Lynn Wehrman, President & Founder
Mike May, Senior Director, Technology Partner
Kathleen Castore, Disability:IN Supplier Mentoring & Development Consultant met with Michael May from UKG and Lynn Wehrman from WeCo Accessibility Services to discuss the progress and lessons learned from their time at the halfway mark of the Disability:IN 2021-2022 Mentoring Program. Let’s hear more about them and their time together so far.
KC: Lynn, please tell our readers about WeCo Accessibility Services and key capabilities you offer.
LW: We are a consulting group of digital accessibility technologists and usability testers, all of whom live with one or more disability as part of our role requirements. We provide manual accessibility audits, disability-focused usability testing, accessible document conversion to clients who are seeking to make their website and software accessible in compliance with WCAG and the ADA. I want to benefit from our subject matter expertise of living with a disability in addition to our digital accessibility knowledge. We also provide training on how to make digital accessibility possible and workplaces more inclusive to professionals with disabilities.
KC: Your services are such an important factor in giving accessibility to those in the disability community. How has this passion driven you on a personal level and helped your business grow?
LW: Our services foster accessibility to people across all spectrums of disability, including sight, mobility, cognitive and deaf and hard of hearing as well. I grew up in a family with generations of cognitive disabilities, including Epilepsy and mental illness. I am my four sisters where all born with Epilepsy and dealt with it throughout childhood. I lived with undiagnosed severe mental illness. which was finally diagnosed and treated properly in my late 30’s. Growing up in a small town with disabilities that were highly stigmatic, meant that I understood well how disabilities can lead to being excluded. It also helped me understand how people with disabilities, like me and my sisters, may contribute differently, but we can contribute and be effective in business and our communities. That gives me a reason to get up every morning and work to allow more individuals like me, to have the opportunities our company creates.
KC: How has being a certified DOBE with Disability:IN affected your business and not just from getting a contract signed, but also the programming and networking opportunities we offer?
LW: In truth, WeCo had business relationships with DEI companies, like 3M, prior to being a Disability:IN DOBE. 3M was actually responsible for telling us about Disability:IN, so that is how we got involved. One of the immeasurable things that we’ve gained from being a DOBE is a feeling of being supported, and not alone. Prior to our designation, we felt very much like we were swimming up-stream, all on our own. Just being able to connect with other DOBE’s in the monthly meetings, and talking with them at other functions, has made us feel less alone.
KC: Can you tell us about your mentoring time with Michael and the UKG team so far?
LW: Mike and his team have been beyond responsive in setting up meetings, listening to our needs, and finding ways to assist us. Most notably, within the space of four weeks, the UKG team helped us evaluate our recruiting processes, modernize them, employ some techniques that turned things around. At the end of those four weeks, we had an abundance of qualified job applicants, and went to no additional cost. I think UKG and WeCo staff were both equally surprised at how effective it was. I can say without hesitation, it has changed the game for us totally in being equipped to grow our company, at a time when we needed it the most.
KC: Has anything surprised you that you have learned about yourself from participating in the mentoring program?
LW: How a very large corporation could find a way to apply their team’s skill sets to our very small business model. It is amazing.
KC: Do you have any advice or encouragement for future mentees that are considering joining and why they should take advantage of the DOBE Mentoring Program?
LW: Bring your mentor the list of items you think you can’t solve. Items you think you’ll do when you’re more established. The pool of experience you’ll be able to draw from can be as important as getting a growth loan from a bank.
KC: Is there anything else you would like to share?
LW: DisabilityIN brings to life the concept that businesses owned by people with disabilities, are just as viable, capable and in demand, as business that are not, given the opportunity to prove ourselves.
KC: Mike, please let the audience know about UKG products/services and why is there so much passion around Disability:IN and our DOBEs at UKG.
MM: UKG is a year into our merger between the largest player in Workforce Management Software in Kronos and one of the largest Human Capital Management Software companies in Ultimate Software. As a combined entity, we are not Ultimate Kronos Group and have over $3 billion in sales and over 13,000 employees. We pride ourselves in offering world class software solutions and we believe an investment in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a big part of what makes us a great place to work. Our partnership with Disability:IN and activities like this mentorship program are just manifestations of those items coming together.
KC: Why did you decide to participate in the mentoring process, especially with so many other mentoring program options out there, with Disability:IN?
MM: Disability:IN was instrumental in a Partner Accelerator Program we launched at UKG. This program was designed to facilitate the partnership with companies that advance UKGs existing focus on DEI&B. When offered the chance to give back via the mentoring program, we jumped at the opportunity.
KC: Can you speak about how the mentoring process is working with UKG and Lynn?
MM: The mentoring process has been a fun and engaging exchange of ideas. I think people forget the benefits of a large organization and the vast array of resources at our disposal. Listening to some of the challenges faced by Lynn at WeCo and then figuring out the right subject matter expert to engage in a dialog has had huge rewards for Lynn. Associates at UKG enjoy being able to share their experience and advice.
KC: Have you encountered any surprises as a mentor along the way that you didn’t expect from this process?
MM: At times it is surprising to experience the challenges of a startup, the breadth of responsibility carried by Lynn’s team and needing to make really smart choices in how they allocate their financials.
KC: We know being a mentor and not just the mentee learn during the mentoring process, what have you come away with during this experience to date with Lynn?
MM: It was sobering to talk to Lynn about our own HCM solution and to find out what areas we should be striving to make continuous improvements so that we are best meeting the needs of people with visual impairments. We do a lot to ensure WCAG standards are achieved and have completed VPATs to demonstrate our capabilities. Listening to stories from real world companies, who have people with visual impairments using our solutions every day, is an important reminder that we as a software company always need to be thinking about how to go above and beyond “the standards” to deliver positive experiences every day.
KC: What are some of the key focus areas you feel are important to any mentee that you would like to share with them for professional growth and success?
MM: Any mentee should come in with a plan of what they hope to accomplish. It is much easier to address a specific list of areas where a company is looking for input and advice. As Lynn would share an opportunity, together we would brainstorm options in how UKG could best help. If it was too open ended, it would have been difficult to achieve the same results and for both sides to feel like it was a good use of their time.
KC: Any other thoughts to add?
MM: We love the investment that Disability:IN makes for their members and to advance the opportunities that are shared. Whether it was reaching out to their members about our Partner Accelerator Program, sitting on our advisory council or connecting us through the Mentoring Program, I feel like there is a genuine interest in impacting their broader community in a positive way.
KC: Thank you Lynn and Michael for your insight and I wish you both continued success throughout the rest of the program.