TL;DR – 1,001 ways to get into the Good Karma club, and this is one!
The founder of a Singaporean startup published an article The Day We Hired a Blind Coder on Medium a few days ago, and it went far and wide. How far and how wide?
OVER 100,000 VIEWS IN 2 DAYS.
Not bad at all! And we just heard that the article made the Top 10 of Hacker News!
MomoCentral is a Singapore startup founded by Su Yuen and Jason. It started as an agency for web and app design and development. Noting the growth of the gig economy, MomoCentral pivoted into an online marketplace for freelance web and app designers and developers.
MomoCentral has a very rigorous process of vetting the designers and developers they choose to work with. Anyone who wants to be a freelance developer on their platform has to pass an online coding test, go through an interview and go through a live coding interview.
From what we understand, the live coding interview involves the applicant being given a problem. The applicant then has to write the code to solve the problem. Jason and Su Yuen will watch as the developer codes and would ask the applicant questions about why the applicant wrote the code in certain ways.
In August 2014, an applicant, Herwin, responded to an advertisement for coders that Su Yuen and Jason put up. Herwin did extremely well in the online coding test. So Su Yuen and Jason went on to interview him. That was when Herwin sprung a surprise on Su Yuen and Jason. Herwin told Su Yuen and Jason that he is blind. He has 0% vision in one eye and only 10% vision left in the other. Herwin codes with the help of a screen reader.
Su Yuen and Jason decided to evaluate Herwin as they would any other applicant and only accept him if he could pass their evaluation through the live coding test. The outcome? As Su Yuen wrote:
“Not surprisingly, he did well in the interview and was a definite pass for Jason. We then proceeded to accept him.”
Herwin proved to be a valuable member of the team and was able to spot and resolve many issues which most developers missed. For his work, he was paid the same rate as everyone else of his level of ability.
When Su Yuen and Jason pivoted their startup into the marketplace for freelance designers and developers, Herwin became worried. He would have to work directly with clients instead of a project manager from MomoCentral. He was worried that clients would judge him based on his disability and reject working with him before even talking to him.
Su Yuen and Jason went out of their way to match Herwin with clients looking for Android developers. They met many clients who were apprehensive and didn’t give Herwin a chance, simply because of Herwin’s disability. But Su Yuen and Jason persisted. They finally matched Herwin with another startup, Spini. Herwin has been working with Spini for over a year and a half.
We found out from Su Yuen that since she posted this story on Medium.com, MomoCentral has received calls from many social enterprises in Singapore. Even IDA called them to find out more about the good work that they are doing. More importantly, this heartwarming story has attracted many top-notched coders worldwide to apply to be freelancers on MomoCentral. This solves a challenge that MomoCentral has been struggling with – attracting top-notched coders to be on their platform. It goes to show that doing something morally right can be great for business too!
MomoCentral didn’t set out to be a social enterprise. As Su Yuen told us, all she did was work with a blind coder like a normal person. But to us, that is the heart of being a socially responsible enterprise. There’s no need for affirmative action. Just look past the disability, past the coloured history, past the disadvantaged background, and focus on what the person can do, focus on how the person can contribute, focus on the value the person can create today and in the future.
We hope that there will be more companies like MomoCentral, more employers like Su Yuen and Jason, and more clients like Spini. The world will be a much better place for it.
If you haven’t yet watched this fab video, you should! We have a feeling this probably echoes the thoughts of many persons with disabilities.
Look beyond my disability.
See the true me!