Byron: Don’t let fear be a factor. Don’t let your fear of change, or your fear of inadequacy, don’t let that stop you from trying. A lot of times, I have what’s called “impostor syndrome,” and you have to push that aside, and say, “No. I do believe in myself. And I am going to try. Because if I don’t try, somebody else will. And I will, you know, forever be at this point in my life unless I step up and try.”
Chris: This is the Penny Forward podcast, a show about blind people building bright futures one penny at a time.
Liz: I’m Liz Bottner.
Chris: And I’m Chris Peterson.
Liz: We are blind people learning, from each other, what it takes to be successful in our personal, professional, and financial lives.
Liz: Are you working, but feel stuck? Learning a new job can feel daunting for anyone. But throw in ignorance, discrimination, and accessibility issues, and many of us would rather stay where we are. Byron Lee was one of our first guests when we started the podcast last year. In his first appearance, he taught us what it was like to relocate to a different state, leave the safety net of social security, and buy a new home. He is back this time to talk to us about what it’s like to leave what he thought was his dream job to take on a new challenge in a new industry. We will learn what that has been like, and how he deals with the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that often comes along with taking on something new.
Liz: Before we start, we’d like to thank Ron and Lisa Brookes, at Accessible Avenue, for sponsoring the Penny Forward podcast. I’m sure many of us have experienced frustration and uncertainty when trying to use public transportation or para transit services that are either inaccessible, or just poorly designed for meeting our needs. Accessible Avenue works with transit agencies and other mobility providers to make transportation services accessible for everyone, including those of us who are blind or visually impaired. Accessible Avenue also works with individuals and organizations who need training or assistance with public transportation problems. You can learn more at
Chris: We’d also like to thank Kane Brolin of Brolin Wealth Management for sponsoring the podcast. Investing doesn’t have to be complicated, and it’s never too late to take action. But depending on how far away your goals are, the decisions you need to make will be very different. Kane Brolin is a blind certified financial planner, and chartered special needs consultant, who may be able to help you, no matter how much you have, or what stage of life you are in. Learn more by visiting
or by calling 574-254-7180.
Liz: Hey, Byron. Thanks for being here.
Byron: Hey. Thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it.
Liz: Tell us about yourself and your blindness.
Byron: So, I have this thing called “optic nerve hypoplasia,” or at least that’s what I was told it was called, and it’s the underdevelopment of optic nerves, but I learned later that it’s actually suptooptic dysplasia, which is the underdevelopment of optic nerves, along with things like your pituitary gland, and your thyroid gland, and other things being underdeveloped as well. So, I started out at the Foundation for Blind Children, which is the preschool that I went to, and I made a lot of blind friends, and I continued to amass blind friends and just hang around a lot of blind people in my life, and in my career, and I wound up teaching blind people how to use technology. So, (Chuckle.) That’s kind of like my life in a nutshell.
Chris: So you’ve been on the podcast before, and we actually talked about your story, but for those who maybe didn’t hear that episode, can you go over like the short version again?
Byron: So, essentially, I have had a lot of jobs. Some of which were dish washing jobs, and data collection agencies, and call centers, and things like that, and they were all … meh jobs. You know? And then I got my first job working what I would say in a real 9 to 5 situation. Where I was the web site coordinator for a thing called “Directions for Me,” which is a … a web site where you get allergens and ingredients and calories and that sort of thing. The directions on your packages. And so I was the one who was in charge of maintaining that web site. And that job was about seven years, and a really awesome opportunity landed in my lap, where I was able to transition to Minnesota, working for the state of Minnesota, teaching people who are blind or visually impaired, who are seniors, how to use their adaptive technology. And that was a really huge and scary transition. I was in a section 8 housing project where I only had to pay like 360 a month for rent. And my electric was subsidized. And I was getting all kinds of, you know, like, assistance with things. And I was going to have to give up all of that. Give up my social security. And all of these other things. And I was just like, “Oh my gosh. I’m not sure if I’m ready for this.” But I took the leap anyway, and I … I did it, I lost my benefits, but I got a reasonable living wage, and I’ve been in this job now for five and a half years, and I’m about to make another scary transition.
Liz: Speaking of huge and scary transitions, you kind of led up to it, what is the new transition and the new opportunity that you’re about to undertake?
Byron: So, I am going to be working for a company called Service Now, and they are essentially a company that builds ticketing software for … let’s say you’re at your office, and your computer goes down, and you need to have IT come and fix it. You would log into this web site and submit the request for some IT help. And my job will be to help the accessibility team make sure that this web site is usable by people with disabilities. So it’s a very different job from the one that I currently have where I’m training people how to use accessibility, so, you know, it’s a little different, and a little scary ’cause it’s … it’s uh, a different type of work. That I haven’t done before.
Chris: I think a lot of us can relate to the idea of scary transitions, and kind of getting into a place where maybe we aren’t quite exactly where we envisioned being, but it’s safe. Right? And it might feel unsafe to make, a change could be really, really good. Is this one of those?
Byron: Oh, absolutely. My current job is really great. I have an excellent boss, who doesn’t micro manage me, I really love my clients, and I love the kind of work that I do, and, it’s … it’s safe in that I know what my monthly budget is right now, I know that it’s a steady job because it’s a … it’s a state job, and I’ve been there for a good long amount of time, there’s not a lot of lay-offs, or turnover in state jobs because, unless you get like furloughed or, you know, something like that. You know, if the government shuts down, you might have some time off. But other than that, people tend to retire in government jobs if they stay long enough. And so, there is a bit of a security blanket in this job, whereas working for a corporate organization, you know, working for a tech company, there is … there is a lot of layoffs. There is transition. There are uncertainties and unknowns in choosing to be in a career where there’s the chance that, you know, you don’t have that job security.
Liz: Where did you hear about this new opportunity?
Byron: So, my friend who works at a large technology company, and I won’t say the name, but they work for a rather large tech company, and one of their friends, one of their ex-coworkers recently left that company. And they are on this accessibility team for the company that I’m moving to. They were looking for another accessibility engineer. They reached out to my friend and said, “Do you know anyone who would be a good fit for this?” And so my friend sent me the link to the job posting, and I applied, I was like, “Well what the heck? Why not? I … I’ve been trying to get into the tech industry for the better half of a year.” During covid, I thought maybe I could work from home and make some more money, and make that transition, so I started poking around, and I was somewhat successful. There were interviews that happened, and there were actually offers that were given, but those offers did not match what I was currently getting. They weren’t enough to make me want to transition out of my current job into the tech industry. But this one, this one was a very lucrative offer, and it made me decide to go ahead and make the jump.
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Chris: Can you talk a little bit about what the process was like, what made you think that this might be worth applying for, and then what the process was like leading up to the offer?
Byron: Sure. So, I applied for the job online, and attached my resume to the job posting, and I got an E-mail back from a recruiter, and they said, “We’re interested in interviewing you.” And I went through five different interviews. One with the manager, one with a recruiter, two with accessibility engineers, and then a final interview with a recruiter. And I was actually underqualified for the job that I applied for, but the manager created a whole different roll for me based on my skills. Based on the things that I do know how to do. So I’m not a coder, but I do know my accessibility, and I do know what makes something accessible. So, when you apply for a job, if you don’t feel that you’re qualified for it, but it’s something that you would enjoy doing, apply anyway. Because you don’t know what the pool of candidates is going to look like. They might decide that, “Yeah, you are underqualified for that job, but we could give you training.” Or, “we could create a different roll that fits you better because we really want you on our team.” So, you know, don’t pass those jobs up just because you think, “Oh, this is not a perfect fit. I don’t check every box.”
Liz: During the application and interview process, were there any challenges that come to mind that you had to overcome, and if so, how did you do that? What did that look like for you?
Byron: So the onboarding process for this job wasn’t too terribly difficult. There was one accessibility hurdle that I ran into where I needed to sign with my finger. And, you know, I have enough vision that I was able to work through that hurdle, but I was thinking to myself, “You know, if I were totally blind, or if I was blind enough that this obstacle would be too much for me to do, I would have to get Aira involved, or I would have to get a sighted person involved to make sure that I properly signed the onscreen signature box.” That was definitely one hurdle. There were other companies that I applied for, and actually got an offer, and I got part way through the process of onboarding, and decided it wasn’t a good match, but part way through the process at other companies, there were slideshows that were inaccessible, there were signature blocks that were inaccessible, there were PDF’S that were not searchable, there were all kinds of accessibility issues in the onboarding process, and the laptop request process. And it was like almost like I was discouraged from going forward, because, “If the onboarding process is this bad, if the onboarding process is this inaccessible, then what is the rest of the infrastructure gonna be like?” And I would say, “Push through it. A lot of times, the onboarding process is the worst part. Once you actually start doing your job, a lot of times, the infrastructure has already been tested and made accessible by other people in the same department as you, and it won’t be as bad. And when it is bad, there are people in a lot of cases, there are a lot of times where there are people on your team or in your organization that are there to help you through inaccessibility. You’re just often alone during the onboarding process because there isn’t support for the onboarding people, but there is support for the actual team members.
Chris: I actually remember in my last job change, the same thing happened where I had to sign something with my finger, and I am totally blind, so I actually had to use Aira for that, and … you know, that was an interesting experience because on one hand, I shouldn’t have had to do that. On the other hand, I felt really thankful that there was something like Aira that would allow me to do that. Tell us now a little bit about how it’s felt to make that transition. cause I imagine there’s a lot of things that go into, now that you’ve accepted the offer, there’s a lot of things that go into starting the job.
Byron: First of all, I had to tell my current employer that I was leaving. And that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It’s not so bad if you’re unhappy at your job, or if you feel like you’re not dependent upon … If you feel like you’re stagnating, maybe leaving your current job might be a little easier, but I left a good job. Where I felt like I was integrated into the system, and that my leaving was going to cause a lot of disruption. I didn’t want to cause anyone any grief, so telling them that I was leaving was difficult. My boss, when I E-mailed him, and I said “Hey, could we have a conversation, either on the phone or in person, preferably in person?” He knew by the tone of that E-mail. And he wrote back and he goes, “You better not be resigning!” (Laugh.) And of course, I was. I think the only thing more difficult was telling my clients that have come to depend on me to come in and help them with their technology. They have … They have befriended me. They have come to rely on the fact that I will be there to help them get through this difficult time in their lives, and now I’m leaving. And so there were some tears. There were some emotions that were difficult to deal with. As far as the technical aspect of leaving one job and starting another, there’s finishing up your progress reports, and there’s cleaning up your computer, and getting all of your stuff that belongs to the company together and boxing it up, and heading over there and dropping it off. And then there’s the transition to the new job. There’s the uncertainty of what that new job is gonna be like. There’s filling out all the paperwork. There’s acquiring your technology and hoping that it comes in time for your start date. There’s the fear of doing something wrong before you’ve even started, and upsetting the status quo. So it’s definitely a stressful time, but it’s also very exciting. Because I know that more money is coming, better security for my retirement is coming, and that a new challenge is coming. That I’ll be doing something interesting that I haven’t done before. So, I am ready for that challenge, but I’m certainly nervous.
Liz: What advice do you have for people who may be in a similar situation with wanting to change jobs?
Byron: I would say, don’t let fear be a factor. Don’t let your fear of change, or your fear of inadequacy, don’t let that stop you from trying. A lot of times, I have what’s called impostor syndrome, where I think to myself, “I’m not qualified for this job. I’m not as great as people seem to think that I am.” And that impostor syndrome tends to hold me back from achieving more greatness. And you have to push that aside, and say, “No. I do believe in myself. And I am going to try. Because if I don’t try, somebody else will. And I will, you know, forever be at this point in my life unless I step up and try.
Chris: I’m glad you mentioned impostor syndrome because that is something, that again, I think a lot of us can relate to. Are there any particular things that you can think of that help you to push past that or to deal with that in a particular way?
Byron: You know, it’s always there. That voice saying that I’m not good enough is always there, and I just have to kind of numb myself to that voice, and go forward anyway. I … I have some unhealthy coping mechanisms. I tend to bury myself in audio books and music and podcasts and things like that, and quiet the nervous feelings with noise. I can’t sleep at night unless I have a book, or a podcast, or something on. It can’t be music either. Because it has to keep my voices in the back of my head quiet. So usually listening to a book or something will sort of keep me on one track until I fall asleep. And that can be considered to be an unhealthy coping mechanism because you’re not processing things, but it also does help me get through one day to the next by not listening to myself at night. So, I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s a … a little crumb of advice, or something that you should avoid doing, but that certainly helps, and also is detrimental to me at the same time. (Chuckle.) But other than that, I think just ignoring those voices and making the leap anyway, is the best thing that you can do. Otherwise, I’m not really sure what other ways there are to kind of deal with that self doubt. Other than just going for it anyway.
Liz: I’m glad you mentioned trying as well. I fully agree with you, and also, trying doesn’t cost anything. At least monetarily speaking, usually.
Byron: Right. Right. I mean, you know, look. There was definitely fear of, “What if this job doesn’t work out, and then they let me go, and then I don’t have income, and then I have a house that I have to figure out how to pay for, …” I have something to lose by making this jump, but at the same time, I have to realize that there are other opportunities, and, you know, if you don’t burn your bridges, that’s the other thing. Don’t burn your … when you go from one job to another, don’t burn your bridges. Because what if you need to go back? What if you need to go back there, and ask for your job back? Or what if you need to ask for another roll? If you left on good terms, and you were a good employee, they’re gonna want to take you back if you need to, because they know that you will do good work. If you leave, and sort of do the, “I’m out.” You know, “Peace out.” (Chuckle.) That sort of thing, they’re not gonna want you back because they’re gonna know how you truly felt when you left. So, don’t burn your bridges, keep your previous job in your back pocket, you might need it.”
Chris: Do you think that this transition is easier because of the other big transition that you had to make, to come to Minnesota?
Byron: Yeah, so I did move cross country, I moved from … well, it’s not exactly cross country, but from one state to another. From Illinois to Minnesota. And that was a whole big thing. I had to pack up my whole life, say good-bye to all my friends, and make that huge transition. And making this transition isn’t as scary because I’m not leaving anyone behind. EVEN my co-workers at my current job, I can still drop in at the old office now and then. I can come to events that the organization is holding. You know, there’s a retirement party that I’m gonna come to if they’ll let me because I worked with that person for five and a half years. So, that transition is a little bit less scary in that I don’t have to relocate. But it is scary in a different way. Because I’m gonna be working from home. And that’s not something I have done before.
Liz: If you are comfortable with people contacting, or following you in various avenues, how can they do that?
Byron: Sure. So you can always Email me. My email address is
Byron, that’s … (spells out the following email address.)
and you can also visit my web site
that’s s u p e r b l I n k dot org
and find my contact information there as well.
Liz: Thanks, Byron, for being here, and sharing with us. We wish you well in your next chapter. And keep us posted.
Byron: Whoo hoo! Thanks. It was fun.
Chris: I want to break in here, because after Liz and I recorded that interview with Byron, we found out that he won a JP Morgan Chase fellowship award from the American Council of the Blind because of his leadership in ACB. Byron has been a leader in ACB, mostly doing stuff with convention audio and ACB Radio, but also with blind LGBT Pride International, BPI, and ACB Next Generation. And I wanted to tie this back to something Byron said about impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome, if you haven’t heard that term before, is when voices in your head, they may not be literal voices, but thoughts in your head tell you that you are, for some reason, unworthy to do something that you’re doing. And those voices can be very loud, and insistent. And they can make you feel like you shouldn’t even be allowed to be doing something. And here’s how this ties back to the JP Morgan Chase fellowship, and also to Byron’s job changes, and some of the other things that he’s talked about. The voices in your head are, in my opinion, less important than the voices of other people around you. Byron has learned this because the voices of the people at the American Council of the Blind have told him he is worthy of a major award. He’s also learned this because the people at Service Now have told him that he is worthy of an engineering job working in accessibility of their products. But he learned this even earlier when the state of Minnesota told him that he was worthy of a job there. You need to listen to the voices outside of your head, not the voices in your head. Because those are the ones that actually matter. What you think about yourself may feel real, and it may feel important to you, but do pay attention to what other people feel about you. Because that is more real, that is more present, than the things that you think about yourself. And, while it’s easier said than done, it can help you to quiet some of those insistent voices that are telling you, “You’re not good enough.” Okay. That’s all I wanted to say. Congratulations to Byron for winning the JP Morgan Chase fellowship. We’re looking forward to seeing him at the ACB convention this year in Omaha, and if you’re going to be there, we’ll look forward to seeing you as well. Thanks for listening and have a great week.
Liz: When it comes to money, do you feel a little lost? When you’re in an unfamiliar financial environment and need a hand understanding the lay of the land, Penny Forward is here to help. Our online courses, members only group chats, and access to one on one coaching, help you build your own bright future one penny at a time. It’s easy to sign up or cancel at any time, and memberships are just 9 dollars a month, or 99 dollars a year. Visit
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Chris: The Penny Forward podcast is made possible by a sponsorship from Dennis and Nicole Malinis. They sponsor the Penny Forward podcast because they believe in Penny Forward’s mission; to help blind people navigate the complicated landscape of personal finance through education, mentoring, and mutual support. Thank you, Dennis and Nicole, for your generous contribution to sponsor the podcast.
Liz: The Penny Forward podcast is produced by Liz Bottner and Chris Peterson, Audio editing and post production is provided by Byron Lee, and transcription is provided by Ann Verduin. Music was composed and performed by Andre Louis, and web hosting is provided by Taylor’s Accessibility Services.
Chris: Penny Forward is a community of blind people building bright futures one penny at a time. Visit
to learn more about who we are and what we do. For all of us in the Penny Forward community, I’m Chris Peterson, …
Liz: And I’m Liz Bottner. Thanks for listening, and have a great week.