Impressions of a Newbie

Impressions of a Newbie
Monday, December 18, 2017
Bonnie Rivers Headshot

Author: Bonnie Rivers, Director of Employer Relations, Work Without Limits

Starting a new job is both stressful and exciting, but I was fortunate to experience more of the latter when joining the Work Without Limits (WWL) team in October of 2017.  Because I was part of the WWL business network as an Employer Sponsor and member of the MABLN, I had the privilege of already knowing several of my soon-to-be teammates. I arrived day one polished and shiny and as any good boss does, I had quite an entry plan ready and waiting for me!

Week one was spent orienting to my new employer,  UMASS Medical School’s Division of Commonwealth Medicine where I tackled the basics like finding the cafeteria, rest room, my office and the all-important coffee stations. I began to settle in with my new, but familiar colleagues and could quickly collaborate around our goal of fostering a network of engaged employers and innovative, collaborative partners that aim to increase employment among individuals with disabilities. My calendar had already been populated with several weeks of calls, events and trainings, so I dove right in (I was already loving the focus and organization of my new boss)! Here are some of the highlights from those first few weeks:

  • Continuing the Disability Awareness & Etiquette training series for MAPFRE Insurance
  • Exhibiting at NEHERC’s 7th annual Diversity Conference

Bonnie Rivers and Kathy Muhr at NEHERC's 7th annual Diversity Conference

  • Celebrating Disability Employment Awareness Month at Partners HealthCare at a thought provoking Diversity Dialogue on Disability Inclusion with businesses, state agencies and community partners
  • Sitting on the other side of the table on my first MABLN call as a WWL employee rather than an employer sponsor
  • Learning from the NEILG annual meeting and legal update
  • Advancing the Disability training series at MAPFRE Insurance with supervisors, focusing on conducting inclusive Interviews and Performance Discussions

Richard Curtis of State Street, Jill Houghton of USBLN with Bonnie Rivers and Kathy Petkauskos of WWL at the Ruderman Inclusion Summit

My second month had me busy continuing to attend powerful events such as the Ruderman Inclusion Summit, continuing disability training - this time at Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts, and starting to connect in-person and over the phone with many of our Employer Sponsors. Though I was still getting lost finding the right conference rooms, I had found the best coffee station in the building. Progress. I also began to meet with and attend training delivered by other WWL teammates that were a little less familiar to me. The impact of these two WWL sleeves across our state is remarkable:

  • BenePLAN assists individuals with disabilities who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), who are looking for employment or are currently working, to understand how work earnings or wage increases impact these and/or other public benefits. This group also provides “Nuts and Bolts of SSI and SSDI, Public Health Insurance and Other Public Benefits” training geared toward employment professionals, case managers, peer specialists and rehabilitation counselors.  
  • Administrative Employment Network (AEN) partners with Community-Based Organizations, enabling them to receive payments through Social Security’s Ticket to Work program. In addition, we provide the individuals they serve with enhanced benefits counseling and support. Partnering with the WWL AEN eliminates the need to be approved as an Employment Network by Social Security to receive payments. Our staff have received all required Social Security suitability clearances.

Now, at the start of my third month at Work Without Limits, I am not only humbled by the amount of innovation and dedication our employer sponsors, community partners, colleges and universities are demonstrating to increase the rate of employment for individuals with disabilities, I am in awe of my small and mighty team for providing a hub for it all!

I love my job! The coffee - not so much

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To learn more about any aspect of Work Without Limits: the MABLN, BenePLAN, or the Administrative Employment Network, please

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Author bio: As Director of Employer Relations at Work Without Limits, Bonnie: leads all services, activities, initiatives and sponsorships surrounding the Massachusetts Business Leadership Network (MABLN) and Work Without Limit’s Business Advisory Council;  provides disability and employment-related training for state agencies, employment service providers, and employers; and manages and develops all corporate partnerships. Bonnie has been in the Human Resources and Talent world for most of her career. She has a Master’s in Education, and has managed Learning and Development teams as well as regional Corporate Responsibility and Global Diversity & Inclusion functions.