This article is part of our series: “… in Tech”, where we ask team members at Snappy to share their experience as a member of their community, specifically what working at a tech startup means to them as an individual and on a societal level.
It’s important to share these stories to better understand the experiences that may not be our own. Our job is not for them to educate us but to listen to their story. Each team member is simply sharing their story so that we can gain a deeper appreciation for those experiences. This month, we focus on Disability Pride with Diane Schindler and Valentina Arbelaez.
Let’s get to know you a little better! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Diane: I am the Accounts Receivable Manager at Snappy, and I have been part of this incredible team for a year. I work from my home located in Westchester, NY! I really enjoy a good book (when I have the time for it!), love a good bakery, and hanging out with my husband and children, Henry, who will soon be four years old, and Charlie, who is 16 months!
I spend a lot of my free time connecting with other parents who recently found out their children have been diagnosed with Williams Syndrome! I provide support, listen to their stories, and make sure they know that there is someone out there that can relate to them,or simply offer a few minutes of my day to brighten theirs!
Valentina: I was born in Medellin, Colombia and I emigrated to the United States when I was two years old. Ever since, I grew up in a very ethnically diverse community in Queens, New York. My number one passion in life is to travel, and I have visited 22 countries and counting! At Snappy, I am a dedicated Client Partner in Sales, tasked with growing existing Enterprise accounts through strategic partnerships and outreach.
What has been your experience working in tech as a member or relative to the disabled community?
Diane: I’m a mom to a child with Williams Syndrome; a rare genetic condition that affects 1 in 10,000 births. Having a child with Williams Syndrome requires a lot of attention to my child’s medical and occupational needs - making sure doctors visits are not overlooked, that he attends the most impactful educational environment, and receives all of the support he requires - ensuring we are all being as successful as we can be!
This also means that there are days where I need just as much support as Henry does, days where my focus shifts from being Snappy’s Accounts Receivable Manager to Henry’s mom. With the leadership I’ve been gifted, I’m able to be that mom to my child.
At Snappy, we can make a difference in all of the things we believe in, whether we start an ERG that focuses on making Snappy more accessible to people with disabilities or ask for support fundraising for causes and organizations that mean a lot to us.
Giving back is part of Snappy’s DNA.There is always something happening where our team is giving back to our communities and when there’s something to say; there’s someone listening and doing something about it.
Valentina: My parents are Deaf, making me a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults). I have never worked in a company where I feel wholly comfortable disclosing my parents' disability for fear of judgment or being treated differently. Working in tech and specifically at Snappy, I am surrounded by so many intelligent, caring, and incredible people!
During a team-building exercise, I disclosed to my colleagues that I ‘spoke’ 3 languages- including ASL (American Sign Language,) and that my parents are Deaf. My colleagues were so thoughtful and supportive, and sharing this huge part of my life felt liberating. I am grateful to be a part of such an amazing team and to embrace my identity as a CODA in the workplace.
I also had a recent heartwarming experience at a work conference. A prospective client made his way to our booth, where one of my colleagues realized he was deaf. I was called over to introduce myself and help interpret. It was wonderful to feel I could communicate with this person when no one else could and drive inclusiveness at my company!
What does Disability Pride mean to you?
Diane: Disability Pride month is about building communities, taking action, asking questions, and doing something about it. It’s a way to push towards creating safe, integrated educational and professional environments, inclusive spaces, and opportunities for all.
For us at home - It means that we celebrate each milestone a little bit harder. We cheer a little louder. We advocate a little bit more. Most importantly, it means we don’t stop - we keep going. Each May, we celebrate Williams Syndrome Awareness Month - we fundraise and talk to our friends about our changes, achievements, and difficulties. It means we lean on our village and we’re not scared to do so.
I am Henry’s mom - I celebrate that every single day. It means that we don’t let a diagnosis define who we are, what we can do, or how we get there.
Valentina: Disability Pride, to me, entails overcoming obstacles to be the best person you can be. Being deaf or disabled is not a deterrent; it is simply one of life’s many challenges to tackle. A disabled person can do anything their heart desires, just like anyone else. Being disabled is not a disadvantage; it is something that makes each individual special and unique! I am proud and blessed to be able to communicate with others in ASL, and it is a big part of what makes me who I am today.
What do you wish people/society would get out of Disability Pride Month?
Diane: Awareness that being different shouldn’t lead to alienating our peers, children, friends, and communities. We can lead our peers and society to educate each other, ask questions, care about each other on a deeper level, and be mindful that we aren’t all meant to be the same. Everyone has a purpose and remember that this purpose looks different for everyone.
Valentina: I hope that Disability Pride Month can bring education and awareness to communities around the globe. ASL is an essential tool that should be taught to all, regardless of whether or not someone is disabled. I hope that kindness and tolerance will tackle all else!
What has Snappy done and/or could do to improve diversity and support the disabled community?
Diane: In October 2020, my son Henry was diagnosed with Williams Syndrome at age two. Our world trembled and shifted - we were absorbed by fear, sadness, and unknowns. A year went by, and life as we knew it was slowly making its way back; we felt stronger than ever by October 2021.
It was time to put the fears away; the earth had settled again, and the sun was shining - we needed to celebrate because October 2020 was tough, but it didn’t mean that October 2021 had to be. I believe in changing mindsets - changing negative thoughts into positive actions and doing something about it! So Snappy and I did something by sponsoring a Fun Day celebrating Henry at his school and made an impactful donation in his name to the Williams Syndrome Association!
My peers and colleagues listened to our story, and I finally felt like I had a voice loud enough to make a difference. Working at Snappy allows me to be Henry’s mom and do a job that I’m passionate about. With Snappy’s love, support, fearless leadership, and continuous dedication, Henry and I can climb mountains - because we’re both being supported!
Valentina: I believe Snappy makes a conscious effort to celebrate diversity and support various communities! Through fundraising, awareness, and celebration- Snappy is doing great work supporting marginalized communities.
I think there are misconceptions about disabled individuals. I would challenge companies to think about how someone with a disability would positively contribute to a workplace instead of how their disability would inhibit them. In the near future, we’re working to add a new group to our Employee Resource Group (ERG) program called “Snappy for All” to bring more awareness to the issues and work toward actionable solutions to make Snappy an even more inclusive environment.
Deaf individuals are extremely hard workers, and in comparison to hearing people- they miss less work, overachieve, adapt well, and experience less turnover.