When Brian Ponchak left his Cleveland home for Ohio University, he planned to return with a degree in communication, perhaps a career in public relations.

Senior Human Resources Business Partner
Grange Insurance

When Brian Ponchak left his Cleveland home for Ohio University, he planned to return with a degree in communication, perhaps a career in public relations.

But an internship after college with the Ohio Hospital Association introduced him to Columbus, and he fell in love with the city. Then a customer service job with Verizon helped him see how much he enjoyed training and helping others, leading Ponchak to a new calling in human resources.

For the past three years, Ponchak has used that calling to serve the employees at Grange Insurance, where his innovations as a senior human resources business partner have made him the 2015 Future Leader.

"I really enjoy helping others," he says. "I know that is such a typical HR answer, but I get value out of seeing the impact I make, developing programs, and the impact on young people, giving them the opportunity to grow. I remember where I started, and I like helping them get where they want to go."

Ponchak, who earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio University, came to Grange in 2011 through an internship in his Ohio State University Fisher College of Business master's program, and he quickly distinguished himself.

"With his journalism background, we had great cause to use Brian for a wide variety of business," Gary Irvine, assistant vice president of talent management, says. "He was continually drawing from his education and his prior work from Verizon. "Brian was almost at a leadership level even during his internship."

To help others on that same path, Ponchak helped establish the Intern Development Program, a 10-week cohort experience that includes mentoring opportunities for all disciplines, engaging in corporate projects, community service, and team and leadership building with fellow interns.

Every intern is exposed to relationship building, networking events and collaboration, and creates a capstone project to present to Grange's executive officers.

The program has grown from 10 interns in 2010 to 25 this year.

Ponchak also founded the company's Young Professionals Associate Resource Group, which provides resources and opportunities young executives can use to move forward in their careers.

The effort helped Grange get recognized by the Columbus Young Professionals Club as a "Wonderful Workplace for Young Professionals."

"As a self-motivated young professional, Brian's tenacity guides him to always challenge himself and others," Irvine wrote in his nomination.

"He makes it a priority to network and learn from as many Grange associates as possible. Whether it's mentoring an intern or having a coffee with an executive officer, he has made it his responsibility to gain an in-the-trenches perspective from everyone he encounters. This, in return, has enabled him to garner his peers' trust, strengthen his credibility, and expose him to experiences beyond technical HR and basic business skills."

Ponchak's job also involves supporting Grange's legal, financial and customer interactions, including the call center, and billing and customer experiences, as well as working with employee relations, recruitment and talent management initiatives.

He was selected for Grange's 2015-2016 Emerging Leaders Program, and during his time at Grange has led various initiatives to establish a collaborative work environment and improve recruitment and retention.

Among his other efforts are spearheading Grange's annual Career and Internship Fair, designed to help Grange meet the need of more than 26,000 insurance jobs expected to soon become available in Ohio due to high retirement rates and industry growth.

And once new employees come on board, Ponchak has helped foster diversity and inclusion among them through the development of Associate Resource Groups for women as well as young professionals.

Despite his success, the Grandview resident says he continues to seek new opportunities for growth.

"I'm excited to see where my career goes," he says.

"I'm not sure human resources is my landing point. Right now I am working to master my current role, though that may never happen. I just want to keep learning more. There is always something new that comes up and keeps me engaged." says Ponchak.

"I'm excited to see where my career goes. I'm not sure human resources is my landing point. Right now I am working to master my current role ... I just want to keep learning more."

Finalist

Carly Mihaila
Manager, HR Business Partner
Cardinal Health

Carly Mihaila began her career with Cardinal Health in 2009 after receiving her bachelor's degree from the Ohio State University. She has been on an upward trajectory ever since, leading to her selection as the 2015 finalist for the Future Leader Award.

Mihaila started in talent management, was promoted in 2012, and then transitioned to an HR Business Partner role where she soon became manager.

She is currently responsible for strategic and finance sourcing and finance resources.

Mihaila, who earned her master's degree from Case Western University in 2014, continues every day at Cardinal Health to create and deliver tools to improve and enhance performance management, talent reviews, development planning, 360-degree assessment feedback, executive coaching and onboarding tools.

Among her key contributions are:

Working with managers to ensure Cardinal Health has engaged employees. Coaching managers to be effective leaders. Working through difficult employee relation situations, advocating for both employees and managers. Having strategic conversations with senior leaders on what will move the needle within their specific team.