February 10, 2022
When Evgenia “Evi” Guenova arrived for her first day as a microbiology lab technician at Takeda’s manufacturing facility in Vienna, she was excited but nervous. On one hand, she was thrilled to start a new position in her area of interest, but as a person profoundly hard of hearing, she also knew how difficult it could be for someone with different abilities to make themselves heard in the workplace.
“When I go to a new place, I feel like I have to hide my disability at first, or people are shocked and don’t know how to behave,” she says. “However, Takeda gave me an opportunity to be upfront from day one that I have hearing loss.”
Evi found her way to Takeda through MyAbility, a program for people with disabilities to meet and interview with companies around Vienna. She chose Takeda after learning about its commitment to creating an inclusive work environment for its employees. She quickly found her team took that commitment to heart.
“Even though my supervisor and colleagues had never been exposed to someone with hearing loss, they adapted really fast,” she recalls. “We were both patient and understanding with each other, so we were able to develop a good symbiosis. My lovely and funny colleagues are now my favorite part of my job.”
She also found that there were many practical measures in place to improve her work experience. In the lab, there are lights installed that alert her when samples arrive or when alarm sounds are going off. When she can’t meet with colleagues in person, she’s able to use video and written tools instead of phone calls. She also joined an employee resource group called Enable, where she meets once a month with other colleagues with disabilities to share their experiences and ideas to enhance the work environment at Takeda.
“I realized Takeda’s philosophy is to always look for ways to improve things, not only for its business but for humanity,” she says. “They show interest in diversity and make the effort to listen to us and make permanent improvements.”
Participating in Enable has also inspired Evi to continue one of her personal passions – creating short films to educate the hearing world about the experiences of people who are hard of hearing. She began sharing advice and encouragement with a colleague who is raising a daughter with hearing loss, and their conversations helped Evi see the impact that sharing her perspective could have.
“He told me that knowing me makes him believe even more that his daughter can achieve anything she wants,” says Evi. “Those types of experiences make me very emotional.”
After three years at Takeda, Evi’s list of achievements is indeed ever-growing. In addition to her lab work, she’s now helping to develop a digital system to store and track data from samples. She trains and consults with colleagues from other departments on the system and hopes to expand this leadership role in the future. Along the way, she’s been able to thrive in her environment simply by being herself.
“My hearing loss made me become more observant, so I’m good at analyzing things,” she said. “I can stay focused in a chaotic working environment. I’m an expert at body language and mood, so I can tell when others don’t understand something and find better ways of communication. And I’m automatically more open toward people with different identities.”
Her advice for people with disabilities who are considering a career in science is to go for it.
“Never let others underestimate you. If people aren't ready to work with you, then it’s just not the right place. When you find somewhere that’s the right fit, you’ll know it.”