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Every accomplishment starts with a decision to try - My Take by Jasmina Khanna, systems analyst with cerebral palsy

October 9, 2018

In My Take this week, Jasmina Khanna, who is a wheelchair user, talks about her journey to achieving success in the professional space as well as her work as a disability rights activist.

I am a physically challenged person due to cerebral palsy; hence, a wheelchair user. While I can only type with one finger (my left hand's index finger), I have built a successful career as a software tester, with an expertise in web and database testing.

I also focus on activism for accessibility and equality for the dfferently-abled in India, where there is very little understanding or will to change.

I completed my schooling from ADAPT, back them known as the Spastic Society of India. I passed out school in the year 1989, completed my graduation from St. Xavier's College in 1994, and did my M.A. from Mumbai University in 2004. Education has played an important role in where I stand today in life.

When I had completed my graduation, I had determined that I wanted to be financially independent but I did not how it was going to happen. Lot of ideas came to my mind like giving tuitions to schoolchildren but nothing worked out.

In India, the mentality is such that if you are a physically challenged then it is considered that you do not have a mind of your own. Hence, no parents came forward to send their children for tuition to me.

Then I decided to get some basic knowledge of computer but soon I realized that basic knowledge would not be sufficient therefore, I learnt software development privately.

After completing my training in software development, I tried to get some work that I could do from home because at that time my parents were not open to me going out and working. With lot of struggle, I started getting few data entry jobs. However, the work was not regular. In addition, I did not want to continue working as data entry operator for a long time as I knew I was capable of doing better work.

As technology advanced, I started applying for work by emailing my CV to various media houses and advertising agencies. Luckily, some of them replied. I started working as a freelance content writer. Here too there were problems. I was not getting paid as much I deserved for my work. Many a times I used to not paid at all even if my article was published. I would end up spending more than what I would earn as internet at time was very expensive.

My friends would always tell my parents to let me go out and work in proper office setup. One of my friends almost fought with my father and convinced him let me go out and work. Like any parents they were worried about how I would manage in the office alone. How would I travel to my workplace? The biggest challenge was who would give me a job. In my job hunt, my father was supportive. He would speak to many people known to him to get me a job.

In 2005, one of my brother's clients agreed to give me a data entry job in his software development firm but after looking at my CV, he decided that I could try my hands on software testing. I worked for them for more nearly five years.

In my thirst for career growth, I started looking out for better job opportunities. This time I thought that it will be easier for me to get a job but I was wrong. I would be rejected; the moment I would mention my disability.

I started working in my current company, Syntel, which is an MNC from the year 2010. I had given my technical interview and HR interview over the phone and had cleared both the interviews. I did not get any response from them as I told the HR about my disability. I waited endlessly.

Again, my parents had to look out for someone who could refer me to the company. I got the job on a contract basis through someone's reference. Due to my good performance and hard work, I was taken on the company payroll within eight months of joining them. Not only that they offered me double the salary of what I was when I was working on contract with them. Today it is more than nine years since I started working with them.

I wish our society became broadminded about their attitudes towards people with disabilities. If given an opportunity we can work and be productive. On the other hand, people with disability should not give up easily. Perseverance and hard work can get you what you want to be. Just prove yourself and opportunities will follow you.

I believe every accomplishment starts with a decision to try.

You can follow Jasmina's thoughts on her blog: https://jastalkingaloudcom.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/my-journey/

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