Kathleen Castore, Disability:INs Supplier Mentoring & Development Consultant chats with Goldman Sachs and DragonFly Technology to ring in the New Year and discuss their mentoring experience to date. They have been paired since last June for the year-long 2020-2021 Disability:IN Supplier Diversity Mentoring Program. Today we spoke with Terri Voshell, Founder of our mentee DragonFly Technology, a certified DOBE, and Alexander Levine, Vice President, Strategic Sourcing of our mentor Goldman Sachs. Let’s hear from Terri and Alex on their story.

Terri, tell us your story — how and why did you begin your journey as an entrepreneur?
Terri: My husband and I had both been working for the same company when it was sold and we were both laid off. He went on to start a small computer repair/consulting company and when it grew to the point where he needed to hire someone, I stepped in. That was in 1986!

When we divorced about 10 years ago I decided to take part of that company and grow it in my own way. I had found that I really enjoyed helping people find the right solution for their particular problem and wanted to continue with that part of the business.

What led you to become Disability:IN certified?
Terri: I suffered a head injury (TBI) 4 years ago. It was a difficult recovery that took about 2-3 years. When I got back to the point where I could do business again, I found that I needed to rebuild parts of my business but I didn’t have the same skills that I had before. Disability:IN has helped me in many practical ways but the most important was in helping me regain my confidence that I could contribute and build a business while having a disability.

Why did you join the mentoring program and what was your experience with Alex?
Terri: I joined the mentoring program because I was still wrapping my head around the idea of having to change the way I had done business in the previous 25 years. Alex has been instrumental in pointing out things that I needed to work on. I have two favorite things that Alex has done. One was a remark that I don’t know if he even remembers making. He told me during our first meeting that he couldn’t find my company online. I had never needed a website before because the customers came to me. We now have a new website that will be ready about the middle of February and we have created a social media strategy that will allow us to reach more customers, and it came from Alex telling me how things looked from his perspective.

Alex has arranged for me to meet with his IT buyers and they have been very helpful in helping me practice my sales skills. He is a committed mentor who wants me to succeed and is willing to tell me the hard stuff, but always in a professional and constructive way.

What makes an organization like Disability:IN a great procurement partner for DragonFly?
Terri: Disability:IN gives access to companies and opportunities that I would never have gotten on my own. They have taught me skills and provided feedback on things I needed such as a capability statement. They have demonstrated over and over that they want me to succeed. It is a wonderful feeling to have such a committed team cheering for me!

Do you have any advice for future mentees that are considering joining and why they should take advantage of the DOBE Mentoring Program?
Terri: They should take advantage because it will give them experience and skills that wouldn’t get anywhere else. As a small company I wouldn’t have access to a corporate partner like Goldman Sachs who is teaching me how to market to other large corporations.

Is there anything else important you’d like to share?
Terri: I was very discouraged when I was hurt badly enough that it changed my life. I wasn’t sure that I could continue with my business. I felt that I had literally lost a part of me.

The people at Disability:IN (Cami, Phillip and Kathleen) have put up with my endless questions while I learn. The learning part of my brain was the part most badly injured and I need to see new things several times before it sticks. It’s incredibly frustrating for me but everyone at Disability:IN has been kind and understanding and endlessly patient with me. I have had some false starts but because of Disability:IN and Alex I feel very optimistic about the future of my company. I am so very grateful that I was introduced to Disability:IN and am excited to see where it takes me.

Alex, is this the first time you are mentoring a supplier in a formal program? Why did you decided to participate, especially specifically with Disability:IN and why it was important for you personally and Goldman Sachs?
Alex: It is my first time engaging in a formal mentoring program with a supplier, although I have been directly involved in vendor interactions more broadly as part of my Strategic Sourcing function and have provided informal coaching to suppliers on various aspects of their engagement with Goldman Sachs. At Goldman Sachs, we place critical importance on fostering a diverse supply chain to ensure we account for a broad range of perspectives in order to better serve our clients, while helping create opportunities in local communities in which we live and work. It’s a win-win. It was important for me personally to get involved in this program. It gave me a chance to engage with a different type of vendors than ones I engage with every day and learn a different set of perspectives, priorities, and challenges, while giving me an opportunity to impart some of my experience and perspective to help accelerate growth trajectory for my mentee’s business.

What has your experience like with Terri and DragonFly Technology?
Alex: When I came across this mentoring opportunity and looked at the list of potential mentees, I specifically wanted to pair up with DragonFly Technology. DragonFly operates in a space that I’m personally familiar with and interested in, and I thought it would help me provide a perspective that was more contextualized. It’s been a rewarding experience engaging with Terri, learning more about her business, getting an insight in how her disability presents both challenges and opportunities, and helping her reinforce, and sometimes shape, the priorities she’s executing on.

We know being a mentor and not just the mentee learns during the mentoring process, what have you come away with during this experience?
Alex: I’ve learned a lot from the engagement with Terri. If I were to highlight one thing, it would be that often it’s something seemingly simple and obvious that can have the greatest impact.

Any other thoughts to add?
Alex: As I mentioned already, it has indeed been a mutually productive and rewarding experience, and I look forward to staying connected with Terri, even after the formal program comes to an end.