Career Watch: The disabled as IT workers

Q&A: Neil Jacobson

The founder and CEO of Abilicorp discusses the fit between IT and people with disabilities.

In what ways are people with disabilities superior employees? I would not say people with disabilities are superior employees. I would say that there are aspects of having a disability that result in many people with disabilities being great employees. In my experience -- and I have helped to place tens of thousands of people in jobs over the past several decades -- I would say that employees with disabilities stand out as being incredibly creative, persistent, hard-working and loyal. Many of us who have significant physical disabilities have to be creative and persistent for our own survival. Because we are often not able to do things the "normal" way, we are literally forced to be creative and perform tasks however we can, and we carry that creativity into problem-solving in the workplace. We have to be persistent and know there's always a way to accomplish a task. Having a disability is in itself hard work. I probably consume more energy getting dressed in the morning than most people do in their workout at the gym.

As far as loyalty goes, unfortunately most people with disabilities know how difficult it is to find a job, and they know a good thing when they get it. According to the National Organization on Disability, people with disabilities stay in jobs longer and have less absenteeism than the average worker. I stayed at Wells Fargo for 29 years.

What sorts of jobs are the disabled particularly well suited for in the IT realm? I dare not generalize. Undoubtedly, for every IT job, there are great people with disabilities well suited for it. For me, IT development was always my sweet spot. It is one of the few professions where there is always a way to give your client/customer exactly what they want. With IT development, you always know when you did well (it worked), and when you need to do better (it didn't work).

IT management is another area. Many people with disabilities are forced to be good managers in their daily lives -- we learn how to teach and manage others to get things done that we are not able to do for ourselves.

What's the track record of Abilicorp in placing the disabled in IT jobs? Before working for Wells Fargo, I co-founded the Computer Technologies Program in Berkeley, Calif. I directed and taught the program for four years, and 92% of my students found jobs as programmers. Since then, 28 other programs have started nationwide that have used the Berkeley program as a model. Over 60,000 people with disabilities have found careers because of these programs. Having started Abilicorp less than a year ago, it is still very young, but I know we will see the same kind of success.

-- Jamie Eckle

Goodbye to Bad Bosses

If you've ever left a job solely because you couldn't tolerate working for your boss, you aren't alone. In a CareerBuilder.com online survey, 43% of the respondents said they had jumped ship rather than put up with a bad boss. Women were more likely than men to submit a resignation in order to get away from a supervisor; 48% of the women responding said they have done it, compared with just 39% of the men. The survey also turned up these specific examples of bizarre boss behavior:

* Hiding in weird places in order to spy on employees.

* Taking a bite of a doughnut that a worker had left on his desk.

* Holding a meeting while locked inside the bathroom.

* Bringing a gun to work and cleaning it in an area behind employees.

* Tap-dancing on an employee's desk.

* Showing everyone a kidney stone he had passed.

* Breaking down and crying during a meeting, "Why don't you like me?"

* Keeping his lunch in a freezer intended for human organ storage.

* Using a Taser stun gun on a subordinate.

* Instituting "Talk Like a Pirate Day."

* Riding a child's scooter through the office.

Generational Tolerance

Age of worker

Percentage who have left because of a bad boss

18-24

40%

35-44

48%

45-54

41%

Source: CareerBuilder.com survey of 8,038 U.S. employees, 2009

CareerBuilder.com has set up a way to deliver a message to your own bad boss. You can log onto AnonymousTipGiver.com to have an animated message e-mailed to your boss (or other co-workers). You can choose from a menu of tips, type in your own or record one over the phone.

This story, "Career Watch: The disabled as IT workers" was originally published by Computerworld.

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