Mentoring and Sponsorship Are Essential to Creating a Diverse Leadership Team

by Ian Koplin Monitor 101 2022
What can companies do to ensure a path to leadership is open and welcoming to employees from underrepresented backgrounds? David Miles from Eastern Funding sits down with Monitor to share his experience. He says having a DE&I committee is not enough and believes mentoring and supporting employees, especially those from historically disadvantaged demographics, is not only economically feasible, but wholly overdue in corporate America.

Ian Koplin,

Many equipment finance companies are striving to promote more diverse talent to leadership positions. To help with that effort, Monitor sat down with David Miles, vice president and director of credit at Eastern Funding, who shares his experience ascending the corporate ladder.

Miles has been in the equipment finance industry for almost two decades. Before entering into his current role, he was a credit analyst from 2009, when he joined the company, to 2012, when he was offered the opportunity to lead the credit team. Since that opportunity came knocking, Miles has gone above and beyond in his role, leading several key projects, including a complete system conversion as well as Eastern Funding’s recent merger with Macrolease. As vice president and director of credit, Miles is responsible for all credit operations at Eastern Funding and its two divisions: the Specialty Vehicle Equipment Group (SVEG) and Macrolease.

The Primary Responsibility of Leadership

Looking back at his career, Miles says his success would not have been possible without his learned leadership skills as well as the overwhelming support of his team. “When you are in a leadership role, the needs of your team come second to none,” Miles says. “Providing direction and support to your team while helping them advance their careers is your primary responsibility.”

Thanks to this approach, Miles has produced a highly skilled, record-breaking credit department capable of handling a wide variety of financing requests. Additionally, the credit department has provided the enormous amount of support needed for the company to exceed its origination goals. Miles takes the phrase, “ I don’t succeed if my team doesn’t succeed” to heart, noting the necessity of a well-rounded team and its effects on the business as a whole. To this effect, Miles says giving your employees a platform to showcase their skills is very important.

“It is not uncommon for someone on my team to conduct a company training or assist in the onboarding process of a new employee,” Miles says. “My team is also empowered to challenge the status quo as it relates to our processes and procedures. Their feedback is highly valued and leveraged to make our processes more efficient.”

Having a DE&I Committee is Not Enough

A graduate of Morehouse College (class of 2002), Miles cannot understate the value of building solid relationships with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as a means of attracting and developing a diverse range of talent. One HBCU is a great place to start, according to Miles, but enjoying solid relationships with multiple HBCUs is ideal. In addition to this approach, Miles stresses diversity, equity and inclusion must be deeply embedded into the culture of an organization – just having a DE&I committee is not enough. Your company’s culture must be who you are, not just another company initiative.

Hiring a diverse range of talent is only half of the battle, with development being the other half. Executive sponsorship is critical for professionals from underrepresented backgrounds because it helps them climb the proverbial corporate ladder and advance their careers. This is especially challenging for people of color in today’s corporate world. A recently published Harvard Business Review article1 noted that on average, 20% of white employees have sponsors compared to only 5% of their African American counterparts. Notably, only 3% of corporate executives are African American, which is the key underlying issue.

“I have been very fortunate in my career to work under Nancy Robles, Eastern Funding’s chief operating officer, who is a person of color,” Miles says. “She has provided the ongoing support I needed to advance my career and empowered me to make key business decisions. I am extremely grateful for her guidance over the years.”

Miles says one way to drive economic growth through DE&I in historically disadvantaged demographics is to make DE&I encompass organizational spending on goods and services. Organizations need to examine their current vendors and clients and identify areas where it is possible to diversify.

Parting Advice

Miles has a few pieces of takeaway advice for others who would like to ascend the corporate ladder and create a successful career:

  • Be impeccable with your work and beyond reproach in all of your actions.
  • Document your accomplishments.
  • Recognize the value in completing annual self-assessments.
  • Acknowledge your wins as much as your shortcomings. This will keep you honest while you’re building the case to be promoted.
  • Seek out any and all opportunities within the company, including committees and special projects, where you can showcase your leadership skills.
  • Leadership roles are not promised to anyone. If you are given the privilege to lead, you need to put your foot on the gas and never look back.

Miles gives a special thanks to Andy Tarsy who has helped Eastern Funding advance its DE&I initiatives.

1Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Kennedy Ihezie, “20% of White Employees Have Sponsors. Only 5% of Black Employees Do,” Harvard Business Review, Feb. 10, 2022.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ian Koplin is an editor of Monitor.

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