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Meet 2024 Tom Wilson Leadership in Disability award winner, Emma

June 11, 2024

Lime Connect is thrilled to announce Emma Scher as the 2024 recipient of the prestigious Tom Wilson Leadership in Disability award. Established in honor of Lime’s “first believer,” advocate, and board chair emeritus, this award recognizes young professionals who exemplify Lime Connect’s mission of “rebranding disability through achievement.” Emma was selected from a pool of outstanding applicants and will receive mentorship, host events for Lime Connect members, and serve as a keynote speaker at key events throughout the year.

Screenshot of zoom meeting with Tom Wilson, Susan Lang, Mike MacKay and Emma Scher celebrating the win annoucement

Tom Wilson, Susan Lang, and Mike MacKay share the exciting news with Emma Scher via video meeting.

After sharing the news, we spoke with Emma to get her thoughts on leadership, accessibility and the Lime Connect community. Here’s some of what she had to say:

To start, can you provide a brief introduction of who you are and walk us through your career up until now?

My name is Emma, and I am a dedicated data strategist with a passion for the hospitality industry.  I began cooking in restaurants from a young age and continued throughout my time getting my BS from Cornell University in Business & Hotel Administration.  With the progression of my disabilities making working in the kitchen more challenging paired with a growing interest and ability to work with data, I realized that I had the opportunity to impact these businesses that I have been a part of in a completely different way.  

I could use their data to optimize their menu, lower food cost percentages, optimize promotions, and more. I found that I was still making a significant positive impact on the customers and businesses that I cared so much about by bridging the gap between the business and the technology teams that could unlock a new level of growth.  For that reason, I shifted to begin leveraging advanced analytics and AI to solve complex business problems and enhance customer experiences.

I have had the opportunity to work with several industries to improve the usability of data and to deploy new solutions.  This experience includes managing revenue strategy with MGM Resorts International, leading a technical analytics team for Aristocrat Gaming, and now working with an exciting portfolio of restaurants and airlines through my work with ZS Associates.  Currently, at ZS Associates, I focus on partnering with businesses to deploy AI solutions supporting personalization, experimentation, and use of generative AI.

In your application, you described designing, proposing, and spearheading an accessibility-focused ERG at your company, ZS Associates. What was your initial vision for the group and what successes have you seen so far?

My initial interest in forming this group came from the desire to connect with other disabled consultants that had shared experiences and could potentially guide me in my transition into this industry.  Therefore, the vision for this group was to create a safe space to build connections, to provide critical resources, and to improve overall accessibility across the organization.

I would consider this group a large success personally! In the first year, our goal was to find and identify 50 people made up of both members and allies that wanted to join this mission and support accessibility. In its inaugural year the group attracted over 400 members globally, highlighting the interest in and need for an outlet like this.

Since then, Accessibility@ZS has been able to improve disability inclusion in broader DEI conversations, unlock technical tools to make working easier, provide educational content, and create a fun and engaging way to learn about accessibility and inclusion. While there is still a significant roadmap of opportunities to tackle as a group, I am thrilled at the progress and change made in just the first 3 years.

How did you first learn about Lime Connect? What learnings from your time as a Lime Connect fellow have been most valuable in your career thus far?

I first learned about Lime Connect during college when I was looking for resources to prepare myself for the full-time working world. I was accepted as a Lime Connect fellow which provided me with a network of other high achieving disabled students along with invaluable resources and learnings.

The most valuable learnings from my time working with Lime Connect include:

  1. The value of understanding what your disability has positively brought you. Disabilities are often considered to be a weakness but for many of us, it has also provided us with experiences and skills that cannot be taught.
  2. That accommodations are not “cheating”, it is creating equity.  Requiring adjustments does not change your ability to succeed at a job.
  3. That community can provide a sense of belonging, connection, and resources and that even if it can be hard to find given there is prominent ablism and lack of access in society, that there is a thriving and excited community of disabled professionals.

Why is receiving this award meaningful to you?

Receiving this award is incredibly meaningful to me because it represents my successful progression from someone struggling to navigate the working world to someone who can help guide others through similar experiences.  By speaking about my disability and receiving this award, I hope to pave the way for other people who are chronically ill, disabled, or neurodiverse to pursue their career goals.

 

[Log in required] What advice do you have for others looking to lead and improve accessibility in the workplace?

[Log in required] What does rebranding disability through achievement mean to you?

Eager to hear more of Emma’s story and connect? Join the Lime Community platform here to read the full news article

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