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Joe Sacco: Harnessing the power of positive thinking


Joe Sacco Joe Sacco wakes up every morning, five days a week, and drives to work. He sits at his desk, logs into his computer, and begins another busy day as a project manager for the IBM Information Management System tools (IMS) group. Like most successful professionals, he believes in quality work and productivity. His accomplishments and positive attitude precede him. But Joe admits that he has faced his share of challenges in his career. Joe has cerebral palsy.

After earning a bachelors degree from Boston University's computer science program, Joe moved across the country to attend graduate school at Stanford. As a Rhode Island native, living in California was a big change for Joe. With his entire family located on the east coast Joe was truly out on his own for the first time and was faced with the task of establishing himself in a new community. Despite all of the challenges of moving away from his primary support network, Joe still made the grade. In 2001, he received a Masters in Computer Science with a focus in computer interaction and interface design.

During graduate school, Joe participated in an internship with IBM that led to a full-time position with IBM User Centered Design (UCD). Joe's transition from school to career was seamless. Over the next four years, he worked to improve the design and usability of IBM's information management software. The focus revolved around the user experience, a subject Joe studied extensively in school. Joe was in his element. In 2005, his hard work was recognized and he transitioned into a project management role with the team. As a project manager, he now oversees six different products and with his intensive background in usability, he brings the interests of the customers into focus.

Working at IBM has been a truly positive experience for Joe. He feels that IBM should get a lot of credit for the efforts it makes to integrate and accommodate employees with disabilities. Today, Joe travels on the IBM San Jose campus by battery-powered scooter. He navigates through the hallways with a walker and uses a lift to get into the car he drives to and from work. "Every accommodation I need is here and if it's not, I know I can talk to a manager." From elevators to accessible doors, ramps to wheelchair-accessible desks, Joe recognizes IBM's effort to create an accessible workplace for everyone, including people with disabilities.

When asked if he thinks society is making progress in considering people in light of their capabilities rather than their disabilities, Joe quickly responded, "Yes, society has [to make progress]. These days, if you've got the skills and the background, that's all that really matters—that, and a positive attitude."

There is no doubt that Joe's positive attitude has helped to pave his path to success. To Joe, his life has no roadblocks. His general outlook on his disability is straightforward and inspirational, "A disability is not something that takes away from you. As a matter of fact, if you have a disability, you are probably a natural problem solver. A disability will only hinder you or keep you from success if you let it."

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