Who helped who?

By Ellen Cooke

Disability Mentoring Day gives as much to employee mentors as to the young people who came here to learn about us

They came to get a taste of the energy industry and an up-close look at what it’s like to work in a major energy utility.

They came to learn more about fields ranging from civil engineering, to IT, to accounting, to communications.

And, at the end of our first National Grid Disability Mentoring Day, 11 recent college graduates, with a range of disabilities, came away with more than they could have imagined. So did our employees who mentored them on Long Island and in Syracuse, NY.

Participants for the day came to us through the Jewish Child Care Association (JCCA) Compass Project, which helps adolescents with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities, and Exceptional Family Resources. They enjoyed one-on-one time with mentors in their chosen fields, heard presentations and got to participate in exercises by our representatives in HR, Process Excellence and the Enabling Disability Confidence employee resource group (ERG).

“This is the ‘big reveal’ for us and I’m ready for the show!,” said one of the mentees. Others commented, “The day was a great learning experience and gave me much more insight into engineering that I did not know about” … “Thank you for your suggestion to play around with graphic design software to help increase my skills” “I truly appreciated your insights about the environmental field” … “I’m looking forward to applying what I’ve learned about engineering, skillfully, in a real job environment.”

Enabling Chair / Gas R&D’s Mary Holzmann couldn’t be happier with the results of the day her group planned and ran: “We did exactly what we set out to do – give these young adults a real feel for what it’s like to work at National Grid. We worked really hard to match people with appropriate mentors and, I have to say, I think we had the perfect mentors for each participant.”

“I didn’t know exactly what to expect,” says Employee Communications’ Ellen Cooke, who mentored a recent Communications Studies graduate. “But I came away feeling really inspired … by the respectful, hardworking young adults I met and the caring coworkers I’m privileged to work with every day. My mentee even showed me some Photoshop tips!”

IS’s Ed Brodsky, who has two children with disabilities at home, says, “Events like these help us really get to know our local communities and how best to support the people in them. We also get to know people out there who might be able to help our company grow in the future, but might not have the same opportunities others have.”

New Enabling Executive Sponsor / National Grid CFO Peggy Smyth pointed out to participants that “there are lots of opportunities at National Grid. We’re always looking for the best person and that person might be someone with a disability. Look at companies like ours, with inclusive environments, and see how you can fit in. See if you could see yourself working here.” Peggy also shared with the group how she has limited use of her right hand, as a result of a life-threatening infection more than 10 years ago that started with a simple paper cut.

The mentees also got to hear from NY Jurisdiction’s Pat Michels, who stressed how “our company’s very open to diversity of thought and welcomes different perspectives” and HR’s Kathy Gangarossa, who shared interviewing tips. Sue Bertrand, a Process Improvement Manager from Service Delivery, had the group involved in activities to learn PEX techniques to help them stay organized at work.

And mentors shared advice and personal experiences with the group … like staying open to new possibilities, having ‘fun’ at work, and the benefits of working at a large company like National Grid, which offers opportunities to ‘reinvent’ yourself and your career over time.

In short, Disability Mentoring Day – coming on the heels of October’s Disability Employment Awareness Month – was a meaningful experience for all involved.

Compass Coordinator of Job Development Shari Abel-Saunders thanked Mary and all National Grid participants, saying, “It’s an honor to partner with you and all the wonderful employees at National Grid. It was a day filled with hope and possibilities for all the mentees, with so many highlights and magical moments! A truly memorable mentoring day.”

Check out our Memorable Disability Mentoring Day in pictures


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *