Corporate Responsibility Specialist - Grace Kestler
This article is from the “Cummins: All Access” series, a compilation of unique, reality-based stories featuring Cummins employees. The series is designed to give a behind-the-scenes perspective of Cummins employees as they develop their careers.
Cummins has a long history of corporate responsibility based on linking the impact on our stakeholders with responsible business decisions. Our employees invest talent, passion and resources to solve problems in our communities and society every day since the company's inception. Leading our corporate responsibility initiatives are dedicated employees like Grace Kestler.
Grace, a DePauw University graduate with a degree in communications, spent much of her young life volunteering in elementary schools, teen assistance programs and nursing homes.
“I’ve learned from my family about being active in not-for-profit organizations. I grew up surrounded by loved ones who gave back, and now it’s my passion and career. Cummins connects with community partners that need support through both our business skills and assistance programs.”
And now for your All Access Pass:
Grace starts her day in a meeting with local community involvement leaders. She’s leading a training session on voice-of-customer research, analysing the business environment and creating a strategic plan. Her goal is to help each not-for-profit organization make a sustainable impact.
“Today we’re strategizing about how Cummins matches our employee’s skills to external partner needs. That’s important because there are many alternatives to supporting our community partners. Once we determine the needs, we can start prioritizing how to make an impact.”
After the meeting, Grace joins a conference call with the Cummins Daventry team (United Kingdom) for a grant review. The Daventry Community Involvement Team leader is reviewing a proposal about a financially underserved school creating an outdoor educational learning centre. She knows the centre would be a unique space where children can thrive.
“Students with special needs have shown a great response to learning in alternative environments. I’m reviewing the grant and looking at how Daventry employees are developing our partnership. It’s a win-win situation when employees connect directly with the project and increase our impact.”
After the call ends, Grace leaves the office for a Board meeting and luncheon. She’s still thinking about the Daventry call on the way and is excited about the learning centre grant.
“Our corporate responsibility team spends a great deal of time thinking about how our community engagement impacts students in the long term. The call inspired me with several new ideas for making a difference. I’ll start finalizing the grant for the Cummins Foundation’s review and recommend shaping the proposal so it will have the best outcomes for everyone involved.”
Grace arrives at the luncheon and begins networking
with several colleagues before the meeting. She serves in a young professionals’ organization and enjoys connecting with friends. She’s excited about the good turnout at the meeting and to hear everyone’s new ideas.
“We’re an organization who is looking to connect young professionals and resources together. I enjoy it because it introduces me to people in the community outside of Cummins. Even if you’re new to our group, we treat everyone with respect and value all opinions. I’m helping work on our strategic plan and am excited the Board has given me this type of responsibility early in my career.”
After lunch, Grace returns to the office and spends quiet time at her desk working on a Six Sigma project for employee recognition. It’s a highly visible project for the Engine Business Unit (EBU) team and Grace is working on her final recommendations presentation.
“We found employees like having their impact recognized. It’s natural that everyone wants to be appreciated, so we’re creating a visibility program for the EBU leadership team to recognize employees who make an impact in our community. We’re thinking beyond our desk about employee engagement and it’s important to our overall business success and growth strategy.”
Grace knows communities are impacted when employees spend time giving back.
“We’re a community business, and we depend on the community. Cummins has always been about giving back to others and Working Right. We want the EBU leadership team to see the results of our project and provide additional visibility to employees who are making a difference.”
Late in the afternoon, Grace leaves the office for an on-site meeting with a not-for-profit Food Bank shelter. The shelter is a Cummins Corporate Responsibility partner and she’s visiting to see firsthand the impact being made.
“I’m spending time with the shelter’s executive director to take a tour and see the facilities. Cummins likes to understand how our grant making can be better aligned with the facility and environment. We also had a good conversation about increasing our impact through employee engagement.”
After the Food Bank tour is over, Grace ends her day and meets a work friend for dinner downtown. She enjoys the camaraderie among her Cummins colleagues, even when they don’t share the same type of career roles.
“It’s easy to find a professional network of friends at Cummins. Even in a relaxed social setting like tonight, there’s a little bit of networking and a lot friendship.”
Grace knows every young professional shares a bond with other people their age.
“This really is not one of those ordinary jobs. I like that I have a support network who understands the Company and are my closest friends. We support each other no matter what.”