My EmployAbility – Anna Kuosmanen

21 Sep 2017

How did you find out about EmployAbility and the Google Scholarship for Students with Disabilities?
When I was an undergrad working as a research assistant, one of the postdocs in the group told me about Google Anita Borg Scholarship. When I was applying for that, I also happened by an advertisement for Google Scholarship for Students with Disabilities. I was not sure if I’d quality, since I “only” have a condition with chronic pain. But when I read EmployAbility’s criteria for eligibility for this scholarship, something clicked! Yes, this sounds like me!
How were we able to help you?
I did not win the scholarship the first time I applied. But later EmployAbility contacted me, asking me if I was planning to apply again, as they had thought my application was very strong. The EmployAbility team was with me every step of the way, helping me show my passion and dedication through the essays. As a major extra benefit from working with the team I learned to focus on what I have accomplished, instead of what I have missed due to having a disability.
What I consider the most important part about winning the scholarship was that it made me believe in myself again. I had just started my PhD studies, and as everyone who has done a PhD knows, there is a lot of culture about working 24/7 and attending every conference/workshop to network. I felt like I was not worthy of pursuing a PhD because I could not work enough.
I had (and still have) a great support team that encouraged me that I can be an awesome researcher despite my condition, but the recognition from the scholarship was what allowed me to internalize that I’m doing excellent work.
Where are you now and what advice would you give to any disabled students who are looking for jobs/placements, or thinking of applying for the scholarship?
I’m on my final year of PhD (computer science), expecting to defend in December. I never did work that 24/7, not even close. I did not travel much, but I thoroughly enjoyed the few conferences and summer schools I could attend, despite spending most of the leisure time bedbound. I’m currently looking for a postdoc position, and hope to continue my career in academia. Abroad would be nice, if I can find a good position in a country with good healthcare.
The advice I’d like to give to all disabled students is that disability is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s a part of who you are. It’s okay to ask for help or accommodations. What I’ve learned in these years after I won the scholarship, is that being open about your needs makes for better experiences for everyone. Of course there exist people who won’t take the fact well, but as a wise person once asked me, “If someone doesn’t want to hire you if you tell them you have a disability, would you want to work for them anyways?”
As for applying for the scholarship, give it a try! Don’t think you’re not “good enough”, because you definitely are great. How do I know that? By how we have defined disability, it means that the deck is stacked against you. And you have fought against that stacked deck and pursued your studies. Let that passion show in your application.
At EmployAbility we work with disabled university students and graduates to ease the transition from education into employment. To take advantage of these opportunities, the first step is to register with us. You can also  contact us with any specific queries

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Working with EmployAbility is different from using careers services where the advice can often feel a little 'cut & paste', and who are not always sensitive to the circumstances of disabled students.

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