2020 ELEVATE finalist Delano Robinson lives by a well-known quote by the legendary, Muhammad Ali. “The service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” We think that there is more than this quote that link the two. Robinson displays many of the characteristics that history loves most about Ali: humility, generosity, mental courage and a larger than life persona.
Robinson is the current president of the Black Data Processing Association of Indianapolis chapter; a nonprofit organization focused on creating STEM thought leaders and closing the gap of minorities represented in STEM. According to his nomination, Robinson’s leadership has led to maintenance and growth of active members, an increase in BDPA’s operational budget and outstanding programming. However, what propelled him to Volunteer of the Year nominee, were the ways he intentionally set up programs and opportunities to cultivate the next generation of minorities in STEM and fill the pipeline.
We had a lot of ground to cover during our chat with Delano!
Q: First, congratulations! Tell us a little more about yourself.
A: My journey started in Chicago, Illinois where I was raised by a single-mother. I love the city; there are so many hidden gems there, but it can also be a difficult place to raise minority young men. I took my first job at the age of 13. Unlike others my age, I wasn’t working for extra spending money, but to help my mom put food on the table. It wasn’t always an easy life – I suppose that’s not uncommon – but I can say that much of my upbringing is what fuels me today.
Q: What are you passionate about?
Basketball! It taught me a lot about life and connected me to many of the most important people I know, including my best friend and my surrogate father. I poured a lot in to the sport as a young man and was lucky enough to get a scholarship to college. Like many, I dreamt of a life as an NBA star, but realized I needed a backup plan.
Q: Which was?
A: My love for technology. I was actually first introduced to BDPA in 2005 when I competed in a National Information Technology Showcase in Washington D.C, as student. I went on to win and was eventually offered a role at Eli Lilly and Company, where I work today. Not only am I grateful to have been a Lilly employee for the past six years, but now I am humbled to serve as the BDPA Indianapolis Chapter President.
We love this full circle moment.
Q: What’s something you appreciate most about being a Lilly employee?
A: I’m thankful that they embrace service as part of my employee development plan. I feel well-positioned to chase the dreams I have as a volunteer because of Eli Lilly and Company. As a manager myself, I try to give that support back to my direct reports. I love developing people and creating strong relationships. The people I’ve met at Lilly give me so much – encouragement AND tough love. Before me, no one in my family had ever worked in corporate America. Lilly is like family.
Q: Tell us about the Local Information Technology Showcase Program through BDPA.
A: The IT Showcase allows student presenters from educational institutions across the United States to present and demonstrate their research. The presentations represent advanced computing and technical topics to an audience of corporate representatives, IT professionals, and students. In 2019, Lilly co-sponsored the showcase, which was a real win for Indianapolis chapter, as was our award of “Chapter of the Year.” The students I’ve worked with in the past few years have gone on to get amazing full-time employment offers, which is such a rewarding feeling!
Q: There are complex issues facing our community. What do we need to do to be better for one another?
A: First I’d say, collaborate more. It is not a competition. I would encourage people to put their egos aside because at the heart there is so much similarity in what we are trying to accomplish. Working together just makes good sense.
Second, show up.
Q: You’ve certainly showed up for the youth of our community. Let’s talk about that.
A: The administration at Providence Cristo Ray High School is a great collaboration partner. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to the young men there about the power of self-respect and respecting women. I’m currently working on a program focused on accelerating the mind development of the young minority men there so that they can gracefully overcome obstacles and distractions.
Q: Finish this sentence. “Being a great volunteer means…
A: “…giving back selflessly in order to live a purpose-driven life.”
You are a shining example, Delano. Congratulations on your nomination!