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The journey begins: how BlueCross helps build careers via internships

When I started my internship at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee in June, I quickly learned I’m not “just an intern.”

No one was asking me to fetch coffee.

No one was asking me to make copies.

Rudimentary tasks were not what the team had in mind for me.

Though relatively new to corporate communications, I get to bring real value to the department and the company as a whole on a daily basis.  I create posts for the company’s social media platforms and work with a team of communications specialists to ensure we raise awareness of how the company’s daily work supports its mission of “peace of mind through better health.”

My path to BlueCross

I was raised in Atlanta and studied communications with a public relations focus at Berry College in Rome, Ga., about an hour outside of Chattanooga.

My interest in communications stems from my passion for writing, which led to my first job as reporter/editor for The Campus Carrier, Berry’s student-run newspaper. I taught myself photography and was given the opportunity to be a social media assistant for Berry’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts. During senior year, I also managed the social accounts for a superior court judge candidate in Rome.

BlueCross intern Saif Sarfani
Saif Sarfani

On a whim, I visited Chattanooga on a bitterly cold day this past January. While exploring the downtown area, I saw a sign for BlueCross. I had of course heard of BlueCross, but knew little beyond it being a health insurance provider.

I decided to look into open positions because, to be frank, I was a senior and needed a job after graduation. There was an opening for “Public Affairs and Corporate Communications Intern.”

My two immediate thoughts were:

  • “Wow, that’s a mouthful.”
  • “I don’t have a chance of making it at a big company like this.”

I applied nonetheless, and a few weeks later, interviewed with John Hawbaker, public affairs manager, via Skype. Thanks to my social media experience, in May I was invited to the campus for an in-person interview and to meet the corporate communications team. I learned about everyone’s roles and the purpose of all the company’s communications channels.

My time at Berry, with the paper and in class, provided opportunities to write strategically and concisely, and practice communications from an integrated standpoint. For example, I learned that it took different layers of planning and execution to manage a brand or launch a new campaign. Writing social media copy and taking pictures as an official representative of the college was a point of pride. It taught me about the importance of having a consistent brand voice to engage our target audience, which informs my role at BCBST.

I focus on public-facing content for Better Tennessee, BlueCross Insights and WellTuned, and internal “clients” like our Medicaid and Medicare lines of business.

Though some of my responsibilities at Berry and BlueCross are similar, I’ve gained experience writing press releases and executive bios, monitoring our social accounts for comments that need a response, and creating reports for campaigns. Recently, I’ve been planning our social media content roll-out for the next month and preparing to write my first BlueCross employee profile piece.

I even dressed as BC Bear, the company’s mascot, for a video created for employees.

When paths intersect

Although summer internships are more common, many departments within BlueCross employ interns year-round. I spoke with two who work in information services (IS), Luis Chunga and Ciara Nelson, about their experiences.

BlueCross intern Luis Chunga
Luis Chunga, information security intern

A native of Peru and graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Luis joined the inter-plan systems support wing of IS as an intern in May.

“Experience is very important to me,” Luis says. “That includes working with real-world projects and real problems.”

“I contributed to an in-house developed software package that allows different business areas to track and calculate incentive measurements for employees who work in claims and customer service.”

Though he recently returned to MTSU to complete his Masters of Science in Information Technology, Luis will miss the outdoor options Chattanooga has to offer – as well as the opportunity to freely share ideas and speak his mind, which he found surprising at such a large organization.

“Even as an intern, my voice was always heard,” he says. “I was even given opportunities to interact with senior-level executives and talk about my work.” 

Originally from Memphis, Ciara graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she learned about career opportunities at BlueCross. In May she began an internship with the enterprise business solutions team.

BlueCross intern Ciara Nelson
Ciara Nelson, information security intern

“A lot of people I knew from school were hired here full time,” she says. “When they talked about their experience, they always started with a smile. I think that really reflects the BlueCross company culture.”

Ciara was an operations officer in the Army National Guard for a decade, but wanted a career change. BlueCross was the right fit. 

“A former intern and one of my mentors, Richard Booker, is helping me navigate the right path to becoming a good business process management developer,” she says. “The tech tools we use on a regular basis are HP Application Lifecycle Management (ALM), IBM Rational Team Concert (RTC), IBM Process Designer and IBM Urban Code Deployment (UCD). I’ve been using ALM to manage an application from its initial project planning stage to testing and deployment. I’ve also found that RTC is helpful to get reports that show results and work items by priority and project activity.”

Ciara plans to pursue a career as an applications developer at BlueCross and complete a Master’s of Business Administration in Information Technology. Her internship is scheduled to wrap in May 2019.

“I would suggest those interested in an internship just go for it – it’s a great opportunity,” Ciara says. “You’ll be exposed to many different environments and can determine the best fit for you.”

Where the path leads 

Meeting fellow interns like Luis and Ciara helped me understand how other departments operate and contribute to the BlueCross mission. It also showed me that it takes enthusiasm, passion and an “all hands on deck” attitude to run a company efficiently.

After completing this internship, I hope to become a communications specialist, earn APR accreditation from the Public Relations Society of America and return to school like Luis and Ciara, only to pursue a master’s degree in marketing.

Even though I’m only a few months in, BlueCross has provided me a wealth of opportunities to learn new things in communications , showed me how health care is connected to community outreach and legislation, and helped me determine my ideal career trajectory.

Interested in working at BlueCross? Learn where you might be a good fit by exploring our Careers page.

About Saif Sarfani, Corporate Communications Intern

A photo of the authorSaif is a recent graduate of Berry College and has worked in journalism and social media marketing for higher education and politics. He hopes to become a communications specialist in the future.

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