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Profile of Jennison Asuncion, Project Manager

Intro: There is more to a career in the training industry than delivering training. Interested in those other possibilities? Read on!

The Story: For the last three years I have been working as a Project Manager in the training division of a major financial institution. In this role, a key responsibility involves providing coordination and support to project team members to ensure all activities are focused on achieving a project's goals. To do this I have developed project charters, identified project risks, generated meeting minutes, and performed other tasks to keep things on track. In addition, I have been assigned to projects that focus on the business and strategy behind providing employee learning and development across our enterprise. This has included conducting both statistical analyses of training data and research on industry best practices that inform decision-makers.

I have recently taken on change management and communication responsibilities related to the implementation of a piece of technology called a learning management system. I am also working with colleagues to develop a comprehensive set of standards (including those related to accessibility) around the design, development and delivery of "eLearning" to our employees. "eLearning" refers to learning delivered using technology such as the Internet, teleconferencing, and videotape.

I earned a Master of Arts in Educational Technology from Concordia University. Over the last ten years, I built my career by holding a variety of paid and volunteer positions conducting classroom and one-on-one training in areas such as leadership and adaptive technology. In my last job with a large information technology services company, I helped develop eLearning courseware for its customers.

In my present role, I have intentionally moved away from duties associated with developing or delivering training, choosing instead a career path where I am contributing to strategic decision-making, development of standards, and implementation of technology that will support and grow my company's training capabilities in years to come. It is a logical step if I decide one day to pursue a leadership role somewhere in the training industry.

One of the most appealing things about my job is that there is no such thing as a "typical day." The reason for this is that both the projects I work on and the skills that I use vary depending on the assignment. Having said that, throughout the week, I am frequently involved in meetings and conference calls with my team and colleagues elsewhere in the organization. The majority of my work is done on my personal computer using Microsoft applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Project. I also use Lotus Notes for e-mail and MSN Messenger for real-time internal communication. Though employed by a financial institution, my work day typically extends beyond "banking hours". To give me the flexibility to work away from my physical office, I have been equipped with a laptop and access to my company's internal network.

My employer has provided me with the JAWS screen reading software, a VoiceNote QT, the Kurzweil OCR software package, and a VoiceMate digital talking organizer. By far the most valuable of these has been the VoiceNote—a personal digital assistant (PDA) with a computer-style keyboard and highly intelligible and responsive speech feedback. In addition to its having functions such as a word processor and scheduler, its size, portability, quiet keyboard, long battery life and its ability to transfer files to and from a PC make it ideal for taking to meetings and for working on the go. Despite having all of this technology, I still carry a slate and stylus.

My work group ensures that I have any material available to me in braille that I require. Since many of the discussions I am involved in use visuals to assist in understanding complex project relationships, we will be experimenting with the use of a Raised Line Drawing Kit for on-the-spot, ad hoc drawing of diagrams. Finally, my colleagues provide me material that they will cover in meetings in an electronic format.

The best part of my job is that what I am asked to do is constantly changing. I am expected to think outside the box and to be resourceful. Moreover, I like the fact that at any time, I might be asked to drop everything and join a new project, or to take on additional responsibilities. The most challenging part of my job is to ensure that I maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Being a mentor provides me the opportunity to have others learn from my experiences—positive and negative. Like others, I have encountered barriers while pursuing my education and then, again, while looking for work. They have included attempting to access career resources that were inaccessible with JAWS, and attending career fairs where employer representatives had none of their material available in alternative formats. Finally, at times growing up I faced attitudes from individuals who felt that the fact I was blind meant that there were certain careers that were suitable and others that were impossible and not even worth consideration. I am hopeful that sharing my experiences can encourage a job seeker who just needs to believe it can be done.

If I were to give advice to blind and visually impaired job seekers, it would be:

  • Do a lot of research such as reading job ads of careers you are interested in to understand what skills are being looked for and, more importantly, the academic background that is required.

  • Be able to explain the accommodations that would work best for you.

  • Learn how to use adaptive technology and popular applications that you will likely have to use in your career.

  • Look for employers that have established policies or programs in place for people with disabilities and a strong diversity program that explicitly references individuals with disabilities.

The Contact: Jennison Asuncion.

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