Every month, Another Source invites a guest to meet with our team for a quick Coffee & Conversations chat. This November, we had the pleasure of meeting with Arjun Devgan, Global Vice President of Customer Success at Amplitude. We enjoyed our time with Arjun so much that we’re sharing some of our key takeaways with everyone here. Please note, the topics discussed were slightly condensed and edited for clarity.
Another Source (AS): Was there a moment or series of events that set you on this path to become an advocate for people with disabilities (PWD)?
Arjun Devgan (AD): I suffered a serious eye injury to my right eye in college, and my left eye also has a degenerative condition. For a long time, I didn’t share about this “invisible disability” at work. However, in 2020 I was presenting for a team meeting on career growth over Zoom in front of 100 coworkers. When I shared about my condition, I was surprised by how many people reached out to me afterwards to thank me for sharing my experience and even sharing some of their own.
The example I like to give is that someone is always going through something; it doesn’t necessarily have to be a disability. Working parents, for instance, sometimes need to have flexibility in their schedule to adjust for their child(ren) being sick, or going to a sports game. When we understand that people at work also have families and their own personal matters, then we can know how to best accommodate them.
AS: Many people with disabilities (PWD) who are searching for jobs may face discouragement. How do recruiters reach out and engage these job seekers?
AD: While it’s true that companies and employers are legally required to implement the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), is inclusion integrated into their working environment? Candidates can distinguish between companies who are following ADA guidelines to simply check the box – or have a culture where people with disabilities are welcomed. A great example of where this is done well is Salesforce; visit their job descriptions for inspiration.
AS: What changes have you observed in your personal life since opening up about your invisible disability?
AD: Ever since that presentation in 2020, I have felt much more confident. I don’t feel “lesser than” and have in general experienced a better quality of life. The outpouring of support that I received was amazing and the best part from a work perspective is being able to create space for others with disabilities.
We must assume that the people around us often want to be more accommodating. Most of the time, when they are made aware of the reasonable accommodations I need, they will make them happen.
Advice for Recruiters and Hiring Managers
AS: Are there practical steps that we should take once we have this knowledge?
AD: At the company level, employers can make sure that the message they are sending considers people with disabilities. This isn’t always top of mind for your marketing or HR departments, so take the time to reevaluate any communications and opportunities.
On an individual level, someone in recruiting is legally not allowed to bring up the subject of a candidate’s disability. Many don’t want to bring it up right away. To again use the example of parenting, it’s healthy to acknowledge when specific needs arise. But setting boundaries is equally important. In the context of the workplace, we are all here to do our job, so acknowledge it, but don’t focus exclusively on that one thing.
AS: Do you have any advice on how to navigate conversations during an interview when a request for reasonable accommodation is made?
AD: If someone needs an accommodation in order to participate in an interview, you can always say, “Let me circle back with the hiring team and get back to you.” The number one reasonable accommodation is actually time. Perhaps the candidate may ask for the list of questions beforehand, or to do an interview over a video call so they can read the interviewer’s lips if they are hard of hearing. There is research that found that the vast majority of accommodations are a one-time expense of $500.
For me personally, I keep an open-source Google Doc of any accommodations I might need and share this whenever it’s appropriate.
Leading with Intention
AS: As a recruitment partner, Another Source recognizes that we are ambassadors for candidates. Sometimes when we communicate a candidate’s request for reasonable accommodation, there is an educational gap in the response from the hiring manager. How do we take all that we’ve learned about disability awareness and share that with hiring teams?
AD: You can advise the hiring manager on best practices. There are resources like the AskJAN.org database that can provide specific recommendations. If a candidate has requested reasonable accommodation, then pass that information along to the hiring manager. It is their role to act on that request, not overstep their boundaries.
AS: You mentioned that one of the best things about sharing your story has been creating space for others to tell theirs. How do we create a work environment where there is a safe space, or psychological safety, to encourage these conversations?
AD: Lead by example! Employees will follow what they see their executives and managers doing. It’s a fine line between being overly vulnerable and doing the work, but you need both to have a successful business.
If you enjoyed this conversation, make sure to also read Arjun’s blog post on his “invisability.”