I’ve always thought that I fell into my success; that it just happened to me; that I got lucky. Most successful, professional women I know have similar thoughts about their own stories. Women believe things happen to us. But here’s the truth, I’m a big deal. I’m a rockstar. I am a powerful woman designer who’s become an advocate for groups of people who are often isolated simply because they’re not typical. I didn’t fall into anything. I built this amazing career by continually becoming more aware of my personal strengths and being able to match those strengths to my career objectives. I’m writing my own story and it’s amazing.
When I started my career, being a designer was not my objective. I wanted to build things. I wanted to get my hands dirty and make things that were cool and interesting and unique. So I studied to be a software developer. But here’s the thing, I hated to code. I truly hated it. While I discovered that I hated to code, I also discovered I had an exceptional talent for solving problems. The bigger, meatier, and more complex the better. That love of problem solving led me to design, although I probably didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time.
Becoming an advocate for the differently-abled was also not my objective. I was focused on solving problems in Education. I was working to understand how people use technology to teach and learn. I wanted to to create simple and useful experiences for teachers and students. At some point I was asked to focus on how blind teachers and students use technology and what we needed to do to ensure they could successfully use our technology. It started as just another problem to solve. Then my nephew was diagnosed with ADHD. I met a Deaf lawyer who became one of my best friends. I started rock climbing with a single arm amputee. As my personal life started to collide with my professional life I developed a passion for ensuring equal access to digital and educational experiences.
In 2009 our team took Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder assessment to discover what our greatest personal strengths and opportunities were as a team. According to the assessment, my greatest strength was EMPATHY. I’ve always known I was driven by emotions, my own and those of others. But I’d routinely thought of it as something to suppress in my professional life.
“People who are strong in empathy have an innate ability to sense the emotions of the people around them and to intuitively see the world through their eyes and perspective”.
StrenghtsFinder – Empathy
Learning that empathy was my greatest strength made me realize why I’m able to so quickly see the patterns and make the connections that lead me to solutions in the most complex of problems. Accepting my talent for empathy and learning how to use it effectively has made me a better designer and problem solver. It’s helped me become an influential change maker focused on delivering on the promise technology offers to those with a variety of physical and cognitive abilities.
I’ve been working in the design, education, and accessibility fields for over 10 years now. I’ve created digital teaching and learning experiences. I’ve changed policies and implemented inclusive development practices. I’ve influenced culture in large organizations. I’m a design thinker, a storyteller, and a problem solver and my story is just getting started.