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Employee Mentorship Program Connects Leaders and Workforce

After a successful 2021 pilot, the group program continues to support professional development and career advancement.

In 2021, Northwestern Medicine launched a Group Mentorship Program through the African Descendants Chapter of the Northwestern Medicine Champion Network. The Champion Network includes five employee-led chapters for members and allies of historically underrepresented populations: African Descendants, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Disability, Latinx and LGBTQ.

The goal of the Group Mentorship Program was to help cultivate a sense of belonging among members, and help them gain confidence, identify professional growth opportunities and map out their careers. On the heels of the successful 2021 program, the Latinx Chapter hosted its own in 2022.

“Before the program, I thought I might be alone in some of the challenges I’ve faced in life and at work,” says Anthony Guerrero, program coordinator, Performance Improvement, who is co-vice chair of the Latinx Chapter and was a mentee in the program. “Learning that leaders at Northwestern Medicine have overcome similar challenges has not just made me feel seen, but it has also helped me visualize that I can be a leader here, too.”

During the program, mentors connect with mentees on a personal level and help them leverage their professional and lived experiences, abilities and interests to become stronger advocates for themselves. The program has specific discussion sets and agendas, Guerrero explains, such as networking tips, emotional intelligence exercises, goal planning and leadership evaluations. These prompts and strategies help participants navigate meetings and conversations both inside and outside the program. 

Paula Quiroz Velasquez, team lead, Information Services, was also a mentee in the program. Having recently moved to the Chicago area from South Florida, she says the experience was empowering after a particularly difficult time assimilating to a new city and new job.

“The mentorship program has made the next step in my career more accessible,” she explains. “I feel like I know what to do to move forward, including what I need to learn and how I can develop.”

Camila Altman, program manager, Information Services, and John Clark, manager, Information Services, were mentors in the program. Both found that the mentees helped them as much as they helped the mentees.

“I wasn’t expecting the mentees to open up so fast,” Altman says. “But it was so exciting to see how safe they felt to ask for guidance about different scenarios and experiences in the workplace. The dialogue was really great.”

Clark, an ally of the Latinx Chapter, says the mutual enrichment of the program cannot be overstated.

“Getting to do things like this is one of the best parts of my job,” he explains. “It’s a big deal, and it helps keep me engaged. I feel like we’re moving the organization forward.”

Clark, Altman, Guerrero and Quiroz Velasquez all agree that the benefits of the program have extended beyond its conclusion. A strong bond and sense of trust between the mentors and mentees remains.

In future iterations of the program, Guerrero says openness should be a key practice. “Vulnerability can be super hard,” he says. “But if you’re comfortable and able to open up in these safe spaces, it can really change a lot of things for you.”