October 23, 2023
At UL Solutions, we believe in learning, working and growing together. We strive to build a culture that inspires all employees to share their talents, ideas, passions and experiences. We invest in our employees by providing internal and external learning and development opportunities, enabling individual and shared success.
In May 2023, two UL Solutions employees, Craig Thames and Jerry Bwanhot, completed the Chicago Urban League/University of Chicago IMPACT Leadership Development Program. They engaged in academic sessions led by University of Chicago professors. They were also mentored and taught by some of the most prominent minority business, political and social leaders practicing in the Chicago area. Leadership lessons focused on diversity, leadership skills, decision-making and the impact of Black leaders in Chicago.
Learning at UL Solutions
At UL Solutions, we execute our strategy of building and developing a diverse talent pipeline through our targeted development programs. With these programs, we partner with external learning institutions to help women and minority leaders grow and develop their skills. We’re pleased that the Chicago Urban League and the University of Chicago helped provide this experience for two of our valued employees.
After being nominated and qualifying through an extensive evaluation process, Bwanhot and Thames were selected to join 41 other emerging Black leaders in the 2022-2023 IMPACT program cohort. Jerry Bwanhot has been with UL Solutions for 16 years and is a staff engineer in the Energy and Industrial Automation business segment. He specializes in certifying equipment for use in potentially explosive atmospheres (hazardous locations). Craig Thames’ has held several roles during his 23-year career with UL Solutions. He is currently our human resources analytics and intelligence manager, specializing in providing insights on people data that help business leaders make workforce decisions.
IMPACT program experience
The IMPACT program is tailored to mid-career emerging Black leaders in Chicagoland. Topics covered during the nine-month program included diversity and leadership, decision-making, ethics and values, power and influence in organizations, and insight skills.
“The most valuable part of the IMPACT program for me was engaging in the self-assessments,” said CraigThames. “Identifying motivators, drivers and risks helped me not only better understand myself, but what is important to others. I learned to recognize actions and why they are taken and confidently determine the best next steps. I can now factor these assessments into how I engage with staff to bring out their best and play to our collective strengths.”
In addition to the program’s full-day modules, Bwanhot and Thames participated in cultural immersion activities and informal cohort meet-ups to network and reflect on lessons learned. The cohort consisted of Black leaders from differing professions looking to develop their leadership skills. This diversity allowed each cohort member to learn from one another and the various formulas that engender success. Each participant shared their personal stories, which included the challenges they faced that shaped them into the leaders they became. This facilitated connection on a deeper level and helped build empathy.
“Being in a room among professionals from various industries and learning how we can help sharpen and challenge each other was extremely beneficial,” Bwanhot said. “Building my professional network and learning from different subcultures within the Black community, even as a black immigrant, was essential for me.”
At the program’s close, participants created action plans where they established personal and professional goals. They shared their action plans with group members, and even months after graduation, cohort members remain in contact to share progress and celebrate each other’s accomplishments.
“I appreciate the flexibility and opportunity that UL Solutions provided for me to participate in this meaningful program,” Jerry said. “My manager frequently checked in with me to discuss my learnings and helped offset work due to me being out of the office to attend the class and sessions.”
The holistic experience of the IMPACT program gives emerging Black leaders additional tools to effectively influence positive outcomes in the communities where they live and work. As Jerry and Craig apply what they learned through this program, it will undoubtedly positively impact those around them.
We look forward to learning from them and offering similar opportunities to other UL Solutions employees. Learn more about how UL Solutions strives to support our employees, customers and the global community at UL.com.