At BMS, we are intentional about finding innovative ways to support individuals with disabilities, including offering training they need to move forward with their career. This is exactly how Project Orion was born—our new fellowship program that creates opportunities for talented individuals who are blind or low vision to find success in their professional lives.
"Project Orion is the first of its kind for BMS, and really, our industry," said Jeremy Urshel, Talent Acquisition Partner & Co-Lead for Project Orion. And with nearly 70 percent of blind or low vision Americans being unemployed or underemployed, we could all do more to support this community by building relationships and providing hands-on experience.
A Vision for Talent
Together with the nonprofit consultancy group, NSITE, and Orion Global Talent, BMS' Disability Advancement Workplace Network (DAWN) and Talent Acquisition team launched Project Orion to give people with some level of blindness an opportunity for career training in recruitment.
Eight Fellows in the cohort assisted BMS recruiter Hunter Tonn with sourcing diverse talent for 20 roles in BMS' Global Product Development & Supply (GPS) organization’s Quality Control teams in Bothell, WA. Meanwhile, for Maurice Crittendon, who lost his sight to diabetic retinopathy in 2008, the fellowship opportunity to source job candidates for Sales roles was right in his wheelhouse.
"When I lost my sight, I had been working primarily in recruiting for about 10 years," Maurice explained. "When I finished an orientation to blindness training, I immediately started trying to get back into work." True to the aforementioned statistic, he faced an uphill battle but refused to give up. "It took roughly 11 years of applications and trials to have the opportunity to re-enter the workforce. And that is probably the same for many visually impaired individuals in the search for jobs."
Maurice worked at sourcing and presenting territorial Business Manager candidates across three states. Through the skills honed from the classroom program, he identified qualified candidates within geographic range and presented findings to a supervisor and respective hiring managers.
Sarah Davis, another Fellow and the eventual valedictorian of Project Orion, has had a different work history than Maurice. "I've never experienced any employment challenges, personally," Sarah said. "I think part of my benefit is that I am not totally blind, and I also don't often look like I have a visual impairment. I've had 49 years of practice in 'pulling it off,' if you will."
Sarah's background showcases that people see her ability, rather than a disability. Going from being an assistant horse trainer to achieving a degree in dietetics to becoming a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, she has excelled in most areas of her life. When she heard about the fellowship, she knew she wanted to seize the moment.
"I've always had a sort of romantic interest in recruiting," she said. "The idea of being a headhunter and finding that 'diamond in the rough' person was really appealing to me. I do a lot of recruiting for our church's ministry teams, too, so I think it is a gift that I have, but I've never really had a vocation for that."
Maurice did have the vocation and was eager to develop it even more during the Orion program. He noted, "There was a lot of learning both ways. In one of our earlier sessions when our mentors were demonstrating a software program, my classmate asked, ‘Can you describe what you're seeing on the screen to me? I can't see it. Remember, I'm blind,' and it was very much a lightbulb moment. From there, with just that small ask for assistance, future communications became more descriptive, and the cohort had a better understanding.”
Accommodating the Drive to Succeed
Throughout the 6-week program, Maurice, Sarah and others were able to review, source for and screen hundreds of job candidates for BMS, with advanced assistive technology and support along the way. A true win-win situation, the fellows received mentoring and on-the-job training while our recruiter Hunter Tonn received sourcing support for open GPS roles in Bothell, WA.
"You can tell the bond Hunter built with each of them was phenomenal," Jeremy Urshel added. "We could not be more proud of the job she and the Talent Acquisition team did."
We're also proud and inspired by our fellows, many of whom are thriving since graduating from the program in May. Maurice is a Senior Specialist in Talent Acquisition with NSITE, helping blind and low vision job seekers find rewarding jobs. He noted, "The fellowship truly enhanced my career aspirations. There was so much positive energy from the BMS team and a sense of openness and willingness to make things happen."
And Sarah is putting her new recruitment skills to work at her church. "To put the theory we have learned into real-world practice at BMS has been a game changer! It has given me confidence to know that I can succeed. THANK YOU!" she shared.
The Future Looks Bright
At BMS, we continue to focus on removing barriers that traditionally have impeded the progress of people with disabilities. Project Orion, which will host another cohort in the fall, is just one of the full-scale behavioral changes we've made to help promote better understanding and empathy across our teams.
If you're curious to experience what it's like working for a company that strives to transform lives and careers, explore open roles with us today.