Developing diverse leaders

How our Multicultural Leadership Development Program develops leaders who reflect us

5 min read

Hand drawing on sketch pad with multiple colored markers on either side of the pad. Sketch pad has cloud shape with Mentoring written inside; surrounding the cloud are training, motivation, advice, success, direction, coaching, support, and goal.

Recruiting Manager Alli credits Progressive’s Multicultural Leadership Development Program (MLDP) with making a major impact for her professionally and personally. For Alli, MLDP allowed her to embrace being more vulnerable and transparent. “You have to learn to embrace being uncomfortable in order to gain traction to move forward,” she says. And move forward she has. Since participating in MLDP in 2018, Alli has turned the lessons and skills she learned into two promotions: first moving into a supervisor role managing a team of recruiters, and most recently stepping into the role of a manager overseeing recruiting supervisors.

In addition to her career progression, Alli says MLDP helped her become a better leader. Her experience in the program helped her gain the confidence and courage needed when faced with having challenging discussions. She also speaks highly of the network and lasting friendships she’s formed since completing MLDP, specifically the Alumni of Inclusion. This off-shoot of MLDP allows graduates to stay in touch and keep the conversations going and provides a network of support and encouragement after a participant’s time in the program has concluded. Since graduating, Alli has found a way to give back to a program she feels gave her so much: she serves as a mentor for current program participants.

What is the Multicultural Leadership Development Program?

Since starting in 2014, MLDP has focused on contributing to greater diversity and equity by providing career growth and development opportunities for people of color and other eligible employees to help better prepare them for future leadership openings. Throughout 18 months, participants engage in a customized curriculum to enhance existing skills and experiences while gaining exposure to new business areas, people, and ideas.

While COVID-19 put a pause on face-to-face gatherings, participants continued to meet and work together virtually. Accountability Coaching Groups allow them to work in small groups and collaborate on projects, giving them not only valuable networking experience, but also the opportunity to engage with their peers for support. Beyond the small groups and individual self-study, the program includes targeted workshops and coaching opportunities to help accelerate development. Additionally, participants work closely with senior leaders to develop lasting mentoring relationships.

The expected commitment is 25% of their time with a mix of:

  • Custom workshops on key leadership skills such as coaching and developing others, planning and organizing, and inclusive leadership.
  • Guest speakers, cultural workshops, and discussions on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) topics. Learn more about Diversity and Inclusion at Progressive.
  • Stretch projects like business cases to build business acumen and formal presentations.
  • New relationships with fellow program participants and senior Progressive leaders.

To better gauge the impact of the program, let’s hear from several MLDP graduates, as well as a current participant, about their experiences.

Paying it forward

Since coming to Progressive in 1999 for what she thought was “just a job,” Aja unexpectedly found a 20-year career that’s given her more than she anticipated. Now serving as a manager within Progressive’s Centralized HR Team, Aja graduated from MLDP in 2019.

Reflecting on her time in the program, she says she went in with an intention of developing her analytical and critical thinking skills. However, she left with much more. The program helped her better understand the importance of networking, increasing her business acumen, and gaining a deeper appreciation for the value of relationships.

Aja says her experiences with MLDP built her confidence and helped her learn the value of asking questions. She learned that making mistakes is ok if you grow from them. Like Alli, having applied much of what she learned during her time in MLDP, Aja is now driven to pay it forward and give to others what she feels the program gave to her.

Seeing the bigger picture

Ricardo and Sharmi–both graduates of the 2021 cohort–each credit MLDP with allowing them to see DEI as a journey and understanding that everyone may be in a different place. For Ricardo, a senior manager in Claims, MLDP helped him to better understand the importance of being his authentic self while also advocating as an ally for others. Sharmi, a processing manager in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) organization, credits the program with helping him embrace being more compassionate of others as well as being genuinely curious to hear their stories.

The program was instrumental in their career progression. Both Ricardo and Sharmi were promoted in their respective areas while in MLDP. Ricardo acknowledges being able to immediately apply what he was learning about the business and leadership to his position at the time; ultimately propelling him into his current role. Sharmi shares a similar story, reflecting on the communication skills and business acumen he gained while in the program: “I feel like MLDP helped me ‘grow up’ a bit. I’m better able to see the big picture and have gained a stronger ability to empathize with those around me.”

A leap of faith

CRM Supervisor Faith is a participant in the current MLDP cohort which will end later in 2022. Though she’s yet to fully complete the program, Faith can already attest to positive changes that it’s instilled. She gives MLDP credit for helping her expand her growth mindset, become more comfortable challenging herself, and providing her with an additional boost of confidence which she’s already put to use. Since starting MLDP, she took a leap of faith (pun intended) to apply for and accept a supervisor role. Making that change isn’t something she thinks she would have had the confidence to do prior to MLDP. Additionally, she says the program is helping her view challenges as a way to “fail forward,” now seeing mistakes or obstacles as opportunities to learn and grow.

MLDP has played a pivotal role in the growth and development of Alli, Aja, Ricardo, Sharmi, and Faith. The program allowed them to see the company from a broader perspective while deepening their business acumen. It gives participants a sense of ownership to be a change-maker here. They’re encouraged and empowered to create a more inclusive workplace that intentionally achieves inclusion through accountability by creating development opportunities for all.

Alli Fittipaldo is a recruiting manager for Progressive with more than 10 years of talent acquisition experience. She’s a graduate of the Multicultural Leadership Development Program (MLDP), a board member for EVOLVE, helping individual contributors and leaders enhance their skill sets, and an active participant of MLDP’s Alumni of Inclusion as well as several Employee Resource Groups.

Aja Cooper is a human resources manager at Progressive and is a graduate of MLDP. She has a passion for promoting inclusive leadership, facilitating leadership education, and encouraging courageous conversations while serving as a speaker and facilitator on Progressive's Speaker’s Bureau.

Ricardo Brown works as a senior manager in Commercial Claims for Progressive. He's an active member of several Employee Resource Groups and is a board member of the Young Professionals Network. He also supports Progressive’s culture through his collaboration with several DE and I efforts.

Sharmi Charles is a manager in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) organization at Progressive. He’s passionate about helping others find purpose and unlocking their authentic selves. He also prides himself with being able to inject fun and excitement into any situation.

Faith Rosenberg is a supervisor in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) organization at Progressive, joining the company in 2015. Passionate about DEI, she serves as a member of the following Employee Resource Groups: Progressive’s African American Network, Network for Empowering Women, and the Young Professionals Network. Outside of work, Faith loves to read, exercise, and try new cooking recipes."

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