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How an unwavering drive to succeed — and a little tuition assistance — boosted a career

Shawanna Grant joined BlueCross 23 years ago as a customer service representative. As her skillset grew, she climbed the ladder to become a research associate, technical team expert, supervisor of sales and broker support, and manager in commercial operations.

Earlier this year, Shawanna celebrated a shift to manager in organizational development. Her story serves as an outstanding example of what it means to set and achieve big goals at BlueCross. 

“With all the knowledge I’ve gained from my years here, I’m equipping myself to not just have a seat at the table, but to engage and even lead conversations with our executives to ensure BlueCross remains at the top of our game,” Shawanna says.

“My job is to use my knowledge of behavioral sciences to implement programs or strategies that improve the performance of our workforce. I’m responsible for leading internal and external research and analysis to meet the ever-changing development needs of our organization.”

That includes identifying opportunities and implementing programs to address and work toward building on those opportunities — something Shawanna already has quite a bit of experience with.

Earning two (and a half) degrees with tuition assistance

“After being with the BlueCross for nine years — and determining I was here for the long haul — I started to chart the path for my career,” Shawanna says. “I knew that if I wanted to make myself marketable inside the company, I would need to build on the skills necessary to solidify my advancement.”

BlueCross values developing our people. That’s why we offer a tuition reimbursement program  that pays them back for performing well in select courses offered by accredited colleges and universities.

We reimburse up to $10,000 per employee per calendar year. Employees must earn a grade of an A, B or C to be reimbursed. And full-time employees who earn As or Bs are eligible to receive 100% reimbursement, up to that annual maximum.

Shawanna’s manager pointed her to BlueCross continuing education resources, and she hit the ground running. In 2008, she enrolled in the University of Phoenix, Nashville Campus, where she earned her bachelor of science in business.

“This ignited a spark that propelled me to think bigger for my career,” Shawanna says. “From there, I focused on leadership and management education.”

Within six months of completing her bachelor’s degree, Shawanna started a master of business administration, which she completed in 2013. Now, she’s pursuing a doctorate in business administration: executive coaching and consulting at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville.

Shawanna used BlueCross tuition assistance to pay for her bachelor’s and MBA degree classes,  and she’s now using it to fund her doctorate program classes.

A gift that keeps on giving

Investing in herself has also helped Shawanna step into her role as an advocate and champion for others, particularly as she pursues her doctorate.

“I’m five classes in with 10 more to go, and I’m holding steady with an A average!” she says. “It has been challenging but also rewarding as I’ve been able to take the strategies and ideas I’m learning in my classes and bring them to my team to help reimagine organizational development.

“Continuing my education was the best career decision I’ve ever made. I’ve developed my skills as a leader and found my passion for developing our people.”

To those who love the position they’re in and aren’t currently looking for a change, Shawanna advises, “There’s always something new and innovative worth learning to make your job and our company better.” 

Guidance goes a long way

Over more than two decades at BlueCross and consistently pushing herself to learn and grow, Shawanna believes some of the credit for her successful career journey should go to others.

“I’ve been fortunate to have direct supervisors who helped push me to be the best employee I could be and encouraged me to build my career,” she says.

“My supervisors took the time to listen to my goals and help strategize for my career development. I take that same energy they gave me and pay it forward to others in the company.”

“I’ve had informal mentors as well, those who I admired because of how they were moving in our organization. Each of them took time out of their busy schedules to have lunch or meet to give me nuggets of wisdom.”

“And as a result, I have found my utopia.”

About Desireé Colon, Communications Specialist

A photo of the authorDesireé joined the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee corporate communications team in 2021. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Chattanooga, she has a decade of experience in writing, event planning, and marketing across various industries.

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