When Andrea Elder-Howell started as a consultant reviewing commercial contracts in the legal department of PSEG Long Island in 2013, she had no idea that within four years she would be their Vice President of Legal.
In 2013, she met Vaughn L. McKoy, Vice President Legal at that time, who was on assignment from PSEG Newark to build the structure and operations of the law department on Long Island. From the start, they clicked as colleagues and friends.
“I liked how she was very engaged in her community and how integrated she was in the community she lived in. We connected on a lot of different levels,” said Vaughn.
Vaughn, who Andrea describes as “a born mentor,” had observed Andrea’s skill and leadership potential as a consultant, and when an opportunity came across, recommended her for a permanent position that had opened on the team at PSEG LI. Andrea was interviewed and hired as an Associate Commercial Counsel Attorney. But Vaughn and Andrea’s story doesn’t end there.
Seeing and Cultivating Potential
For four years, Vaughn and Andrea worked side by side. Leaning out the doors to their adjacent offices, they shared laughs and collaborated on many projects. During that time, Andrea was like a sponge as she keenly observed how Vaughn navigated his role as a leader and interacted with colleagues, partners, and stakeholders.
While she learned from his example, Vaughn would also advise her professionally.
“Vaughn is not just the mentor that helps people. He is a sponsor, which a lot of people don't do. They mentor you, and it's a nice relationship, but they don't sponsor you or champion you. And in this case, he did that for me,” said Andrea.
He introduced her to many VPs in Newark and Long Island because he could see her as a future leader at PSEG LI, even when she might not have yet seen it for herself. He included Andrea on high-profile projects to give her the opportunity and exposure to demonstrate her skills and expertise. If Andrea ever needed any additional support with these new stretch opportunities, Vaughn was the person she went to.
The Mentor’s Mentoring Story
Vaughn had many mentors himself throughout his life. Coaches, teachers, guidance counselors, and those with whom he interacted within his community had always served as mentors.
It was in college when he met a mentor who was very influential in his professional development as a law student and young lawyer. They cultivated a relationship and his mentor provided guidance on college courses and how to become a lawyer.
“What wasn’t much for him was everything to me,” Vaughn shared as he reflected on the moments when that mentor helped him financially with textbooks and other necessities for school.
“That solidified in my mind the impact a mentor could make because he didn’t really know me, but over time what was a mentoring relationship became more of a father-son relationship. I became very close to his family and he became very close to mine,” said Vaughn
Little did Vaughn know back in college as he diligently studied to become a lawyer that he would one day step into the shoes of his mentor.
Sponsoring Your Chosen Successor
When it came time for Vaughn to leave PSEG LI in 2018, Andrea was the first person who came to mind as his successor. Through their work together, he observed her potential and believed that she helped him grow and develop as well.
Vaughn called Andrea and told her she had to apply for the position. Andrea was nervous and didn’t know if she wanted to take over the role, or if she could. When she doubted whether she could take on this leadership role, Vaughn sensed her hesitation and said, “No, you can do it.”
“That's when it helps. When you think you can't do something, and you think you're not ready for something, you have that person that tells you: ‘you're ready for it,’ and ‘I'm here for you. If you need me, you can always call me,’” said Andrea.
360 Degrees of Mentoring
Even after Vaughn left PSEG LI, he and Andrea continue to lean on one another for advice. They may not have offices next to each other like their early days at PSEG LI, but they still reach out and talk regularly.
As is characteristic of Andrea, she was more than a successor of Vaughn’s role at PSEG LI. She also embodies his mentoring philosophy.
“I believe in what I call a 360 degree of mentorship. So I am mentoring somebody. I am being mentored by somebody or somebodies. And I'd mentor people on my level or my peers. It’s kind of a lifestyle at this point, more than anything else,” said Vaughn.
In her leadership role, Andrea is now a mentor to several people, professionally and personally. For the past two years, she has mentored a young engineer by helping him with his performance evaluations, connecting him to other engineering professionals, and giving him other professional advice. She is also a part of a mentoring program for women focusing on leadership over six months. Andrea helps with their resumes, career advice, and personal growth.
Andrea said, “People need an advocate. Sometimes, you need somebody that's in the senior leadership position or in the room that will say, ‘Hey, I think this person is capable.’”
Vaughn and Andrea’s story could happen in your office within your teams. To learn more about the power of mentoring in the workplace and fueling the talent pipeline within your company, visit www.mentornewyork.org/corporate.
More About Vaughn and Andrea
Vaughn L. McKoy is an award-winning community servant and long-time leader of nonprofits. He volunteers as a board member for regional organizations, including Rutgers University, UNCF, The Dfree Global Foundation, Inc., The Boys and Girls Clubs of New Jersey, and Mentor New York. For more than a decade, Vaughn held successive leadership roles with PSEG, a regional utility company. Most notably, as President of the PSEG Foundation, he championed the company’s mission in support of education, the environment, and the community. Rising to a high-visibility role as Managing Director/VP of Legal for a newly acquired PSEG subsidiary, he directed the successful integration of the former entity’s legal department with the parent company’s legal systems and processes. Vaughn launched his career as a General and Commercial Litigator for a private NJ law firm. Vaughn and his wife, Marnie G. McKoy, launched two businesses that continue to thrive and grow. He is Co-Founder & President of the Shekinah Group, a multimillion-dollar certified minority and woman-owned business that fills a niche service for the construction industry and operates retail concessions at several U.S. airports. Vaughn is also CEO of the McKoy Group, providing leadership training and coaching services as well as keynote speaking engagements.
Andrea Elder-Howell was appointed to the MENTOR New York Board of Directors in 2018. The former SUNY Old Westbury University professor and member of the Nassau County Alumnae Delta Sigma Theta Sorority said that working with MENTOR New York is another way to support Freeport children. Read the full LI Herald article from 2018.