Jessica May started Enabled Employment providing job opportunities for people affected by discrimination. There unique model doesn’t accept government funding.
What’s your story?
Unfortunately I experienced discrimination in the workplace after disclosing my disability which led me to research what is available to assist people facing disadvantages to get employment without government support. I thought of the idea for Enabled Employment, providing job opportunities to all people affected by discrimination in trying to land a job. We built a company which I’m really proud of. Unlike other disability employment providers , we don’t accept government funding. We operate on the premise that skills and qualifications come first, and then we negotiate reasonable adjustments as needed on the job after a candidate is successful in applying.
What excites you most about your industry?
I think the recruitment industry in general is really ripe for disruption. We’re not only providing job opportunities to people who are disadvantaged, we’ve built an automated system of our own to turn the industry on its head. Using machine learning and automation, our system saves at least half of our operating costs by cutting down the hours spent on administrative tasks. We have automated invoicing, payroll, candidate matching, references and we are able to implement changes to our website instantly, putting our technology ahead of the field.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I have always loved Asia, and I’d love to live there! I have travelled through Asia extensively, and I have been able to continue to conduct business from anywhere in the world. I was honoured to be named Female Entrepreneur of the Year in Asia, Australia and New Zealand at the Stevie Awards in New York in 2016, which I was surprised to win as there are so many amazing startups in Asia.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Anywhere that has internet access – which is better in Asia than we have in Australia a lot of the time. I can work from anywhere, as our website and the technology we’re building is entirely cloud based, which means I can work from my laptop or my phone. I think my dream would be to work from Bali, which is a beautiful place with wonderful people.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I’ve been lucky enough to have great mentors, both at the GRIFFIN Accelerator where we were fostered as a startup, and by the female founders mentoring organisation Heads over Heels. I think the best piece of advice I received was to listen to every suggestion or piece of advice you are given but not necessarily follow it if it doesn’t feel right for you.
I think in the startup world you are constantly bombarded with people trying to help you along the way but you often know what is best for your business, so trust your gut and go with what you know will work for you.
Who inspires you?
Former Australian Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs, who was never afraid to speak out in her role to protect human rights in Australia. I also look up to Graeme Innes AM, who is now Chair of the Attitude Foundation, and also a former Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner. Their courage to speak out about disability discrimination, and on human rights, is inspirational to me. They are changing attitudes, which needs to happen if we are to have a more inclusive world.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I have been studying artificial intelligence and machine learning to complement and extend my diploma in software development. I have been blown away by how much of these capabilities we already have built into the system and also the areas we can do more. Recruitment is very much an area where applying machine learning and artificial intelligence can remove the conscious and unconscious bias we see towards our candidates and hopefully remove discrimination in the future.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Not a lot, actually. I’m happy that we’ve established a new technology which is my passion, and that we are standing up for human rights in employment. It may have been a long road, but it all adds up to make me more determined to change the way we think about employment, and employment conditions as part of reasonable measures to enable people to work.
How do you unwind?
I unwind by spending time with my kids, and having a glass of red wine. I make sure I take my breaks, and I love to travel. I remind myself to only check in once a day with the business though – otherwise I’d be looking at my phone and not at the beautiful things around me!
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Definitely Bali! I have had some amazing holidays there, and met some lovely people. My kids love it there, and it is so peaceful and the culture is beautiful. I can sit by the pool and watch my kids, stay in a beautiful hotel, and eat amazing food and see the beautiful culture and countryside. I love the lifestyle in Indonesia, and I’d love to live there one day.
Everyone in business should read this book:
“Eight Steps to Happiness” by Alison Leigh and Dr Anthony M Grant
Keeping on top of your mental health in business is so important and this book takes you through steps to understand who you really are and what’s important to you.
Shameless plug for your business:
Enabled Employment is a unique recruitment company, presenting candidates that represent true diversity. Every hire you make through Enabled Employment increases your diversity and inclusion rate, leading to better business outcomes and driving innovation. We represent skilled candidates who are people with a disability, former Australian Defence Force members and their families, carers, senior Australians 55 years of age or over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people from culturally diverse backgrounds, refugees and members of the LGBTI community.
How can people connect with you?
Our website is www.enabledemployment.com where you can get more information about why we do what we do and how we are breaking down barriers to employment. We also have a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/EnabledEmployment/
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.