Christopher Palmero Motivated By Centene's Focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Christopher Palmero joined Centene in 2018 as a Contract Negotiator and is now Manager of Contracting and Network Development. He is also a Co-President of Centene’s Employee Inclusion Group (EIG) cPRIDE and recently was named EIG Leader of the Year at Centene’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) and Health Equity Summit.
In the following Q&A, Christopher discusses his role, the importance of allyship and the ability to bring your authentic self to work, and the critical role of Centene’s EIGs.
Q. Tell us about your background, your career at Centene, and your current role as Manager, Contracting & Network Development.
A. I graduated with a degree in Business Administration – Marketing from the University of Missouri. I initially worked as a District Manager and managed a large territory for a global company, then moved back to St. Louis where I lived for most of my life.
My Centene career started in May 2018 as a Contract Negotiator for the Internal Contracting Team. I had an opportunity for a career pivot and became a Provider Systems Trainer for an application being used by negotiators. I developed training materials and also traveled to health plans rolling out the application and training users. I was promoted to a Senior Trainer role, where I was able to overhaul our department’s onboarding processes, bolster the teams’ knowledge of the Medicare product, and help stand up the Tennessee Ambetter Team and a national contracting team at corporate. I currently serve as Manager, Contracting and Network Development, where I manage a team of Contract Coordinators and initiatives across numerous markets in partnership with several departments.
My role is dedicated to process alignment and improvement, as well as project management for my direct team and greater department. We are working on bulking our Medicare networks and other initiatives in preparation for reprocurements. I enjoy taking the knowledge gained from my previous roles and laying out a clear path forward for the team’s success.
Q. What is the most meaningful part of your job?
A. Without a doubt, the most meaningful part of my job is growing the skills of the employees on my team to help move their careers forward and achieve their goals. It’s so easy to get caught up in your day-to-day work and forget to ask about what parts of the job the employees like and dislike. I find so much joy aligning my team to new projects and tasks that allow their natural abilities to blossom.
Q. What motivates you most as you look at opportunities for growth for Centene?
A. What motivates me most is the new direction that I see Centene going. We are putting major emphasis, support, and action behind addressing policies impacting our employees directly. Seeing the emphasis around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as a core part of Centene’s mission and as a way to reflect the diversity of our membership populations in our employee populations, is really inspiring.
Q. Who influenced you most during your career and why?
A. One of my biggest influences is a dear friend who has worked as a corporate executive at companies in St. Louis and globally. The impact of seeing someone who identifies as LGBTQIA+ in a position of leadership has truly helped me break down my fears of being an out and proud leader in the workplace.
Q. How is Centene’s approach to DEI different from other companies?
A. From day one at Centene, I felt like I could bring my authentic self to work, which is something I haven’t felt I could do in previous jobs. Centene’s visible commitment to DEI in the workplace and outright communication to team members about having a diverse workforce felt revolutionary. In other companies it is mentioned, but at Centene it is a core piece of our culture and the work we do.
Q. Tell us about why you became involved with the cPRIDE EIG and your role as Co-President?
A. When I came to Centene in 2018, I was fresh out of a layoff and a role where I was hiding my identity from most people in my professional life because it did not feel comfortable or safe to disclose my identity or be my authentic self. Flash forward to my first day at Centene where I walked into the most diverse team I had ever been on. I can honestly say I knew within the first day that I would be welcomed and celebrated by my peers and my leaders as my authentic self. The support and acceptance in a professional setting was something that I had never experienced and that feeling is something I felt obligated to harness and bring to every department across the enterprise. I joined the cPRIDE EIG as a member first, then as Co-Chair of Membership Engagement and Communications, and finally Co-President.
Becoming Co-President of cPRIDE has reinvigorated my sense of duty to bring support and acceptance to LGBTQIA+ employees. Every person, LGBTQIA+ or not, is on their own path to finding their authentic self and sharing that authentic self with the world. I firmly believe that the more we do to celebrate diversity and what makes us each unique individuals, the more we realize the benefits of different perspectives and the value they bring. As cPRIDE Co-President, I want to leverage that same power of diverse thought present on the cPRIDE leadership team to bring forth meaningful progress, programming, and resources to our employees, and where possible, our members and providers.
Q. What is the importance of allyship to you, and how can employees be better allies?
A. Allyship is so important, and not just to the LGBTQIA+ community, but to every single underrepresented and marginalized community on this planet. When you stand up and actively support another person by educating yourself and learning about their point of view, you show them that they matter. In a world where enemies of diversity are uniting people based on hate, it is so important that we work to unite and support one another for who we are.
Employees can be better allies by joining the EIGs. People Leaders can be better allies by actively encouraging their employees to get involved in an EIG. The EIGs programming and resources are being created by and for the employee audience, and you can learn so much by participating in an event or reading their announcements. The EIGs are for everyone, you don’t have to identify as part of the community that the group represents to join as an ally and learn.
Q. What are your thoughts on the significance of Pride Month?
A. Pride Month and its events are far reaching in their significance. On one hand, these events commemorate and honor the impactful events, movements, and activists who have fought for and paved the way for the advancement of LGBTQIA+ rights we know today. On the other hand, these events show the significance of the size of the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies. Showing up and showing out shows those still in the closet who may not have support that there are people like them in the world. It also shows institutions of power the amount of love and support within our community in a way that cannot be ignored.