People of Xylem: Reverse Mentor Spotlight

People of Xylem: Reverse Mentor Spotlight

Sharing Diverse Perspectives to Solve Water

As part of our commitment to building a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace, Xylem has developed a reverse mentoring program, pairing mentors nominated from Xylem’s Employee Network groups with Xylem senior leader mentees.

Reverse mentoring is proving to be an effective tool for navigating biases, sharing knowledge, creating engagement, and building diverse, intergenerational relationships. Making Waves spoke with four mentors about their reverse mentoring experience and the role mentoring can play in building a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture.

LaShondra Edwards 
Sr. Director Operational Excellence
Xylem Americas

Why is mentoring so important to building company culture?  

What comes to mind for me is the phrase “Each One, Teach One.” This is an African proverb that originated in the United States during slavery when Africans were denied education. When someone learned how to read or write, it became their responsibility to teach someone else – with the intent to spread knowledge for the betterment of the community.

The role that mentoring plays in building company culture is that it is a vehicle to spread knowledge, experience and perspective, strengthening the Xylem community. I am a firm believer in the power and importance of mentoring and as long as there is someone interested in my perspective, I will continue to serve as a mentor.

What are the biggest learnings you have taken away from the reverse mentoring program?

The reverse mentoring program is one of the aspects that makes me most proud to work for Xylem. The program put into action our company’s commitment to strengthening its cultural competence starting at the highest level of our organization. My biggest takeaway from the program is that while we have work to do, we have a leadership team that is ready to roll up their sleeves and get it done.

Jonathan Williams
Director, Regional Network Interface (RNI)

Why is diversity, equity, and inclusion so critical to advancing progress in the water sector today?

It’s important for our sector to be a driver of diversity, equity and inclusion because solving water involves solving a diverse set of problems. In the U.S. for example, the problem of environmental injustice, especially as it relates to water access and quality issues, is unique based on the region you live, your ethnic background, and the area’s median household income.

We need a diverse group of employees and leaders who can find solutions to these problems based on their unique perspectives, their unique upbringings, and their own personal experiences.

How can mentoring strengthen organizations and accelerate their impact?

Mentoring builds a “pay it forward” culture that’s critical to building a strong, innovative, and forward-thinking company. A “pay it forward” culture can potentially spread exponentially in a company. This is due to non-linear growth: as activities like mentoring impact employees, then the impacted employees will likely replicate the behavior. In fact, this has personally happened to me. I have been mentored here at Xylem; therefore, I feel that I have an obligation to “pay it forward.” In addition to the reverse mentoring program, I plan to mentor others within Xylem and my hope is that my mentees will feel compelled to mentor others in the future.

EJ Gomes
Director of Sales, Electric U.S.
Sensus, a Xylem brand

What inspired you to become a mentor?

In my current role as a Director of Sales within our Sensus brand, I have the privilege to interact daily with customers from across 15 states. While Sensus provides a full spectrum of “smart” solutions for all commodities, my particular niche within Sensus is to support electric utilities with products, services and solutions that will enable them to deliver, measure and analyze the flow of electricity on their distribution systems better.

Prior to Xylem, I had the honor of serving as an engineering officer with the United States Air Force for ten years and subsequently for a large investor-owned electric utility for five years. The cultural differences between the armed forces, regulated utilities and the corporate environment are pretty vast! However, each experience provided me with a different “lens” that has helped shape my views and values in the workplace – and provided me insights that have helped me to better meet the needs of my customers and their communities.

Serving as a mentor has been a fantastic opportunity to share my diverse experiences and perspectives with senior leadership and our organization, as we work to solve the world’s energy challenges.

Do you plan to continue to mentor at Xylem or in your spare time outside the company?

I believe that mentorship is one of the best ways available to expand the “lenses” by which we can view the world, and that it is one of the quickest ways to enable someone to identify and overcome any overt or unconscious biases they may have. I definitely plan to continue seeking opportunities as both mentee and mentor with Xylem and in my local community and would recommend this program to anyone seeking to broaden their horizons!

LaShawn Miller
Manager, Americas Finance, Financial Planning & Analysis  

What are the biggest learnings you have taken away from the reverse mentoring program?

Serving as a mentor has encouraged me to be brave enough to ask difficult questions and have uncomfortable conversations. Offering and learning from different experiences can strengthen relationships while simultaneously promoting authenticity and inclusion.

Why is diversity, equity, and inclusion so critical to advancing progress in the water sector today?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion can be key to developing water technologies and solutions that are accessible to all in need. Focusing on need is paramount and having a comprehensive variety of experiences to draw from – to develop innovative approaches and find new ways of solving a diverse range of water challenges – is crucial to successfully meeting the needs of our customers and their communities, all across the globe.

Why is mentoring so important to building company culture?

Mentoring can be fundamental in creating and sustaining an inclusive culture by ensuring continued dialogue on wide-ranging topics with diverse perspectives. I look forward to continuing my participation in mentoring programs, both at Xylem and outside of the company.

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