Bridge Builders of the Year – with Kelly Gillespie, Global Carriers Manager (Supply Chain) and Paul Mason, Vice President of Operations Excellence (Supply Chain).
From October 2021-September 2022, both Paul and Kelly mentored a young person during their placement year through our charity partner, City Year. Using their own skills and career experience, Paul and Kelly supported their mentees (Sebastian and Jazmin) to gain valuable employability skills. The Foundation had the opportunity to sit down with them both to find out more about their experiences.
What made you sign up to be a Bridge Builder?
Kelly: Whilst I was at university, I faced some of my own challenges and I remember the support and guidance I received from my tutor. I was therefore excited to take on a similar role of support. When I first signed up, I had the chance to attend a City Year event and it was such a humbling experience. It was a kick that brought me down to earth. Listening to their stories, I realised I could really help people who are facing hard challenges so applying to be a Bridge Builder felt like the right thing to do.
Paul: At the start of my career at DHL, over 18 years ago, I had the opportunity to support students at a local school during their Young Enterprise programme. Since then, I have been keen to continue supporting young people at the start of their career journey. The Bridge Builder programme appealed to me as I was able to support Sebastian and have a meaningful impact in a way that fits around my work commitments and schedule.
What did your Bridge Builder role involve?
Kelly: My experience this year was different to others, as circumstances meant that I met Jazmin later on in the programme. We started by finding out the areas she wanted to focus on. This led to weekly calls which helped us build a good relationship in a small space of time and communication was key to this. Jazmin wanted to do a graduate programme but was not sure where to start so we worked through her CV and interview skills.
Drawing on my own networks, I arranged for colleagues to provide Jazmin with advice on various job roles. This led to a colleague giving Jazmin a mock interview, providing really helpful feedback and get her thinking about different interview techniques. Watching her second mock interview was like watching a completely different person – clearly more confident and a stronger candidate. The best part was that Jazmin was able to take these skills when interviewing for a job in her dream industry and she got it! Seeing the end result made everything worth it and goes to show that the Bridge Builder programme is not just a box tick, you can really make an impact.
Paul: Sebastian and I met hourly, once a month, and communicated via email in between these times to work on his employability skills. Communication and consistency were key to our success. Between our calls, I challenged Sebastian to send over jobs he was interested in and got him to write cover letters for these. Similarly, we practiced interviews using generic competency questions to get him thinking about what employers are looking for.
One of my favourite moments was getting to meet Sebastian face to face at a site visit. Whilst he wants to work in security, he still found it interesting to see the inside of a DHL site as he wouldn’t normally have that opportunity. At the end, he even mentioned logistics as a potential career route. People tend to think that roles at DHL are limited to driving a van and delivering parcels but we have such a range of opportunities, including a whole security function. Providing that sort of insight just broadens people’s appreciation of what companies like ours do and introduces a whole new sector to young people.
What advice would you give to future Bridge Builders?
Kelly: You get out of it what you put in. It is a fantastic experience and has allowed me to also look at my own skills. I have updated my own CV off the back of this! If I hadn’t had the help when I was at university I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now so I’m grateful I can be that person for someone else.
Paul: When you sign up to be a Bridge Builder, you don’t know who you will be mentoring. It may be someone who has no interest in logistics so it’s helpful to take that time at the beginning to find common ground. You must be willing to be guided by them but it also helped to have some standard topics for discussion in case they’re not forthcoming straight away.
Why should you sign up to be a Bridge Builder?
Kelly: At work, it is so easy to get wrapped up in day to day challenges and fire-fighting but then you go onto a call with a young person and you are then considering someone else. It is a break in the day and it makes you smile, think and takes you back. It stops you becoming lost in the everyday. I love that we can do things like this with DHL.
Paul: Why wouldn’t you sign up? Getting the feedback from Sebastian and winning this award was a surprise and really special. You tend to underestimate the positive impact you can have. It’s easy to become cynical when you’ve been in the workplace a while. I can have a difficult day, but then being able to talk to Sebastian who was genuinely keen to listen and learn from me was refreshing.
Some words from Sebastian:
Paul has helped me so much over the year. He has improved how I speak in interviews and has taught me how to improve my applications to jobs. Paul has taught me so much and I have learned a lot that I will carry out into my future careers. I would like to thank Paul for spending his own time to help me over the last year.
Some words from Jazmin:
Kelly has been extremely helpful and dedicated to helping me in the areas that I have requested… she has gone the extra mile in working with me on things like my CV, and has been extremely dedicated and helpful meeting me every week- I am very grateful!
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