A Day in the Life: Software Development Apprentice Sara Mellott

 |  Chase McConnell

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CoverMyMeds software developers bring our mission to life by making our platform more efficient and easier to use, which in turn helps patients more quickly get the medication they need to live healthy lives.

In this edition of “A Day in the Life,” we spoke with Sara Mellott, a software development apprentice who’s held a variety of roles within the healthcare industry and CoverMyMeds.

Prior to her software development apprenticeship, Sara worked as an account coordinator, assisting those using CoverMyMeds to navigate the prior authorization (PA) process. We talked to her about what brought her to CoverMyMeds and why she chose to switch from design to software development.

(Editor: Sara’s comments were lightly edited for length and clarity.)

Why did you pick CoverMyMeds as the next step in your career?

During college, I worked at a convenience store for a part-time job. Eventually that turned into a full-time position when my boss asked if anyone wanted to be trained as a pharmacy technician. I was looking for more of a challenge and went for it. In that role, I worked with the CoverMyMeds platform, and once the career opportunities at my old job were exhausted, I thought CoverMyMeds would be a great place to work. I had only heard rave reviews from people who worked there, so I gave it a shot. I applied for the account coordinator position — and got it! As an account coordinator, I assisted CoverMyMeds users as they navigated the PA process and the appeal process when their PAs were denied.

How did you decide to switch to software development after your time as an account coordinator?

That’s an interesting question. I really enjoyed being an account coordinator — it was a great way to have an impact on patients’ lives. But I was also ready for a new challenge. By total chance, I ended up attending an arts and crafts event where I met a software developer. We chatted for a while and she showed me what she did. It really piqued my interest. One thing that stuck with me was that she related it to writing a book. I had just completed my graphic novel, which happened to be funded by our employee grant program, CoverMyQuest. The similarities between art and coding became evident, and I was hooked.

I reached out to the recruiters for some of the open software development positions and before I had even received a response, my current boss reached out to me since he heard I was interested in coding. Based on the subsequent conversation, he decided to start a stretch project that I could participate in while I was still an account coordinator.

During the stretch program, I was able to teach myself Ruby, a programming language, and the basics of Ruby on Rails. After it was over, I realized how much I enjoyed what I had been doing, so I continued to learn and practice coding on my own time to get ready for an open position.

Once the apprentice position opened, I immediately applied and ended up getting the job. The opportunity to learn during my stretch project set me up for success when looking to advance my career.

I know a “typical day” is hard to come by, but even so, what is your typical day like as a software development apprentice?

Days aren’t really structured, and if you get your work done, it’s very relaxed. In terms of a typical day, two to three days a week I get personal one-on-one time with my manager and I get to use that as dedicated development coaching time.

We also have a daily huddle where we determine what work is currently happening, what work needs done and who needs help. It’s a great, collaborative environment and, even though you may think of developers as introverts, we’re always willing to help each other learn and get the job done. This has really helped me get more confident with my work and has allowed me to tackle more work on my own, which is a great feeling.

After lunch, we’ll have our sporadic meetings, but it’s largely the time where everyone is working. We call it “heads down time,” where people either work solo or pair up, and we’re just cranking out the code. I also get to use some of that time to develop my own skills and learn. My team is helpful when it comes to learning how to code and they’re always around to answer questions.

How does your work impact our mission of getting patients the medications they need to live healthy lives?

Our code empowers CoverMyMeds employees and healthcare providers to help patients with rare diseases or those who need expensive medications. It helps patients not only get the medications they need, but also help them stay on therapy and combat the disease they live with every day. It’s because of code, which creates this platform and gives these patients a chance. Every time we improve the program a little more, their care is always being improved. Everything we do cascades down through other parts of our business and helps the patients.

For example, we have improved our intake process so we can help new patients get connected to our case managers even faster, which makes all the difference when dealing with potentially life-threatening diseases and helps the patient stay on their therapy.

Being a developer, if we can make the process faster, they can get on their medication faster and combat the illness. Everything we do helps our patients.

Why is CoverMyMeds your Best Place to Work and Grow?

I came from a place where there wasn’t much of an opportunity to grow your career, much less diverge from the path I was already on. In previous positions, if I wanted to switch my career path, I was told I needed to go to college and get a different degree.

At CoverMyMeds, the opportunities I had to learn something new, either through a stretch project or through professional development time, and do it professionally, is not something I’ve seen elsewhere. Most places say you need a degree or prior experience to do this, whereas at CoverMyMeds, I was told that if I was able to put in the effort to learn while on the job, I could do it. Most other companies wouldn’t take the chance, but CoverMyMeds allowed me to do just that.

Being able to learn something new and turn it into a career is something I will always appreciate.

Which of our core values would you say most resonates with you?

I’d have to say Embrace Challenges. I need to be mentally stimulated and challenged in my work. When I embrace those challenges is when I thrive, and I’m always striving to do more and take on more responsibility. Software development started off as a challenge for me, and that’s what it is at its core. It’s trying to solve a problem — you may not even know what that problem is, but you have to figure out how to fix it. You’re constantly running into new challenges and fixing those. It’s really rewarding work.

What are you most excited for at our new campus?

I’m excited to finally meet my team in person! I started as an apprentice at the start of the pandemic, so I haven’t been able to work with them in person.

I’m most excited for the flexible working areas and all the open spaces. I don’t like sitting at a desk all day. Since work from home started, I’ve found myself moving throughout my apartment throughout the day. I like the idea of having all the open space and being able to choose where I want to get my work done throughout any given workday. I love going through the pictures and plans of the campus so I can map out my potential workdays.

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