Alumni Spotlight:
Mark Stryker

Finance alum encourages change

For Mark Stryker, it's all about change.

There have always been institutions in the business world that have been resistant to change, but  instituting, implementing and successfully managing change has been the most rewarding aspect of Stryker's stellar career since he graduated from B&E with a finance degree in 1992.

"When you help organizations get to the point of realizing that change is not only required to have a healthy industry," he said, "but can also provide critical new ways for a single organization to compete and thrive, it is incredibly rewarding because it impacts the people you work side by side with every day. Most importantly, it positively impacts the people that you're there as a business to serve in the first place."

And he would know. Since 1995, Stryker has held C-level positions related to financial services in a number of companies. Currently, he is Senior Director of Strategic Investments at Florida Blue, Florida's Blue Cross and Blue Shield company.

"The majority of my career has been with smaller organizations that we've built up and, in many cases, sold off. I got an opportunity to take a journey with a larger company through a longtime friend and fellow West Virginian. Even though Florida Blue has a very long history, it is taking charge of its own destiny and reinventing itself as an innovative health solutions company," he said.

Mark is working with Florida Blue on everything from standard mergers and acquisitions to transformational initiatives in strategically investing the company's resources. Florida Blue's evolution to a health solutions model means a very heavy focus on the wants, needs and requirements of the consumer marketplace – areas in which traditional health insurers have historically not focused.

"You've got an industry that's in the midst of a complete reformation and transformation and the difference here is that the forward-thinking players like Florida Blue are the ones that are driving their own innovation and transformation, and creating their own destiny," he said. "It's an interesting time to be in the business."

The ebb and flow caused by industry change can be one of many factors that affect the health of the job market. But for job seekers, one thing will always remain the same, according to Stryker, who has served as part of the National Alumni Recruiting Network (NARN).

"Understanding the value you can bring to an organization; as in, what makes it really important that an organization brings you in as opposed to somebody else? Knowing your personal value proposition will never go out of style and it will always put you ahead of the crowd," he said.

He also stressed that it's OK to not have some details of your life figured out when you're in college or getting ready to graduate.

"Some of the best things that have happened to me happened because of having learned a lot both in my life and at B&E, and also because I was open to taking different journeys that I had not envisioned. In fact, many of those things are what paid me the highest dividends," he said.

Stryker said he felt lucky to be involved with two industries (financial services and health care) in the midst of transformation throughout the course of his career.

"It really makes you excited. You want to run into the office every day," he said. He now shares his expertise and his passion with others through Healthbox, a Florida Blue-sponsored, health-related business incubator which kicked off in in Jacksonville, Fla., in July.

"Working with new, fledgling entrepreneurs and bringing the lessons I have learned that may be of help to them, helping them learn how to engage within the health care system, is incredibly rewarding and a ton of fun," he said.

Stryker says many lessons learned at B&E still help him to this day, in particular Dr. Terry Rose's insurance class.

"He was able to make insurance very interesting. Lo and behold, all these years later, I'm working for an insurance company. He must have done something right in there," he said with a chuckle.

"I was one of those people who came to college not really knowing what I wanted to do. I changed my major many times. When I got into the business program, it was one of those pivotal moments. It was the formation and the foundation of understanding around what I wanted to do with my life. It was something I could really get excited about," Stryker said of his time at B&E.

It has been several years since Stryker has been to Morgantown, but he plans to visit this fall when the Texas Longhorns make their first visit to Mountaineer Field. Prior to his position at Florida Blue, he lived in Texas for a number of years where he has an active member in the Lone Star Alumni Chapter.

"It was a very involved chapter with a lot going for it. My wife Lindsay and our four children were able to see Mountaineer spirit done right. They had opportunities to wear all their Mountaineer gear and we were able to meet lots of folks who made the journey down from Morgantown to attend the games," he said. The family was able to enjoy WVU's inaugural year in the Big 12 Conference prior to moving to Florida.

"It was an amazing experience to see all the support that we received from the fans outside of Texas, as well as the fans inside of Texas. It was great to be able to get my family involved in the Mountaineer atmosphere first-person," Stryker said. "To be a Mountaineer means it's in your DNA to have a mindset of perseverance. It's just part of how you breathe. It's part of being a West Virginian. It's part of being an alumnus. Mountaineers tend to look at the world in a slightly different way and we tend to keep on going until we get what we want."