How My MBA Prepared Me For a Career at CVS
Jessica Dias is an Advisor at CVS Health, specializing in health services. A Harvard grad (for both undergrad and business school), she found some time to talk to Vault about her career to date, her experiences at CVS Health, and how her MBA helped prepare her to face her current career.
Vault: Can you tell us a little about your background?
Jessica: Sure! I grew up in Somerville, MA as the younger daughter of two Portuguese immigrants. After attending Somerville High School, I pursued my undergraduate degree at Harvard College, where I concentrated in Economics. Post-graduation, I worked in the mutual fund industry as an Equity Associate at Putnam Investments in Boston, researching small and mid-cap consumer stocks and making buy/sell recommendations to portfolio managers. It was a great opportunity to really explore the key drivers of consumer businesses and to further develop my analytical skills. Two years after starting at Putnam, I enrolled in Harvard Business School's MBA program. During my first summer at HBS, I chose to spend my time working for CVS Health on their front store strategy team, which is where I returned after graduating HBS in May 2016.
Vault: Can you tell us a little about the kind of work you do at CVS?
Jessica: Now that I am back at CVS Health full-time, I have had the truly exciting opportunity to work on new initiatives for the organization: Optical Centers and Hearing Centers inside CVS Pharmacy®. When I arrived, both of these 'new' businesses had been operating for almost a year. I get the unique chance to work under the healthcare team (part of the merchandising division) to help continue to grow these businesses. I am primarily focused on strategy and operations. Thus, my day-to-day involves field visits to generate insights, analysis of the updated data to communicate learnings and implement appropriate improvements, development of exam-driving strategies, and execution of many tactics.
Vault: Can you tell us a little more about the internship? What attracted you to CVS Health in the first place, and what experiences at the firm convinced you that it was the right place to launch your post-MBA career?
Jessica: The internship was great! It was a ten week program in the summer of 2015. I worked on the Front Store Strategy team (part of the merchandising division) on two projects: developing business cases for two new store formats, and assisting with the implementation of a beauty on-the-go fixture at checkout (to be incorporated in ~2K doors). I was provided with a direct supervisor, a mentor, and a colleague. It was a pre-arranged support system for me within the firm, where I could feel comfortable to ask questions and learn more about CVS.
I knew CVS would be an interesting company to work for when I learned of the monumental decision it made to stop selling tobacco products. CVS' mission to help people on their path to better health resonated with me, and I could see it was on the right path to transition from pharmacy and convenience store to a more comprehensive healthcare company. My first-hand interaction with CVS employees during the summer and being able to witness the innovative approach on the strategy team really convinced me that I could learn and add value by launching my post-MBA career here.
Vault: How do you think the internship prepared you for the full-time position?
Jessica: The internship allowed me the opportunity to meet with individuals across a wide range of functions within the organization. It really opened my eyes to the vast array of initiatives that CVS was exploring and committing to. I gained some experience in project management through the on-the-go fixture and experience in strategic planning through the business cases.
Vault: Did the internship help with your MBA studies (or vice versa)?
Jessica: The internship provided me with yet another set of experiences to draw from in my HBS classroom case discussions. It was particularly helpful in my 'Retail' class second semester of my second year, as I had gotten some exposure to what it is like to work in a large corporation at the intersection of retail and healthcare. The HBS course, 'Building and Sustaining a Successful Enterprise,' was critical in helping me formulate a better perspective on the dimensions of disruptive innovation, and how it can affect organizations of various sizes.
Vault: Tell us about the culture at CVS Health—what do you like about working there?
Jessica: At CVS, the company's values can be seen throughout the day-to-day of the business—whether through the healthy options available in the cafeteria at headquarters, or the values in action points that employees can distribute to one another as symbols of appreciation, or the colleague resource groups that employees can partake in.
Vault: How do you see yourself growing your career at CVS? What kind of opportunities or tracks exist? How does the company support career development?
There are so many opportunities to grow within CVS due to the large range of assets the company has. Right now, I am enjoying being part of a new health services segment, but in the future, the possibilities are endless.
Vault: What is your favorite CVS Health brand product or innovation?
Jessica: I am so excited to see what the future has in store for the CVS Health Digital Innovation Lab in Boston. I was able to visit a few months ago, and was impressed by the company's dedication to making innovation a top priority. Personally, the CVS app and its integration with Extracare is always a go-to for me when I shop.
Vault: Finally, what advice would you give to new interns, or those who are thinking of applying for an internship?
Jessica: I would recommend you fully immerse yourself in the experience. Meet people across the organization and dedicate yourself to adding value throughout the limited time you are there. Explore the multicultural restaurants and sites nearby, and use diversity of thought to present new opportunities for the business.