Jan 6, 2020
For All Abilities – The Podcast Episode Two
In this episode, I interview Zach Nunn of Living Corporate. We discuss the need for all kinds of diversity and the value of differences. You can read the transcript of the episode below.
To connect with Zach, please go to living-corporate.com or follow on LinkedIn (LivingCorporate), Instagram @livingcorporate or Twitter @LivingCorp_Pod
Please subscribe to For All Abilities – The Podcast!
Please follow me on Instagram @forallabilities, LinkedIn (Betsy Furler) and on Facebook (For All Abilities). Go to our website www.forallabilities.com for information on our software that enables employers to support their employees with ADHD, Dyslexia, Learning Differences and Autism.
Thanks for listening!
Transcription of Episode Two with Zach Nunn
Betsy Furler 0:08
Hi, everybody. Welcome to For All Abilities. This is my new podcast, where I want to talk about the strengths that people with all types of differences bring to this world. So I thought I'd have a intro episode with my guest, Zach. Hi Zach, I'm going to go ahead and have you introduce yourself and tell my audience all about what you're doing, about the podcast you have and everything else you would like to share with us. Welcome!
Zach Nunn 0:41
First of all, thank you very much for the warm introduction. And yeah, my name is Zack Nunn. I am the CEO and founder of Living Corporate, which is a multimedia platform that amplifies the voices of black and brown people at work. We do that through a podcast. We do it through a blog. We do it through events. And my passion is all around diversity, equity inclusion. And it's all about making sure that everyone is represented and has a seat at the table. And so, Betsy, when I think about your platform and what you're focused on, I believe it fits into the larger umbrella of what I'm all about so I'm really excited and honored to be on your podcast today.
I am so glad that our mutual friend Liz introduced us to each other.
Zach: Yes, Liz is awesome.
Betsy: Some of my listeners may be wondering why my first guest on my podcast about inclusion of people with disabilities, specifically ADHD, dyslexia, learning disabilities, and autism is someone who works in inclusion in a very different way. So I thought we could talk about the reason that inclusion of all people is so important and reason that honoring people's differences and their strengths is what leads to a better society. I'd love for you to give us a little background, on your childhood, how you grew up, and how you became the adult you are today.
Zach Nunn 2:20
You know, for me, my background, both sides of my family, had fairly humble beginnings. Both sides of my family are from Mississippi, I can trace my father's side of the family back to a small plantation in Mississippi, and then my mother's side of the family has been in Mississippi, as far back as I know. But both sides of my family were sharecroppers, fairly destitute, and under educated, but both sides developed and created a path for themselves despite those institutional challenges. And so, with that still being said, I'm like, you could argue that I'm a first generation professional. So I didn't have a lot of antonopoulos and cousins, and people will really tell me how to navigate these spaces, right, like I didn't have a lot of in terms of the space, but I mean, corporate spaces, I mean, majority white spaces. And so as I, as I continued forward in my career, I really valued mentorship and sponsorship, and just professional development, because I had had a lot of trial by fire. It continues to be trial by fire for me, and just terms of what it means to navigate the corporate world. And it's that background and those experiences for me and being one of the only, and especially in the space I'm in change management, and even in diversity, equity and inclusion work. Believe it or not, black and brown people are not the majority. And when you compound that with being a manager being in a leadership position, there are a few of us, us being black and brown folks, people of color. The higher you go, the higher you climb on that ladder. And so the passion that were instigated by my childhood, and by my early career experiences continue to be fueled by my still relatively early, but almost mid career experiences today.
Betsy Furler 4:27
Right. And I think that as we, I think everyone feels like there's something about them that doesn't fit in the norm, you know, that box that really nobody fits into. And I think as we talk about our different experiences and the way we all interact with life, and in the workplace, it becomes more and more apparent, at least to me as I'm interviewing people that we are all different. I’m kind of, if somebody fits into the norm, it might be me. You know, although I am a woman, so in many circles I'm kind of out of the out of the norm because of that. I was brought up in a middle class family in Houston, big city, well educated parents, always encouraged to go to school, went to private school, part of my growing up years. I academically did well, didn't really have any challenges there. I'm kind of the sorority girl. All of that and yet there are still things about me that I don't do as well as many other people do. And there are things that I do better than other people. I think when we're open with each other about what our differences are and what our strengths are, that helps society build up strengths and not worry about the weaknesses as much. One of my main platforms for my company For All Abilities is to encourage employers to build up their employees strengths, and give them some support for the things that they don't feel like they do as well or they really struggle with but also really honor their strengths and put them in positions where their strengths are really utilized accurately. And so that's what I'm that's kind of one of my main things and Zach, when we met and we had our first conversation, I was really struck by the feeling that your passion is also about honoring the differences and honoring people's backgrounds and what we all bring to the table. Obviously you and I I bring very different things to the table because of our backgrounds. And both all of what we bring is so important. In fact, I could argue that because you grew up so differently than I did that you bring more to that table. If you could talk on that a little bit and give your opinion on that, that would be wonderful.
Zach Nunn 7:25
Absolutely. So first of all, thank you for that. And I appreciate that. I 100% agree that understanding people's stories and their backgrounds and where they came from is critical. I think that in a lot of different ways, because we are in America so I'm speaking from an American context, because that's where we live that's where I live. You know, when you think like this, when you think about things historically. The creation of race and what I mean by creation of race, creation of white and black and like, creating like these very like, almost monolithic social classes does a disservice to people all across the board because over time, you end up just kind of putting people in boxes. And you dismiss the nuance, and the beauty of complex identities, and what those are and the experiences that come with those identities or those identities that are born from certain experiences, I don't know. But the point is, it's worth I think we're now in a time and I know certain, you know, you have different camps with pooping. Various camps of political or philosophical groupings or points of view may look at it like differently, but I think we're in a time now. It's like really highlighting difference and the importance of those differences and how those differences can really inform perspectives that really can create new and distinctive insights. So to your point about like, backgrounds, and how those different backgrounds and what that they bring to the table, I think for me, because I've always been in the minority, I am naturally more adept at just being socially and emotionally aware of my surroundings and the impact that I may be having on others because it's critical for my survival, both literally and professionally, to make sure that I'm being thoughtful about how they come across. As a black man, so I just like being more intersectional to them. I'm not just black. I'm not just a man, like I'm a I'm a black man, and I'm a young black man. And I'm a tall, large black man. So like, as I think about all of those various intersections within my own identity, I think about the fact that it's easy for me to be perceived as a threat. So it's not just in when I'm driving from work and I get pulled over by the police and I'm asked if I'm selling drugs, and which has happened. It's not when I'm just walking in the park in my company's parking garage, and then being told that I don't work in demanded, and someone demands to see it and I refuse and they call the police like, which has happened.
Right and I can tell you and the audience that's never happened to me, and probably never will. I can walk into all sorts of places that I don't belong, and be perceived that I do belong there.
Right, right in like in those are those that I only want to lead with those extreme examples because they those are real experiences for me, but I want to lead with those extreme examples to then bring up like, some more passive or practical examples of the idea of me managing my presence, or managing myself so that I'm not perceived as a threat transitions into work when I'm in a meeting and I have to I have to release my own passion, and, and point of view so that people don't take me as being arrogant or aggressive. Or I have to really watch how I frame things because I don't want to come across too pessimistic or negative or belittling. Whereas if someone if a white man had said something very similar, it was like a smartass comment. It wouldn't be perceived as being me being a smartass, it would be me, it would be me perceived as being smart, or gutsy, or whatever the case may be. So like, I'm constantly having to think through those things. And I think because of those experiences, Betsy, I've been better able to empathize with other underrepresented people, whether that be my colleagues or clients, and what it really means to make sure that you're building effective relationships because I've been on the other side, I know what it would look like. I know what it feels like to be on. undermined, I know what it feels like to be constantly questioned or the lens of critique being just like people looking at you extremely critically, I understand what that looks like. And because I understand those feelings, I'm able to then build relationships. One of the biggest points of feedback, I'm in my favor that I've received, like positive points of feedback is that is my ability to quickly build connections with people. And, you know, I have other like, technical skills and things of that nature, but like, what I really believe has helped me in my career so far is I'm able to figure out actual points of resonance with individual. And that comes from being someone who constantly is seeking to, you know, figure out because I'm on the outside looking in, I gotta always figure out a I'm always looking for an in because I don't necessarily have the privilege of being a other being assume that I belong, I have to constantly prove that I belong wherever I show up.
I bet your communication skills have really improved or become one of your strengths because of that as well.
I think so i think so some people say I used to big words, my words are too big and that my syntax is odd, which likely could be true. I mean, but I try, I'm trying to do better. And I've been told that I'm a fairly good communicator by some.
Yes, I think you're an excellent communicator. And so when we think about the audience of my podcast, which is going to be we're talking about people with ADHD, dyslexia, learning disabilities, and autism in the workplace. So these are people who are very high functioning, people who have these differences in the way their brain works and how they interact with the world. And what I've been really surprised about as I've kind of launched this project and launched my software is when I've talked to people and many of them are white men, about these issues, and some of them I've gone to ask business questions to, you know, what do you think of this pitch? What do you think of that? I had no idea that they had one of these conditions. They've expressed their embarrassment about it. And their hesitance to tell their employers about these differences that they have. And I've been sworn to secrecy many times with people who have, you know, confided in me about Oh, yeah, I have ADHD that I don't tell anyone, or have dyslexia, but I don't tell anyone. You as a black man don't have that. You don't have that option, right. You're like, your differences right there in front of you, in front of the world and I just keep thinking about the fact that if we could all embrace our own differences and being very open and vulnerable about that, what a difference that would make. And race relations, gender relations, the impact of people with all sorts of disabilities on the world. And I just think it could be huge if we all realize that we all are different from each other and the whole you know, snowflake idea of the young kids who are considered snowflakes and, they'll melt if anybody hurts their feelings or whatever. But we are all different. And that doesn't mean we all need to be handled carefully. That means we all need to embrace our differences and try to build up our strengths and understand the strengths and differences and and other people.
No, yes. Right. And you know, it's what's interesting is when I think about when I think about this topic, one, it is incredible. And it's, it's, it's beautiful that you're, you're focusing on this, you know, I was we just when you talk about disability you know, we live in corporate podcast we had, I guess your name is Melissa Thompson. And she's the CEO and founder of ramp your voice and it's all about highlighting and Amplifying Voices of black and brown disabled folks, because there's an equity even in that space which I, for me, you know, and I admitted this when I spoke with Alyssa I said was I looked at I said, look at it. Admittedly, I don't think that I think about the experiences of disabled people, be they visible or invisible. I don't that's not a part of my common practice, right. I don't think about the reality that there's privileges that come with that like, like the fact that I can opt in and out of these types of discussions is a privilege. And, so it's really interesting and to your point around, like visible and invisible
But I want to think about when I think about that it's something else be interesting as you like as, as this platform continues to build is the thing about the intersection of underrepresented identities and disability. I just sent an article very interesting and it's called, I just sent an article we can maybe check it out at another time, but it was written by Steve Silberman on May 17 2016, called the invisibility of black autism. Why generations of early autistic black children have been diagnosed ADHD or even mental retardation instead. It's a really interesting piece. I literally just found it, but it's just talking but it but it prompted in spark to me like, what does it look like to one like this entire group and then make sure that would be intersection between those experiences right like, I bet you like I honestly don't. Again, I have so much to learn I you know about this space I am woefully under educated and under informed. And again, not because the information isn't out there. But because of my privilege, I just don't think about it. I think I think honestly, this is probably the most This is the closest I think I can get to really directly empathizing with members of the majority who just don't think about, right,
right, right. Right.
I can really empathize with that. Because I generally just don't think about it. It's not that I don't care. It's not that I don't. Or it's not. It's not that I'm being malicious about it. It's not like I'm against anybody. I just because of my privilege, I don't think about it. So I'm just really excited about your platform. I'm really excited about your pockets and the cloud to continue to learn.
Well, I can tell you as I am, because I'm developing a software, it's also under this umbrella of For All Abilities, that helps employers support their employees with ADHD, dyslexia, learning disabilities, and autism. I've asked many of my friends who own companies, how do you support your employees with these disabilities? And they have all said to me, except for one, h, “I don't have employees with any of these disabilities.” And I'm like, ‘Yeah, you do”. You may not know it, but you do and these are my friends who are nice people who are good bosses. And you know, good business owners you want to do the right thing. It's just something that has not been something that people are aware of it, and the workplace and or, you know, in life in general. And again, back to the point I'm going to put that article in the show notes that you're speaking of. And I can tell you from my work in education, that I can I definitely see that. You know, one of the problems is that in order to really get good specialist services, or services for someone with dyslexia, you really have to have a family that's really fighting for you. And that means you have to have parents who have the education, the time and the energy and the confidence to say, “No, my kid is smart, that they learn differently, and you need to do something about it.” That makes a huge divide in who is getting appropriate education and who is not. I'm extremely passionate about that, as well, because I've seen it's not just about going to a school that may offer those services, it's about actually being able to access those services. And the haves and have nots in that space are drastically different. It's really sad and it's really affecting our society. I believe it will continue to affect it more and more until we do something about that. And I don't see a lot of awareness about it. You know, I see a lot of people say, oh, they're in the same school district they should be getting the same. No, they're not. If you don't have “that mom”, who is “that mom”, which I am that mom with my son, and you're not getting the services that you need.
I think it's just it's so interesting too, because even in that intersects with like, where you're what school you're in and the resources and awareness that your parents or family may even have about what this is, right? Like, that's about it. And that's what apologize, black and brown soul or just non white folks, or even or even under resourced people it's like, a lot of times they don't know. So it's like, Okay, well, okay, you're not doing well in school, we just need to try harder, you need to study harder. And we don't even necessarily know that there may be a challenge or a problem and then you end up just kind of getting stuck in the system. I'll say another thing about for me, I'll never forget when I was in seventh grade, I moved up to Minnesota to live with my dad for a couple years. And without taking a test, without doing anything, the administrators at the middle school tried to pressure me into going into one of the remedial classes. I was one of like, 15 black kids at that school. And, you know, what if I was also going to throw in the Latin x folks, I would say there were like 20 Brown kids. And I just think about what if I would have just said yes?
Right or like maybe your family would have thought, obviously there's something going on. We need this. This is what we do. Right? You're brought up to not question authority, like teachers, principals, doctors, police. When you're brought up to not question that, you trust that they have your child's best interest at heart.
Yeah. That's terrible. I'm glad you fought against that.
Yeah. Well, it was interesting, because, for me, you know, they asked me a couple times, and I just said, I said, No. Then they asked me again, I said, No. And then I went home. I told my dad and he was like, What did you say? I said, No, he was like, Okay, yeah, no, you're not gonna do that. Interesting, though, because even though I was like an A and B students know that there were these like comments made from my English teacher like, Hey, you know, you don't have to read such Big books. You don't have to work this hard. It was very interesting. What does it look like to be in an educational environment? Where if you're already being discounted because of let's just say, I don't know, right, so I'm not? I don't I have no idea but I'm, what I'm saying is, if there's a possibility that you're already being discounted because you are different, you are other than the majority. What does it also look like to have actual challenges, learning differences that impact that, right? Like, if, if one looks at a black woman and automatically already assumes that she is not as talented or capable as her white counterparts, but then she also fully discloses, Hey, I also have dyslexia. What does that look like? As a manager? What does it look like as a leader? How do you manage the biases you already have? On top of the ignorance and bias that you have? Because you don't know what dyslexia is? You don't know what that means. You don't know. How do you manage performance in light of those things? Right, like, that's a very complex topic.
It is it is. I'm really hoping to shed some light on it. So at least people realize that it's something that's going on out there. And then hopefully my tool will help employers support people and realize that. My big thing is I know I told you this on our previous conversation is that I think people think I'm a disability advocate. And I'm really an advocate for people. And I really believe that we should all feel valued, and we should all feel like we are productive, and we are working toward the greater good. I believe everybody wants that. I think everyone wants that about themselves. I don't think there's anybody on this planet that really wants to be sitting around and not working, or not be not be productive. I think people have been trained to act that way, by feeling like they aren't good enough. And they don't have anything to offer society. So they feel like whether it's and I think that crosses every segment of difference as well. You know, you're, you have a disability, ,you've been made to feel that way. You are a different color than the majority. So you're made to feel that way. Your family isn't as educated or doesn't have as much money. And so you're made to feel that way. And, and then you learn and he's, you know, kids start learning that at a very young age, and I believe frequently it's amplified in the school system, and then once they get into work, if they make it there, that's amplified again, you, you're not, you're not good enough, you're not the same. Okay, I give up, you know, I'll just go sit and watch TV for the rest of my life then because I'm not good enough to do anything productive for this world. And to me that is so tragic. And I see it growing rather than shrinking and that is what's so disturbing to me but hopefully you and I and lots of our our counterparts can make a difference in this and our world can start celebrating differences rather than trying to make everybody the same.
Absolutely. I mean, that's the goal, right. Like, and I think what I'm excited about is, I think we both, what we're both doing is we're doing that through some narrative stories are like really understanding people's backgrounds, their passions, why they do what they do. That's, to me, that's just one of the best ways to learn.
Right, right. . Most of my listeners now and i think you know, I had a previous podcast called Your App Lady and I decided to rebrand into this because I did hear so many people and so many families telling me, “we don't tell we tell our child not to, not to tell me when they take medication, not to tell anyone they have ADHD”. And I'm like, really? It really surprised me at first because I was like, I mean, I've never, I personally have never thought of ADHD is really being like, that's not that bad. There are so many brilliant people with ADHD that change our world. But then I heard it over and over and over again. And I was like, I need to launch this podcast and tell these stories and make people realize that they may be different, but they can do so much with their differences and we all have value. And you know us you being a black man maybe that's your superpower. You know, that's what that's what made you the person that you are today and made you contribute to society in the way that you have. I want people to see those differences as their superpower, not as their weakness.
Hey, man, that's awesome. I don't have this is not my podcast. so you know, I have a sound if I were to use my soundboard I would put a lot of applause right here. So your differences are your super power. And I think when you're in an environment that recognizes those differences as superpowers and don't see them as something that needs to be quashed or diminished then it's all the better, right?
Absolutely. That's all the better. Well, I think that is a great note to end on. So thank you so much for joining me today. Zach. I'm going to put all your info in the show notes but tell my audience how people can find you if they want to connect with you further.
Oh man well thank you so much. First of all, Betsy again, it is a wonderful platform, excited to learn and grow with you alongside you and really journey with you. So thank you again. Yes, so Zach Nunn, founder CEO of Living Corporate living corporate and you can google live in corporate but we're also www dot living dash corporate compensated day we're also live in corporate co living corporate that tv live in corporate.org live in corporate that us live in corporate net, we have all the living corporate,
All of them!
Except we live in corporate dot Comm. But we have all the other living corporates, okay. So if you've been living corporate, co or living corporate values, or any of those, or you type in living dash, corporate com, Robin and I'll give you the link. So let's be real simple for you. And then we're on all the different streaming platforms. So if you go on any cloud Your Spotify iTunes whatever you look at living corporate we're on Instagram at living corporate and we're on twitter at living corp underscore pod
Awesome. Well thank you so much and I hope you have a wonderful day I think you have been a wonderful first guest for my new podcast For All Abilities.
Yo shout out to For All Abilities! Love you guys, can't wait to hear more. I'll be tuned in, subscribe, we'll make sure that we tell folks over at Living Corporate too.
Awesome thank you so much.
No problem peace.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai