Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor: How EDGE Mentee Russ Ford Did Both
Russ Ford joined EDGE as a mentee two years ago, in the midst of a professional transition where he was searching for genuine mentorship and an uplifting community.
“I got connected with EDGE simply because of people I’ve networked with – people who were in EDGE who I respected,” Russ says. "I was at a point where I was trying to restart some things professionally and personally. So when I heard about EDGE, I jumped right in.”
Since then, he has grown alongside his EDGE group under the mentorship of Scott Gotshall, Director of Strategic Contracting at Roche Diagnostics (and featured on the EDGE blog here!).
“Russ is a natural connector and a natural leader. He is genuine and humble, which has drawn everyone in our EDGE group to want to get to know him better,” Scott says. “Over the past few years, I’ve seen him grow in his continued desire to be a leader who serves his employees and clients, to be a husband and dad who puts his family first, and to be a man who puts his faith at the foundation of all he says and does.”
Professionally, EDGE has provided Russ with the opportunity to expand his network, to connect with other leaders in Indianapolis, and to develop relationships that help him thrive in his role as a financial planner with WestPoint Financial.
“EDGE has given me better role models and a better support network – and that catapults me in every area of my life,” Russ says. “I’ve built a ton of great relationships with people who I want to model myself after, to learn from and to engage with.”
Russ has also been able to cultivate one of his greatest values of personal growth during his time in EDGE: generosity.
“I want to help the city of Indianapolis grow by empowering people financially and helping people give back,” he says. “Being part of the EDGE community and seeing others trying to do the same through their own work has been inspiring to me.”
But generosity doesn’t stop at the financial level for Russ. When he became a mentee with EDGE, he also became a mentor at the same time through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana. The program matches children who are facing adversity with adults to form enduring, professionally supported relationships.
When Russ used to referee basketball, someone had told him a piece of advice that has continued to resonate with him: “Find a mentor, and be a mentor.”
“The analogy they used was that childhood game, Barrel of Monkeys, where one monkey comes out and brings a whole chain of monkeys along with it,” Russ recalls. “You want to learn from someone who has gone before you, and you also want to bring someone along who’s behind you. I think that’s the perfect model for mentoring. And through Big Brothers Big Sisters, I’m just trying to pass along the gift I’ve been fortunate to have in my life, which is mentorship.”
In order to do just that, Russ has been investing in the life of Anthony, who he was matched with two years ago in Big Brothers Big Sisters. Anthony was nine years old at the time.
Now, at age 11, he’s already a budding entrepreneur. “Anthony always wanted to cook and bake things with me,” Russ says. “One time he told me that he wanted to make and sell pies for Mother’s Day and then donate some of the money to Big Brothers Big Sisters. It was inspiring to hear his desire for generosity, so I definitely wanted to encourage him in that.”
Anthony’s mother shared about his endeavor on Facebook, sparking a pie order or two. Russ then shared about it on Facebook, resulting in 30 orders for Mother’s Day pies. “People really wanted to support his generosity,” Russ says. “I just needed to open my network up to him.”
What started as a random act of kindness grew into a passion for Anthony – and that’s how his business, Pies by Anthony, was born.
When Russ attended EDGE’s Burst Event, How to Build a City, the biggest takeaway for him tied directly back to his mentor relationship with Anthony. “It’s really easy to write a check and to even volunteer our own time,” Russ says. “It’s not that difficult for me to spend time with Anthony. But a lot of times, what people really need is for us to open up our networks to them for opportunities.”
After donating some of the money from his Mother’s Day pie sale, Anthony’s next mission was to raise money for hurricane relief through United Way. “I suggested that we get one of those big checks to present to United Way,” Russ says; he was determined to go the extra mile to support Anthony. “And then, I wanted to reach out to some news stations to cover the story.”
Seeing another chance to open up his network to give Anthony the opportunity to share his heart with others, Russ reached out to Anthony Calhoun – the MC for EDGE|X 2017 and Sports Director at WISH-TV. “I shot him a note about Anthony’s story, and he said he was going to send it to the assignment desk,” Russ says. “And then they showed up.”
“As someone who is blessed to spend time with Russ, I could not be more proud of his mentor relationship with Anthony in Big Brothers Big Sisters,” says Scott. “He asks great questions and helps drive conversations to a deeper level. It takes action to make the world a better place, and Russ is a man of action.”
The consistency and stability that Russ exemplifies as Anthony’s mentor, though, is a direct reflection of Scott’s example as a mentor to Russ.
“What I’ve seen with Scott – and how it translates to my relationship with Anthony – is that Scott is not only there for the high points, but he’s also there for the lowest of lows,” Russ says. "The support during those low moments are what make the high points so much more worth it."
“Scott does a great job of asking questions, listening and just being human. He's there through it all – both the good and the bad. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do for Anthony.”