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