Why We Mentor
When I joined Old National Bank in 2014 with the mission to improve our disability inclusion efforts, we weren’t quite sure where to start, or what format would work best for our company and our leaders. We researched some of the best practices of other companies committed to disability inclusion but were still unclear of the best commitment to make the most impact.
But when we took a hard look inside our company culture, the answer came easy. Mentorship. Mentoring is embedded in our DNA at ONB. We jump at the opportunity to help others build their experiences, their confidence, and their professional network. At the same time, our leaders, who serve as mentors, seemingly always end up learning more from their mentees than they would have ever expected!
That’s why our first effort at creating a more inclusive culture for people with disabilities started with a mentorship program, Achieve Ability. Over the last six years, we’ve welcomed more than 100 participants in our Achieve Ability professional mentorship program, which pairs aspiring professionals with disabilities (mentees) with leaders at Old National (mentors) for a ten-month mentoring relationship.
Our leaders have learned firsthand the challenges and opportunities that individuals with a variety of abilities face each day. We’ve had participants with visual impairments, hearing impairments, spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, and autism. With the relationships our leaders have created with our mentees, we learn how to be better leaders. We learn how to be more inclusive. We learn how to create a more inviting environment and atmosphere for people with disabilities to thrive in our company.
“I have learned firsthand how important it is for a person with a disability to secure a job and feel a part of a team,” said Jim Sandgren, Old National President and COO. Jim’s mentee is Craig Doninger who joined the company shortly after their mentorship concluded.
Jim and Craig were one of the first mentorship pairs in the Achieve Ability program, and they now serve as Achieve Ability Champions for the Class of 2021. New mentors and mentees can turn to Jim and Craig for advice, and they serve as an excellent example for other Achieve Ability participants.
“Craig and I have built a great friendship. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know his dad and a few of his friends,” said Jim. Jim has also watched Craig participate in adaptive watersports, and they have even attended a Willie Nelson concert together!
Craig puts it simply. “With Jim’s guidance, I felt that I was prepared to go to work, and his assurance put me at ease. Jim has become one of my biggest cheerleaders. I’m grateful for our friendship.”
Why do we mentor? Because we live, we learn and become better versions of ourselves.
One company, one person, one relationship at a time, together, we can make an impact!