When it comes to getting hired for a job, having successful conversations with a company’s Human Resources Department is crucial. Human Resources employees are usually the first people who review your resume and cover letter and the first ones you’ll talk to in the interview process.
Ed Garcia is LightHouse’s Human Resources Generalist and is the first blind person to hold a position in the Human Resources department at LightHouse. He does much of the recruiting and interviewing for positions at LightHouse and works closely with LightHouse hiring managers to help them find jobseekers who would be a great fit for the managers’ departments. Below Ed chats about how he got into Human Resources, and lessons he’s learned about blindness and employment.
Ed is a San Francisco native who played baseball and football in high school. For college, he went to the University of San Francisco. where he majored in psychology and minored in biology. That’s also where he met someone who he learned he had near misses with over the years.
“I met this wonderful woman named Anne who happened to live seven minutes away from me. We learned that we had been at the same events over the years, but we had never met before.” Anne would become his wife.
After college Ed started working as a customer services representative in a call center and over the course of a few years worked his way up to director. He went on to work at a bank call center and was soon promoted to training director. As training director, he took some courses and learned how to recruit employees. He and his Human Resources team ended up hiring dozens of people for the call center. Eventually Ed started his own consulting company and would consult on HR and customer service matters. After doing this for six years, Ed experienced some medical issues that caused him to become legally blind.
Ed continued his consulting work but realized he missed interacting with coworkers. He was ready to work at a “9 to 5” office job again but had never conducted a job search as a blind man.
Ed admits that he had no idea what to do next.
“I had been working for 25 years. I had a nice career going, and all of a sudden, I can’t see like I used to anymore. I was wondering how am I going to look for work?”
Ed was referred to the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) where he met a woman who told him about her husband who was a blind computer programmer.
“I was astonished. How can someone be a computer programmer when they’re blind? That’s when I learned about accessibility tools like ZoomText, JAWS and CCTVs. I was referred by DOR to the LightHouse to work with the Employment Services department including [Director of Employment Services] Kate Williams.”
That’s when Ed’s perspective on blindness began to change.
“Kate taught me a lot of things, including how to accept my blindness. Before then, I think I was in denial. Soon I realized you can learn skills that you can use to advance yourself and be independent.”
An opportunity opened up in LightHouse’s Human Resources department. Ed applied and got the job.
Though the general economy took a beating in 2020, Ed is proud that despite those challenges Lighthouse still hired 40 people between the San Francisco headquarters, East Bay office, LightHouse Industries: Sirkin Center and Enchanted Hills Camp. With interviews happening virtually, Ed relies on his years of experience to compensate for cues that are harder to pick up when an interview is not in person.
“One of the things that I’ve gotten pretty good at over the years is a technique called active listening. It’s not just listening; it’s also playing an active role in the discussion. When you’re interviewing somebody, you want to make sure that you ask questions and you confirm that you understood what it is that they’re saying.”
Ed, also known as Edward Garcia V (“my son is Edward VI, so you know what the family tradition is,” he says laughing) notes that one of the most important things to do during a job search is to network. He also takes it a step further: He believes that blind jobseekers must include other blind people in their networks. “Immerse yourself in the blindness community. I had a very extensive work history and I had a lot of contacts, but guess what? None of them were blind. Learn from other blind people.”
Of the nearly 40 people who were hired by LightHouse last year, 70% of them were blind and many had learned about the jobs at LightHouse from others in the blindness community.
Ed explains the best thing about his role as an Human Resources Generalist.
“Nothing brings me more joy than once we’ve gotten to the point where you’ve interviewed someone and you’ve done all your background checking. You get to call somebody and offer them a job and you listen to how excited they are.”
LightHouse is hiring. Check out the career opportunities webpage.