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5 Insights from a Deaf Engineer at Intel

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Munder-pic-600x400.jpg Adam Munder shares how an inclusive environment, accessible workplace, and shared goals are helpful to people of all abilities as they grow great careers.

I'm a development engineer working in the Intel Module Repair division, where I research, develop, and implement new module/robot repair procedures, including innovative engineering solutions and technology development. I love developing software, and even dabble in building hardware in my garage. I also happen to be deaf.

After earning my bachelor’s degree in robotics and mechanical engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology and master’s degree in nanoengineering from the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, I’d originally planned to pursue my PhD. Instead, I accepted an opportunity to work with Intel.

At earlier internships with different companies, I’d write notes, use email, or instant messenger to communicate. In person, I’d use gestures and body language to help people understand me.

Like the other places I’d worked, Intel offered its own unique work culture – with the bonus accommodation of onsite interpreters.

Here are the five insights that might surprise you about me and my work as a deaf engineer at Intel.

  1. Being Deaf is the Least Interesting Thing About Me.

The fact that I’m deaf is … just that. One fact in thousands about me. But, it can make it tricky in a job where so much is dependent on brainstorming, discussion, and collaboration.

I truly enjoy my job. Engineers work with overlapping responsibilities – there’s often a lot of back and forth and sometimes you need to muscle your way through meetings. Obviously, full access to communication is critical in my role.

So, when it came to helping me navigate communication speed-bumps, we did what engineers do best – problem solve. I’ve been able to work my best and take my career to the next level because of it.

  1. How Many Interpreters Can Fit Inside a Standard Cubicle?

 Two full time interpreters and an extra interpreter on the sideline. I have a total of three interpreters (paid for by Intel), two of whom work with me daily on campus. From the first cup of coffee at 8 a.m. to close of day at 5p.m., I have full communication support.

Why two interpreters? Meetings.

Imagine the rapid discussions, the back and forth, the interjections. How do I engage fully? I have one interpreter voice for me and the second signs what’s being voiced in the room. This means I can interject my ideas and thoughts into the conversation and shape solutions to problems on the table.

  1. About That Cubicle…

It’s far from standard. And it’s another way I’m supported and provided full access to communication.

At Intel, most of the cubicles have high walls. Except for mine. Our corporation service center customized my work-space. They lowered my desk, cut down my cubicle walls, and opened the space to allow constant visual access to my interpreters. When coworkers approach with a question, my interpreters are right there to help us communicate instantly.

  1. Don’t Fear Vulnerability, Seriously.

Honestly, when I first started at Intel, I thought I’d need interpreters for six months of training and would then be on my own. However, the environment was so different, with such heavy communication always happening. It was overwhelming to think of working without my interpreters.

What helped? Well, I asked for what I needed to thrive. My first manager reassured me, Human Resources worked to retain an interpreter agency for me, and Intel has shown time and again they believe in me. In return, I’ve invested my skills and energy into our mutual goal of building smarter technology. I also help save Intel money and time while improving yield and design for current and next-generation semiconductor manufacturing process. It’s been a win-win.

Never be afraid to ask for help. It’s been key for me, and it’s how I’ve been able to grow my career so successfully.

  1. Anything is Possible.

After eight years working here, I’m still a little amazed about the lengths Intel will go to make the workplace accessible for people like me who need a little something different to help us work—and accomplish—our best.

I’m happy that not only is Intel a champion for me, but also a committed advocate for diversity and inclusion. This drives Intel’s ongoing changes that are helping push growth, transformation, and innovation. When differences are valued as strengths, anything is possible.

Still curious about my daily work life? Take a deeper dive here.

For National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we’re sharing how people with disabilities and their allies are helping make the world more inclusive. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn for more stories.
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