My 16 year career in the financial services industry came to a screeching halt after the birth of my third child, and when my oldest was formally diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (Autism spectrum)
My tenure as a stay at home Mom now seems like a blurred flurry of raising three children (my son, and two daughters) under the age of 7 – a compression of desperate quests to identify appropriate schools and therapies for my son, countless hours researching and navigating NYC’s realm of special education, with music and dance lessons, sports, Hebrew school, and other afterschool fun in the mix. As the kids got older, it also involved shuttling between 3 different schools, PTAs, fundraisers, and parent communities. Before I knew it 10 years had passed.
The decision to go back to work was made when it became clear to me that my son would graduate from high school and attend college. Foreign exchange sales at an investment bank was the only work experience I knew. I was amazed when my resume generated interviews with FX desks at banks. Then the demise of Lehman Brothers and crisis in the banking industry hit the market, and there went my chances of getting back into the financial services industry.
I never contemplated entering the disabilities field, till a friend suggested I become a ‘consultant’ to families of kids with disabilities. I had been in contact with Resources for Children with Special Needs (RCSN), a special needs advocacy group, to get advice on post-high school options for my son. I had known RCSN (now INCLUDEnyc) for over 20 years; my first encounter with them was when my son was 5 years old. I was truly grateful for the information and support they gave me and other families, and volunteered as a way to give back, and to see if I would enjoy this field. Within 3 months I was working part time, and by my 1st anniversary of having started as a volunteer, I was there full time.
At INCLUDEnyc, I have spent the past 8 years advocating for families of young adults with disabilities: to identify options after high school, and navigate adult systems to access services for their kids. I have led coalitions and collaborative groups, and am a member of councils and advisory groups to promote systemic change for people with disabilities.
At the time of this writing I am about to embark on a new venture - Project Job - to educate businesses and organization on the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. My relaunch journey has been filled with pleasant surprises. My second career is more than a job, I am an activist in a movement which will last a lifetime.
iRelaunch note: Mariko Sakita was a speaker at the 2016 iRelaunch Return-to-Work Conference on the Relaunching in Non-Profits, Public Sector, Education, Start-ups panel.