The Meet the Hiring Manager series allows you to get to know the people who grow teams at VMware. You will learn about our hiring managers’ career paths and what they look for in candidates during the interview experience. If learning and interview tips from our people interest you, we invite you to read on.
This week we want you to meet Sheri Byrne Haber who is based in Palo Alto, California. Sheri has just recently joined VMware and has been working here for eight months. She joined as the Head of Accessibility. One of her first duties as a recently hired Head of Accessibility has been to implement an automated accessibility testing suite augmented by machine learning to identify accessibility defects more efficiently. Sheri is also a founding co-leader of the Disability Employee Resource Group at VMware – Disability@VMware. Read on and get to know Sheri.
Sheri Bryne Haber
Palo Alto, California
VMware Careers: Tell us about your career journey to date? (High-level career history prior to VMware, and share if you’ve had multiple roles/moves in VMware)
I started off in computer science and software testing. After advancing my way to a QA director position, I was asked to testify as an expert witness in a lawsuit over whether some buggy custom software had been adequately tested. During that process I realized that people in software didn’t understand the law, people in law definitely didn’t understand the technology and there ought to be a good business for someone who understood both. So I decided to go to law school, thinking that I would specialize in software patents and other technology intellectual property. In my last year of law school, we discovered my middle daughter was losing her hearing. I ended up going into advocacy for the deaf instead, and then digital accessibility. I have held digital accessibility leadership roles at McDonald’s and Albertsons and done contract accessibility work for many Fortune 500 companies and government agencies. I was one of the first people to receive CPACC certification from IAAP, and I do a lot of pro-bono accessibility work for non-profits. I came to VMware because it was an opportunity to work on accessibility in an environment that could create an enormous employment opportunity in IT for people with disabilities.
VMware Careers: How is VMware different from any other tech company you have worked for?
Not all organizations have disability employee resource groups. As a wheelchair user, this is something that is super important to me. A holistic approach to disabilities and accessibility can only happen when:
1) A company recruits people with disabilities.
2) Those employees are willing to publicly identify as disabled and to speak about their experience as a disabled person working in tech.
3) The company is willing to accept and implement suggestions from this group of employees.
For example, I am a wheelchair user, which means if the elevators aren’t working, I am in trouble. I got recently stuck on the second floor of a building because the only elevator went out of service and I didn’t find out until I tried to leave the building and couldn’t. When I raised this issue, an email notification system was quickly built and now I receive emails any time an elevator is taken offline. This is a small thing, but extremely important to someone who can’t use stairs.
Another big difference is the VMware Take 3 program. Take 3 is a rejuvenation opportunity for all full-time employees at VMware. It is a program intended to drive continued innovation by giving eligible employees an opportunity to take a break from their usual work responsibilities for up to three months. The time is spent by rotating into another team at VMware to learn and contribute expertise, work on an advanced development research project or learning activity, go out into the field with the sales organization, or participate in an extended Service Learning giving back their experience.
VMware Careers: What has been the biggest lesson you have learned as you moved upwards in your career?
Continuing to learn and keeping your skills up to date is probably the most important thing I’ve learned over the years. Java and Angular didn’t exist when I was studying computer science. However, if I didn’t know those today and were trying to get a developer position I would be at a serious disadvantage. After I finished law school, I studied for my MBA. That additional education helps give me a more comprehensive view of all the accessibility stakeholders – the needs of people with disabilities, constraints on designers and programmers, how to interpret the regulations, and the desires of the product owners from the business perspective. Currently, I am completing a Diversity & Inclusion certification with Cornell. When you are in an industry that changes as quickly as tech, you never stop learning. If you do, your skills will become quickly obsolete.
VMware Careers: You are a member of the Disability@VMware Power of Difference (POD) can you tell us more about this?
I co-lead the recently launched Disability POD (Power Of Difference). We still live in an era where not everyone is comfortable with disclosing hidden disabilities in their workplaces. Since hidden disabilities are 70 % or more of all disabilities, that is really a problem. Representation matters for disabilities just as much as any other minority. People who have a disability and choose not to disclose are not bringing their authentic selves to work. Furthermore, they are stressing themselves unnecessarily because they are hiding their disability, and worried about what people will think if they “get caught”. The Disability@VMware POD has three specific goals for its first year – identify opportunities and implement solutions for 1) digital accessibility (specifically closed captioning), 2) hiring people with disabilities and 3) disability awareness. We will be doing events with other PODs (such as the Women’s POD and the Veteran’s POD) to leverage the intersectional nature of the disability. Currently, the Disability@VMware POD is focused on the US, but we are looking forward soon to launching in other VMware locations outside of the US.
VMware Careers: Your team is hiring. Can you tell us more about your organization’s charter?
Our team charter is “One Experience, One Team, All Users”. In team culture, we’re looking for culture contributions, not fit. This is an important distinction. It is important that candidates share our values, but we’re not looking to hire people that work, look, or behave exactly like us. We’re looking for candidates that can contribute to our culture and bring more to it. In our interviews, we are looking to learn more about the candidate’s ability to communicate and collaborate with other individuals on the team as well as their ability to collaborate with other functions like the Project Management and Engineering teams. We learn more about this working through scenarios where they would have to explain the decision making in design/accessibility or how they would push for the right user experience.
VMware Careers: If someone reading this was coming to interview with you tomorrow for a role in your org, what advice would you share with them?
If you are coming in to interview for a design position, be prepared to show a professional portfolio and go through real-time design exercises. If you haven’t done accessibility work in connection with a design before, be prepared to discuss why not, and your approach to evaluating design accessibility. If you are coming in to interview for an accessibility position, you should review our published VPATs and be prepared to discuss their pluses and minuses and how you would do them better or differently.
Interested in joining the team Sheri leads? Apply today: Accessibility Operations Lead. Palo Alto, California.
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