English, Please

“English at this table, please,” was a comment that I recalled while attending this early morning meeting consisting of executives and major stockholders.

During this meeting, I had an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter sitting, facing directly me on the other side of the center of the conference table. Before the meeting started, I was having a brief conversation with the ASL interpreter using ASL, with no voice.

With both my hearing aid and cochlear implant turned on, I could sense that overlapping verbal conversations around the table had quickly ceased, while my peripheral vision inputs suggested some of the heads have turned to watch me.

Quickly scanning the table to my right and left confirmed that all eyes were on me. I knew instantly that everyone was starting to use their imagination in figuring out what was conveyed between the interpreter and me.

For example, the guy sitting across me, on the right, averted his eyes away while quickly attempting to fix the stubborn strands of hair standing up on his crown. Apparently he must have thought that both the interpreter and I were discussing this, thus attempting to correct this.

Simultaneously, the woman sitting next to me, slightly averted eyes in a different direction while making feeble attempts to cover the roots of her mane with her slender fingers as an attempt to conceal the discoloration, which indicated a poor dye job.

On one side of my peripheral vision, another guy sitting across from me to the left, quickly readjusted his jacket, which appeared to be small for his body frame.

Subtle behaviors around the table quickly became apparent that everyone was starting to use their imagination and feel conscious that I may be discussing their faults with the interpreter, and were starting to appear annoyed.

Upon quick assessment, an immediate rescue was necessary. That was when I started to use my voice and explained what I was discussing with the interpreter, which was my background.

Even my ASL has its own unique accent since “Olde ASL” was my first language at 6-months old, taught by my CODA (Children of Deaf Adult) mother with deaf parents, both whom attended the deaf school in another state around the beginning of 1900. Also, my sign language included some SEE (Signing Exact English), followed by modern ASL.

Oh. Everyone settled and returned to their normal selves around the table…

Everyone became assured that the conversation between me and the interpreter did not include their individual characteristics. Of course, had we done so, that would be unprofessional of both the interpreter and I, and this would go against the interpreter’s code of ethics. Also, this would go against my stellar reputation.

I noticed that everyone has relaxed, and shifted their thoughts to other things. Since then, I noticed that everyone had opened up to me, become warm towards me and began to trust me.

During another meeting a short while back, the official of that meeting verbally stated, while clearly enunciating the words “English at my table, please.” Everyone laughed when I found myself and the interpreter were the last ones conversing around the table and everyone was watching us. At first, I didn’t think this applied to me since my mode of communication was sign language. Quickly, I was astounded with this high-ranking official, and others around me respected ASL as established lexicon. It seemed like yesterday when ASL was yet acknowledged as a foreign language.

Upon adjournment of that meeting, during our hallway discussions, other professionals brought up a point, that everyone has imaginations which will be used to a certain length, in order to fill in the gaps and satisfy the unknown. Also since then, I’ve learned that I needed to include others within my conversations and allow them the opportunity to participate.

As mentioned within Col. Garrick Mallery’s address in 1881, as published in Science magazine, the richness of the information conveyed, through spoken word, or gestured via sign language has significant value between the conveyer and recipient. This referenced to the sign language among the American Indians.

This address was published within Science magazine in 1881 by Col. Garrick Mallery, who was Chairman of the Anthropology subsection of the A. A. A. S, during the Opening of the Anthropology Subsection within that year.

In summary, in order to have my input highly regarded among professional peers within professional organizations at this date, spoken English has been the most successful language for me to communicate with. Of course, any other language is excellent for establishing specific bonds within individual level while networking.

References:
ADDRESS OF COL. GARRICK MALLERY, U. S. ARMY, Science. 1 October 1881: 470-471. Accessed December 20, 2012 from http://www.sciencemag.org/content/os-2/67/470.full.pdf?sid=71e45a06-6c3e-4ca8-993d-fcf14cf317d4

Advertisements

The Story of My Unique Accent

One of the most commonly asked questions I’ve been asked since I was quite young was: “Which country are you from?”

Earlier this morning, while attending an Executive Networking Breakfast, I worked the room, networking and introducing myself to everyone, as I usually do.  Two professionals sitting at my table asked me where I was from.  I responded that I was from San Leandro, which was slightly up north in East Bay, from San Jose.  One of the guys then clarified his inquiry, by stating that he meant, from where did I come from previously?

At that moment, I knew the exact answer this person was looking for.  That was when I explained that I had a “Deaf Accent” due to my profound hearing loss since birth.  Ah, it all made sense to everyone at the table.  From then, we continued with our discussions on other introductory topics.

While I was in 7th grade, one of a fellow classmate asked me this same question during a break in a P.E. class outside, where I was from, since he couldn’t quite place my accent.  As an attempt to be silly, I told him that I was from Mars.  Then, I told him that my accent was part of the “Olde Country” and that I was just a unique American, due to the culmination of my ancestors settled in the East several hundred years ago from various ships dating back to the early 1500’s.  Kidding aside, I finally mentioned my most famous word:  “What? Can you please repeat this?”  This is usually followed by additional request for others to either speak slowly or enunciating the words, since I’m hearing impaired and need to lip-read clearly.

Now, what is a deaf accent?  Well, the best way I can explain this is the individual’s unique way of speaking, based on the cumulative experience of life-long speech therapy, augmented by continuous correction by a parent, when the slightest mispronunciation occurred, and the strive to fit into today’s hearing world, based on the strength of pronouncing specific sounds, coupled with the various aspects of the individual’s personality.

For me, whenever I speak, I have a “script” memorized that would allow me to mimic my speech patterns over again multiple times.  Also, I’d monitor whoever I’d be speaking with to ensure that every word I’ve spoken were clear.  There were many times several years ago, while as Regulatory Affairs Officer at Antibodies Incorporated from 1997 to 2003, one of my most memorable speech snafu was the mispronunciation of one of the company’s product line, GiardEIA, which I pronounced the beginning with a hard “G” like the name, Garcia.  I felt quite silly, and remember this time the most because this was one of many times when I was running team meetings, thus taking the reins and steering the meetings.

At that time, I learned quickly that I had to allow myself to be open to continuous improvements, while strategically maintain my composure.  The most important lesson I learned at a younger age was that others focused on how successfully people handled things that arise, with grace, which everyone remembered and respected.

This brought back memories when I lived and worked at L’Institut Pasteur in Paris, France during Spring of 2005, which was a place where I could fit in right away and felt at home among my peers and colleagues.  Everyone I worked with strived to practice their spoken English with me, which prompted them to speak slowly while enunciating the English words.  Other times, when I walked into a room full of French-speaking professionals, I felt right at home since my residual hearing does not have clarity of human speech, without the visual inputs, which include lip-reading in individual setting.  I’m proud to share that I was successful within my daily interactions in Paris.  In the end, after learning to speak, read, write, and dream in French, my “Exit” presentation at L’Institut Pasteur was briefly in French, which I’m extremely proud of!

My life during the past year and half has involved constant interaction with other professionals within my network at the events that I attend, participate into, or contributed to.  Nearly all of these events include interaction with everyone who relies on the spoken English and finely tuned and keen hearing.  Thus, I strived to do the same so I can gain the respect of my peers, whom may be potential clients, or offer me introductions to their clients, which occurred this morning.

Earlier this morning, during a brief introduction of everyone within the room, we each took turns standing up and speak briefly our name, background, and current company.  Immediately after the individual introductions, one of the partners of a firm approached me at the end of the event, and told me about two of his clients, whom he thought that would benefit from my contributions of background and skills.  I was thrilled to hear this!

Again, sounding like a broken record, I couldn’t believe it that one of the partners within a top firm, which also reputed one of the best places to work at, approached me at the end of breakfast and asked me if I’d be willing to help out two of his clients with their projects.  Definitely, I’m in the right place!  I guess my accent made me unique, or got me noticed in the first place.

Also perhaps how I handled the situations during the entire morning impressed everyone, which showed everyone the type of person I am.  As a Management Consultant, I’m able to view the corporate structure and interactions from my own unique way and offer solutions.

In summary, in response to another of the most commonly asked question regarding my accent, I do not know which foreign language my accent closely resembles to.  Why don’t you find out for yourself and invite me for an in-person meeting or to deliver a talk during an event?  This way, perhaps you can determine for yourself, and when you do, please let me know!

My Wired Brain for Sucess Within Executive Management Level and Executive Board Rooms

“Sorry, I can’t really offer any suggestions; my brain is just not wired for it!” That was a note I received from a colleague this morning letting me know that I was in the right place, thus making significant contributions. This was music to my eyes as I read this note, in response to an action item that needed to be accomplished at this client company, which utilized my executive management skills. This was right up my alley, and my cue or “Batman” signal to jump to the rescue by chiming in solutions.

Also, this was not the first time I’ve received this type of comment or responses, which made me feel extremely valuable and cherished during the past 12+ months I’ve contributed to executive level management consulting since I relocated to Northern California during Fall 2011.

Suffice to say that I’ve become accustomed to solving complex problems, improving intertwined processes throughout organizations. The amalgamation of skills and background were built on my life-long history of problem-solving skills and process improvement suggestions and applications.

While growing up with a profound hearing loss, I thought that I would be stuck in first gear for the rest of my life. Instead, I quickly saw that there were many different options and avenues that could be explored in response to various types of adversities and vicissitudes. My first-hand experiences with these types of life-long situations, which I have improved and solved, have instilled an inherent need and strive to solve many situations and improve the quality of the processes within the organizations I’ve been at.

A recent on-line article by Ray B. Williams, “Wired for Success” pointed out that successful CEOs have “self-awareness” and make people around them successful. My unique perspectives allow others explore the options while thinking outside the box, thus helping the organizations and the teams shine within their industries. My approach, as a management consultant with profound hearing impairment, stems from various complex problem-solving experiences.

In my opinion, professionals with disabilities within executive management level and board rooms are in the position to prove themselves and demonstrate their track record, thus are wired for success. Over a century ago, the general public started to consider the value of contributions made by women, within societies, especially pointed out in the letter in Science magazine published in 1887. This letter was written by “L” and pointed out the valuable contributions of women by using examples of well-known contributors such as well-known female English authors and female Russian mathematicians.

Two decades ago, significant growth has occurred within the corporate culture, since women alone, have come a long ways in attempting to crack the codes of corporate culture as more women grow vertically within management positions, as described within Science magazine’s 1993 edition.

During the past several years, professionals with various diversities have contributed to the corporate culture as persons with disabilities have made significant contributions over time, and have proven themselves to be exceptional problem solvers.

Recently, we have both men and women, from various backgrounds, making significant contributions across the fields. Some of them may have a disability. In 2003 Science letter to the editor, Cooper and Seelman stated that “People with disabilities are among the lowest represented groups in science, engineering, and medicine.” This was nearly 10 years ago, and I’m pleased to have witnessed lots of positive changes that have occurred since them, which included having professionals with disability within executive management levels and executive board rooms.

According to the Department of Census, in 2010, 54 million Americans identified themselves as having disabilities, which is 19% of the United States population living independently. There are hundreds of specific types of disabilities, which can be placed into categories. Some of the types of disabilities are “visible” types while others are “hidden,” meaning that others can notice the assistive technologies such as wheelchair, crutches and other types of assistance such as animals, sign language interpreters.

For me, I wear a hearing aid and a speech processor for my cochlear implant, both covered up by my hair. My disability has not been quite visible within groups of others who can hear and speak effortlessly. When I speak out, others immediately notice my accent. A funny example occurred during a professional function that I attended couple weeks ago when a colleague asked me where I was from, since he was trying to match a country with my accent, in order to quickly build a common bond such as a potential visit to my homeland. I’ll save this experience for another article.

In summary, professionals with disabilities were able to succeed in the workplace, through perseverance and their unique problem solving skills, which have been adapted from years of practice. Professionals with disabilities have proven themselves and demonstrated their impressive track records. With assistance of executive coaches, professionals with disabilities can be successful in applying their own practical skills and ideas within management level, the organization can become successful. The inclusion of professionals with disability brings the true meaning of diversity within the board rooms and executive management levels, as I’ve recently experienced. Knowing that I’m wired for success, I look forward to many more years of continuing contributing my background and skills within the executive management level and corporate boardrooms for many years to come, and help the organizations grow and shine.

References:

Cooper, Rory A. & Seelman, Katherine D. Science 20 June 2003: Vol. 300 no. 5627 p. 1877. DOI: 10.1126/science.300.5627.1877a. Retrieved November 26, 2012 from http://www.sciencemag.org/content/300/5627/1877.1.full.pdf?sid=482ad334-c38b-4b4d-8de3-4c2f0b1fca1c

Culotta, Elizabeth. Women Struggle to Crack the Code of Corporate Culture. Science. 16 April 1993: 398-404. Retrieved November 26, 2012 from http://www.sciencemag.org/content/260/5106/398.full.pdf?sid=65a81f52-6a02-4cad-820f-db1e007fc916

L. Women. Science. 1 July 1887: 10 [DOI:10.1126/science.ns-10.230.10]. Retrieved November 26, 2012 from http://www.sciencemag.org/content/ns-10/230/10.1.full.pdf?sid=8b9c58bf-7f23-4157-a0f0-165cf234baf2

Williams, Ray B. Why Every CEO Needs a Coach. Wired for Success. Published online August 13, 2012. Retrieved November 26, 2012 from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201208/why-every-ceo-needs-coach?goback=%2Egde_2835253_member_183557891

Passions for Development and Growth from Within Each of Us

Isn’t part of the fun is coming up with ideas and suggestions for new projects or processes within teams? This is one of the many reasons why I love my job. After the initial concept, follows project initiation, which gets more complicated. Later on, verification and validation come in all forms, depending on the project or processes. After a while, depending on the industry, the project or process would either result into one of the three things: (1) evolve into an entirely different project or process; (2) follow the straight path to fruition; or (3) abort project or process. The latter two focus on tough decision-making whether continue or extinguish the project or process.

For example, within the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, Kanter identified 12 critical questions that the entrepreneurs can ask themselves and others within their networks in order to make the tough decisions. For me, it boils down to the passion and whether this passion for the specific product or service that the company focuses on, still exists, or extinguished. Depending on the entrepreneur, if the passion persists, then the project or process can take various turns and end up elsewhere with a different purpose.

In addition to the passion for running a company or project, various strategies play a role in shaping the direction in steering the project/process, which would result into a desirable return on investment, either attractive or unattractive. In 1979, Harvard Professor, Michael E. Porter first published competitive interactions within the industry that leads to various strategies within various companies, such as Bargaining Power from Suppliers, Buyers, Threats of substitute, Emerging competitors, and rivalry among current competitors. Also, if the competitive forces are intense, this would result in the companies investing large sums of resources to attract new customers with an advantage over their competitors, such as healthcare, airlines, and hotels. In this case, the return on investment would be smaller due to the amount of resources input as compared with the new many companies such as soft drink, toiletries, and software, where an attractive return on investment has been larger.

Ultimately, the decision to initiate and move forward with specific projects lies within each of us. For example, recently, a group conversation I was part of lead to conversations of preserving species yet on the U.S. Endangered Species Act. An article in Science magazine (Brosi & Biber, 2012) demonstrated that citizen involvement has been successful in driving the force of placing endangered species on the list, thus formally identifying them as endangered and thus, protected by federal law. This is an excellent example of groups of citizen sharing their pursuit of passion of preserving and conserving the dwindling species.

For me, my passion lies within executive management and leadership within companies, especially the ones that play a significant role within the healthcare and biotech markets. Passion can be identified as a driving force in allowing ourselves to pursue towards specific goals on what we’d like to accomplish, as long these passions do not result in conflict of interest as brought up in another Science magazine article where Marshall (1992) stated that intellectual passion can be viewed as a conflict within the scientist’s personal interest into their own research projects as a personal bias.

I can allow my own intellectual passion within both the sciences and executive management and leadership to drive my efforts throughout the days and use that as a daily strategy. Also, I can allow this strategy to adjust and take form in order to allow me to visualize the future directions and see if these specific goals excite me. My passions for development and growth, thus translating into successful projects are part of my personality, which I enjoy very much and look forward accomplishing each time I walk into the board rooms or conference rooms.

References:

Brosi, B. & Biber, G. Citizen Involvement in the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Science 17 AUGUST 2012 VOL 337: 803-803. Retrieved October 9, 2012, from http://www.sciencemag.org/content/337/6096/802.full.pdf

Kanter, R. 12 Guidelines for Deciding When to Persist, When to Quit. Harvard Business Review Blog Network. Retrieved October 25, 2012, from http://blogs.hbr.org/kanter/2012/10/12-guidelines-for-deciding-whe.html

Porter, M. The Five Competitive Forces that Shape Strategy.  Harvard Business Review.  January 2008 issue.  Retrieved October 25, 2012, from http://hbr.org/2008/01/the-five-competititve-forces-that-shape-strategy/ar/1

Marshall, E. When does intellectual passion become conflict of interest? Science 31 July 1992: 620-623. Retrieved October 25, 2012, from http://www.sciencemag.org/content/257/5070/620.1.full.pdf?sid=ec1972e4-abac-4cad-992b-4111e44a758