[Title slide: a white slide with the title "Creating inclusive workplaces with neurodiversity at work" is shown in the middle. Below that is the CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo.] [Speaker slide: Four speakers are shown on the screen. The top left corner shows speaker and moderator, Anthony Pacilio, CAI, Neurodiverse Solutions. The top right corner shows speaker, Amanda Marchese, Radian. The bottom left corner shows speaker, Mia McGuin (she/her), CAI, and the bottom right corner shows speaker Tony DiArchangelo, CAI, Neurodiverse Solutions. The CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo is shown in the bottom left corner".] [Name tag: Speaker Anthony Pacilio, Vice President, CAI Neurodiverse Solutions is shown in the bottom left-hand corner.] 00:00:09 - 00:00:45 Anthony Pacilio Welcome everyone to today's LinkedIn Live event, Creating Inclusive Workplaces with Neurodiversity at Work. My name's Anthony Pacilio, Vice President of Neurodiverse Solutions at CAI, and a little bit about myself here. My responsibilities are to help organizations build neurodiversity programs and to lead our global expansion efforts of CAI Neurodiverse Solutions. And my expertise lies in managing neurodiversity recruiting efforts, developing Canada pipelines, and ensuring best practices for onboarding, support, training, and your organizational success. 00:00:46 - 00:01:20 Anthony But before we begin, I'd like to take a moment to let you know that we're recording the session today for future viewing. And if you have any questions throughout today's discussion, please feel free to add it in the chat and we'll follow up to these questions after the event. As a reminder, October, and we're 10 days into it, almost halfway in, is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, NDEAM as we all call it, and we recognize the importance of inclusive hiring practices and embracing diversity. 00:01:21 - 00:01:54 Anthony But not just only this month but all year long. With that being said, today, we're going to carry the same theme of NDEAM into our 30-minute discussion as our guests will share their personal experiences how to effectively integrate neurodiversity into an organization's culture and make it a key consideration throughout by establishing neurodiverse-friendly practices, creating a supportive infrastructure, building inclusive workplaces, and obviously spreading the message of neurodiversity. [Name tag: Speaker, Mia McGuin, DEI Business Partner, CAI is shown in the bottom left-hand corner.] 00:01:55 - 00:02:29 Anthony So let's go ahead and introduce our guest, Mia, Amanda, and Tony. We're going to start with Mia McGuin, who currently serves as CAI's diversity, equity, and inclusion business partner. Mia is based out of Chester County, Pennsylvania and resides on Lenape Land. Mia's pronouns are she and her. And preceding her time here at CAI, Mia worked for a Fortune 200 food service company as a senior DEI analyst. And prior to that, she served as a conflict resolution liaison in the higher education space. 00:02:30 - 00:02:45 Anthony Mia herself is neurodivergent and takes immense pride in creating equitable and accessible pathways for all of our CAI associates to thrive in their day-to-day work environments. So welcome, Mia. We appreciate you being here. 00:02:46 - 00:0246 Mia McGuin Thank you. [Name tag: Speaker, Amanda Marchese, Compliance Anaylst, Radian, is shown in the bottom left-hand corner.] 00:02:47 - 00:03:22 Anthony And next up, meet Amanda Marchese. Amanda is a compliance analyst for Radian, a mortgage insurance company. Her job consists of analyzing data from over 79 systems, that's a lot of systems, while facilitating access review audits. Amanda previously worked for Amazon, Globus Medical, and CAI Neurodiverse Solutions. She earned her bachelor's degree in Communications Digital Media from Marywood University during which she was known as DJ Fiery Phoenix on VMFM 917 Alternative Radio. 00:03:23 - 00:03:46 Anthony I really just want to say that again and again and again because that's really super cool. She's an advocate for people with disabilities and is excited to share the value of neurodiversity in the workplace. Amanda has spoken and I met her a couple of weeks ago as well at various universities and nonprofit organizations in their events during her time as a motivational speaker. 00:03:47 - 00:04:06 Anthony And during one of her speaking engagements, she had the honor of meeting one of the most famous people who as an advocate for autism awareness is Dr. Temple Grandin, an amazing human being in her own right. So thanks for joining us, Amanda. We appreciate you being here. 00:04:06 - 00:04:09 Amanda Marchese Thank you, Nate. It's great to be here. [Name tag: Speaker, Anthony DiArcangelo, Senior Service Delivery Manager, CAI Neurodiverse Solutions, is shown in the bottom left-hand corner.] 00:04:10 - 00:04:40 Anthony You are quite welcome. We're glad to have you. And lastly, we have Tony DiArcangelo. Tony self-identifies as neurodivergent, has over 25 years of varied global information technology experience focusing on software development, quality assurance, QA, project management, service delivery management, sales. The list keeps going on and on. Over the last 9 years, he's been employed by CAI as a senior service delivery manager as part of the Neurodiverse Solutions portfolio. 00:04:41 - 00:04:57 Anthony And Tony currently resides in Havertown, Pennsylvania and has been a lifelong resident in and around the city of Philadelphia. He is the proud parent of 4 neurodivergent children, Anthony, Julian, Tessa, and Nate. Welcome, Tony. 00:04:58 - 00:04:59 Tony DiArcangelo Thank you. Appreciate it. 00:04:59 - 00:05:27 Anthony Yeah, and thank you all again for being here with me today and talking to the audience out there. We're going to get started with our questions because we only have 25 minutes to get through these. So Mia, I'm going to start with you. What strategies or initiatives have you seen that effectively promote self-ID or self-identification of employees? 00:05:28 - 00:06:02 Mia Yeah, absolutely. And first things first, thank you to Anthony and team for hosting this conversation today. I think something that CAI does well is not only talking about this topic during NDEAM, but throughout the year. So thank you for having me today. Through my experience in DEI, one initiative that I've seen has been extremely effective in promoting self-identification of employees is a Count Me In Campaign, where essentially once a year you're encouraging employees to go into their HR profiles and learn more about different diverse communities. 00:06:03 - 00:06:41 Mia And then they have the option to self-identify as a specific diverse community if they align with it. I know specifically at CAI, we actually started off NDEAM with a panel discussion that one of our employee resource groups, excuse me, Out In Tech allies as well. So that's our LGBTQ+ focus group, as well as TechAbility is focused on disability inclusion and neurodiversity awareness within the workplace. So it was through that discussion that we had individuals throughout the business come forward and talk about their experiences with identity. 00:06:42 - 00:07:13 Mia We also had some senior leadership come onto the call and talk about their experiences. So I think as an employer, yes, one, having an annual campaign where you're encouraging employees to go in and continue to self-identify, but also hosting those conversations where folks are being vulnerable and encouraged to come forward can be extremely effective in encouraging employees to self-ID. I also want to give a quick plug to employee resource groups. At CAI, we call them ERGs. 00:07:14 - 00:07:47 Mia But at different businesses, depending on the maturity of your model and if you have these groups, they could be business resource groups, BRGs, but essentially all of these groups are focused on some common affinity. And so I know it's through our TechAbility ERG, where we've had some policy updates, some practice updates because we have the safe space for employees to come forward, self-identify, either identify as a part of the community or as an ally, and then really have the opportunity to influence our policies, as well as being a part of that diverse group. 00:07:48 - 00:08:11 Mia And then my final point in terms of ensuring you're being effective with your strategies and initiatives is also ensuring that you're training your supervisors. When you're driving diversity into your business, you need to ensure that you are then equipping your managers and your leaders to absorb that diversity and really create accessible pathways. Otherwise, you're setting them up for failure. 00:08:12 - 00:08:27 Mia So although you should keep the conversation going with all associates in the education surrounding self-identifying, ensure that you're equipping your managers to also handle those conversations and be able to accommodate team members when they come forward. 00:08:28 - 00:08:53 Anthony So quick follow up to that, so over the past few years, and I'm not trying to throw a curveball at you, but have you seen the self-ID piece increase with associates? Here at CAI is one thing, but even within the industry, are people talking about, hey, because we have this awareness and acceptance, more people are open about ID? 00:08:54 - 00:09:18 Mia Absolutely, yeah. I think traditionally this has been a pretty taboo topic and folks don't want to go into the nitty-grittiness of their experiences. So I think now creating these spaces, folks are more willing to come forward. And I know at CAI and even at my previous employer, we did see an uptick in self-identification throughout the years, again, just through those conversations. 00:09:19 - 00:09:31 Anthony Excellent. Thank you for that. And Amanda, so here's the start off question for you, what was it like getting your first job? 00:09:32 - 00:09:59 Amanda My first job following college was with Woo Merch by Amazon. In the beginning, it was very exciting, but I soon came to realize its challenges. I wasn't used to being on my feet all day for 11 and a half hour shifts. I would come home crashing on the couch for long naps and dealing with foot blisters. It was physically taxing and I needed to build my stamina. The other challenges working in a fulfillment center was related to my sensory sensitivity issues. 00:10:00 - 00:10:30 Amanda Difficult environment conditions included extreme temperatures that were season related, LED lights, loud machinery, harsh sounding noises, and extended ship times during the holiday rush season. Learning how to ask for both accommodations and scheduling requests was difficult for me. I was determined to prove that I could succeed by adapting my work environment in stride. During that time, I discovered that I had talent for teaching others. I was given the opportunity to become a training ambassador as well as lead afternoon meetings. 00:10:31 - 00:11:02 Amanda My peers seemed to feel that I was more approachable than some managers. They would ask me to help them with passing their certification tests, troubleshooting equipment and machines, getting second opinions on the quality of their products, and voicing requests to make the work environment more pleasant. I was also proud that I achieved and was recognized for exceeding expected quotas. As an ambassador, I worked closely with managers on my shift. Even though I performed well at Amazon, I felt that I had the potential to do more. 00:11:03 - 00:11:33 Amanda My second job was with Globus Medical as a laser technician. We produced medical equipment that were used in surgical procedures. Here I found that my computer skills and precision became an asset when working on laser machines and reviewing related paperwork. During my time there, I noticed that my social skills improved. Eventually I felt ready to advance my career. I wanted to do something more challenging with less environmental stimulation. 00:11:34 - 00:11:58 Anthony That was awesome. I appreciate your amazing perspective on getting that job and moving to additional jobs. There's barriers and challenges we understand, and that's with every person who walks into a job. I think you took it by the horns and you made it your own, so we appreciate that. 00:11:59 - 00:12:29 Anthony Tony, now, you and I, we've worked together a long time, and I know that it took me a long time to come to terms with being neurodivergent. I know that you especially have been very open about it as well, and I appreciate that. But can you give me some insight into challenges of keeping that under wraps for so long? 00:12:30 - 00:13:01 Tony Sure. I really appreciate the question and welcome the opportunity to share my experiences. Keeping my neurodiverse under wraps for so long was obviously challenging for several reasons. Firstly, I felt and I think most people that are neurodiverse feel the need to conform to neurotypical expectations. That often means suppressing your true self. This led to a constant sense of masking and feeling that I couldn't be my true or authentic self at work. 00:13:02 - 00:13:39 Tony Secondly, it's both mentally and emotionally exhausting to hide those struggles and differences, and that affects you in both your professional and personal lives. And thirdly, because I was not initially willing to share who I was, I missed down on potential accommodations and support that probably could have made my work life easier. But I have to say overall, it's been a journey of self-discovery and acceptance and coming out as being neurodivergent has really been the most positive steps I've taken in my professional life. 00:13:40 - 00:14:09 Anthony And listen, it can be nerve-racking because you don't know what to expect, I mean, if you have a supportive environment like we have here, it feels a bit easy, but you still have that little person on your shoulder going, "Should you or shouldn't you?" I'm of the process of saying, yes, you should always come out. But again, that's a personal decision. 00:14:10 - 00:14:35 Anthony The one piece that struck me as you're talking was that mental piece, right? So mental health is just... It's in tandem with people who are neurodivergent. How did you manage that piece of it? I mean, I know you know my story, but how did you get past that mental piece of it? 00:14:36 - 00:15:08 Mia Me personally, sometimes it was just white knuckling and bearing it because I was fearful of letting people into who I truly was. I sought mental health support at times to help me get me there. And I got to be honest, being a parent of neurodiverse children was probably the best experience for me because I saw how times have changed. When you and I grew up, mental health wasn't talked about. There was a stigma associated with it. But times are different. 00:15:09 - 00:15:34 Mia People have evolved. This is now at the forefront of our society and it's much more acceptable. It impacts so many more people. So I finally decided it was a benefit to come out and announce who I was and that I was neurodivergent and realized the benefit it could be for other people as well. So eventually just got to take that leap and see what happens. 00:15:35 - 00:15:52 Anthony Yeah, no, and I think you segued nicely. I'm going to ask Mia a question here about support and allies and empowering neurodivergent colleagues. How can we do that in a productive, supportive way? 00:15:53 - 00:16:22 Mia Yeah, absolutely. Great question, and allyship is certainly an evolution as well. You are never going to be the perfect ally. However, you can move forward in how you are best showing up as an ally day by day. So the first thing that I always recommend when people come to me, and it's funny you asked this question because I actually just had a discussion with someone last week who said, "DEI is constantly evolving. I feel like I'm finally up to speed, and then new terms are coming forward. 00:16:23 - 00:17:00 Mia And how can I best lean in?" So I always lead with education, educate yourself on varying neurodivergent conditions, their challenges as well as strengths. And I think that understanding goes a long way in breaking down stereotypes and misconceptions that are baked into all of us. We all harbor biases, and so I think over time just recognizing that. And then also if you find yourself saying something that maybe you think didn't align with what you were supposed to say, you can take a step back, lean into education and resources and figure out what you should say moving forward. 00:17:01 - 00:17:22 Mia Also, recommend having a confidant that you can have as an accountability partner. Maybe it's someone in your direct team that can help you to evolve on your journey as being an ally. I also think a lot of us have read articles over the past couple of years about leading with empathy. It's a leadership skill that is pivotal in today's workplace. 00:17:23 - 00:17:57 Mia So I encourage you, no matter if you're an individual contributor, if you're a leader or a manager, to lead with empathy and treat your neurodivergent colleagues as what they are, colleagues, and ensure that you're leaning into those conversations and individualizing your style with every individual that you meet and adapting to where they're at. I also really recommend avoiding stigmatizing language and stereotypes. So a lot of times this new language, new terms don't come natural to us. 00:17:58 - 00:18:22 Mia And as I mentioned, things are ever evolving. So figure out what works best with your learning style. Perhaps it's listening to a podcast. Perhaps as a manager, you want to look through a guide on how you can better equip your employees, but lean into whatever education or resources are out there that work best with your learning style and bake this continuous learning into your day-to-day job. 00:18:23 - 00:18:53 Mia If you aren't up to speed on technical skills that your job requires day by day or if you aren't leading into soft skills that your job requires, then essentially you can be falling out of compliance with your day-to-day duties with your job. So if you work for a company that embraces an inclusive and equitable culture, ensure that you're also baking that into your day-to-day work and that you're doing what you can as an ally to ensure that you're equipping yourself to best support fellow associates. 00:18:54 - 00:19:21 Anthony Great recommendations and ideas. Shameless plug for CAI because I'm parts chair. Amanda, here comes an amazing question, I hope. So, experiences. What was your experience like in school, once you got out of school, finding that job, and what you're doing now? 00:19:22 - 00:19:55 Amanda I was the classic kid who rarely was invited for play dates or birthday parties. As early as first grade, I noticed that I was a bit different from my peers. I attended speech therapy and education support classes while the others did not. I used to repetitive shrug my shoulders and the other kids would ask me why. My normal response was either I just felt like it or I had an inch. An autism diagnosis was initially considered when I was in the third grade. My family requested not to have me labeled at that time for the fear that the expectations for my abilities would be lowered. 00:19:56 - 00:20:24 Amanda When I was 14, I had a psych evaluation and was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder, which is now termed as autism spectrum disorder, along with expressive and receptive language disorder. Growing up in a small town in Northeast PA, there were limited social support groups and special services at the time. I attended both public and private schools and saw the benefits of an IEP and of all and a small class size. 00:20:25 - 00:20:54 Amanda I was at the public school from kindergarten through sixth grade, and then later had to face my fear and returned during the middle of my junior year of high school. In public school, I felt that my learning capabilities were underestimated. Bullying was an issue throughout most of my education. I had difficulty understanding when someone would seem nice to me, but would be setting me up to be the butt of a joke. At times it felt like a never ending nightmare. Shows like the Big Bang Theory and Bones helped me to understand social cues. 00:20:55 - 00:21:27 Amanda Disney gave me the role models that I looked up to and copied. Video games provided an outlet for releasing stress, improving my problem solving, empowered me and providing a means to connect with my peers. Finally, music has always been a way to destress, provide courage and joy. Overall, I felt most successful at St. Rose Academy, which unfortunately closed during my junior year. My classes consisted of 10 kids, which this provided more one-on-one attention with my teachers. 00:21:27 - 00:21:55 Amanda It allowed me to participate in student government, varsity softball, cheerleading, and golf. I was also in Chorus Culture Club, Psych Club, Spiritual Life Committee, National Honor Society, Yearbook Committee, and took part of fundraisers and school dances. In general, I did my best when subject matter was provided to classes and learning step-by-step versus large chunks of material presented at one time. I had to work twice as hard in order to keep up with my peers. 00:21:56 - 00:22:22 Amanda Every night coming home from school, I spent hours on end sitting at the kitchen tower doing my homework until I was completely satisfied with my results. For group projects, when the teams were unassigned, it was never a good feeling as I was always picked last. I sometimes felt left out when I wasn't invited for sleepovers, weekend hangouts or parties. However, I was fortunate that I had my older brother and cousins who were close in age to fill those social gaps. 00:22:23 - 00:22:51 Amanda Anytime someone said that I couldn't do something, whether be able to graduate from high school, successfully complete my first semester of college, or even hold a job, the words I can't was my drive to go and beyond their standards. Time and time over again during the years, I had to prove my worth. Applying for colleges was another challenge I had to face. PA OVR was supportive of my goal for training. College disability support programs would vary greatly. 00:22:52 - 00:23:24 Amanda Some programs weren't included in the tuition costs and others had to be paid for separately. I can remember one day that I had 2 college interviews that same day. The first one was very difficult. I can remember the interviewer saying to me that my expectations were unrealistic. I felt pretty down afterwards. However, despite what was said, I had another interview with Marywood University that was very positive that same day. After walking through Marywood's doors and talking to the people who were in charge of the Gateway Program, I had that gut feeling that I was right at home. 00:23:25 - 00:23:55 Amanda Of all the colleges and universities that I applied to, I never felt more welcome than I did there. A few weeks later, I received my acceptance letter, which included a scholarship award. In Marywood Gateway Program, I was able to move on into my freshman dorm a week earlier. It allowed us time to adjust, find our bearings around the campus, have familiar faces around campus, and take prep class for the first day. During my college years, I was able to experience almost everything that my school had to offer and had learning accommodations to help me go along the way. 00:23:56 - 00:24:29 Amanda I studied abroad in Ireland for one summer. I enjoyed my time working in Marywoods TV Studio known as TV Marywood and the radio station VMFM 91.7 as DJ Fiery Phoenix. Fun fact, there were a couple of reasons why I chose the name of Fiery Phoenix. It was because not only for being a fan of Harry Potter, but it was a little tribute to St. Rose's School mascot, which so happened to be a phoenix. It also brought me back to the time that I dressed up as the school mascot during the basketball games and when I used to do the school announcements. 00:24:30 - 00:24:58 Amanda I had amazing friends who accepted me for who I was, and I made it on the dean's list by the skin of my teeth during my final semester. After graduating from Marywood with my bachelor's degree, I ended up moving down towards the Philadelphia area for better job opportunities. I will also say finding a job coming out of college was no easy feat. I felt that I had a disadvantage when it came to the interview process. Having expressive and receptive language disorder means I constantly had to translate my world around me. 00:24:59 - 00:25:28 Amanda So let me see. For example, in school, when it came time to take tests, I knew the subject matter well enough, but I wasn't always able to produce the answer is the way my teachers would've liked since their wording sounded off to me. Overall, I was overlooked so many times because I struggled to interpret what the interviewers were asking based on their tone of voice and how the questions were asked. In the end, I had help from the PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation to get my foot into the door of all of my past and recent employment. 00:25:29 - 00:25:55 Amanda I found that during my time working, I was better at showing what I can do better than telling what I can do in an interview process. That's part of why I loved CAI's Neurodiversity Program because I had the opportunity to showcase my strengths and have companies such as Radian to see how hard I worked. And thanks to CAI's program, I was under contract with Radian for a whole year and was asked back in July to become full-time with them. 00:25:56 - 00:26:13 Anthony So I have a question for you. So we only have a couple minutes left. Amanda, I'm going to stick with you here. How would you describe that transition from CAI Neurodiverse Solutions to working at Radian full-time? 00:26:14 - 00:26:43 Amanda I will forever be thankful for CAI's Neurodiverse Program. They on my untapped potential and matched me to an opportunity that made me feel alive. I was provided with support and learning tools that allowed me to be successful as a compliance analyst. My focus and attention to detail was put into good use on this job. It allows me the challenge of solving problems and collaborating with coworkers. I was excited to hear that Radian wanted to onboard me as a permanent hire. 00:26:44 - 00:27:11 Amanda CAI had been preparing me for this possibility. And following one year of their program, it became a reality. I still had to go through formal onboarding, but overall, it was relatively seamless. I was still working with the same team, doing the same job without any interruptions to the workflow. Although I missed the deal in mentoring with CAI staff, it was bittersweet as I am excited about growing with Radian and can proceed with confidence. 00:27:12 - 00:27:32 Anthony That's awesome. And I met you at Radian a couple weeks ago, walked through the amazing offices, amazing support system that you have as well. Mia, any final thoughts before we close out in a minute here? 00:27:33 - 00:27:55 Mia Yeah, just to thank you for hosting this. And to anyone in the audience, if you want to further have a discussion, if you want to find avenues to better support employees within your organization, certainly encourage you to reach out to me, reach out to CAI's and yes teams, and we'll certainly love to bounce ideas off one another. 00:27:56 - 00:28:08 Anthony Tony, I'm going to ask you the same thing as we close out here, and I appreciate you deep diving into your personal life there. Anything to add? 00:28:09 - 00:28:43 Tony I'd just say I think having an organization like CAI that's so welcoming, accepting of neurodiversity, I know it's been a real game changer for me, and it has been for so many of our associates. And again, people no longer feel to pretend to be something that they're not or mask who they are, and it's such a positive step and evolution in life. And you see the impacts that it has on our associates and it's life-changing. So from all of us in the, excuse me, neurodiverse community, we thank you. [Website link: "Learn more at www.CAI.io" is shown in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen.] 00:28:44 - 00:29:13 Anthony That's awesome. That's a great way to end it. And for everybody watching today and watching the recording, our time is over today. I'd like to thank Mia, Amanda, and Tony for joining us and sharing their insights with us. An absolute pleasure chatting with all of you. I'd also like to thank our audience for your attention and participation and coming on today and watching these 3 amazing human beings spread their story. 00:29:14 - 00:29:44 Anthony Later we're going to be sending everyone that attended a recording of this event to share with your colleagues or peers. And in the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about CAI Neurodiverse Solutions or know somebody that is, visit our website at cai.io and fill out our contact form. Thank you all for joining us today and have a great rest of your day. [Closing slide: A white background is shown with the CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo in the center of the slide. Below the logo is the link to the website: www.CAI.io.]


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