Making a Difference and Influence through Diverse Abilities at TIAA

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TIAA employees pose for a group photo in an office setting

This October, TIAA employees celebrated National Disability Employment Awareness Month by giving back to the community and candidly sharing the triumphs and challenges of living with disabilities and helping those with disabilities.

TIAA’s Diverse Abilities Business Resource Group (BRG), formed for associates with disabilities and caregivers of those with disabilities, held multiple events companywide in honor of Disability Employment Awareness Month, to grow awareness and support of diverse abilities and how it affects colleagues and people in the community. The events educated TIAA employees on diverse abilities and how to be more inclusive to everyone.

One of the events included a visit from Hendrick Motorsports’ Richie Parker, who shared his unique story of overcoming obstacles and facing adversity. Richie Parker was born with bilateral amelia, a non-genetic birth defect in which limbs are not formed. He is a renowned speaker on overcoming adversity, and has been profiled by ESPN. Parker is the contributor to six NASCAR Sprint Cup championships, and currently serves as a chief engineer of government and military projects.

TIAA is also passionate about making a difference in local communities, and additionally in recognition of Disability Awareness Month, the Diverse Abilities BRG and TIAA’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team partnered to facilitate a community service project with seven local offices. The teams assembled sensory kits for children with autism and other similar developmental disorders. The Diverse Abilities BRG office chapters came together via video conference in offices to pack sensory kits that included ‘squeezy’ and fidgety type toys and kinetic sand designed to calm children.

“We’ve had a need for things like this particularly in the eastern part of North Carolina these past few years due to hurricanes,” said Jessica Otto from the Autism Society of North Carolina. “As you can imagine, it’s very traumatic for a person with autism to deal with the power going out.  These kits will be a comfort for lots of kiddos!”

TIAA’s Diverse Abilities BRG virtual coast to coast event began with a Kinetic Sand Packing Race, where each site selected two members to pack the small bags of kinetic sand the fastest. In total, they packed 50 small bags of kinetic sand.  In Jacksonville, the Diverse Abilities BRG and TIAA Bank employees brought the effort full circle by volunteering at the Mount Herman Exceptional Student Center to hand out the sensory kits to the students, and helped with other tasks at the center. TIAA employees from Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Iselin, Jacksonville, New York and Waltham packed over 930 kits for four local nonprofits that support and help with autism.

TIAA values and practices diversity and inclusion, as well as philanthropy and giving back. Providing numerous opportunities for employees and their families to learn, share, and help those with diverse abilities advances inclusiveness in the workplace and in communities.

Autism Awareness Advocate Areva Martin On Her Work-Life Balance Journey

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Areva Martin

Driven career professionals often struggle to figure out a work life balance that doesn’t leave them riddled with guilt. Unfortunately, for parents of kids with disabilities the increased demands can make them feel like caring for their special needs child(ren) means they must automatically reduce or even eliminate their career goals. Indeed, they often feel the pressure to automatically blunt the trajectory of their career in an attempt to demonstrate full commitment to their household’s unique needs and challenges. For those who view attentive parenting of a special needs child and aggressive pursuit of a fulfilling and ambitious career as a binary choice, they need look no further than the compelling example of disability rights advocate and award winning attorney/legal commentator Areva Martin to shatter that myth.

When her son Marty was diagnosed with autism at the age of two, Areva found herself struggling to navigate the complex labyrinth of relevant services which eventually led her to develop the Special Needs Network, Inc. to not just serve her needs, but primarily to provide a network of support for families affected by developmental disabilities.

As a disability rights advocate, she has mentored and befriended many parents of special needs children and can actively relate to the unique work life balance challenges that the experience brings, and her message is both clear and determined – “Parenting a special needs child doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your career.” Indeed, she doesn’t just say it, she’s done it. Graciously, Areva spoke with me recently to share a few nuggets of advice for other parents struggling to manage the sometimes overwhelming demands of both work and home.

Know the Law

Parents of children with special needs are often left to maneuver a laundry list of requirements in order to sufficiently support their children. From navigating school admissions and identifying appropriate therapies to securing necessary testing and establishing an Individualized Education Program (IEP), the demands on a parent’s time and financial resources can be significant to say the least. Identifying sources of support is a critical step in relieving the very real drain on financial and other limited resources. Areva advises parents to learn their rights early so they avoid wasting precious time and money on services that may be available to them at little or no cost. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that applies to public schools in every state throughout the country. The law makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities including autism and a range of developmental, emotional and learning disabilities, and it ensures special education and related services to those children from age 2 to 21. Beyond federal laws, Areva recommends that parents make time to talk to other parents, administrators and officials to familiarize themselves early on with any applicable state, local, even district level regulations or policies that might provide support or create barriers for their particular situation. Indeed, knowledge is power and taking the time to equip yourself with the knowledge early on is key.

While it may be tempting for parents of special needs children to “suffer in silence” rather than share concerns, issues or problems, Areva warns against that urge and instead encourages parents to be open with friends and colleagues.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

Tips for Being an Effective Teleworker

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woman with disability works from home with laptop in lap in her wheelchair

Many employers and employees are shifting to telework structures. For some, conducting business from home may be a new adventure, while others are veterans of remote work. Regardless of experience, it can be helpful for us all to think through approaches to teleworking to ensure that we are both effective and content when working from our home offices.

The Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT) has created the following telework tips for employers and employees. Though they’ve been designed with people with disabilities in mind, they provide information that can be useful to anyone who is transitioning to remote work.

Creating a Comfortable Workplace

Pick a Spot

Designate a long-term space to work in your home where you can focus during work hours, making sure it’s clean and uncluttered. Avoid using a space you frequent in your personal life, like your kitchen table or couch. If there are things that make you happy or motivated (a candy jar, your favorite chair, etc.), don’t be afraid to include them in the space.

Make it Comfortable

Think about the comfort level of the location you choose. Find a spot with room to spread out, a place to type away without hitting your cat in the face with your elbow. If available, pick furniture that won’t put a strain on your body after hours of sitting. Ask yourself: Is this chair causing me to slouch? Is the table too high to type?

Evaluate Accommodation Needs

If you have a disability/chronic condition, evaluate what tools you need to be productive. The article “Accessibility and Employment: What People with Disabilities Need to Know” provides guidance on how to request accommodations and/or permission to use personal devices that you may already own with the features you need.

Continue on to the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology to read telework tips for staying on schedule, communicating with your team, staying productive, and more!

Ways to Stay Productive When You Work from Home

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young latin woman working at home with laptop and documents

Globally, there has been 1.5 billion people who have been ordered to work from home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many executives and managers are finding that managing remote workers blindly is is like conducting an orchestra without seeing or hearing the musicians. One company, TransparentBusiness, provides the solution that will allow a business to remain productive and profitable, while protecting their employees from the virus risks.

“Our TransparentBusiness platform, designated by Citigroup as the Top People Management Solution, makes remote work easy to monitor and coordinate, allowing many businesses to operate efficiently despite the shelter-at-home orders,” explains Alex Konanykhin, co-founder and chief executive officer of TransparentBusiness. “The goal is for companies to be able to allow their employees to work remotely, but yet still ensure they are being productive. That’s exactly what our collaboration software provides, giving business owners the peace of mind they need to give the green light to work from home.”

Employee engagement has been an issue with many companies, and the ability to work remotely is believed by some to be a solution to the problem. Employees who work remotely three or four days per week report that they feel the most engaged with their team.

In addition to improving employee engagement and providing a way to reduce the risks of spreading viruses, there are additional benefits to allowing employees to work remotely. These include improving employee retention rates, saving commute time, offering a better work-life balance, increased productivity, lower costs, and having access to a large pool of talent. Working remotely allows more flexibility, as well as prevents people from unnecessary distractions in the workplace.

While many companies are aware of some of the benefits of allowing their employees to work remotely, they are hesitant to allow it because they feel there is no accountability. That’s where TransparentBusiness comes in, providing the solution to that problem. TransparentBusiness offers a unique tool that will allow them to bridge the gap between working from home and still being a connected part of the team. The software offers such solutions as:

  • Being able to see all team members as they are working in real time. Employers don’t have to wonder if the employee is working or being productive, because the software will provide them with the immediate information they need.
  • Smart management and collaboration, providing an efficient way to collaborate and offer immediate feedback.
  • Increased productivity, ensuring that every billable minute is tracked, which helps to eliminate overbilling problems.
  • Performance monitoring that includes billing and cost data for the company or for a specific team or project that is being worked on.
  • Efficient communication capabilities, including multilevel chat options.
  • The ability to manage remote workers from one central location, while receiving all of the information that is needed to verify billable hours and productivity.

“TransparentBusiness is the ideal solution when having your employees work from home, or to make it easier and more cost-effective to work with freelancers,” added Silvina Moschini, co-founder and president of TransparentBusiness. “TransparentBusiness is a win-win solution for employees and employers.”

There are various ways that businesses can help employees stay productive when working from home. Some tips to help with that transition include:

  • Businesses can start the transition by identifying company goals and how they will be achieved. What is it they want their employees to accomplish while working from home?
  • Set the timeframes and deadlines that you want to have these items achieved in. Be realistic, especially since you are new to transitioning your workforce to working from home. The timelines can always be adjusted later.
  • Make the announcement to your employees that they will be transitioning to working from home. Share with them what the goals are, as well as the timeframe you have you settled upon.
  • Ensure you have the right software to help you make it a smooth transition, keep your employees working efficiently, and be able to track accountability. Opting for a software program such as TransparentBusiness will help improve task management, time management, team communication, productivity tracking, and more. TransparentBusiness has been designed to meet the needs of a remote workforce and increase productivity.
  • Know the difference in remote working tools, such as Zoom and GoToMeeting, DropBox and Google Docs, Skype and Whatsapp, and more. These remote working tools serve an important purpose and will make working from home easier and help keep people more efficient and productive.
  • Share with employees how they can be more productive working from home, by doing things such as setting regular hours, having a plan for the day, having a good location in the home where you can work from, and taking breaks when you need them.

One look at the data and trends and it is easy to see that working remotely is the future of how business will be conducted. It is estimated that two-thirds of employees around the world work remotely at least one day each week. In some countries, such as Switzerland, it’s estimated that 70% of the professionals work remotely at least one day per week. An estimated 53% of the workers there work remotely for half of the week. This is a trend that is taking place worldwide. It’s predicted that soon, half of the U.S. workforce will work remotely, at least part time.

TransparentBusiness has been expertly designed to cover all the bases and provide businesses with a unique solution to holding employees accountable who work remotely. The software is available for purchase through ADP, making it easy to streamline the process of adopting its use. It has also been designed with the same software as a business service model, making it easy to understand, efficient, and thorough, providing meaningful insight to business leaders worldwide.

Co-founded by Silvina Moschini and Alex Konanykhin, TransparentBusiness recently received a second round of funding, for a total amount raised of $6 million. Moschini was dubbed “Miss Internet” in 2003 by Fortune, and has made hundreds of appearances on major media outlets. Konanykhin has been referred to as the “Russian Bill Gates” and is also the founder if KMGi, an advertising company started in 1997 and known for innovation. For more information about TransparentBusiness, visit the site: https://transparentbusiness.com/.

About TransparentBusiness

TransparentBusiness is a unique solution for businesses, helping to provide them with the tool they need to allow their employees to work remotely. The software offers full transparency and real-time coordination, boosts productivity, and eliminates overbilling. For more information about the software, visit the site: https://transparentbusiness.com/.

 

Sources:
CNBC. 70% of people globally work remotely at least once a week. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/30/70-percent-of-people-globally-work-remotely-at-least-once-a-week-iwg-study.html

Forbes. 50% of the U.S. workforce will soon be remote. https://www.forbes.com/sites/samantharadocchia/2018/07/31/50-of-the-us-workforce-will-soon-be-remote-heres-how-founders-can-manage-flexible-working-styles/#5242d43c5767

Career Opportunities

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There are many nationwide companies hiring now for remote work and more. DIVERSEability Magazine connects you with our Job Postings Board.

Click here to view the many current job openings for companies looking for candidates now.

17-Year-Old Armani Williams Is NASCAR’s First Driver With Autism

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Armani Williams pictured smiling and sitting in NASCAR racecar

Armani Williams was born in Michigan and diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of 2. Like many children with autism, he was nonverbal during his early years. Autism is a brain disorder that affects 1 in 68 children in the United States, 1 in 42 males, and means lifelong challenges in learning, socialization, and behavior, as well as many associated medical problems.

Autism occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and is the fastest growing developmental disability. Given these epidemic numbers in the United States, almost every individual knows or cares about someone who is affected by autism.

Armani presented with extreme struggles just participating in daily life with his peers, but when he began racing at age 8 a light switch was turned on. At the end of the first session, Armani stated, “Dad, I understand.” From that moment, Armani’s family recognized that he had a special ability to drive and that they would do anything to make it happen.

Armani Williams was born in Michigan and diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of 2. Like many children with autism, he was nonverbal during his early years. Autism is a brain disorder that affects 1 in 68 children in the United States, 1 in 42 males, and means lifelong challenges in learning, socialization, and behavior, as well as many associated medical problems.

Autism occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and is the fastest growing developmental disability. Given these epidemic numbers in the United States, almost every individual knows or cares about someone who is affected by autism.

Armani presented with extreme struggles just participating in daily life with his peers, but when he began racing at age 8 a light switch was turned on. At the end of the first session, Armani stated, “Dad, I understand.” From that moment, Armani’s family recognized that he had a special ability to drive and that they would do anything to make it happen.

He has continued to demonstrate incomprehensible talent on the track, competing first in go-karts, then bandalero type vehicles, followed by late models, the ARCA Truck Pro Series, and the NASCAR Driver for Diversity Combine. To date, Armani has 18 wins and 2 championships.

With several years of success and perseverance Armani is now at the professional level and continues to develop his skills on and off the track in NASCAR Canada, driving the #28 Race4Autism Dodge for CBRT MotorSports.

Armani’s dream of winning the biggest races in NASCAR in the U.S. is well within his grasp.

Continue on to BlackDoctor.org to read the complete article.

Photo: Team Armani Racing

How to decide if your social circle needs an upgrade in 2020

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multicultural team chatting at work

You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, motivational speaker John Rohn once said. If you’re not happy with your current situation at work, you may want to take a closer look at your inner circle.

“We have to be really good at [deciding] who we allow into our life,” says Ivan Misner, author of Who’s In Your Room: The Secret to Creating Your Best Life and founder of the global business network BNI. “Imagine your life is one room and the room had one door. The door could only let people enter, and once they’re in the room, they’re there forever.”

It’s a scary metaphor, but it’s true, says Misner. “Think about a person you let into your life and then had to let out because they were toxic, difficult, or angry,” he says. “If you can remember the emotions and what they did, they’re still in your head. If they’re in your head, they’re still in your room.”

For this reason, it’s important to surround yourself with the right people from the start—or they’ll be in your “room” for the rest of your life.

“When you realize that this happens, you can get better at screening out people before they get in and dealing with the ones you already let in,” says Misner.

Letting people in

Opening the door to the right people means getting clear with your values. “If you don’t know your values, you don’t know where to start,” says Misner.

Start with deal breakers—behaviors that you hate, such as dishonesty or drama. Look for people who demonstrate these behaviors, and don’t let them into your social circle.

“Pretend your mind has a doorman or bouncer,” says Misner. “Train your doorman—your subconscious and conscious mind—to identify people with these behaviors. By understanding your deal breakers, you’ll be better able to start understanding your values.”

A common mistake people make when letting others in is weighing too quickly “what’s in it for me” and disregarding the things that go against their values. When we make decisions based on short-sighted gains, we also choose values that don’t resonate with who we are.

“In physics, resonance is a powerful thing,” says Misner. “It’s a phenomenon that occurs when an extra force drives something to oscillate at a specific frequency.”

To understand how it works, imagine two pianos sitting side by side in a room. “If you hit the middle C key on one piano while someone presses the sustain pedal on the other one, the middle C of the other one will vibrate on that second piano, without [it] being touched,” says Misner. “That’s resonance. People are like that.”

When you make a decision based on what you think we can get instead of your values, you invite values that don’t align with yours to resonate in your life.

“Be mindful about creating relationships with resonance and get your values down,” says Misner. “Companies often recognize the importance of knowing your values, but people don’t always think about them. Values should be at the foundation of everything you do. Otherwise, you’ll create the wrong room.”

Dealing with people you’ve already let in

If you have people in your circle that are creating a bad environment, decide if they have to be there or if you can exit the relationship. If they must be there, it’s time to draw a line in sand.

“Evaluating your social circle means recognizing that someone may be in your life but their baggage needs to stay out,” says Misner. “Draw a line in the sand by saying that you’re not letting their behavior continue around you.”

For example, if you have a coworker who demonstrates toxic behavior such as frequent gossiping or complaining, establish boundaries. Say, “Starting now, if you start talking badly, I will walk away. I respect you and will talk to you again, but only if you can have a mature adult conversation.” Then follow through. It may take a while for the person to understand the new boundaries and rules, but once you draw the line in the sand, you can eliminate the toxicity from your circle.

“Stand firm,” says Misner. “Part of that is learning how to say ‘no.’

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

What kind of questions should you ask at the end of a job interview?

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man sitting at a desk being interviewed by a man and womanfor a job

It’s a scenario many of us have found ourselves in. You’re nearing the end of a job interview and finally, you can begin to relax a little. Despite the nerves, you’ve come across well and answered all the questions confidently – and with a little bit of luck, you may just be offered the position.

Before you can run out of the room, however, the interviewer wants to know if you have any questions for them.

It might be tempting to say no, so you can leave as quickly as possible – but asking questions can be of huge benefit when it comes to interviewing for a job.

Firstly, it’s important to remember that interviews should always be considered a two-way street. Yes, the recruiter is interested in finding out if your skills and abilities are suited to the role in question. But a job interview is also a chance for you to work out if this is the right job for you – and if you are going to fit in well at the company.

“As candidates, we can often get caught up in the whole process, particularly as we try to remember the answers we’ve prepared but it’s equally as important to take time towards the end of the interview to ask your own questions,” says Row Davies, HR business manager at the recruitment firm Macildowie.

While you’re preparing for your interview and imagining the kind of questions you might be asked, it’s also useful to think about any queries you might have too. However, don’t ask an interviewer anything you can find out easily yourself, either online or on the company’s social media channels.

“It’s crucial for you to assess whether the company is the right fit for you, as just like any relationship, both need to benefit and feel comfortable with the partnership,” Davies says.

“Not only does the process allow you to show your enthusiasm for the company, asking questions also gives you the opportunity to check your goals and values are aligned with the business. You don’t want to be a year or more down the line and find that the company is heading in a direction that you don’t want to or perhaps can’t follow.”

So what kind of questions should you be asking as an interview candidate?

Davies believes there are three key questions that should be on every job applicant’s list.

“The first, is asking the interviewer ‘is there anything regarding my experience you would like me to expand upon?’. Not only does this show that you are engaged, it also provides you with the opportunity to further emphasise your strengths and how you believe these will be an asset to the company’s objectives,” she says.

The second is about learning and development – and specifically, whether the company is actively investing in their employees. After all, you want to know that you’re going to move forward in a job.

“Ask, ‘how do you support the professional development of your employees?’. Answers to this question will give you an insight into how the business will support you as you progress up the career ladder,” Davies says.

“It also shows the interviewer you have aspirations and a drive to succeed in the organization.”

Finally, it’s a good idea to find out more about the company’s environment and whether they look after their employees.

“I would encourage any of my candidates to ask the interviewer, ‘what do you like most about working for the company?’ This is great for building a personal connection with the interviewer, giving them the opportunity to share their personal views and the passion they have for the company,” Davies says.

Continue on to Yahoo News to read the complete article.

Top 5 Tips for Job Seekers with Disabilities

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man in wheelchair talking with hiring manager

By Adam Kaplan

Despite an unemployment rate nearly double that of their non-disabled peers, people with disabilities can look forward to a bright jobs future—provided that they approach their career activities the right way.

Both experienced job seekers as well as those new to the world of employment can follow these five tips, culled from our conversations with hundreds of disabled individuals and other job seekers searching for work over the past few years.

1 Dare to Dream

When we speak to candidates who tell us they want a job, the first thing we ask is, “doing what?” Know what you want and why you want it before hitting the job market: this is essential to your eventual success. Most individuals have enough self-awareness to know what work activities they enjoy performing, and these usually correlate with what they are actually good at. When skill and interest are combined they are usually also accompanied with passion, which a recruiting or hiring manager can plainly see.

2 Identify In-Demand Skills

While perfecting your skills is essential, knowing how they fit in the market for talent is also important. Demand for certain skills is always evolving—yet some are consistently in higher demand than others. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that such diverse jobs as computer programmer, actuary, and market research analyst fit the bill. Matching your interest to those of talent managers can be the key to getting a good job.

3 Let Everyone Know!

The best way to find a job is through networking. Tell your friends, families and people you meet about the job you are seeking. Go to networking events. Promote your interests on social media.

4 Getting a Job Is a Job; Treat it as Such

Getting a good job is usually a marathon, not a sprint, especially for recent graduates and those who have been out of the job market for a while or are making a career change. Set aside certain hours for networking and research. Filling out applications is OK, too—just remember that answering help-wanted ads is usually the least effective way to find work. Use job boards to identify open positions, then network to identify the hiring manager.

5 Practice Makes Perfect

If you follow the first four tips correctly, you will have good leads to jobs that will lead to interviews. To have the best chance of translating those interviews into job offers, you need to practice, practice, practice. In fact, never go to a job interview without practicing beforehand. Ask the recruiter what to expect on interview day. Have someone you trust play the interviewer. Give him or her some questions to ask or have them ask their own. See where you can improve your answers. Use the practice interview to ace the real one, and get the job you want!

About the Author
Adam Kaplan founded Kaplan Executive Search, a retained executive search company.  He partners with CEOs of middle market and emerging growth companies to recruit top talent, including COOs (Integrators), CFOs and VPs of Sales.

Adam also has a personal passion for workforce diversity, especially in creating opportunities for talented professionals with hidden and visible disabilities.  He was appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to serve on the Michigan Council for Rehabilitation Services.

Meet Arthur Edge of GSK

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Arthur Edge is a biopharmaceutical Technology Manager at GSK and his challenge at the company is to strengthen GSK’s manufacturing processes and launch new products in the fight to cure Lupus.

He is proud to be a part of the team to gain approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the new self-injectable formulation of Benlysta (belimumab), which treats systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in adult patients.

This became a really personal matter to him, when a close friend was diagnosed with Lupus.

For Arthur, recruiting and retaining a diverse team is important, especially in the pharmaceutical industry where there’s a lack of diversity.

Arthur Edge GSK headshot
Arthur Edge GSK-Glaxo Smith Kline

At GSK, he had the most productive and rewarding career experiences working on global teams where each individual is unique and their uniqueness is recognized.

He has a passion for learning and a desire to continuously improve. He believes he is bigger than his career, and his life is bigger than himself. GSK helps him to live this reality through its Modern Employer culture.

Arthur is active in leadership roles within the biotech community and in community service. He is the president of the Manufacturing, Engineering, & Technology advisory board for Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools, and he has leveraged GSK employee volunteers to work with him and support student success.

Finally, Arthur list three points of advice for young professionals: find an area of expertise and build a career platform around that area; be mentored and be a mentor; and work on problems that interest you.

With ‘Drama,’ Victoria Canal Could Raise Bar For Disabled Artists In Pop Music

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Victoria Canal is on stage singing in to mic with a male guitarist by her side

The ever-evolving entertainment industry can be daunting for any young, up-and-coming artist in pursuit of creative fulfillment. For her new song and music video, however, Victoria Canal found herself looking inward to address the most formidable obstacle of all: herself.

HuffPost got an exclusive first look at “Drama,” viewable above. In the video, Canal plays both a “light” and “dark” version of herself. Each persona, she said, “casts a different energy and puts out a different reality into the world.”

“The concept came about as I was starting to enter the music industry space more and really putting myself on display more than ever before,” said the Spanish American singer-songwriter, who is based in Los Angeles. “I sat down to write a song about the inner voice in my head, the self-critic who tries to make me feel small and tries to make me feel like anything other than what I know is my highest self. I wanted to really brush off that voice.”

Canal is hopeful that the self-empowering message of “Drama” will encourage all listeners to “embrace the best version” of themselves. The song also speaks to the 21-year-old’s personal experiences as a bisexual woman who was born without her right forearm.

The singer-songwriter ― who lived in Germany, China, Japan, Dubai and Spain before settling in the U.S. ― said her global upbringing has influenced her music as much as her disability and sexuality have. At the same time, she’s also conscious of the fact that mainstream pop has been slow to spotlight both LGBTQ artists and artists with disabilities.

“I’ve always seen [my identity] as a unique opportunity, really,” Canal said. “I used to shy away from the word [‘disabled’] and all the things it implied. But as I’ve grown up and lived a few more years, I’ve met a community of people who embody strength. ‘Disabled,’ to me, actually has a totally different connotation. To me, it means strong or resilient, determined, hopeful.”

Continue on to Huffington Post to read the complete article.