SalesTechStar Interview with John Samuel, Manager at LCI Tech
The fact that remote work is becoming the new normal is game changing for the disability community, since transportation has been a major barrier for them so far feels John Samuel of LCI Tech as he talks about creating a more special-needs friendly model in tech while chatting with the SalesTechStar team in this latest interview.
Can you tell us a little about yourself John? We’ve noticed you seem to like travelling a lot, besides this, tell us about your hobbies, what a typical day at work is like for you – what you do at LCI Tech…
In our current situation, my life really revolves around my family and work! I am a husband, and father of two small boys, both under the age of 3. At the same time, I’m leading a new venture, disrupting the barriers that have held people with disabilities from pursuing careers in tech.
I wear many hats leading LCI Tech, but since the stay-at-home orders, we have actually on-boarded two new people to help build our business. We welcomed Quan Leysath, to lead business development, and Kevin Erickson, to lead our accessibility services. Both of them have hit the ground running, despite the current circumstances, and have done a great job of building relationships with their teammates remotely.
Although some of our clients have had to put a hold on work, others have been moving ahead as scheduled. We have been working with folks in the economic development space, who are vital for promoting local retail and hospitality businesses, and making sure that all of their visitors can access important COVID-19 updates. We have also been working with businesses in the financial sector, who are taking this time to make sure that their clients, no matter their ability, can have an accessible user experience on their sites. Our current situation is highlighting the need for businesses to ensure that their digital presence is accessible, which is good for us!
I have been formalizing strategic partnerships with multiple organizations, to diversify the way we go to market, while opening up new revenue streams for our partners. We are also working to bring on several MBA candidates from local universities, who have lost their internships because of this pandemic, and giving them an opportunity to work with our team and help us execute our business plan.
Before social distancing, my day started at 4:45am with a workout (Check out a recent blog on how I manage this). This included a combination of stationary bike, pull-ups, push-ups, and a row machine. While I was working out, I’d listen to podcasts, including PTI, The Daily Show, and Planet Money. After a quick 30-minute workout, I’d have to get ready before my boys woke up – during this time, I’d listen to CNBC Radio. Afterwards, I’d get the boys’ breakfast ready, and then I’d be out of the door by 7am. Since I can’t drive anymore, my dad would pick me up, on his way to the gym. It was a great chance for us to catch up, and for him to see the grandkids.
My first meeting of the day would be a morning stand-up with my team, at 7:45am, and then the day would be filled with various meetings. A bad habit of mine is that I don’t take lunch, normally using that time to continue my work. I’d leave the office between 4:30pm – 5pm, and take an Uber home. I would have a few minutes to play with the boys before dinner. Afterwards, we’ll play and read books as a family, before bedtime for the boys at 7:30pm. After the boys went to sleep, it would be time for me to wash dishes, one of my favorite things! Depending on the time, and how tired I was, I’d check emails one last time, before getting to bed by 9 p.m.
During social distancing, my day starts at 6am, when one of the boys wakes us up! We spend some time together, as a family, before my wife and I take turns to get ready for our days. I’m now getting the boys ready while my morning stand-up meeting is going on, and we then head over to my parent’s house where my wife can work, with my parents taking care of the boys. I now eat lunch with the family and will see the boys randomly throughout the day as they find their way to my makeshift office. Around 4:30pm, my wife, and boys, take a walk around the neighborhood. We eat dinner with my folks, before we head home to put the boys to bed. Now, I work from 8-10pm, since it’s hard to get everything done during the day. I may not get as much time for myself, but there is something really sweet about this time I can have with my boys.
The tech segment has its fair share of startups, you’ve helped emerging startups raise capital in the past- what top tips would you share with us when it comes to funding/raising capital for tech companies?
When I was working for a crowdfunding platform, the most important thing I was looking for when sourcing businesses to raise capital was the quality of their team, and how they were able to communicate their story. I think this translates beyond crowdfunding, because investors want to know that they are backing the right people. And stories sell!
When it comes to inculcating a global workforce that has more special needs-friendly criteria – what are some of the tips you’d share?
It’s important to remember that it all comes down to people. So, ask questions and open up a dialogue to find out what they need. It’s important for people to advocate for themselves, but when a company or business asks questions that show that they genuinely care, that goes a long way.
At LCI Tech – how do you help organizations effectively focus on better accessibility for people with disabilities?
At LCI Tech, we help businesses ensure that their digital content is accessible for people of all abilities, because we test with certified professionals, who happen to have a disability, and use assistive technology on a daily basis. So not only are we making sure that your website or app is accessible, but also usable for professionals who the service is geared for. Not to mention, we are creating employment opportunities for a community that has a 70% unemployment rate, so it’s a win-win!
A little change of pace…what according to you are some of the top factors businesses with a remote and distributed workforce should consider given the current world situation and the need for a secure remote work environment? Also, how should companies tie in or keep in mind factors related to their workforce with special needs?
I always go back to people. So, the most important factor that a business needs to focus on in a remote and distributed workforce, is that it’s a person on the other end of that network connection. Make sure that you are communicating with your teams, and make sure that they are being heard. Communication is key, whether you have a disability or not. My hope is that we will actually have more empathy for one another after working remotely, because we are getting a glimpse into the lives of people that we work with, that we never would have in the office.
What are some of the ways you’d advise tech companies/global organizations to help people with disabilities while self-isolation and remote work becomes the new normal given the current global pandemic?
The fact that remote work is becoming the new normal is game changing for the disability community, since transportation has been a major barrier. Companies who now invest in developing accessible processes and procedures today, will be able to access an untapped workforce tomorrow.
Tag (mention/write about) the one person in the tech/startup/salestech industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read!
Donald Thompson, the CEO of Walk West. He is a proven leader in sales and tech startups, but he is also an advocate for the disability community.
Your favorite Sales/SalesTech quote and sales leadership books you’d suggest everyone in Sales reads:
TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, because I think communication is probably the most important thing in sales, and leadership, and this book shares the techniques the best speakers use to share their stories.
Tell us about some of the top sales/salestech/fintech/ other events that you’ll be participating in (virtually, given the current global pandemic) (as a speaker or guest!) in 2020!
I am honored to be the commencement speaker for the George Washington University School of Business graduation in May. My alma mater has a great New Venture Competition, from which tomorrow’s sales and tech leaders will be coming to the workforce. I will also be the keynote speaker at the Diversity + Inclusion in Tech Summit, presented by the North Carolina Tech Association in June.
We’d love to know a little about your future plans!
We are pushing full steam ahead, moving beyond digital accessibility, moving towards disability inclusion consultancy services, and launching a workforce development program. We have some great partnerships in the pipeline, with companies that see the business case for disability inclusion, and I am excited to see what becomes of it!
LCI Tech is one of the only firms that employ people with disabilities to provide digital accessibility services. As experts in WCAG standards as well as best practices in inclusive design, our digital accessibility team is uniquely qualified to perform accessibility testing.
John brings 13 years of business experience in various domestic and international industries to the LCI Tech group. While launching and serving as the CEO for Aster Cameroon, a global telecom infrastructure Joint Venture, he built a $45 million business bringing internet access across Africa. Afterwards he became an early member of Homestrings, a USAID backed crowdfunding platform, where he helped raise capital for startups in Emerging Markets. John holds his MBA from George Washington University, BS in Accounting from North Carolina State University and Certified Professional in Accessible Core Competencies (CPACC). John knows no barriers. You can find him exploring the ends of the world, from summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro, to drinking Pisco Sours in Lima!