Deaf Looking to Break In

Mod Note (Andy) - We're reposting the top discussions from 2015, this one ranks #15 and was originally posted 11/1/2015.

Hey everyone! I have been following this site and enjoyed contents from different kind of people. Since my experience is unique, I decided to post this and see what your thoughts are. (It might be.... slightly long post, but hope you will read it!)

Born Deaf

I was born profoundly Deaf and uses American Sign Language exclusively. I lip read decently, but not reliable. I went to a deaf school K-12 and Gallaudet University's business school for BS in Business Admin.

I had an internship at National Public Radio and it was my first exposure to the corporate environment as a Deaf person. Of course, I was nervous as hell. Because I went to deaf schools growing up, it was my first time interacting and working with hearing people. I played in soccer teams as the only Deaf person without an interpreter all the time growing up, but in soccer you just play. If you want the ball, you just yell (probably with deaf voice, but it still gets you the ball!).

After working there for months, I eventually realized that I am on same level with others, if not higher. Because I had a lot to prove, I hustled hard core by meeting with everyone in the office and make sales calls (related to a project they had and they needed to recruit volunteers). I used Sorenson video relay service, where you can make calls by signing to interpreters on your iPhone (think FaceTime).

There were three interns in my department (from Harvard, Oxford and American University) and I ended up becoming the project leader. Why? I got things done faster than anyone and I brought in plenty of new ideas. The point of telling this story - I realized that it is all about interpersonal skills, work ethic and your ability to lead and get things done.

Communication

At NPR, I use three communication methods:

1: Interpreters
National Public Radio was great to provide sign language interpreters for meetings. Having an interpreter is all I need and have 100% (well, almost) access to everything.

2. iPad with keyboard
I carried iPad with me like it is my life saving. When I stop by an employee's office, I use iPad with a keyboard attached to chat and discuss stuff. You can speak to iPad and it will automatically translate into text. Some would just type, depends on their preference.

3. Email
All employees use e-mail to communicate as well, but it is extremely important for me to be an email ninja. If you suck at emails, you will fail as an A+ Deaf employee.

Current

After interning at NPR, I realized that I did not want to go into marketing so I went to a 2nd tier MSF program to learn more about finance, graduating this Dec. My goal is to get into entry-level equity research and eventually run my own Asset Management firm. I have a couple of 2nd round interviews lined up and still looking for more opportunities. I was able to win 2nd round interviews by doing those things:

1) Be open about my deafness. I introduced myself to the interviewer and let him/her know what they should expect from interviewing me with an interpreter.

2) Mention that I am probably one of the best problem-solvers out there. Why? I overcome barriers of being Deaf every day and here I am in the interview room where many of my hearing friends were dying to get. Not able to figure out why DCF model does not work? Piece of cake.

3) Out work other candidates by miles. I want to emphasize this -- I will always have to outwork everyone in a company, from top to bottom. For all interviews, I studied each company extensively and prepare potential interview questions excessively well. To put a final dagger in, I hand in a stock valuation report (with 3-statement, DCF, and comp models) and a LBO report and walk them through them.

I am still looking for a right opportunity for myself and my career. I would love to hear your perspective from other side of the table and learn from them.

Questions for you guys

-If you had a Deaf person coming in your interview, what kind of questions you would want to know? You probably won't be able to ask them professionally, but what things you want them to address? I am sure a person who never met a Deaf person before probably have some doubts.

-If a person cold-emailed you and introduced him/herself as Deaf, would you be more inclined to answer or help? Would you prefer them to introduce themselves as Deaf in the first e-mail or later in the conversation?

-What are some things Deaf people could do to make you feel more open to the idea of hiring and working with them?

-What advice would you give me as a Deaf person looking to break in the industry?

P.S. While I am working to break in, I am also writing a how to break in an industry guide for Deaf people. Such as - how to network as a Deaf person, what to say in interviews and types of things they would need to overcome and how to deal with them. Frankly, there is virtually no brutally honest guidance for Deaf people to be successful. Your advice and thoughts will be helpful for me and many other Deaf people!

Comments (28)

Oct 28, 2015

What an amazing and inspirational story.

There are plenty of experienced people on this website, and I'm sure they'd be willing to provide you with good information.

To be realistic and in the interest of maximising your strengths, I think you should aim for positions that minimise social contact. Again, I'm sure others who actually work in these industries will be able to give you much more information, but I'm under the impression that ER, especially as you move up, requires quite a lot of social interaction. You will need to communicate effectively and efficiently with company management, investors, other analysts, ect. Although you stated that you possess the means to communicate sufficiently well, I'm not sure that sufficiently well will cut it in this industry. Everything is extremely fast-paced, and the people you communicate with will not have the time or patience for anything less than excellent communication skills.

On the other hand, roles that place greater emphasis on performance and analytical skills, such as investment management, trading, ect, may be far more suitable. You already mentioned that you're extremely hard working. I believe that these roles will better leverage that hard-work, over roles that require copious communication, which will likely end up discounting your hard work.

Also, I'm not 100% sure, but I'd suspect that the BB firms have some kind of hiring procedure for people in your position? This could put you in a much greater competitive position to get roles you're interested in. Look into it and see what you can find.

Like I said, others who are professionals in these roles will be able to give you superior advice.

    • 3
    • 1
Oct 28, 2015

What an inspirational story.

Im sorry I cant really give any genuinely helpful advice due to the uniqueness of the situation and my own limited experience but I will for sure be following this thread.

However good luck brotha. Keep hustling!

    • 1
    • 1
Oct 28, 2015

I wonder if quant wouldn't be good for you? I saw plenty of those guys on the trading floor and they never spoke, but they did do a lot of spreadsheets and were undoubtedly some of the smartest people I have come across. My friend is in quant now, and is a PHD drop out. She says they usually want people who have had their masters and are in a PHD program of sorts, but this was at a BB, so maybe it would be different at a MM shop. Or you could try research, but a lot of those guys are on the phone a lot, the more senior they get.

********"Babies don't cost money, they MAKE money." - Jerri Blank********

    • 2
    • 1
Oct 28, 2015

Yeah, I am starting to find out that quant seems like the best route. I will graduate with MSF and if I could go back and knowing what I know now, I would definitely go into something related to computer science/math/stats/etc. My school started offering MS Computational Finance this semester for the first time and that would have been a great fit.

I have very basic knowledge of programming stuff like SQL, C++, Python, etc. but there are plenty of resources (professors and books) at my school for me to take advantage of. But yeah, I will need to decide if I'm 100% in for quant because it is time consuming to learn stuff like that.

    • 2
    • 1
Best Response
Oct 28, 2015

Good stuff. This is not from personal experience but most larger companies of any sort will have some sort of inclusion/disability group or function (I don't know if disability is the correct term but hey...). A quick search gave this result: http://www.goldmansachs.com/who-we-are/diversity-a.... I'd go that route: just start targeting the firms you want and get in touch with their in house function and go from there.

I'd target larger firms to start because like I said, they're more likely to have that function. They should be able to help out, and I don't mean this in a disparaging or demeaning way by any means but you'll probably recruit well. Big, mean investment firms love to show that they're actually human and you'll probably end up on their website with Lloyd Blankfein's arm around you so that he can prove that he does indeed do "God's work."

Good luck.

    • 6
    • 1
Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Oct 28, 2015

True, many companies do want to have good # of diversity. With today's society putting more emphasis on diversity, it certainly helps my case.

I looked through big firms' diversity sites like you suggested and found some stuff. They don't seem to give out contact info for the diversity office, but I can try and call a number there and see where it leads to. Also, I saw several diversity recruiter profiles on LinkedIn so I guess it won't hurt to try and get in contact with them as well.

Appreciate the helpful tip, @Dingdong08

    • 1
    • 1
Oct 28, 2015

If you're having issues finding a contact just use whomever you find and email them. For example on the GS site it's Peggy Rawitt. Somewhere on WSO there's an email format page to find the correct format so just email [email protected] (that's GS's btw). If the firm's website doesn't have it search on the company you want, inclusion/disability (or other similar search terms) and look for a press release with the person from the company speaking because I almost guarantee that they'll publicize these programs because it's good PR. And if it's not a press release they may have done a conference or roundtable where you can get a company contact. If they don't get back to you personally there's a somewhat decent chance that they'll forward it to the appropriate person because that's why those programs are in place. Or just get in touch with HR and ask for a contact at their disability/inclusion group. Unlike cold emailing the head of TMT at GS and asking for coffee or a job, it's these employee's job to help people. And there's no shame in following up multiple times until someone gets back to you. The worst case is you annoy someone who you'll never interact with anyway and there are another 320 some million people in the country you can annoy.

    • 2
    • 1
Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Oct 28, 2015

Keep up the good work man. I would hire you if I was in a position to.

Don't listen to anyone, everybody is scared.

    • 1
    • 2
Oct 28, 2015

Nice work. Keep it up.

I concur with @Dingdong08, bigger firms will be much more well equipped and prepared for you than smaller firms. I would start there.

    • 2
    • 2
Oct 28, 2015

This is awesome. +1 SB if I had one. Kill those 2nd rounds my man.

    • 1
    • 1
Oct 28, 2015

If you had a Deaf person coming in your interview, what kind of questions you would want to know? You probably won't be able to ask them professionally, but what things you want them to address? I am sure a person who never met a Deaf person before probably have some doubts.

I would want to know basically what you laid out in the first part of this message: how do you effectively communicate with people? How difficult / practical is it for you to compensate? What are you unable to do despite your best efforts?

If a person cold-emailed you and introduced him/herself as Deaf, would you be more inclined to answer or help? Would you prefer them to introduce themselves as Deaf in the first e-mail or later in the conversation?

Personally I would wait until later in the conversation. However, mentioning that you're deaf in your first email does grab people's attention / make you more memorable, so it could work to your favor. I think either is fine but I would wait.

What are some things Deaf people could do to make you feel more open to the idea of hiring and working with them?

As you're doing, be proactive about mentioning the challenges you face and how you can work around them. Nobody is going to say it in an interview, but the fear is that you would be unable to perform some basic functions of the job (e.g. talking to clients, leading a meeting, whatever). You should work to allay those concerns.

What advice would you give me as a Deaf person looking to break in the industry?

1) Know where you can effectively compete. This is true for anybody, but especially for you. It will always be more challenging for you to be in a role that requires a lot of oral communication, e.g. sales. However, some roles require very little oral communication, e.g. quant roles, arguably many buy side roles. Focus on roles where you can compete effectively. This is really a long term challenge you need to think about. A diversity recruiter may get you in the door for a sales job at GS, but can you really be a star salesperson at GS on your own merits?

2) Work on the pitch. You've already done a good job of this, but you absolutely need to have good answers for all the common concerns people will have. You need to address these proactively since people will be afraid to ask in an interview.

Good luck!

    • 2
    • 1
Oct 28, 2015

Great advice, I definitely will save it as a reference for my career guide I plan to write.

I agree that it is important for people like me (and everyone else, like you said) to understand our strengths and limitations and find jobs accordingly. @QGKZ did bring a great point about finding jobs that require minimal communication contact and that would put our strengths to the forefront instead our weakness, which is verbal communication.

Using feedback I got here (y'all are awesome), I asked several diversity people on LinkedIn about what kind of jobs do they think that would be good for me and was able to set up a phone appointment next week with a diversity officer - I am curious how it will go.

Thanks for good luck wishes from everyone and I wish y'all best of luck as well.

    • 1
Oct 28, 2015

one of my best mates is actually half-deaf and whilst he's not the smartest, he sure as hell compensates with hard work and just naturally being a quick learner. So if i was involved in the hiring process (fyi I'm not) I'm a bit bias in thinking that being deaf/ or whatever may be lends itself to being a hard=worker + quick-learner, just my 2c!

anyways, the best to you man - can't really help you out, but keep up the hustle!!

    • 1
    • 1
Oct 29, 2015

Who the fuck keeps monkey shitting all the encouraging comments? Someone is an asshole.

Good luck OP; someone with your tenacity will find a way to make it work.

    • 1
    • 1
  • Anonymous Monkey
  •  Nov 7, 2015

[quote=dubyawhy]

Who the fuck keeps monkey shitting all the encouraging comments? Someone is an asshole.

quote]

Maybe you ?

Oct 29, 2015

Just wanted to say thanks for sharing. Very inspiring.

    • 1
    • 1
Oct 29, 2015

"Out work other candidates by miles. I want to emphasize this -- I will always have to outwork everyone in a company, from top to bottom.".

This may be a bit too critical, but I would stay away from saying stuff like this explicitly. When I hear people talk about how they're able to outwork the competition to compensate for not majoring in finance (or whatever), I immediately think "Most people getting into this industry are willing to work long hours - why hire a guy that's starting behind". It's definitely the right mentality to have, but I think verbalizing it only highlights a weakness.

Best of luck, you seem like you're gonna make it regardless.

    • 1
    • 1
Oct 29, 2015

FYI I think everyone in banking will come in with the same work ethic.
But your ability to overcome obstacles is whole different story.
I would be open to interviewing you / hiring you if it does not require more work from me.

    • 2
    • 2
Oct 29, 2015

What kind of asshole is going through this thread and throwing shit at literally every post?

Fantastic work, @ParkAveCapital and I hope you find all of the success you are looking for.

    • 3
    • 2
Oct 30, 2015

Your best bet is to approach your target firms from the inclusivity angle, as mentioned. It seems like you'll have a real edge over other such candidates. I think your 'disability' could be exactly the opposite, since you seem to be pretty confident with who you are and determined.

    • 1
    • 1
Oct 30, 2015

Great story man. I really believe u are going to make it.

Not relevant to the theme but why the hell people through shit at such articles and it feels like there is a troll going through the comments throwing shit at every comment. Just got pissed for some reason for that.

    • 1
    • 1
Oct 31, 2015

Mod needs to ban the fuckhead that's been throwing monkey shit at every post.

    • 2
    • 1
Oct 31, 2015

I appreciate that Americans love the idea that "you can do anything if you try hard enough" and generally seem to have a strong, overriding preference for optimism and an intolerance for pessimism or cynicism in the face of an inspirational story. This is the culture that produced "That's Incredible!" in the 1980s and Oprah Winfrey in the following two decades.

I'm not the guy throwing MS at the posts in this thread, but I can understand that someone may be inspired to do that by the unrelenting optimism.

I haven't seen much of disabled people in banking. That doesn't mean it's impossible and my experience is not all-encompassing. But it does suggest there are very significant hurdles, even for the most earnest and talented.

@Dingdong08 points to the GS program, which may be evidence to the contrary that disability in the finance world is more widespread than my experience.

For others who work in the industry, can you share any experiences of where you've seen people with a disability, a disability as challenging in the finance industry as deafness is, working in the finance industry? At the very least, those experiences will provide some tangible examples of how people in similar situations dealt with significant challenges.

    • 2
Nov 1, 2015

OP @ParkAveCapital what app does the thing for the ipad that translates voice to word? I think I would like to try it out on my ipad. Good story too btw. Hope it all works out for you.

Oct 28, 2015

It should already be included in your keyboard - just open Notes on your iPad and you will see the microphone icon on left of the spacebar.

Nov 2, 2015

Keep up the hustle!

    • 1
Nov 18, 2015
Comment