I’m doing some writing for a group that focuses on youth employment. I knew it was bad out there with the economy but this group, young people, are getting hit particularly hard. A bit of hope is that the information technology “IT” industry is needing people.

Not in traditional IT roles, not hidden away in dark server rooms or doing development. There is a need for business focused people with IT capabilities, a huge demand. In Canada there will be, even with the down turn, a need for over 90,000 new people to fill new IT jobs in the next 3 years. Canada is in crisis as recovery is going to depend on filling these roles. Another barrier for economic recovery is there will only be between 9 and 18 thousand new grads from Canadian schools who could fill these jobs.. There is a huge need for skilled young people. Skilled people of minority color and gender, IT has been very good to me. I’ve perceived, discrimination, or bias, in other industries which hasn’t hindered me in my IT career.

During my research into youth employment I came across an interesting piece about persons with disabilities. If your disabled your tenure in a role is directly related to the level of accommodation you have for your disability in role.

Being accommodated or feeling accommodated is a etherial thing. Accommodation, as I’ve written is a multidimensional thing with over time will change. I’m also a firm believer in change as a constant, not the rate of change is constant but change will constantly happen. I also hold onto construction and deconstruction or chaos theory where things are constantly being built up or torn down.

Look at your own cycle of accommodation. Lets consider that you’ve had the same job for 5 years. Something attainable as I’ve never lasted longer than 6 in one job. You’ve been in that job for 5 years and the economy crash and burns and its time to cut costs. Or you’ve been in a job and the management changes. The manager that hired you and provided accommodations for you changes. Or your in a job and the customers don’t think your responsive to them because in meetings you don’t behave as they expect. Are you vulnerable? ABSOLUTELY!!! I changed jobs and managers at Microsoft for all of these reasons. I finally left Microsoft because I was tired. I was exceptional I received a Bill Gates global service award I brought in tons of business and my customers were more satisfied with me than anyone else in the country.

My own behaviour my own tenure in my professional roles, historically has been governed by managing how vulnerable I feel. I feel exceptionally vulnerable in employment situations because of my disability; when people aren’t including you or talking to you, when your not provided accommodations, when your not getting work let alone cool work to do, your vulnerable. Start looking for a new job.

I look back at my career. My first job I was laid off after two years. Loved that job and hoped I would retire there. My second job which I loved I left because I couldn’t afford my new wife and my new life. The next job I stayed at for 5 years, I loved the people I worked with, literally I wanted to marry one of them. Only in my 4th year did I have an opportunity to do something cool. I actually designed my own demise and was again laid off. My next job I quit, remember the cool work thing. There was no work. Next I went to an organization just moving to Calgary from Toronto, I did very well but I created so much organizational change that there was no were for me to go. I left and moved to Toronto, where I had a great job lots of responsibility. How was I supposed to know the company was on the verge of a major identity change. I was used as a catalyst for significant organizational and corporate change. At the time I was totally intimidated and needed more support and mentoring, I was in over my head. I got scared, and left. In retrospect I wish I knew then what I know now I’d have rocked. I also learned the hard way that if your used to create change rarely if ever will there be a place for you in the new organizational structure. I think its how solders feel after going to war protecting beliefs and freedom then upon coming home there is no place for them. Next job I was fired from for being too loud, actually for laughing too loud, I am after all big loud and obnoxious. After that I landed a great opportunity I was a VP and did some very cool industry leading stuff. I got stupid and greedy hoping that opportunities and jobs would come my way which didn’t. Here I learned the lesson if it’s not yours to offer, don’t, conversely if someone is offering you something make sure they can deliver. I paid the price for my impetuosity and left.

In all of these organizations I was the super star hot shot. I totally rocked. Must have been a byproduct of being young stupid and impetuous and totally tenacious. I hide my disability and the only accommodation I used was a larger monitor, 20”.

My next position was weird. I was doing some very cool things developing strategy leading a team making some good moves, then poof. The only thing I can figure to this day is that I was being too successful and my boss was feeling insecure with his role. Another hard lesson everybody plays everybody wins. This goes for those on your team, those your work with and your boss’s. The mistake I might have made was not sharing success.

Finally Microsoft where I lasted six years in two countries, two provinces, one state, and five cities. I did great!! I came out “blind” at Microsoft, poor Microsoft. My disability could no longer be hidden my PEFFS curve and my “blindness” was leaking through the facade I had worked behind for so long. I couldn’t compete as a want to be sighted person there was no choice but to embrace my disability. At first this worked great I had significant velocity and traction within the organization and with Microsoft’s customers. I had all the accommodations technically I could want or need. Then the weirdness I described above. Being disabled you are at the mercy of those that hire you and choose to accommodate you. With all the high and mighty laws of Canada and the US detailing the need to provide accommodation for persons with disabilities. Really the laws are not that high and mighty. When times get tough or your accommodating manager goes away and you are suddenly stuck with someone who isn’t “enlighted” you are doomed. The perception of your abilities and capabilities is “changed” your contributions questions and your managed out.

I was tired of being the freak the side show clown at the circus. Having a senior VP yelling at me in a room of people berating me, abusing me because I was using a visual aid, a Jordy, to see. If I wasn’t penalized for not collaborating around little laptops I can’t see or if I wasn’t penalized for not taking notes which I can’t read I might not have left Microsoft. I tell people I left Microsoft because I was tired, tired of being the freak.

I have noticed there comes a time, a time for me where I am tired of advocating. I have perceived from the organization, a fatigue, where they are tired of accommodating you, no matter what you contribute. Its when these two curves meet that I start looking for a new job. Since I was laid off the first time way back when I’ve never stopped looking for a new job.

My career was / is in crisis. With the economic downturn with the changes in the IT industry I have had to totally reinvent myself. Thats part of the game adaptation and tenacity. Make the changes you need to make to keep moving forward. The impacts to my life have been extensive. I don’t want to say extreme. Coming out “blind” has impacted everything, all parts of my life, in ways I couldn’t have imagined. The costs tremendous the rewards are still coming. It has been worth it.

I honestly don’t know what’s next. I am leaning more and more to the words “do what you love”, and “be true to yourself”. Is IT a career I would have followed in retrospect probably not. IT has allowed me to play on a more level playing field to be safe and be accepted regardless of my disability. Coming out “blind” has changed all of that. I am thinking that now that I’m over 40 there is less time to live the original dream to be what I wanted to be. Now I wan’t to discover what being open about my disability means. I wan’t to fly as an openly blind person and see where I end up. With any luck not back in some dark server room.

About the Author:

Kyle has ocular albinism and has been legally blind since birth. Kyle leads a very active live and is besides his professional career involved in many projects for persons who are different.

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