Mentee: Dominus Gray LLC, Odie Gray, CEO & Founder, certified SDV-DOBE and Minority-Owned Business.
Mentor: GSK, Tameka Little, Senior Manager, Supplier Diversity
GSK Supplier diversity page/registration: SupplierOne
Disability:IN Celebrating Veteran’s Day
In celebration and thanks to our Veterans, Kathleen Castore, Disability:IN Supplier Mentoring & Development Consultant, had a chat with Dominus Gray, LLC a service-disabled veteran mentee and GSK on their experience with the DOBE Mentoring Program.
KC: Hello Odie, in celebration of Veteran’s Day, I first off want to thank you for your service to the country. Can you share more about your journey and decision to become and what prompted you to be an entrepreneur and owner of Dominus Gray?
OG: I am very interested and appreciative of your service, can you please let us know what lead you to serve as a Sargent in the United States Army and what it taught you? What attributes/skillset translated from tactical to practical in the business sector?
OG: I volunteered to serve my country for two main reasons, the first is that I had a rocky upbringing, and I knew the path of becoming a soldier would provide the structure I needed to mature as a professional and as a leader. The second is because I owe the people before me and the generations after me to reach my highest potential, serving in the Army was the first step to come into form of that realization. As far as what skills translated to reinforce my path of becoming an entrepreneur, there are 7 Army Core Values:
- SELFLESS SERVICE
- PERSONAL COURAGE
Each were instilled in me through my development as a soldier since bootcamp and I leverage these values daily to being a better entrepreneur.
KC: You were a Next Gen Leader with Disability:IN, can you describe what that is and how it helped you on your way to becoming a business owner and why you decided to pursue this avenue?
OG: Serving as a Next Gen Leader was a great experience and Disability:IN creates a space for people that are differently abled to not only gain opportunities but to be their authentic selves, feel accepted, and make genuine connections. There are so many false stigmas about having a disability, I am proud to be part of an organization that is advocating for our inclusion and building pathways of equity for us as professionals and entrepreneurs.
KC: Please let us know a bit about your business and sectors you work in.
OG: Dominus Gray is a cybersecurity and IT consulting firm that provides strategy consulting services to CISOs and business leadership teams to refine the planning of technology programs and initiatives leading to cost savings and risk reductions for our clients.
From SMBs to large-scale enterprises, most organizations don’t know what they don’t know while often not having the time or resources to clarify a technology or cybersecurity-related business need.
We work with business leaders to contextualize their business needs and develop a strategic plan that we then market to our consortium of strategic partners that offer cost-effective solutions and services to meet the demand.
KC: How long have you been a certified DOBE? Why has being a Disability:IN DOBE certified company been an important part of your business journey?
OD: Dominus Gray has been certified as a SDV-DOBE for almost two years, the main benefit so far has been gaining access to corporate supplier diversity professionals that want to diversify their supply lines as well as gaining insights from mentors, shout out to Tameka Little, and other entrepreneurs to help be in a better position to seize opportunities.
KC: Why did you join the mentoring program and how has it helped with your business objectives?
OD: Not all mentorship programs are created equal, but I can say that the Disability:IN DOBE Mentorship Program has amassed mentors that actually care and want to support the growth and success of disabled-owned businesses. I joined the program because I recognize as an entrepreneur, I have committed myself to be a life- long learner and it is best to learn from people that have achieved what I intend to accomplish and have the understanding on how I can efficiently and effectively reach my business goals.
KC: You have a wonderful mentor in Tameka Little from GSK. Tell us about your experience so far.
OD: I do have a wonderful mentor in Tameka Little, I feel very fortunate because there are a lot of professionals that talk the talk, but Tameka goes out of her way to be my advocate and strategize with me to develop value-based outcomes. That is so important because from my past experience, I felt like I was treading water, expending energy but not really moving anywhere. Tameka helps to be my light, directing my path to shore, I really appreciate her.
KC: What advice would you give the future mentees that might help them get the most out of the DOBE Mentoring Program?
- Bring your authentic selves
- Be real about your experiences and challenges
- Continue to state what you need and network until you find someone that can “genuinely” help you (they exist)
- Be kind
- Follow up on your relationships and find ways to add value to them, it helps you stick out even more
- Make friends with other NextGen Leaders, this isn’t just a one-time networking event, it’s meant to establish real connections for you to support one another because that’s how we grow as leaders
KC: Is there anything you would like to mention about regarding Disability:IN?
OD: I would like to thank Jill Houghton and the Disability:IN Team, you all have such an amazing heart to help our community and focus on disrupting the status quo. I would like to see more accountability from corporates and investments to extend more equity for small disabled-owned and diverse-owned business to gain opportunities even if it is indirectly with their Tier I & Tier II suppliers. I believe there should be a systematic path built for us that meets us at our level as many of us won’t qualify immediately for opportunities with many corporates, I think we have a real opportunity to make a difference when we view the supplier journey from the perspective of a small diverse business to make it more equitable.
KC: Thank you Odie for honoring us on this Veteran’s Day.
KC: Good after noon Tameka, I know you have been a mentor with other organizations, how does it differ working with DOBEs and the Disability:IN Supplier Diversity Program?
TL: I moved from an IT corporation with a global supplier diversity program to a pharma company with a smaller, but growing, supplier diversity reach. There is no major difference with working with DOBEs. My passion for diversity and inclusion didn’t waiver with my move. In fact, due to the great relationship formed with Dominus Gray, I asked to have Dominus Gray transition with me in the mentoring program at GSK.
KC: You have such experience and passion for Supplier Diversity, can you take us on your professional journey and commitment to it?
TL: I have over 24 year of procurement experience, but late in my career, I joined the supplier diversity team. I knew I found the perfect career for me. Changes in the previous company prompted my move. I could have switched to another procurement department, but I felt my work in supplier diversity was just beginning.
KC: Can you tell us about GSK and your Supplier Diversity Program?
TL: GSK is a global biopharma company with a purpose to unite science, technology, and talent to get ahead of disease together. Find out more at www.gsk.com/about-us. GSK is committed to ensure a percentage of all discretionary dollars is spent with small and diverse businesses. Our supplier diversity initiative seeks to identify and develop diverse businesses to support the commercial ambitions of GSK while contributing to our social responsibility of improving the economies of the communities we serve.
Our supplier diversity initiative includes Minority, Women, Veteran, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT), Disability-owned businesses as well as businesses located in Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZones) and small businesses.
KC: What has you mentoring experience been like and why is Odie and an example of an engaged and committed mentee?
TL: This only my second year mentoring with Disability:IN. The first year, my mentee was a big help in getting me settled into the program. By the start of this session, I was ready to jump right in. Odie and I spoke a few times before the 2022 Disability:IN Conference but I was able to meet him in-person there. Much to Odie’s credit we connected on a deeper level. His personality and passion draws you in to want to know more about his business, his nonprofit and him personally. I hope I am helping Dominus Gray, however Odie has helped me too. He seeks help but also offers help. He wants to grow his business but has a passion to help others too. While at my previous employer, Odie referred several MBE’s that met requirements for a specific RFx. This supplier attitude is refreshing. I knew that I wanted to continue to work with Dominus Gray after the transition. I truly feel Odie and I will stay connected for many years to come: helping each other.
KC: As a Corporate member of Disability:IN, why do you feel it is so significant for the GSK businesses to be involved with the DOBE supplier community?
TL: Involvement with the DOBE supplier community, gives GSK a close and honest account of diversity and inclusion from the perspective of suppliers with disabilities. GSK has room to grow and we can do that with the help of very qualified diverse employees and suppliers.
KC: How has being a mentor in the Disability:IN Mentoring Program helped you develop on a personal and/or professional level?
TL: I have grown tremendously in this short amount of time. My professional involvement helps my awareness personally. Before joining a supplier diversity team, I had a narrow understanding of what it means to be a person with disabilities. Before and during the conference this year, I intentionally took time to learn about neurodivergence and non-visible disabilities. This program brings awareness to one-track thinkers and helps me to be more accountable in my role as a Supplier Diversity Manager.
KC: Would you share with potential first-time mentors why they should consider volunteering to become one?
TL: Mentoring a DOBE is so much more than what you can do for them. If you think you have a solid understanding of DOBEs, become a mentor and learn so much more. You can make life-long connections. We are all busy, however, make the time to give back and if you put your talent to work and let your passion lead you, you will also get a little something from the program in return.
KC: Any last thoughts to add about Odie?
TL: Thank for Spotlighting Odie and Dominus Gray in celebration of Veteran’s Day. Odie, thank you for serving our country and your non-stop efforts to help others. Stay true to yourself and your hard work and dedication will pay off. Much respect to you!
KC: Thank you both for participating in this special Veteran’s Day Disability:IN Spotlight on Mentoring and wish you both continued successes.