This Fall I Am Not Going Back to School

Well, this is weird.  All over people are going back to school.  I even have friends who have been in school for almost a month already.  The University of Denver begins its Autumn Quarter the first Monday after Labor Day.  That would be today – i.e. since 2006, I’ve been back in college today.  But not this year.

Apparently, when you graduate you know longer go to school.  Who knew?  Just kidding – but it really is a strange feeling.  I thought in May/June that graduation would really hit me today.  I’m not sure if it has.  I guess I’ve understood for some time that I would not be returning to DU. Searching for a job for months probably drove that home.

Today does feel strange though.  As I write this, I am on a plane flying to New Orleans.  When I post this I will be in a hotel in Baton Rouge.  Last year at this time I was in classes at the Daniels College of Business or working at the Center for Multicultural Excellence.  I’ve moved on. I’ve grown up.  For the first time since I started school (a.k.a. before I can remember) this fall I do not go to school.

I guess it is time to apply what I’ve been learning all these years.  Maybe it is fitting then that this afternoon, I have a big meeting with a provider.  Maybe it is fitting that I spent Saturday giving advice to Scouts and being told how old I am (more on these last two comments in a later post).

I certainly will not take for granted all that I have learned and experienced throughout my years of education.  I am so fortunate to have had the opportunities I have had.  My time at the University of Denver, specifically, and the people I met there was more than I ever could have asked for.  Hopefully I am working now to be able to give others the same experiences – and I know my education is far from complete.

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First Week On The Job

I recently completed my first week working at Centene Corporation.  It was a good week and I am happy with my job so far.  Working full-time is certainly a change.  I am definitely not used to being somewhere at 8:00 a.m. every morning (if not earlier) and doing the whole work thing all day.  It is going to take some adjusting, but I am enjoying myself after the first week.  Hopefully I will continue to do so.

Week one started with orientation.  I saw the videos and presentations on policies, procedures, standards, etc.  As the week progressed, I got setup with my equipment, sat in on meetings, and began to understand more about what my role as Contract Negotiator is.  I spent a good amount of time on the phone with the Service Desk getting everything set up.  I still am waiting to get setup in some systems (e.g. expense reports), but I am well on the way.

My second day on the job I was listening in on a conference call and sitting in on a meeting.  By the end, some of it was making sense 🙂  I’ve also had my first WebEx meeting in a corporate setting.  I’ve got a company laptop, BlackBerry, and aircard, and should receive my corporate American Express card soon.

As a Contract Negotiator I am building provider networks for managed Medicaid plans.  I have been assigned to help develop the network for Louisiana.  As such, I will be spending much of my time on the road traveling around Louisiana.  I will be functioning as a Network Development Specialist for Louisiana Healthcare Connections – a Centene subsidiary.  It is headquartered in Baton Rouge.

My job has best been described as follows: when you enroll in a health insurance program, you may be given a book of providers (doctors, clinics, hospitals, etc.) that you can visit and which are covered by your insurance.  My role is to get those providers to be in the book.  From what I’ve gathered around the office, there are a lot of pieces to making that happen.  Some are designated by the company and some are designated by the state.  I will be interacting with quite a few corporate departments including legal, credentialing, business development, and more.

The people are great so far.  Most people do seem to be older than me, but that’s okay.  And I’m sure there are more people to meet.  My first business travel begins tomorrow morning.  I’m headed to New Orleans and then around Louisiana.  Hopefully I’ll have an even better idea of where I will plug in when I get back Thursday night.  I’m sure I have a lot to learn. 🙂

Pre-Work Update (with Denver Trip)

I start working full-time on Monday!  What a crazy idea… I’m excited, nervous, anxious, hopeful, scared – just about everything.  I am confident that my job with Centene Corporation is going to be a great next step in this life journey.  I’ve had a few weeks since accepting the job offer from Centene to get back in touch with people and begin the process of re-establishing myself in St. Louis.  It seems like it will be a long process, but I am looking forward to rekindling friendships and building new ones.  Things sure have changed here in the past five years.

I had planned on making a trip to Denver (if I wasn’t going to be working there) before beginning work and it worked out for me to spend about a week in Denver recently.  It was great spending time with friends and seeing the University of Denver again before I begin my professional life.  I was also able to spend time with people who I had hoped to see before leaving Denver but timing with finals and graduation prevented it.  I’m glad that happened.

I had a “mental checklist” for my time in Denver.  Everything I had hoped would happen happened and then some.  It was a great time!  I spent time with my “adopted” Denver family, the Cohen’s.  I went camping off of Guanella Pass with some friends where we also went hiking and met some really great people (including some from England and Ireland).  Camping there was really fun though.  I was at Chabad for Mendel’s 10th birthday.  I went out downtown with friends around LoDo.  Several of us went up to Loveland to visit another friend.  We went swimming and bought a slip ‘n’ slide at Wal-Mart.  We felt grown up (haha), but it was a lot of fun!  I hung out with a friend around Capital Hill.  I went camping with my cousins at Chatfield Reservoir. I spent a day and a half around DU seeing more friends and people I used to work with.

I was able to spend time with some great people during my time in Denver.  I hope that we are all able to stay in touch and continue to be a part of each others’ lives as we all begin this next stage of life.

This weekend will be quite busy as I spend time with old friends and begin the process of making new ones.  After an amazing week in Denver, I am hopeful that this next step in St. Louis will continue my trend of fortunate and blessed experiences.  I am excited for what the future holds.  Thank you to everyone who has, continues to, and will be a part of my life!

I Have a Job! – Here Are The Details

Good news!  After a job search that was significantly longer and more difficult than I anticipated, I finally have a job!  I’m pretty excited! Even better – I had the opportunity to make a choice (although it was an extraordinarily difficult one): over the past week I had three job offers from which to choose!

So, here are the details:

Starting August 8, 2011, I will working for Centene Corporation as a Contract Negotiator.  Centene (more information below) is a Fortune 500 managed healthcare company based in St. Louis, Missouri.  I will be reporting to the Director of Contracting and Network Development.

My role is to be part of the team responsible for building provider networks for Medicaid and other managed plans.  Centene manages plans for state governments.  I will be building relationships with healthcare providers (starting with doctors/doctor organizations and clinics and moving to hospitals and more complex entities), putting proposals together for state governments, and if Centene’s proposal is selected, negotiating terms of relationships between healthcare providers and Centene.  I will be working on provider setup and training as well.

There are a lot of elements to the position: negotiating, business development, analysis, proposal writing, reporting, project management, training, legal, compliance, strategy, etc.  I will be based in the company’s headquarters.  The position includes travel up to 70-80% of the time (during the week).

There should be a lot of opportunities for growth – Centene is looking to double in size in the next 3-5 years.  The Network Development team, of which I will be a part, is going to be key to making that happen.

About Centene Corporation:

Centene Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, is a leading multi-line healthcare enterprise that provides programs and related services to the rising number of under-insured and uninsured individuals. Many receive benefits provided under Medicaid, including the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), as well as Aged, Blind or Disabled (ABD), Foster Care and long-term care, in addition to other state-sponsored programs, and Medicare (Special Needs Plans). Centene’s CeltiCare subsidiary offers states unique, “exchange based” and other cost-effective coverage solutions for low-income populations. The Company operates local health plans and offers a range of health insurance solutions. It also contracts with other healthcare and commercial organizations to provide specialty services including behavioral health, life and health management, managed vision, telehealth services, and pharmacy benefits management.

I will post some of my thoughts on interviewing/the job search soon in a separate post, but here are some of the basic statistics that I calculated based on my applications and the responses I received:

Location of Job % of total jobs applied for
St. Louis 44.4%
Denver 15.8%
Washington DC 21.1%
Chicago 3.7%
Other/Multiple Location Options 15.1%

I heard back (either for an interview or to tell me that I was rejected) from 31.5% of the places I applied.  I interviewed for 33 positions. I’ve had four job offers and several more opportunities that could have resulted in job offer had I pursued them.

This has been a long and difficult process and I am certainly glad that it is over.  I am excited about the opportunity to join Centene Corporation as a Contract Negotiator.  Here’s to the future!

Life Update From The Past Month +

It has been quite some time since I’ve written a regular blog post on here.  May and the beginning of June just flew by!  The end of college came and went – way too quickly!  I am hoping to start doing a better job of blogging again now.  In the meantime, I figured I would give some updates on what I have been up to during the past month and half or so (In no particular order).  I don’t know if anyone will read this, but just in case…

  • I graduated.
  • I co-chaired the University of Denver’s 10th Annual Diversity Summit on Inclusive Excellence.
  • Earlier (end of April) I competed in the University of Denver’s Inclusive Excellence Case Competition. Life got really busy though and I never wrote about that experience, but my team developed a comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategy for MolsonCoors, focusing on its international business units.
  • I have gotten to know some amazing people.  This includes quite a good number of the international (specifically Chinese) students at the Daniels College of Business.  I am so happy for the opportunity to become friends with so many great people.
  • I went to a protocol dinner.  I have never had sorbet between courses or three wine pairings at one meal.  I don’t even know if I have ever even had a wine pairing… 🙂
  • I attended part of TEDxDU.  There were some pretty awesome speakers.
  • I completed group papers that involved meetings with and research into Vail Resorts (on human resource strategy) and Love Grown Foods (on business sustainability).
  • I saw the University of Denver’s lacrosse team play in the NCAA final four game… on TV.
  • A friend and I created a Wiki with extensive research and best practices about onboarding and orientation programs.
  • I met up with several friends who came back to visit Denver.
  • I went by the Native Student Alliance’s Pow Wow at the University of Denver.  It was awesome and I wish I could have stayed longer.
  • I went to a Cardinals vs. Rockies game at Coors Field.
  • I went bowling and played laser tag with my cousins in Littleton.
  • I had funnel cake. 🙂
  • A friend and I wanted to go camping, but unfortunately that did not happen.  Apparently finals meant there would be a lot of work to do…
  • I worked with a team as part of my MBA capstone class on a feasibility study/business plan for the creation of a Neurology Clinical Pharmacy Specialist (PharmD) position at Denver Health.  We presented to the Associate COOs and several other executives at Denver Health.  The formal ask will be made soon.
  • I have subscribed to Fortune, Fast Company, The Economist, and several other magazines.  I need to stay current and engaged to be competitive and innovative in the marketplace and to engage in intelligent conversation.
  • I went to a lot of goodbye dinners.  Some on the same night.
  • I went to a pool party.
  • I smiled.
  • I cried a little.
  • I laughed a lot.
  • I left my position at the Center for Multicultural Excellence.
  • I moved back to St. Louis.
  • I have been catching up with friends at home.
  • I have been debating going to Las Vegas with some friends but plane tickets are really expensive.
  • I am trying to figure out my future – weighing options, balancing priorities, etc.
  • I have been applying for a lot of jobs and have had several interviews lately.  I am hoping that some positive progress might happen in regards to my future very soon.

That’s a lot.  And there is a lot more.  Hopefully, I will have time to post updates on life, what I am thinking, and interesting things I come across online.

Student Employee of the Year Nomination

My awesome supervisors at the Center for Multicultural Excellence nominated me for the Student Employee of the Year Award at the University of Denver.  The Office of Student Employment has highlighted the nominated students on their blog.  Here is what they wrote about me:

Joel Portman far exceeds expectations. Not only is he reliable and exacting in his work, the 2011 Student Employee of the Year Nominee has implemented processes that improve the overall quality of work at the University of Denver Center for Multicultural Excellence, according to his nominators, Johanna Leyba, Assistant Provost for Inclusive Excellence, and Thomas Walker, Program Director of Intergroup Relations.

Leyba and Walker attest Portman has built a strong network of student leaders, administrators, faculty and staff, which he draws upon to encourage engagement in CME projects. During a staff change, Portman stepped up, handling the organization of key CME programs, including the 2011 Diversity SummitVoices of Discovery, and the Diversity and Unity Retreat. Portman plans to graduate in June through the 4/1 program. He will have earned a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and master’s in Business Administration.