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Catharine Coll: exploring creativity through job shadowing 

At BlueCross, we encourage our employees to think outside the box when it comes to helping serve our members. Catharine Coll is one employee who’s infused her unique creative style into our mission of peace of mind through better health. Her story testifies to our commitment to nurturing talent and helping it flourish.  

Growing up, Catharine knew she wanted to enter a creative field but was uncertain about what it would be. That all changed after a visit to the Art Department at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  

“I met some of the staff and felt so encouraged and inspired afterward,” Catharine says. “I chose graphic design as my major and knew I had found my path.” 

That path had some unexpected but rewarding twists. Her now-husband accepted a job relocation opportunity in Braunschweig, Germany. Catharine seized on this opportunity to follow her creative spirit and made the move, as well.

Catharine lived in Germany for a full year and signed a short-term contract with a graphic design firm in Braunschweig, an experience that gave her new perspective and expanded her creative horizons. 

There, she worked on campaigns and assisted designers with overflow projects. 

“It was risk, but I’m glad I took it!” Catharine recalls with a laugh. “It was a great experience to live abroad but also to be able to do so with my partner.” 

Upon her return to the U.S. in 2018, Catharine felt both excitement and trepidation. Jumping back into the workforce after a year presented some challenges.  

Though Catharine had mainly worked for small businesses and firms, she found herself nervously applying for jobs at corporations. However, she’d heard positive things about BlueCross. Out of curiosity, she applied for a design role. Little did she know a significant chapter in her professional life would begin with this step.  

A step into the unknown 

Catharine joined the BlueCross team and today works with our account executives to craft final presentations for major bids for business opportunities. The goal is to make these presentations stand out and resonate, showcasing BlueCross as a committed and caring health care partner. 

Though her work is rewarding, Catharine couldn’t help but feel a component was missing after the majority of the BlueCross workforce transitioned to working remotely. That shift posed challenges in connecting with fellow creatives.  

“As the only designer in my department, collaboration was something I was interested in for quite some time,” she says. “I was interested to see what other creative opportunities existed within the company.” 

One aspect of Catharine’s role was being integrated with the communications and digital teams, not only to stay on top of BlueCross branding and storytelling requirements but also to have that creative connection. 

“Occasionally I would help with the marketing communications team, but their processes are so different from the sales side,” Catharine says. “That’s what made the job shadowing program at BlueCross such a compelling option for me.” 

From design to diversity 

Job shadowing gives BlueCross employees the opportunity to steer their professional development.  For several weeks to months, they’re able to connect and work hands-on with another team within the company, developing innovative ways to work, gaining new ideas, and sharing their own. 

Through the program, Catharine connected with the BlueCross Corporate Communications team, collaborating on a video project to showcase BlueCross’ commitment to diversity and inclusion initiatives. Rather than being a passive observer, Catharine was an active co-producer, helping prep interviewees, holding boom mics, ensuring optimal filming setups, and even stepping in front of the camera on occasion.  

The project enabled her to step beyond her design-focused role and learn how to use both still and active imagery to convey the importance of cultural competency for employers. 

“I’d never been on a video shoot before in that capacity,” Catharine says. “At a previous job, we had done photo shoots and ad campaigns for specific brands, but this was on another level. I was expecting a literal shadowing experience, like, ‘I’m going to hover in the background and watch.’ But this team said, ‘No, you’re here, and we want and need your help.’”  

The experience was an extension of her everyday work in creating captivating visuals. It helped her consider challenges from another perspective. 

“I learned to observe differently,” Catharine says. “A lot of times I’m in front of a screen, sitting in a chair doing work, but this was very active. As a designer, you must have attention to detail. But working with this other team, I had to transfer that to the physical world around me. It wasn’t necessarily a new skill but applying that skill in a different way.” 

Merging roles for the future 

Catharine’s job shadowing gave her a broader perspective on the company’s objectives and allowed her to integrate newfound knowledge into her design role.  

“This experience helps my current role because of the idea that we can and must help each other out,” she says. “I’m the only designer on my team, but if I’m out of town or something comes up that requires additional design support, we have connections we can rely on.” 

Catharine plans to pursue other creative projects at BlueCross that involve a more comprehensive approach. 

“I’m not a photographer or a videographer, but I enjoyed those things and now have experience with them,” she says. “There’s so much that BlueCross can benefit from in terms of creative employment, so how can I get better at those things? How can I be more exposed, help those teams out, and learn those new skills? How can I transfer those skills to my work with the accounts team?” 

In short, she knows where to start. 

“If Corporate Communications needs help with anything, even if it’s just a headshot photo shoot, happy to step in and help if I’m available,” Catharine says. “And likewise, I look forward to showing them more of what I do.” 

Additional reporting by Desireé Colon. 

About Franca Afolabi, Corporate Communications Intern

A photo of the authorFranca is a recent graduate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with an MA in mass communication. She joined the BlueCross corporate communications team as an intern in the summer of 2023.

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