Lily Wang Esteban grew up in China and Hong Kong and moved to Hawaii at age 17. She finished high school and studied Business Administration and Gerontology at the University of Hawaii before marrying and starting a family. In her 20’s she began working for a bank, and for the next 35 years, which included a move to San Francisco in 1983, she dedicated herself to her work as a mortgage loan officer.
Then everything stopped. It began when she started having trouble reading street signs. “One evening in September 2007, while I was in the car with my husband, I asked him why they had put Christmas lights up so early; I said ‘Look they’re all over the place’. He didn’t know what I was talking about.” Lily realized that what she was seeing was the blurred lights of streetlamps, appearing like holiday lights. She went to see an ophthalmologist who diagnosed her with myopic degeneration and told her it was unlikely she would gain much vision back.
It became harder and harder for her to see, and Lily finally gave up the career she had built for four decades. She was the primary breadwinner in the family and as their finances became more precarious, she became more and more depressed. That’s when her sister encouraged her to come to LightHouse.
She went, and it changed her life.
At first Lily enrolled in the LightHouse’s Changing Vision class where she learned an array of tricks, tools and resources for the visually impaired. A LightHouse social worker connected her with the Department of Rehabilitation counselor John Grote, who introduced her to adaptive equipment such as a CCTV to enlarge printed material and a computer with ZoomText software.
“Kate Williams encouraged me not to settle, and to reach up to my dream. Kate is very inspiring – I thought I was too old to change but I look at her, she is also older and low vision. And there were other people in the class my age. I’m actually glad I lost my vision – it led me to a place where I have a brand new perspective on aging. Why be limited? You’re only as old as you feel. Kate showed me how to write a resume, how to put a cover letter together and how to present myself in an interview. But what she really did was teach me how to sell myself to employers while not selling myself short!”
After graduating from the Employment Immersion class, Lily learned that new government regulations required her to be licensed in order to work as a loan officer. Eager to return to the job scene, and with the help of her new adaptive equipment, she crammed several months’ worth of study into an accelerated online course. “I never studied so hard in my life – I finished in two weeks and then took both the state and federal exams in the same day. I wouldn’t advise anyone to do both in one day, but I was impatient. Fortunately I passed the exams and got my license.”
With license in hand, Lily was hired as a loan officer in November 2012 by Diversified Mortgage Group in Fremont, California. She went through a seven-week training and has just begun closing loans. She’s thrilled and says, “If you are interested in going back to work, I strongly encourage you to take the Employment Immersion class. You’ll learn so much about yourself and your capabilities. Kate will point out what you’re really good at, give encouragement and show you how to open doors. Then you just need to get in there and prove you can do it.”
Is it time for you to re-enter the job market? Follow Lily’s lead and join us for the next session of the 2013 Employment Immersion Program which begins Tuesday, May 28 at the LightHouse’s office at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley. For more information, call Kate Williams at 415-694-7324 or email her at email@example.com.