Exactly one year ago, Kuna Williams walked into Ideation Design Group looking for a job. He knew the principals Carl Schaffer and Jennifer Reynolds from his past employment as a drafter for a fabrication company that had worked with Ideation. Within two weeks, Williams was drafting for Ideation and working with a great team.
While this may seem like any other employment story, Williams is far from average. In 2006, he was hit by a truck while riding his motorcycle and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Although Williams had been wearing a helmet, he had damage to his left temporal lobe.
He spent a year relearning everything – from walking, to brushing his teeth and going to the bathroom. Throughout 2007 and 2008, Williams progressed through his rehabilitation at Barrow Neurological Institute.
He started working at Safeway as a bagger, which Williams said taught him responsibility, timeliness and people skills. His employment at Safeway seemed to be the end of the line, until August 2013.
Ideation Design Group is an interior architecture and design firm focusing on retail, restaurants, airports and hotels located around the country.
“Me working at a job like this is out of the picture,” Williams said of his job at Ideation. He took the initiative, challenging himself and the preconceived notions of people with brain injuries. “If you throw yourself out there and you have a brain injury, people automatically think ‘oh, he’s damaged goods’ and they’re not wiling to take that chance,” Williams said. Schaffer and Reynolds were not those people.
Entrepreneurs look for employees that persevere, even in the face of adversity. “The fact that he didn’t give up and the fact that he had that drive and the ambition,” Schaffer said. “That’s the core.”
Throughout the year Williams worked tirelessly. He is challenged every day, but he is also getting mentally stronger every day, Schaffer said.
In April 2013, Williams decided to get outside support. Jennifer Hunsaker, a job coach at Barrow’s Center for Transition NeuroRehabilitation, started working with Williams and his drafting team at Ideation.
Hunsaker said she helped Williams create checklists for tasks, organize his workspace and better communicate with his team. The goal was to “increase what he feels confident with and what he can do at work,” Hunsaker said.
To that end, Williams’ team gives him homework to introduce him to new projects or practice what he learned at work. It’s a step-by-step process, presented in a way that Williams can ask questions and get feedback from his team, Hunsaker said.
Williams is motivated, hard working and has a strong work ethic, Hunsaker said. His drive and initiative are key parts to being successful.
When he first started working at Ideation no one, not even Williams, knew how his brain injury would affect his work. Schaffer said they started him slowly and he has kept growing from there.
If you believe in yourself, others will believe in you too, Schaffer said.
Williams said his job is a blessing backed by faith and believing that taking a chance would make a difference in his life.
The message is clear and no one put it better than Williams himself – “Don’t give up and believe in yourself.”