended a recruiting event at another company. “I saw the lack of diversity, I saw that the only people in the room who looked like me were my peers in the program,” he said. He described how powerful the experience was, and how important it is to work for a diverse workforce that can offer a sense of belonging.

Tippy added she sees a snowball effect when doors are opened for underrepresented talent. “When someone from a diverse background joins a company, they are going to bring in their network and talent and the opportunities will continue to expand and grow.”

And with uncertainty in the economy for new graduates – nearly 70% of U.S. adults hold a negative view of the economy – and major layoffs in the tech industry, finding a job can feel overwhelming for even the most skilled graduates, creating ever more hurdles and barriers for people from historically underrepresented backgrounds or with non-traditional educations.

“It was a lot of weight off of my mind while trying to study and learn these highly complex and technical skills, knowing that I had an opportunity at Evernorth,” Tippy said.

Mugo added that finding a job in software development – being able to afford and pursue skills and education, and building a professional network of references – would have been much more difficult without Access Point.

The future is bright

This is just the beginning for Access Point and Evernorth. The third cohort of students is currently undergoing training and will begin to transition to Evernorth in January. Additionally, the program has expanded beyond its initial location of St. Louis, Missouri, to high schools in New Jersey. Evernorth looks forward to welcoming the fourth cohort of students, from New Jersey, in January 2025.

Both Mugo and Tippy are optimistic for the future and grateful for their experience. They were eager to share advice for others interested in the Access Point program and a career at Evernorth. “There are so many different ways you can make an impact using technology,” Mugo said. Tippy added to always keep learning, as there will always be new skills introduced and new opportunities around the corner.

When asked what’s next in their careers, they agreed they look forward to strengthening their software development skills and tacking complex health care challenges at Evernorth.