CVS Health Chief Diversity Officer David Casey's path has been an exciting one: he grew up in the Midwest, joined the U.S. Marine Corps at the age of 19, and now he's part of a Fortune 12 company transforming before our eyes.
Though Casey has lived in Rhode Island since he joined CVS Health in 2010 (and after eight years working as Chief Diversity Officer at WellPoint), he was born and raised in Indianapolis. He met his wife of 24 years in high school there and his extended family remains there.
"I grew up in the inner city. My formative years happened to coincide with a rapid increase in gang activity in the inner city, so I was exposed to some rough situations at a young age," the Marine explains. Even so, he went to one of the most selective private K-12 schools in the area– Park Tudor School – and was instructed by Ivy League-educated teachers. "I was exposed to all kinds of diversity at a very early age thanks to my parents, who worked ' hard to put me through private school." He credits his family with making the most impact on his life.
David Casey, CVS, Marine David Casey, in Kuwait during the first Gulf War
Casey's father never made it past high school, but always stressed the importance of education, whether formal or informal. That value is something that has driven him throughout his entire life. "The one characteristic I look for in my team members is a hunger for continuous learning and growing." A value he's grown to appreciate more over the years, but didn't always adhere to early in life. He received a basketball scholarship offer from Washington and Lee and ended up "throwing it in the trash can. Casey can now look back on that decision with a smile, "It's a very good school, but I didn't know that at age 18. I was waiting on Georgetown or Kentucky to call, but they didn't seem too interested."
His parents couldn't afford to pay for college, so he decided to go to work to help – and to join the United States Marine Corps.
"I had this sense of duty. I would hear my father talk about his military experience," he says. He explains that his father would carry himself as Veteran – proud, despite not being wealthy with formal college degrees. "I have so much respect for all my brothers and sisters in the Armed Forces, but there's something about those Marine Corps uniforms," he laughs. He was also intrigued and motivated by the camaraderie.
"My military service taught me a lot. I matured quickly through that experience," he says, emphasizing his developed sense of accountability and responsibility at an early age. When he was just 19, he was the platoon guide in boot camp, which sometimes gave him accountability for the 70 other recruits when the drill instructors left him in charge. "I don't know that I would want my kids to follow the exact same path because there are easier paths. I don't know that I'd necessarily take the same path again if I had the choice, but I don't regret it."
During Operation Desert Storm he was in the Reserves and was activated the day before Thanksgiving that year. "It was an extra emotional Thanksgiving." The main things he took away from that war? "Perspective and priority. You're flying into a combat zone and you don't know from one minute to the next how much more living you have to do." He recalls driving through a minefield thinking his life could end at any moment. "When you go through something like that, it makes something like cutting your budget by 10 percent seem like nothing."
Casey has transferred the skills he developed in the Corps to the corporate world, working in retail, staffing, advertising and insurance industries, before his time at CVS Health. The idea that "the mission is not done until the mission is done" helps him in his daily duties. As Chief Diversity Officer, he tries to understand the dynamics of people and how we can best engage each other. He works to build a strong community through the company's Valor colleague resource group, which currently includes about 400 members – veterans and their supporters – nationwide.
"It's a blessing and an honor for me to still be able to serve the military community as a civilian." He is helping CVS Health to be a leader in health care across a diverse U.S. customer base, as well as an international market, due to the company's recent acquisition of a drug store chain in Brazil. He enjoys working with people on both a personal and professional level. One day he may have a White House meeting with the President and First Lady and the next he's helping to build a veteran's home. "I love that no two days are ever the same. If you can't get excited about being part of a Fortune 12 company transforming itself, you need to check your pulse."
Casey advises current uniformed service members and veterans looking to enter the corporate world to learn to effectively articulate their transferable skills. Skills and traits such as The sense of accountability and ownership that military members hold are an asset to any company. In addition, his leadership strategy follows the mantra, "your team is only as strong as its weakest link." His advice to new service members? "Strive to learn something new every day. You will take the majority of those skills into the civilian world in one way or another."
Besides continuing his work with CVS Health, Casey is a big sports fan. He enjoys reading diversity-related books and traveling with his family. A proud father of three, he reminds everyone that "it's important not to forget the military families. The person serving in uniform is not the only one serving."
Image Credit: David Casey