Mark W. Faulkner
Vice President, Medicaid Operations
Education: Bachelor of Science, United States Military Academy at West Point
Company Name: Aetna, a CVS Health Company
Industry: Health Care
Company CEO: Karen S. Lynch
Company Headquarters Location: Hartford, Connecticut
Number of Employees: 47,950
Your Location (if different from above): Nashville, Tennessee
Words you live by: “Success is when hard work meets opportunity.” –Gaye Crispin
Who is your personal hero? Colin Powell
What book are you reading? Measure What Matters by John Doerr
What was your first job: Platoon Leader in the United States Army
Favorite charity: The Church at Avenue South, Nashville Rescue Mission, and American Cancer Society
Interests: Travel, cooking, foodie experiences, sports and exercise
Family: My wife, Tricia
Lessons and Milestones
I am honored to share the lessons and advice I have received over time that shape my leadership style and the path my career has taken across military service and in civilian life. I don’t think my younger self could have written the script of events, decisions, and experiences that are now part of my journey.
My first milestone came during a youth competitive soccer tournament, where I had an initial introduction to a coach on a scouting trip. The lesson I learned that day, and have carried forth ever since, is to work hard and show up as your best self because you never know who is watching.
That encounter started the chain of events that ultimately led to my next milestone—my admission to West Point and a military career filled with invaluable experiences. I learned about servant leadership—putting the well-being and development of people in the organization ahead of your own. I also learned the importance of a well-aligned team that understands Commander’s Intent. Essentially, this means defining what success looks like and empowering the team to use its initiative and ingenuity to achieve organizational goals, even during the most chaotic and uncertain times. Finally, no cadet experience or military career can be navigated without embracing attention to detail. It’s rare to trip over a big boulder, but the little rocks that can sneak up on you if you aren’t looking out for them.
The second milestone in my career journey was the decision to leave the military and enter civilian life. At the time, I was not able to articulate the lesson, but I have since learned from successful leaders and coaches to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I relied on that lesson often, as I advanced into roles of increasing responsibility.
Finally, through a series of key milestones that have helped defined the path of my career advancement, I experienced first-hand the distinction between mentorship and sponsorship. While mentors have provided sage advice, it has been senior leaders who advocated on my behalf that truly impacted my career trajectory, and reshaped how I think about my role as a leader and my desire to pay it forward.
While I could go on to share many other lessons I’ve gleaned throughout my career, I sincerely hope there is a nugget here for you to pick up. I’ll end with one final lesson I have learned as a black leader in today’s world: Set aside self-doubt and embrace self-affirmation. We all belong.
Be strong and courageous.