I’m currently a VP of Sales at Knock. I’m also an avid tennis player, cyclist, identical twin and have been wheelchair-bound since birth. Born with Sacral Agenesis, it’s been my mission to spread the power and benefits of a more inclusive society.
I was honored to recently join an incredible group of leaders at Product Marketing World Summit for a discussion on inclusion and diversity. Through conversations with fellow panelists from Oracle and Google and with the audience, I came away feeling more inspired than ever to share my experience working at a company that truly values, supports and promotes an inclusive and diverse workplace.
The topic of inclusion in the workplace. It can be tricky.
I believe that businesses succeed when a variety of perspectives and skills come together for the common good of the organization. We all contribute our own abilities to the team, building off of one another. The more the better. Inclusion, in that sense, is a competitive advantage when fully embraced by any business.
But abilities, like people, come in many forms and tend to evolve over time. The same is true for disabilities. Some are visible like mine, while others are not. The advantage of professional abilities is that teams feel comfortable discussing them. But discussion of disabilities are often met with uncertainty or even fear. This is an unfortunate reality that many, including myself, must deal with on a daily basis.
However, not knowing how to have a conversation is not an excuse for not trying to have it at all. Not until someone sees past my wheelchair and talks to me do they really see me for what I am… a person, an employee, capable of making the hard sale, close a deal, and deliver exceptional care to all of my clients. These skills are few and far between.
Enter Knock and my first interview.
Interviews can be full of anxiety for anyone. But for me it’s never just a question of my talent or fit for the position, I have the added obstacle of overcoming perceived stigmas my interviewer may be unconsciously carrying when they see my wheelchair.
My first interview with Knock’s Co-Founder Demetri Themelis was completely different. It was one of the first times I truly felt like my value as a professional was immediately appreciated, where my wheelchair wasn’t the focus.
Spoiler alert: I got the job. And when I asked Demetri why he hired me, he listed off reasons related to my sales experience, but then said something very interesting: that he knew I had to be a good planner, that I had to plan, pre-plan and plan some more. He knew strategy around planning would translate over to my work and not only saw beyond my wheelchair, he knew that it is core to the qualities that make me uniquely qualified for the role.
Knock supports and promotes an inclusive, diverse and collaborative workplace.
It was when I started at Knock that I learned why the interview experience was so different – the company has created a culture where the inclusion of people and ideas is encouraged. We have a “no hurt feelings policy” where we feel safe and open to speak up, share, collaborate and partake. We all approach issues, challenges and ideas with honest dialogue. Uncertainty and fear does not exist because we trust one another.
Openness among colleagues related to inclusion or diversity can sometimes be hard, and we won’t always know the right thing to say or have the right answers. THIS IS OK. We need to be willing to talk and make mistakes. I make them too. We are all human. This is how we learn from one another and grow together.
Working at Knock has made me feel more confident and motivated than ever in my career and as a speaker advocating for more inclusion and diversity in the workplace… not just for me and Knock, but for all of us and all companies!
What I see the future holds for inclusion.
Having a diversity and inclusion program in place is not just a box we check off in our organizations. It’s something we build on, learn from and grow. Yes, we’ve come a long way. But not until we support and promote open and honest conversation around inclusion every day will we overcome roadblocks to achieve new and more accepting pathways for a better tomorrow.
And with companies like Knock leading the way, I know we’ll continue to evolve into a more inclusive and diverse society!
Communication is key to tap into the competitive advantages of an inclusive workplace.