A few years ago, while studying Psychology at Hunter College in New York, Jessyka set out on a mission. Recognizing the need for quality mentors, internships, and other work-based experiences, she committed to creating her own professional development path. She began with a Google search, applied for relevant programs, and ultimately came across the National Business & Disability Council (NBDC) at The Viscardi Center Emerging Leaders Program for College Students with Disabilities. After completing a phone interview with NBDC, she was accepted to participate. Since then, she has continued to flourish professionally, and attributes much of this to her experience as an NBDC Emerging Leader.
We had an opportunity to chat with Jessyka about her experience. Here’s what she had to say:
NBDC: Tell me a bit about yourself.
Jessyka: I’m from a little bit of everywhere, but primarily am from Texas and Charlotte, NC. I officially graduated in 2016 with a B.A. in psychology and minor in Economics from Hunter College. I have both dyslexia and ADHD.
NBDC: You found the Emerging Leaders Program through a Google search. How has the experience been and what benefits have you seen from participating in it?
Jessyka: Of all the programs that I researched or applied to for people with disabilities, the Emerging Leaders Program has been the most beneficial, active program. From the very beginning, the Emerging Leaders staff has been so helpful. There’s such an openness and I feel so comfortable with them. As a participant in the program, I’ve had amazing opportunities to network and learn from business leaders. One of the first events I attended was a Welcoming Day with Bank of America. It was a big networking opportunity, and I’ve continued to enjoy experiences like that, which have helped me grow.
I’m currently consulting as a Talent Acquisition Coordinator for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (the Fed), supporting recruiters in the bank. Being connected to this position was a result of information I received as part of the Emerging Leaders program. Program staff shared information about a recruiting day event the Fed was having at its office, in partnership with the City University of New York (CUNY). We were able to tour its museum, participate in a resume review, and a lot more. It was a full-day experience. Ultimately, I heard from a recruiter from that event, and I was offered a job with them.
NBDC: How has connecting with NBDC and the Emerging Leader Program impacted your life?
Jessyka: People say this all the time, but having a network is very important. If you come from a certain background, or even a certain school, it may be more challenging to build a network. Being invited to the various events that Emerging Leaders is a part of, plus the wealth of information on the website, and the many jobs you can apply for have been so beneficial. Also, having direct contact with staff that can advocate on my behalf or reach out directly to recruiters is invaluable. I have someone that really has my back and is able to create more exposure for me. I don’t get lost in a number. I have greater access to the people and resources that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
NBDC: How did your Emerging Leaders’ experience prepare you for what you’re doing now?
Jessyka: I’ve had so much amazing access and exposure to other professionals—NBDC staff recommends people through their professional networks. I’ve been connected to three professional women who have helped me tremendously, along with many other professional development opportunities. This has also helped me build my social confidence.
NBDC: What encouragement/advice would you give other students who are considering participating in the Emerging Leaders Program?
Jessyka: Be very active and try it. Doors will open if you pursue them. I never thought I’d get my current job role, but I went for it and I got it. I also advise others to follow up with contacts and make it a genuine follow-up. Don’t just follow up when you need someone. Extend yourself to the people that mentor and assist you. You never know where it could lead.
NBDC: What would you share with employers who are considering participating in the Emerging Leaders Program?
Jessyka: If you’re thinking about participating in the Emerging Leaders Program as a business, I encourage you to do it. It diversifies your workforce. People with disabilities have unique strengths that they can bring to any organization. We are skilled at problem-solving because we have to find ways to work around our daily challenges.
It’s important to have awareness about people with disabilities. I’ve been in organizations where I’ve felt uncomfortable being open to employers. Interviewers and hiring managers should participate in sensitivity trainings. When you’re working closely with people, you just want to know they have some knowledge and sensitivity about disability. It makes the experience different when you have a general awareness about my needs. A lot of times people make assumptions.
NBDC: What’s next for you, Jessyka?
Jessyka: I’m continuing to look for perfect professional opportunities. I’m looking into graduate school for next year and am seeking additional mentors—you can never have enough. I’m always looking to connect with other people with disabilities because I feel comfortable with people who have similar experiences.
Jessyka is a great example of the benefits that participating in NBDC’s Emerging Leaders Program can bring to both students and businesses. Apply to the Emerging Leaders program.
If you are a business interested in partnering with NBDC or hosting Emerging Leader interns, contact us at NBDCInfo@viscardicenter.org.