Joe Donaldson Rejoins the Work Force With Help From LightHouse Employment Immersion Program

For many years Joe Donaldson worked in commercial construction as a crew foreman. Then, two years ago, he lost one of his eyes due to an accident during a game of Ping-Pong. At that point, he evaluated his options and decided to make a career change. After discussion with his Department of Rehabilitation counselor, Joe decided to become an EKG technician. He sailed through the Cal State University East Bay EKG Technician Certification course, but still had ahead of him the challenge of finding a job in his newly chosen field. His counselor referred him to the LightHouse Employment Immersion program and he enrolled in the beginning of this year.
Joe Donaldson stands during mock interview that is part of Employment Immersion class
Meeting his fellow classmates and Program Leader Kate Williams was Joe’s first exposure to blind people and was a turning point in his life as a blind person. The time spent with this group of blind and low vision people, each with a variety of abilities, differing skills and backgrounds, has really shaped his attitude about his blindness and his career going forward. “During our class he saw that blindness was no obstacle to a full and happy life,” said Kate.

Once Joe got his certificate, his biggest concern was finding employment despite the fact that he lacked experience. One of the strategies he learned in class was how to emphasize the transferrable skills he had gained during his years as a construction crew foreman on his resume and in his interviews.

Even before the segment on interviewing came up in the classroom, Joe took the initiative to go on several job interviews. According to Kate Williams, with each try, she “could see his confidence rise.” He finally interviewed with a company called Cardionet. “I was nervous about my interview with CardioNet but confident at the same time because of everything I learned from Kate and [LightHouse Employment Associate] Alex Galeczka. Alex helped me get my computer skills up-to-date since I had not been online for many years. During the interview I had to take a test on the physiology of the heart, so I used my magnifier to read and I did well.”

Two years after losing his vision, Joe is now gainfully employed as an EKG technician for Cardionet which is located in a high-rise building in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district. Going from construction to heart rhythm patterns, Joe is a fine example of what one can achieve with a great attitude, hard work and some pretty fantastic role models. Joe said, “I want to give a huge, gigantic enormous thank you to Kate and Alex. I couldn’t have gotten this job without them. They are wonderful.”

Marcled Foundation Underwrites LightHouse Employment Immersion for Second Year

Last year the LightHouse launched its Employment Immersion Program, a cutting-edge project aimed at providing blind and visually impaired jobseekers with the means to successfully gain employment.

We’re pleased to announce that the Marcled Foundation has given us $25,000 for the second year in a row, letting us continue offering this much needed program. “The Employment Immersion leadership team is extremely grateful that the Marcled Foundation has chosen to fund us, because it will allow us to continue our commitment to providing unique and customized job search training,” said program leader Kate Williams. “In addition to continuing last year’s successful approach to training through immersive and demanding month of blindness-specific job search strategies, the Marcled Foundation’s funding will enable us to coach job seekers on a one-to-one basis, based on their specific goals. This personalized counseling has greatly increased the number of people we have successfully placed in secure employment.

“So far this year, another seven participants have reached their employment goals. They’ve gotten jobs that are highly-skilled and pay well, jobs such as EKG Technician, Naval Dept. Scientist and Rehabilitation Counselor, that will bring in annual salaries that add up to an estimated $400,000. What really makes this work worth it is that we keep in regular touch with past participants, both employed and still engaged in the job search. We do this to determine their status, encourage them in their concentrated efforts and because it’s just so great to hear about their progress. One of our successful participants, Joe Donaldson, called the other day while standing in front of his new workplace and said ‘I can’t believe I’m standing here in a suit looking up at a tall building and realizing I’m walking into the third week of my new position (as a EKG technician). I’m still pinching myself. Sometimes life has a funny way of moving us forward.’ The Marcled Foundation has been a key stakeholder in helping us provide this important service, including the follow-through.”

If you are a blind or visually impaired jobseeker we encourage you to talk with Kate Williams to find out if the Employment Immersion Program can help. We will start a new Employment Immersion session on July 31. Session lasts for 8 weeks and will be at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley. Call Kate at 415-694-7324 or email her at