When Denise Jenkins-Agurs moved from Florida to Indianapolis six weeks ago to start a new job at IndyGo, one of the benefits was she’d be closer to her family in Ohio.
What she’s found throughout her short tenure as the first vice president of inclusion and workforce development at the transportation company, however, is that the IndyGo team feels like a family.
“The common denominator is people,” Jenkins-Agurs, 53, said. “… My day-to-day thus far is trying to get to know the culture, leadership teams and the teammates here. It’s been a good five weeks.”
In this role, Jenkins-Agurs will help IndyGo employees — or “teammates” — find educational and workforce development opportunities to develop their skills and enhance their careers.
With 25 years of workforce development experience under her belt, Jenkins-Agurs said working for someone like IndyGo CEO Inez Evans made her transition easy, and she’s excited for what lies ahead.
“It has been an excellent ride to be able to report to someone who gets it,” Jenkins-Agurs said of Evans. “She understands the importance of the people on the front line … and she puts people first, and that makes it easier to develop new initiatives.”
A few of the initiatives Jenkins-Agurs has in the works is a partnership with Providence Cristo Rey for internship opportunities for students, as well as an apprenticeship program for IndyGo’s maintenance workers and operators.
“My biggest goal here is to make sure we have a robust learning program to make sure that every employee who decides to work here understands that where they start doesn’t mean that’s where they end,” Jenkins-Agurs said. “I want to make sure we have the educational components to meet the needs of our teammates … and a solid program that fits the needs of everyone.”
Like Evans, who began her role as CEO in August of 2019, Jenkins-Agurs spends her days getting a firsthand look at IndyGo operations and meeting workers and riders. However, due to COVID-19, things look a lot different.
“The things is, you still have to wear a mask, so you can’t see people’s face,” she said. “You’re trying to develop a relationship and all you see is people’s eyes, so it can be challenging. I’m intentional about getting out and about, though.”
Along with Evans, Jenkins-Agurs gets to know the IndyGo teammates over lunch. Dishing out meals to workers and letting them know they’re valued, Jenkins-Agurs said, is an important step into making everyone feel like they are a part of the family.
“I read a quote that diversity is being asked to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance,” Jenkins-Agurs said. “Here at IndyGo, we want to make sure that every teammate feels included, regardless of their religion, background or who they choose to love. We want to support them and let them know that they can grow here at IndyGo.”
While Jenkins-Agurs was happy to get out of the health care system in Florida — a hotspot for COVID-19 and a generally stressful environment, she said — it’s not just a new step for her. According to Evans, this new position is a step forward for the future of IndyGo.
“This is a critical role for our agency as we move our workforce and agency into the next chapter,” Evans said in a statement. “Denise’s experience and knowledge will be vitally important to our efforts to strengthen our employee management, diversity and inclusion initiatives.”
Jenkins-Agurs knows there may be some challenges on the road ahead — such as learning the meaning of all the acronyms used in the transportation industry — however, she’s excited to dive head first into what she calls her dream job.
“My purpose in life is to help people as it relates to education,” Jenkins-Agurs said. “I’m passionate about people and service, and when you understand your purpose, you’ll never work another day in your life, because it’s what you’re called to do. … I’m blessed to have this opportunity.”
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.