Throughout her career at CVS Health, Ebony Stewart has never shied away from taking initiative. In fact, one of her biggest achievements came about because she wasn’t afraid to propose a project to her manager at the time. The idea? A new hire training program for CVS Specialty Pharmacies, which specifically support patients who rely on life-maintaining medication.
“My colleague and I wanted to ensure that we were setting future pharmacy service representatives (PSRs) up for success by providing them with the appropriate training,” says Stewart, who still works at the Orlando location where the program was first launched. “I can’t express how fulfilling it is to see a new hire come into the door and master their role—and to know I had something to do with that.”
Six years (and many promotions) later, Stewart is now an operations manager overseeing a team of supervisors and PSRs. “This is the first time in my career where I feel like I am part of a company that truly invests in its employees and their development,” she says.
Here, Stewart talks about her career path at CVS Health, how the company supports learning and development, and why she has an open-door policy as a manager.
You started your career at CVS Health as a pharmacy services representative. What does it take to succeed in that role?
A PSR is successful if they have the willingness to learn and collaborate with others, and, most importantly, empathy. The PSR role can be challenging because you meet patients who are taking life-sustaining medication, and unfortunately in some cases, you may never speak to them again because they pass away. Although it’s tough, it’s also fulfilling to know that you are helping to save someone’s life.
What types of other career paths can someone grow into at CVS by starting as a PSR?
One can grow into any type of career path as a PSR. It’s one of the many things I love about CVS—the opportunities are endless. For example, you can transition to an operations supervisor or manager, resource planning analyst, or quality analyst.
You’ve moved up into supervisor and management roles since joining the company. What steps did you take to make these promotions happen?
First, I learned as much as I could about the organization as well as mastered my PSR role. Shortly afterward, I transitioned into a team lead role, then a supervisor, and four years later, I became an operations manager.
I consistently met with my leaders and discussed my aspirations, and we came up with a development plan to help me get to the next level in my career. Most importantly, I built relationships with people in the role I was in as well as the role I aspired to be in.
What are you responsible for in your current role?
As a manager, I ensure our PSRs are providing world-class customer service to our patients. This is a team effort, and we’re consistently engaging with PSRs to make sure they are supported in their roles.
As my current and previous leaders did, I make sure that I am consistently spending time with my direct reports discussing their aspirations, opportunities, and ideas. In those meetings, we also create development plans to help them meet their goals. It’s important that I have a true open-door policy and that I am available to them. I am a strong believer that people work for people: If people know you are invested in them and their career path, they will go to the ends of the earth for you.
Tell us about a project you’re most proud of and how it came about in the first place.
I am most proud of the new hire training program, which we call Nesting, that a colleague and I created for the CVS Specialty Pharmacy in Orlando. I was part of the first class of employees there, and we had a great team of traveling trainers and subject-matter experts assist with questions we had while taking calls. However, they couldn’t stay forever, and the Orlando senior leadership was tasked with hiring and training 500-plus employees within four months.
Thanks to the program, new PSRs are paired up with a subject-matter expert for two weeks while taking live calls. During that time, they also meet prior to taking calls to discuss different in-depth scenarios and each evening to share best practices and get their questions answered. We also created an assessment, which consisted of monitoring three live calls and completing a written exam, to test each employee’s knowledge. Those who needed additional time would receive an additional week of training.
Also, I must give kudos to my leader at the time. When my colleague and I walked into his office that day and shared our idea his only response was, “That’s a great idea! How can I help?” He had the open-door policy and made us feel like our ideas mattered. He supported and challenged us to ensure we were performing at our highest potential. Most importantly, he listened.
What types of learning and development opportunities have helped you succeed at CVS Health?
I have been successful on my journey by taking DevelopU courses and participating in leadership workshops inside and outside of CVS. I also took leadership courses the company offers through the Learning Hub, as well as shadowed different leaders across the enterprise.
How would you describe your leadership style?
My leadership style is one in which I listen and treat people how I would want to be treated. I listen, invest the time, partner them with leaders and colleagues that will aid in their success, challenge them, and most importantly, I genuinely care. Being a transparent and caring leader has been the key to my success in my role.
What’s the best and worst career advice you’ve ever received?
The best career advice I have ever received is to always put people first and to do what I am passionate about. That way it never feels like work. You can get fired from a job, but you can’t get fired from your gift. So, find your gift and you will always have work. I know it’s the best because following it has led me to where I am now, a career I love.
I would have to say the worst advice is to never bite off more than you can chew. I find that I excel in high-pressure situations and it helps me perform at my highest potential. My response to that advice is, “I’d rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity.”