Patchworktogether Spotlight: Larissa's story

Patchworktogether Spotlight: Larissa's story

Larissa is a full-time student who co-founded the start-up Impactful during her year off from Yale University. At the age of twelve Larissa was diagnosed with depression, and later chronic anxiety and ADHD. We spoke with her in order to learn from an individual who has carved out the space she needed in both academic and professional worlds, creating her own opportunities where none previously existed.


 

To start, can you please introduce yourself? Tell me a bit about yourself and your work.

My name is Larissa Hana Nguyen and I’m from Brooklyn, New York.

I’m studying computer science at Yale University. I’m a second semester senior, but I took a gap year to work on the start-up that I’ll be talking about.

In terms of my professional and intellectual interests, I care a lot about the intersection of social impact and technology, so I like thinking about the ways in which technology can be used for social good and the ways that we can mitigate potential societal harms of new emerging technologies like artificial intelligence.

Can you tell me about your personal experience with disability and mental health? Has your mental or physical health ever interfered with your school work or professional work?

The short answer is yes. As I mentioned before, I took a year off and part of the reason was my struggle with mental health. When I was 12, I was diagnosed with depression, then during university I was diagnosed with chronic anxiety and I more recently found out that both of these stem from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

My condition didn’t necessarily affect my academics in middle school and high school because I was always overcompensating for my executive dysfunctional issues. In high school my classes were small enough for me to work how I wanted to: sitting in a weird position, recording the lecture on my phone. Now I get official accessibility accommodation and note-taking assistant at Yale. All of my classes for my major have been with at least fifty students, and I initially had a lot of trouble learning in that environment. Because of my ADHD I experienced something called time blindness, which means I sometimes have a distorted sense of how much time I need to allot to certain tasks. During my last year I was not meeting any of my deadlines, and my dean suggested I take time off. Around this same time, I began to come up with the idea for my start-up.

What inspired you to create Impactful? What are you trying to achieve?

Impactful is an organisation that helps students use technical skills for good. And we define technical skills broadly.

I work with two other co-founders who I met through a “tech for good” fellowship. The fellowship was the first time we had all been exposed to these organisations and companies that are doing exactly the type of work we want to do (technology for social good/social impact). I talked to top professors around the world about how we can mitigate the gender and racial biases of facial recognition, processing health data to better inform vaccine roll out, and how to better distribute mosquito nets.

My co-founders and I had all wanted to apply technology to social good for years, and we wondered why this was the first time we were hearing about all of this. We had been compiling our own list of resources and jobs, but we realised that there was no large database that existed. We felt that we needed to create a resource for people to use, to lower the barrier to entry. We applied to an incubator program and got accepted. And we’ve all been working part-time on Impactful ever since.

How has your experience been working from home?

Working from home is the perfect work environment for me because I can move around. During internships in the past I would get in trouble moving around the co-working space that we were in. I wouldn’t stay at my desk because every hour and a half or so I just need to move. It helps me concentrate.

How does the more accessible way you’re currently working enable you to thrive?

It’s the only way I was able to make this work. My productive hours are very strange. I have bursts of energy during the day, I work well between midnight and 3AM. I know I’ll get it done. People might be uncertain at first, but then when they see that things are getting done they understand.

Since I’m one of the co-founders, people aren’t in the position to force me to work in the same way a neurotypical person might. We don’t see working 9-5 as a goal.

Do you have any tips for ambitious students and professionals who don’t necessarily thrive in traditional 9-5 work spaces?

You have to be your biggest self advocate. When I interview for different companies, I prioritise companies and roles where I feel that difference is accepted and celebrated, where the team trusts each other. Respect and trust are extremely important.

I use interviews as a way to try to gauge the company culture. It’s more work for me as a job applicant, but I also set up informational chats so I can ask about the work environment and expectations. I basically try to vet companies.

My preferred work style is also part of why I chose to go into computer science and programming. I love problem solving. I love being able to build something myself. I’ve found that the technology industry is more accommodating to my neurodivergence than others. All I really need is my laptop, and this allows me to be quite mobile. Working away from your desk is normalised in the tech world.


What would be your tip for employers who want to be inclusive and accessible but are not sure how?

The more neurodiverse people who are in positions of power the better. There’s a sense that when you have more accommodations or workplace flexibility it only helps a small subset of clinically disabled people. But most people experience some form of “disability,” it’s just not necessarily chronic. Pregnancy, temporary injury, etc. It’s the same thing for neurodivergence.

Everyone has days when they’re not as high energy, or their brain isn’t working how it normally does. I think it’s helpful to think about workplace accommodations as something that's helpful for the productivity of everyone rather than just a few people. Anything that helps folks “with a disability” will help folks who are temporarily in a situation like those people, even if they don't have a disability.


Why do you think disabled and neurodivergent-led businesses like Patchwork Hub and Impactful are so important?

This might just be what I have to tell myself, but I think neurodivergent people usually come with a different set of skills and a tolerance for change that others may not have.

I think diversity in culture is often discussed in terms of innovation, but I think it also applies to disability. Neurodivergent people bring in a new way of working and thinking because fundamentally, we think differently. For example, it’s been proven that people with ADHD have a higher tendency to take risks and be entrepreneurs, and are often people who make change in a positive way.

By Shamsa Derrick

All Tags
Accessibility Accessibility int he workplace Adaptive fashion Advocacy All Saints Assistive technology Autism Blog Burnout Business Businesses Cancer Candidates Cerebral palsy Characters Charity Charity sector Chronic pain Closed captions Clothes Clothing Companies Company Company Corner Consultant Content designer Data talent Digital transformation Disabilities Disability advocate Disability advocates Disability confident Disability inclusion Disabled Disabled People’s Direct Action Network Diversity Diversity and inclusion Diversity Recruitment Platform Empowerment Ethnic minorities Fashion Fashion industry Feedback Flexible work Freelance Game Gaming Gareth Walkom Garment technologist Gastrointestinal conditions Guide dog Hybrid working Inclusion Interviews Istituto Marangoni Jack Wills Job descriptions Job interviews Job opportunities Leeds Leeds trinity university LGBTQ+ Maya angelou Meta Metaverse Migrants Musculoskeletal conditions Neurodivergence Neurodivergent Neurodiversity consultant Neurodiversity space Neurotype Neurotypes Partially sighted Phase Eight Phone calls Pirate video games Presentations Primark Public speaking Registered blind Remote work Scope Self-employed Self-employment Shaw trust Shaw trust power 100 list Social mobility Social-emotional learning Social-emotional learning platform Software Speaking situation Speech differences Speech disabilities Speech impediment Spotlight series Spotlight stories Stammering Stories Stuttering Sweaty Betty Tech industry Tech talent TEDx Tesco Unhidden Unhidden Clothing Universities Vanessa Castañeda Gill Victoria Beckham Video game Virtual reality VR Women Work from home Working from home Youth Access to work Accessibility in the workplace Accessibility test Accessible work Acting Adhd Adjustments Administrative Adrian lord Advice Advocacy and campaigns Allparty parliamentary group for inclusive entrepreneurship American civil rights movement Android Anglonorman App Artificial intelligence Bad grammar Barriers to work Bbc Benefits Blind persons act Blue badge Blue badge service specialists Care Career Carer Celtic languages Center on everyday lives of families Ceo Cfs Chloe tear Chronic fatigue syndrome Chronic health condition Chronic illness Community Community story Community, community story, founder, feature, accessible work, disability employment gap, making a difference Companies house Compressed hours Computer science Computers Coronavirus Councils Covid19 Crystal mark standard Deaf Demo Design Dialects Dictionary Digital accessibility Disability Disability discrimination act Disability employment gap Disability rights movement Disability services Disabled peoples direct action network Disabled persons employment act Easy read Email address Employers Employment English English speakers Entrepreneur Entrepreneurship Epilepsy Equality Equality act Equality and diversity Equality of access Esources, disability, disability services, support services, community story, features, adjustments, social support network Eugenics Facebook Feature Features Fibromyalgia First world war Flexi Flexible working Flexitime Flextime Founder Francesco cirillo Freelancing French Gcses Gdpr General data protection regulation Good Good grammar Google Government policy Government support Graduate Graduates Grammar Grammar schools Health Health condition Health conditions Hearing impairment History History of language Holistic Ico Impact Imposter syndrome Inclusive entrepreneur network Inequalities Inequality Information commissioners office Information governance Instagram Internet Jacqueline winstanley Language Latin Law Learning difficulties Lexicographers Limited company Local councils Local government Making a difference Marketing strategy Mecfs Medical conditions Medical model of disability Medical vs social models of disability Medicines Mental health Middle english Mindfulness Mlm Mobility issues Multilevel marketing National league of the blind Neurodiversity Niya Normans Old english Old french Onboarding and retention Online Out of work Oxbridge Parent Passwords Patchwork hub Payment details Planning Planning for work Podcasts Pomodoro Preposition Private schools Psychiatric Psychiatry Punctuation React Reasonable adjustments Recruitment Remote working Resources Resources and support Rest Retinopathy of prematurity Sales Scam Search engine Second world war Shell shock Slang Social Cipher Social interactions Social media Social model of disability Social support network Socialising Spelling Spoken language Standard english Startup State schools Student Students Studying Suffragette movement Support Support services Syntactician Syntax Technology Test Blog The elderly Then barbara met alan Trafalgar square Turkish United nations Universal inclusion University University of arts london University of cambridge University of hertfordshire University of hull University of leeds University of oxford Victoria Jenkins Visual impairment War Ways of working West germanic dialects William shakespeare Windsor consultations WithVR Wordpress Work structure Workforce recruitment Working environment Workplace barriers World war one World war two Young carer

Cookies

By continuing to use this website you are agreeing to the use of cookies. For further details, review our Cookie Policy.

Change Settings