‘Going with my gut’

By Ellen Cooke

by Ellen Cooke, Communications Business Partner, Corporate Affairs

It started the way a lot of things do for me. I was writing a story about ERG mentoring when I thought … ‘maybe I’d like to participate’.

I hadn’t managed people or mentored before. But I’ve been with the company 25+ years, always been involved with Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) and love helping people. I also realized I’ve accumulated a good amount of knowledge about National Grid and have some strong contacts across the business … so I decided to sign up.

My mentee was a young woman – Diane Jones (shown left in photo) – who’d been working with the company for six years, the last three as a senior customer representative in the Hewlett district office. She liked helping customers but wanted to take her career, and customer service, to a new level. She realized that she was interested in taking on a management role. She was ready to take a ‘leap of faith’ and see what was out there, but she also wanted some guidance and support.

Between answering customer calls and meeting with walk-in customers, Diane didn’t have the flexibility to meet or talk with me during the work day. She was also a good 40 minutes away from my office. So we spoke on the phone every few weeks after-hours – around 5:30. She often called from her parked car before going home to her responsibilities as a single mom for her special needs son, Christian.

Diane had so much going for her – a college degree, volunteer work at her local church and school district and, mostly, a caring heart and strong work ethic. The only thing I thought she lacked was confidence. So I repeatedly pointed out her strengths as we worked on her resume and she contacted people I knew in areas she was interested in, particularly consumer advocacy. I answered questions about different career paths, finding out answers I didn’t know.

Consumer Advocacy in action: Diane (right) with Town of Huntington Community Coordinator Michele Foulke

I finally got to meet Diane in person one day at an I&D event we were both supporting. We hugged and shed some tears in the Hicksville cafeteria when she told me I was ‘an angel’ to her, helping someone I hardly knew. Meeting Diane was a great gift to me too, building my own confidence as I made it my mission to help her fulfill her potential.

We had been working together a good year-and-a-half when Diane called me to say her dream job of being a consumer advocate had just opened up. Along with people in HR – including Pipeline Programs Manager Cynthia Angulo, who Diane called ‘another angel’ – I coached her for the interview. Again, I encouraged Diane to emphasize strengths like her caring and motivation to help others.

I felt like both our dreams came true when she got the job on June 1.

If you’re thinking of becoming a mentor, I just want to say – go with your gut and go for it. It’s about as satisfying an experience as you can have. You can help make a difference and help the person you mentor make one too. It’s literally all good!

If you’d like to sign up as an ERG mentor or mentee, click here (deadline is October 13).

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