Categories: Lessons from the Road
Meet Shantha Rau Barriga, a Lime Connect Founding Board member, as she shares some advice on career, leadership and disability.
Shantha, thank you for your dedication to Lime Connect. Can you tell us a bit about your career journey?
My pleasure. I am the Director of Disability Rights at Human Rights Watch.
I graduated from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and the University of Michigan. I came into this field by chance really. I was volunteering in the disability community as it was a personal interest and a grad school friend invited me to a panel on disability rights. I don't have a disability myself, but feel strongly about equal rights, inclusion and equal opportunity for all. The exclusion and discrimination faced by people with disabilities and their perseverance to overcome these challenges truly inspire me and I am honored to document their stories and advocate for change side by side with them.
You just got promoted to a Director role, congratulations! What advice do you have for our Network members as they progress with their careers from individual contributor to leader?
The key to having a good work experience and to advancing is relationships with your colleagues and with senior management. You can learn so much from your colleagues and those relationships may open the door to opportunities down the road. Another key to advancing and taking on a leadership role is to prove yourself as an expert in your field and a thought leader. Show that you can step into the shoes of a strategic thinker, which is what is needed as you move up the ladder. As the leader, your role is also to take time to step back and make sure that the work that happens every day is tied into the overall strategy. Then you can prioritize and make sure that your team’s work is on track, that they are making an impact and feeling satisfied at work. The same holds true for managing up. You want to be able to ask your manager critical questions – demonstrating that you’re a strategic thinker.
What would you like the Lime network community, a community of students and young professionals with leadership potential, to know about the situation of people with disabilities around the world?
One thing to keep in mind is that there are people with disabilities in every corner of the world, including here in the US, who don't have the opportunities that our Lime Network members have and the support of great places like Lime Connect, University Disability Services and others. Take advantage of that support. And do your best to demonstrate that people with disabilities have so much to contribute to our community and our diversity. I have met people with disabilities from Nepal to Peru who struggle every day even being accepted as a human being, who are told by their family, by the community, by teachers that they can’t do anything, that they are worthless. The positive examples of people who have overcome the challenges and tapped into their strengths are powerful in inspiring folks not just here, but in other countries, who don't believe they can go to school or be a success at work.
Thanks Shantha for your time and for the great work that you do in the world!