Vimala Suresh Shares Importance of Never Doubting Your Capabilities
May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and Centene is spotlighting AAPI leaders who are making a difference. Vimala Suresh joined Centene in 2009 as a lead for Quality Assurance and is now Senior Director of Information Technology. She is also a member of the St. Louis Business Diversity Initiative Fellows Experience Program (SLBDI) Executive Steering Committee and Centene’s Women’s Employee Inclusion Group I.N.S.P.I.R.E. Learn more in the Q&A below as Vimala spotlights her role, perspectives on the many opportunities for team members to grow their careers at Centene, and the importance of never doubting your capabilities.
Q. Tell us about your background, your career at Centene, and your current role as Senior Director, IT?
A. I earned a bachelor’s degree in commerce and law in Mumbai, India. I also completed a diploma in software development. I then decided to start my career in IT. I started off as a developer but then worked as a Quality Assurance Tester. I have been with Centene for 13 years and have learned so much during this time. I moved into a leadership role in Centene Technologies, and today I am responsible for leading POTS (Platform Orchestration Technology and Services), DevOps Tools, Release Automation, QCOE (Quality Center of Excellence), Production Control, and Environment Management. I am also a member of the SLBDI Executive Steering Committee and I.N.S.P.I.R.E.
Q. What is the most meaningful part of your job?
A. Being part of a company that provides care to those who need it the most means a lot to me. Every area on my team impacts the experience of our members and providers in some form. Quality Assurance, Release Automation, Environmental Management and DevOps — a set of practices that combines software development and IT operations — helps with getting a good quality release to production. Through a couple of platforms our teams provide, we are able to help member, provider, authorization and claims data reach our end users — members, providers, employees — in real time. Last but not least, through batch and managed file transfers we are able to get data processed internally, as well as sent to states to meet service-level agreements. Helping my teams get to the next level so we can continue improving the end-user experience is very important to me. As a leader, supporting the career growth of my employees is rewarding.
Q. Who influenced you most during your career and why?
A. I am fortunate to have had and continue to have the opportunity to work with awesome leaders and mentors. The open-door policy and down-to-earth nature of the leaders I work with is amazing. You take away strengths from each one and work to make that your own.
On a personal note, in my early years at Centene, I held myself back as I have a son with special needs, and I did not think I could continue to grow as a leader and manage personal life effectively. My motto has always been to give my best to anything I do. A leader I worked with early on, Brad Willcut, said I should never doubt myself or my capabilities and should take on a managerial role as I was essentially doing the same as a lead. I took his advice and took on a leadership role and have never looked back.
I have had very supportive leaders throughout my career. I have a very strong support system in my family, for which I am very grateful. The SLBDI program also made a huge difference, and I was lucky to be a part of it. You leave the program with so much information — it’s awesome.
Q. How is Centene’s approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion different from other companies?
A. There is a genuine focus and drive to make Centene a diverse workplace and help foster and support employees to continue growing. Over the years, many programs, councils, and groups have evolved that enable people to learn from each other. Trainings are available to enlighten everyone about unconscious bias. This is important as you not only become aware but are also given resources to overcome it.
Q. Tell us about why you became involved with the I.N.S.P.I.R.E. Employee Inclusion Group?
A. The reason I became part of I.N.S.P.I.R.E. is to learn and also provide support. The focus of this group is to help women develop as leaders so they can take on leadership opportunities at different levels of the organization. My advice is: You have the opportunity to learn and grow here, take advantage of it. If you realize being a leader does not energize you, you have the opportunity to do something else.
Q. Can you talk about the importance of technology to enhance care to our members and the communities we serve?
A. In the last decade, technology has become an integral part of human life. New things develop every day, which is all the more reason Centene needs to stay in the forefront. Using technology, we are now able to get our health information on our mobile devices through other apps and/or from a previous payer like Humana, Aetna, etc. With COVID-19, we were able to provide telehealth services quickly. You can leverage machine learning to understand patterns and predict future events. This helps healthcare professionals focus on patient care and provide value, which helps reduce health disparities. There are many more examples and it continues to evolve.
Q. What are your thoughts on the significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?
A. The significance is to celebrate different cultures that are part of Centene and recognize the accomplishments of people from those cultures. It is also to acknowledge how Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have contributed and enriched American society and culture. This highlights Centene’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, which has become part of our DNA.