Damali Curry leads learning in fresh position at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

Photo contributed by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee / Damali Curry is the first chief learning officer for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

As the first chief learning officer for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Damali Curry will help shape the education and development of employees from recruitment throughout their careers at the insurer – a job that will mean plenty of learning for her, as well.

"I do have an entrepreneurial spirit – for many years I ran my own business," says Curry, who ran a recruiting firm in Atlanta before she came to BlueCross as a contractor three years ago. "Not being afraid of trying something new is important."

Particularly in a competitive talent market, it's important to offer candidates a workplace where they can grow and develop, Curry says, and the creation of this role will ensure BlueCross has that as a clear goal for its workforce.

"We want a great retention model so that we're not just bringing in great talent, but retaining them," Curry says. "We do that by developing them. The position they started in may not be where they end up."

Before she builds anything new, though, Curry is busy identifying programs that already work and ensuring they continue to thrive, she says.

"There are many programs we've had for many years," she says. "Our tuition reimbursement program is above industry standards and pays up to $10,000 a year employees can use toward education. You can go back and get your degree and create more marketability for yourself within the company."

Damali Curry

* Role: Chief learning officer for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee* Hometown: Curry is from Reedville in Northumberland County, Virginia, and was baptized in the Chesapeake Bay.* Family: Curry’s son is in the Navy and stationed in San Diego.

She also points to the recently launched BlueSky Institute partnership BlueCross runs with East Tennessee State University as an example of the ways the company invests in meeting talent needs and ensuring employees progress. The program gives students interested in technology careers accelerated schedules that earn them four-year technology degrees in 27 months as well as a shot at careers with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

"We're not the only company that may have trouble finding IT talent," Curry says. "We have created an educational opportunity to grow the talent from young people and bring them in for professional experience and education so hopefully they stay with us."

Experiential learning is a major focus of hers, and she hopes to develop learning opportunities and programs that go far beyond computer-based trainings and modules, Curry says.

"Our long-term goal is to help ensure we develop a learning culture," she says. "How we create a learning culture is not always about training modules – it can be other experiences, learning from each other."