Tag Archives: great customer service

Tawil in front of Kmart

First Job: Mark El-Tawil, President of Arizona Market, Humana Inc.

Mark El-Tawil
President, Arizona Market, Humana Inc.

Describe your very first job and what lessons you learned from it.
My first job was as a pre-opening stock clerk at Kmart. It was in the small town where I grew up and went to college, and Kmart was about the only place an unskilled worker like myself could get a good job! That job paid 30 cents over minimum wage, the shift started at 7 a.m. — or earlier — daily, we could be scheduled for any day (weekends and holidays included), and we were considered the bottom of the Kmart totem pole — but it was a great first job. I learned the value of money, the importance of working hard and of having a good attitude about work, and that everyone wins when you try to deliver great customer service, as well as the power of positive reinforcement through my Employee of the Month awards (I don’t usually gloat, but that was “awards” — three of ‘em!).

Describe your first job in your industry and what you learned from it.
My introduction to the health care industry came in my first professional position after moving to Arizona. I was an auditor with Deloitte predecessor, Touche Ross, in Phoenix. That was a great first professional job. It introduced me to many industries, one of which was health care, while working among an incredibly talented group of highly motivated, fun-loving individuals. From Deloitte, I left to help build a financial analysis team at a health care client of mine, and after some time advancing through finance roles, including CFO, I moved into the lead general management role. In that position I gained a broader perspective of the industry and the companies in it, and ultimately decided to make the move to Humana in 2008.

What were your salaries at both of these jobs?
Kmart paid $3.65 an hour to start, with a raise to $3.90 an hour after 90 days if you had a favorable review of your probationary period (which I did, thankfully!). As an auditor at Touche Ross, my starting salary was $25,000 a year, and I got company-paid health insurance benefits for the first time.

Who is your biggest mentor and what role did he or she play?
My parents, grandparents and in-laws all played crucial roles in my development as a person, which has enabled me to be a good businessperson. Beyond mentors though, I believe that I have learned, and will continue to learn, from everyone for whom I have worked, as well as from everyone who has worked for me.

What advice would you give to a person just entering your industry?
Be open to and ready for change! This is a dynamic, fast-moving industry in a constantly changing environment, so the ability to foresee changes, the impact of change and to adapt to new environments is critical.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing instead?
I’d either be playing basketball full time (for love or money — this is a fantasy question, right?) or be deep(er) into wine, either as a winemaker myself or … as a buyer for an international beverage conglomerate.