Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A.
Like many in her generation, Anne Cruz still has the Konami code memorized. It’s a popular cheat code originally used to activate power-ups and other bonuses in Nintendo games. Cruz used the sequence to score thirty extra lives in the run-and-gun shooter called Contra.
Although Cruz has always loved video games, her real passion is in discovering how things are made. Even as a child, she had an unending curiosity for the behind-the-scenes work that led to the creation of her favorite games and gadgets. She was also good at math and participated in science camps and fairs.
Fast forward, and Cruz has followed her interests and created a career in information technology (IT). Today, she’s an IT director at Walgreens, where she leads a team of dedicated professionals responsible for the delivery of products in the well-known store’s pharmacy platform.
Cruz, who is originally from the Philippines, came to the US in 2005 and worked as a consultant. She later joined Walgreens full time, and it’s the only employer she’s had in her adopted country. “I decided to join, and I’ve stayed, because I’ve always been aligned to their mission and vision,” she says. “Companies grow and evolve with the market, but Walgreens is always about the customer and the patient.”
Walgreens is part of Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), the healthcare, pharmacy, and retail giant with thirteen thousand locations in Europe, Latin America, and the United States. Its purpose is “to create more joyful lives through better health,” and its vision is “to be the leading partner in reimagining local healthcare and wellbeing for all.”
Tech plays a major part in fulfilling those goals. As director of IT for pharmacy delivery, Cruz works to build and maintain the ecosystem that will support the future of pharmacy in a rapidly changing environment. Cruz and her team do all that they can to leverage emerging technologies and use automation to ensure speed and accuracy of pharmacy fulfillment.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, the busy group pivoted to partner with the US government to capture information, receive vaccine doses, and administer them effectively.
Now, Cruz has transitioned her COVID-19-related duties to a colleague so she can focus on a new task: developing robot-powered micro fulfillment centers (MFCs). Walgreens is preparing to open twenty-two MFCs in which each robot will fill up to three hundred prescriptions per hour. By contrast, a typical pharmacy fills that many in a day.
“We’re investing in these facilities because we want our pharmacists to spend less time counting pills and more time providing personalized customer care to patients, and the only way they can do that is with time,” Cruz says.
The tech leader is a fighter by nature. She describes herself as “a cancer survivor, a fitness enthusiast, foodie, wanderer, mentor, dreamer, and slayer of doubts.” Cruz also chairs Walgreens InclusivIT, a business resource group that advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion. She and other members reach out to organizations that promote girls and women in STEM so they can inspire students and increase the pipeline.
“I came from humble beginnings as part of an underserved community, and I didn’t know what careers were available to me in technology,” Cruz says. “There are lots of options, and I want to show girls how exciting this job can be.” It’s an important mission—and there are no cheat codes.