Profile of Kirk Adams, President of the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind
Intro: Does persistence pay? Kirk Adams, President of the Seattle Lighthouse thinks it does. Read his story and see why.
The Story: When I was five, my retinas detached in a surgery meant to repair my failing vision. My parents knew that although I had many battles ahead of me, I wouldn't let blindness stop me from accomplishing my goals or prohibit me from growing up to be independent. Now, 39 years later, I am the President of the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind, an organization whose very mission is to create opportunities for independence of adults who are blind, deaf-blind, and blind with other disabilities. My job here at the Seattle Lighthouse keeps me very busy, just the way I like it. I get to work with a variety of people, including Lighthouse staff, donors, community members, and board members.
I obtained my first job at the Lighthouse because I was recruited, but I steadily worked my way up to where I am today. Starting out as the Lighthouse Development Director, I received promotions throughout the years, including the General Manager of Administration (GMA) a few years later. In my role as the GMA, I was responsible for overseeing many different departments, including Human Resources and Development. Now, as the President, I will utilize both my work experience and my Master's Degree in Not-for-Profit Leadership to continue my work for the mission I care so deeply about.
As president, there are four outstanding parts to my role as the future leader of the Seattle Lighthouse, which are: planning, organizing, developing staff skills, and measuring success and outcomes.
Planning and Organizing: To achieve our identified and planned objectives I work with the strategic team to organize and help various departments to align resources and ensure they are allocated.
Staff Development: Developing our staff is also an important component to the success of the Lighthouse. I want to make sure that everyone involved in the Seattle Lighthouse reaches their full potential and is able to use their talents in order to fulfill our mission.
Measuring Outcomes: Careful monitoring and measuring of success is vital because we always want to be headed in the right direction, which includes increasing jobs for blind and deaf-blind adults and providing essential skills training to the Seattle community of blind, deaf-blind, and other disabled blind individuals.
As a blind man myself, I rely on different kinds of assistive technologies to get my everyday tasks done swiftly. Becoming braille literate was vital to me when I was a child, and today I have all of my documents brailled for me, thanks to our braille specialist here at the Lighthouse. I also use JAWS (Job Access with Speech), an 80-character braille display, and a braille embosser. In addition to learning the use of assistive technology, orientation and mobility training has enabled me to move freely around the Lighthouse independently.
What I love most about my job is what it requires me to do, which is step back and look at the bigger picture. Blind adults face a staggering 70% rate of unemployment, and for deaf-blind adults the number is even higher. My goal is to provide employment through on-the-job training programs which help our client-employees obtain outside employment so that they can live self-sufficient and productive lives. (Employment Statistics for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: U.S. - American Foundation for the Blind)
Traveling around the country for conferences and meetings is always strenuous. Airport delays and flight cancellations can be difficult to deal with, but in the end, it's always worth having the opportunity to network and represent our organization and our mission.
Growing up with a sense of independence enabled me to try things that even my doctor warned me against, such as wrestling in high school. It was important to me to never let my vision loss govern my life. This is part of the reason why the Seattle Lighthouse exists: to provide opportunities for independence for people who are blind, deaf-blind, or blind with other disabilities. I would advise anyone who is interested in non-profit management to locate others through reputable mentoring programs who are already successful in the non-profit sector, and get to know them by job shadowing, informational interviews, or just spending time talking with them. Identify any academic programs that are aligned with your career goals and take full advantage of them. Join professional associations. Don't let blindness hinder you from accomplishing your goals!
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