A Mentor Means More at United Way

Danielle walked into her first Emerging Leaders Mentorship Program meeting ready to take on the tough questions. “I came into this thinking it would be like an interview, very rigid and formal,” the Senior Security Analyst at Accenture states. She met her mentor Ashlie Jonte, a Tocqueville Society member and Manager at Eli Lily and Company, at a local restaurant for dinner. When Ashlie ordered a margarita, Danielle let out a sigh of relief. “Looking back, ordering a margarita was such a simple action, but it helped me realize that she wasn’t there to judge me, we were there to form a fun, easy-going relationship.”


Since then, the two have enjoyed a wide array of activities, including yoga, frozen yogurt outings, dining at different restaurants and even a painting class. During their quarterly outings, the pair discuss more than just their careers. “I can go to her with any problem, personal or career-related; she’s been my go-to person for advice,” Danielle says.


From discovering ways to navigate her career to learning how to let her guard down, Danielle has learned a lot from Ashlie. She jokes that she tries to give Danielle “Adulting 101” and “Tips and Tricks of Corporate America” courses through their time together. Regardless if it’s lunch or a simple 5-minute phone call, Ashlie wants to be there for Danielle as she faces struggles she’s faced herself as a woman, in and out of the workplace.


But the most important thing Ashlie gives to Danielle is an outside, unbiased perspective, which played a huge role in Danielle’s recent job change. “Her mentorship totally changed the trajectory of my career. Before, I was living in a bubble — she gave me the perspective and confidence to find other avenues,” Danielle says. Ashlie’s ability to give Danielle honest feedback helped her take the plunge and apply for her current position.


Yet Danielle is not the only one learning and growing from the relationship. “Through mentoring, I have faced situations I’ve helped other people through, and it’s made my own decisions much easier,” Ashlie says. She believes mentoring has made her a more objective thinker, a better leader and even given her a little more faith in the world.


“People think, ‘I make mistakes every day — how am I supposed to be a mentor?’ You mentor not because you’re perfect, but because you have experience and a lot to offer; failures are what people learn from the most,” Ashlie states.


The two have made a lifetime bond, one that has forged well past the original mentorship they signed up for through United Way. “I’ve gotten above and beyond what I had expected,” shares Danielle. As the two discussed their relationship during the interview for this article, Ashlie came to a big realization: “The magnitude hasn’t quite resonated with me as much as it has just hearing it right now, knowing the little bit of effort I put into it resulted in such a huge magnitude.”


If you’re a part of United Way’s Leaders in Giving programs and want to create a lasting relationship with a mentor or mentee in the community, sign up now for the Emerging Leaders Mentorship Program. You’ll be paired with a young professional (mentee) or established community leader (mentor) who can help you gain an outside perspective on the important situations in your life.


“A mentor could say just one thing that resonates with their mentee and it could change their life,” says Danielle. And as Ashlie continually points out, the mentor can grow just as much as the mentee. “It’s a very easy way to give back, and it helps develop the world to what you want it to be,” she adds.


Program enrollment ends December 15, please email Ose Agho with any questions or for more information.