Marlet Mancera’s co-op experience as a corporate accounting intern at Caterpiller taught her many things among which are that employers value excellence, commitment and teamwork. Her RIT courses helped her develop skills in Microsoft Office, Excel and other software related to her business and accounting interests. She is sure that her business administrations degree and accounting training will guide her to a successful future.
This article about the growth of Deaf entrepreneurship by W. Scott Atkins, a business studies professor at RIT/NTID and nationally recognized deaf entrepreneurship expert, originally appeared in the Rochester “Democrat & Chronicle” and is reprinted with permission. (Photo credit: A. Sue Weisler, RIT)
Deaf entrepreneurs on the rise, locally, nationally
There is a revolution happening in Rochester and all across the United States. The number of deaf people running their own businesses has grown by leaps and bounds. Technological advances have made it possible for these individuals to access networks, customers and suppliers. There are now growing networks of deaf entrepreneurs.
Last weekend, I attended an event for local deaf entrepreneurs sponsored by Convo, a deaf-owned video relay service (VRS), and run by CEO Jarrod Musano, a deaf graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. There were 30-35 deaf business owners at the event, and they were grateful for the opportunity to network. I overheard a deaf realtor say to a deaf business owner who owns several rental properties, “Contact me and let’s see if we can do business together.” Convo has coordinated these types of events in other cities and has invested in a “Deaf Business Ecosystem,” which includes the creation of an online directory that now contains information on more than 250 deaf-owned businesses from all over the country.
Last semester at RIT/NTID, I was involved with a student business competition called the Next Big Idea, sponsored by VRS provider ZVRS, which provided opportunities for students to work on cross-disciplinary teams to innovate new products and services. This year, 15 teams competed for the opportunity to win cash prizes. It is my hope that many of these concepts will develop into full-fledged businesses.
In a class that I teach at RIT/NTID, called Introduction to Entrepreneurship, deaf and hard-of-hearing students create their own business with less than $20 of their own money. One student, Alec Satterly, established a bike repair business and was able to earn $650 during his winter break. Over the next few years, Alec participated in several entrepreneurship efforts on the RIT/NTID campus and has been very successful.
In 2014, his team, Cenify, won the ZVRS Next Big Idea grand prize of $5,000, and that summer, he and his team gained entry into the Saunders Summer Start-up Program, an incubator program at RIT. Cenify has since moved into RIT’s Venture Creations business incubator, which helps companies move to the next phase of their businesses. This is just one illustration of how RIT/NTID fosters entrepreneurship on campus. In addition, RIT/NTID brings alumni who are business owners to campus to speak with students. Alumnus and RIT Trustee Rob Rice, owner and founder of the Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm BayFirst Solutions, presented last year. RIT/NTID also works closely with RIT’s Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship in an effort to boost the number of deaf entrepreneurs on campus. Currently, we have two all-deaf teams who are part of the Saunders Summer Start-up Program.
This is only the beginning. There are many deaf and hard-of-hearing people who want to create their own businesses, but they are not sure where to start. It is important that we invest in new infrastructures to make this happen. This requires a collaborative effort by universities, agencies, corporations and other entrepreneurs. With their support, I am optimistic that we will continue to see the growth of a new generation of deaf entrepreneurs, especially here in Rochester.
Name: Christopher Brown
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
A.O.S., Computer Integrated Machining Technology, 2016
Year of graduation
Place of employment
Place of employment Cyromech, Syracuse, New York
Computer numeric control (CNC) operator
Some of my responsibilities were to use blueprints to create precision products on the CNC machine. I set controls; inspected machines; and scheduled maintenance and repair to ensure operation, quality standards and correct specifications.
How my career relates to my degree from RIT/NTID
I learned much about blueprints, following directions, working on several products at once and how to use a variety of other machines: HASS lathe, manual lathe and mill and turning machines. My co-op gave me relevant work experience and helped me develop my knowledge and skills. At RIT/NTID, I learned time management, assertiveness, persistence and to work with deadlines. These skills helped me to succeed on co-op and will help me succeed in life as well. I appreciate the experience I got on the CNC mill machine because that was really valuable on my co-op. And, I have accepted a full-time job with Cryomech for after graduation.
Be responsible, be prepared, be assertive, be persistent and don’t give up. Fight for what you believe in and don’t let anything or anyone get you down. Maintain a positive attitude and stay motivated. Stay safe and avoid risky behavior. Most of all, grab your opportunity.
Jasmine Zambrano Oregel’s packaging science major will make it possible for her to work almost anywhere in the world. More
Christopher Samp graduated in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in public policy, and in 2010 completed a master’s degree in science, technology and public policy. He currently works as a research assistant for U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (Illinois) and is heavily involved in the deaf and hard-of hearing community in Washington, D.C. More.
While most RIT students are sleeping late and enjoying some free time during spring break, 23 deaf and hard-of-hearing students are participating in a rigorous, week-long training designed to provide them with experience in the rapidly growing field of computer forensics.
The first-of-its-kind Computer Forensics Boot Camp for deaf and hard-of-hearing students held March 21-24 at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, provides 32 hours of training toward EnCase certification – the standard in cyber forensics.
The boot camp is the brainchild of RIT/NTID alumnus Scott Van Nice, systems manager, Forensics Information Security, Cyber Security – Threat Intel at Procter & Gamble, who has been on campus throughout the week. Van Nice connected with fellow RIT alumnus and president and CEO of Guidance Software Patrick Dennis, whose company is providing the training and who visited campus Tuesday. Procter & Gamble, Guidance Software and Ernst & Young are major sponsors of the boot camp.
Students were selected based on their high GPAs and majors related to the cyber forensics area such as Networking and Systems Administration, Criminal Justice, Human Computer Interaction and Computer Science.
“We are incredibly grateful to Guidance Software, Procter & Gamble, Ernst & Young, and all of the companies involved in making this boot camp a reality for our students,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “Patrick, Scott and their companies recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion in all phases of business. The students attending the boot camp represent some of RIT/NTID’s best and brightest, and they are eager to take advantage of this outstanding opportunity for training.”
Computer forensics, sometimes known as cyber forensics or cyber security, is a field that is becoming increasingly more important to companies of all sizes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “The proliferation of criminal activity on the Internet, such as identity theft, spamming, e-mail harassment and illegal downloading of copyrighted materials, will increase the demand for private investigators. Opportunities are expected to be excellent for computer forensic investigators.”
Throughout the week, students have been in classroom training from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., breaking for lunches and dinners featuring keynote presentations by Van Nice, Dennis and others. A career night for program participants Wednesday evening featured networking opportunities with representatives from companies including Prudential, JP Morgan Chase, the CIA, Cisco, Comcast, Procter & Gamble and Ernst & Young.
Lakeishia Brown’s electrical engineering major challenged her to be more motivated and more persistent. More
RIT’s strong focus on management information systems and successful job placement rate motivated Patrick Seypura to enroll and succeed. More
Kim Hoang’s co-op at Eagle Ridge Institute provided her with work experience in her field. She hopes eventually to teach Graphic Design and feels confident she has the skills and is well-prepared for that career. More
At the NTID Job Fair, Purple Communications, The Gleason Works and the University of California–San Diego (not pictured) received the NTID Center on Employment’s Outstanding Employer Partner Awards, which recognize employers who have a sustained record of hiring deaf and hard-of-hearing co-op students and graduates. More