Conclusion of Google TechAbility

It is hard to believe that I was chosen for the Google TechAbility Mentoring Programme back in November 2012, just what I needed to retrieve guidance on where my career should lies or go.

The Google TechAbility Mentoring Programme has been an intensive and require a commitment from both people to work together to get the most out of the Google’s experience. I feel that I’ve exceeded that with Stephany Van Willigenburg. We were clear and passionate about getting the best out of each other.

It was a learning experience for both us as I gained a greater insight to how Google operates and what they can do and help clients and Stephany found herself learning about assistive technologies. (You never stop learning……………!)

Personally, I would like to thanks EmployAbility and Clare Bass, EMEA Diversity and Inclusion @ Google for making this happen and for opening me up to such a trustworthy contact to have.

Now, I feel proud to be classed as part of Google TechAbility Mentoring Programme Alumni. The rewards and hard work have paid off by celebrating my achievements. However, for me there is still more to come!

500 Days To Go

As we celebrate another milestone towards GLASGOW2014, GLASGOW2014 have release a film showcasing the curtural, its people and vibrate social scenes to commemorate the ‘500 days to go’.

You can view link here: 500 Days Till GLASGOW2014

I’m delighted with it too as it such a big milestone as I embark on my ParaSports quest to explore the Paralympic sports featured in the GLASGOW2014 Games.



Evening Times 50th Scotswomen of the Year

Tonight, was amazing at the Evening Times’s Scotswomen of the Year as it celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year. What an astonishing achievement after fifty years later, it is still going strong!

2013 was to be a landmark year as the Evening Times as it celebrates the 50th Scotswoman of the Year Awards in the magnificent surroundings of Glasgow City Chambers.

There was six finalists this year in comparison to last year. This year’s finalists were:

Julie Love – campaigned for an extension to Fatal Accident Inquiry legislation since her son’s death.

Erin McNeill – the youngest finalist, determined to change perceptions of ‘beauty’, she has won beauty pageant titles in the US, Portugal, France and Jamaica, including Miss Scotland International and Miss United Nation International. She also dedicated her life to educating people about the dangers of fire and has raised more than £100,000 to help firefighters. Last year she won a British Red Cross Humanitarian Citizen award for her inspirational work with young people.

Lisa Stephenson – she raised over £250,000 for the Maggie Centre in Edinburgh after being diagnosed with a rare and incurable form of cancer.

Blanche Nicholson – is recognised for directorship of client services at Hansel Village in Ayrshire, a charity which supports people with learning and physical disabilities. Fifty years later it is still going strong after being setup by her parents as her sister has a learning disability.

Katherine Grainger CBE – Glasgow-born rower Katherine delighted and inspired a nation at last year’s Olympics in London, when she triumphantly claimed a gold medal to add to her silver medals from Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004, and Beijing in 2008.

Isabel McCue – established a drama group, a year after her son’s suicide, following his battle with schizophrenia.

The moment of glory propel as the 50th – and youngest – Evening Times Scotswoman Of The Year was crowned, Erin, from Menstrie, Clackmannanshire.

Katherine Grainger CBE, the Glasgow-born Olympic medal-winning rower, received a special Editor’s Award. Katherine was also our guest speaker which she delivered with sporting passion and triumph.

I feel very privileged to have been part of tonight’s celebration and to have been part of the SWOTY’s guest list.

NTS Deliver Third Wilderness Project

Julie McElroy is back with another Wilderness Project. This follows on from the resounding success of the inaugural event in an innovative new programme, which aims to encourage more people with disabilities to access woodlands and green space and develop a meaningful connection to the beautiful natural landscapes Scotland has to offer.

The Wilderness Weekend will also coincide with 2013 being the ‘Year of Natural Scotland’ which is being supported by Scottish Natural Heritage and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. It is about celebrating Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty in 2013! From stunning landscapes and iconic wildlife, to creative events and nature festivals, Scotland’s great outdoors is waiting for you.

In 2011, Julie and the NTS took 6 people to the beautiful Isle of Arran to experience the lush surroundings of the National Trust for Scotland’s Brodick property. In 2012, another eight participants were whisked off to Kintail, the home of beautiful West Highland scenery including the dramatic Falls of Glomach and the Five Sisters of Kintail- a magnificent range of high hills, where the group stayed at the Kintail Morvich Basecamp. Julie has once again teamed up with the NTS to serve up another helping of outdoor adventures, this time in connection with Ben Lomond on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond.

The project, due to take place from the 23rd to 27th of September will see disabled participants take part in a range of outdoor activities including a little taste of the kind of conservation work that is such an important aspect of the Trust’s work.

This time around we’ve raised the challenge, offering disabled participants the opportunity to camp out over night and complete the Discovery level of the John Muir Award. The John Muir Award had played an important part when Julie completed her top Conserver John Muir Award two years ago.

Julie is on the lookout for people to get involved in this exciting opportunity. Participants must be aged 18 – 25 and upwards and be able to commit to the full five days of the project.

Emily Sanderson, Community Partnerships Co-ordinator from the National Trust for Scotland said:
‘After the success of the previous two projects we are delighted to be working with Julie on another Wilderness project, this time at our stunning property, Ben Lomond. The Trust believes that its properties are ‘a place for everyone’ and we therefore relish the opportunity to continue to open our doors to an ever wider representation of Scotland’s community.

As a conservation organisation, we see our volunteering opportunities as a great way for people to contribute to conserving some of the most significant sites in the country’.

A keen adventurer, Julie was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was a child and is eager to help more people with disabilities experience the advantages of the outdoors.

She added:

“I have always had a love of the outdoors and I am thrilled to be back for the third time running this wilderness project. The third wilderness adventure will be more stimulating and interesting for the disabled participants.

“More importantly, we are offering disabled participants the opportunity to camp for one night as part of the experience and give them the opportunity to make a start on their John Muir Award Journey.”

Notes to news editors
1. The National Trust for Scotland is one of Scotland’s leading conservation charities, which relies on the financial support of its members to fund its important work of caring for the natural and cultural heritage of Scotland for everyone to enjoy. The Trust cares for a range of sites on Arran, including Brodick Castle and Country Park and Goatfell.

2. The John Muir Trust encourages people to experience wild places and to ‘put something back’ through the John Muir Award. Since 1997 more than 130,000 awards has been achieved. For more information go to

3. 2013 is Year of Natural Scotland, (Scottish Natural Heritage and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park are strong partners)

Google Europe TechAbility – Business 2012

Julie McElroy is a young Scottish woman from Glasgow who has Cerebral Palsy which has resulted in walking difficulties along with a speech and hearing impairment and manual dexterity problems. She epitomizes drive, motivation and passion for life. Currently studying towards a PhD (part-time) in Assistive Technology and Education.

I couldn’t believe my luck when I applied for the Google Europe TechAbility – Business 2012 and the Google TechAbility Europe Mentoring Programme‏. These sort of programmes are always competitive and I thought due to complexity of my disability, this would affects my chances. Against all odds, I secured a place.

Over the years, I began to explore how IT could help me in other ways and it was when I was studying at the University of the West of Scotland, they had a variety of courses from Games Development, Music Technology, Multimedia and to Computer Science. However it was while undertaking my Dissertation it took me in a different direction of looking at Assistive Technologies. Combining my IT knowledge with technologies passion gave me that niche to advance my knowledge in a specialised field where I am constantly using assistive technologies to live my life daily.Thankfully, I have been able to combine my IT acumen alongside doing my equality and diversity work.

Back to Google Europe TechAbility – Business 2012 event in London on Wednesday 21st November, I was a little apprehensive of what to expect apart from knowing that I would be joined by other students across Europe who have disability themselves and also had a passion for IT or had the desire to work for Google.

190 students applied for the Google Europe Business and Technical TechAbility 2012 for the first of its kind this year and only 70 students were selected to join. That is a considerable achievement in itself. 35 students each on the Business and Technical programmes.

As I walked into the Google Office, one of their offices based in London, four words which strike my mind: dynamic, innovative, creative and passion.

The main contact for the day was Clare Bass, Diversity Programmes Manager, Google EMEA. Clare joined Google in May 2011 and is the Diversity Programmes Manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

The event itself was fast-moving one and very stimulating so much to take onboard however thankfully a speech to text reporter was provided for those who were deaf which helped enormously.

After our brief introduction to Google by Matt Britten who is Managing Director of Google in the UK & Ireland. Matt was inspiring as he was passionate about giving diverse people to work digital industry such as Google.

Shortly followed by we had our first seminar talk by Ade who talked and discussed the Google Toolbox Tech Talk which talked about Google’s Cloud Computing; Machine Translation; Speech Recognition and Computer Vision. All the topics which Ade discussed was straightforward to understand for those who were studying in computing related field.

After a short break, Sarah who suffers from tinnitus is a mother of two, works four days a week in advertising aspect of Google, delivered a Googleyness Explained presentation.

This presentation gave us a better understanding how to use digital media when managing marketing campaign through the internet and how the diverse world can outline the vision for future in terms of social media campaigns etc. One of the recent projects she talked about was Google – Good To Know Campaign ( The aim of the campaign was all about reinforcing the message about staying safe online.

Another one, we looked at was UNESCO which take a virtual walk around some of the world’s most remarkable natural and cultural landmarks using Google Maps, Google Earth, and Street View

Sarah also talked about how information on the internet more organized and make it more universally accessible and useful for people to use. The key word was idealism.   Lastly, she talked how there is such a ‘buzz’ with other Googlers (staff) to meet up in the ‘hang-out’ zone. This encourages brainstorming session, interaction and creativity among staff rather conducting meeting via messenger, emails or conference calls.

The introduction of Google’s Dragons Den was born and this encourages Googlers (staff) to pitch their advertising campaign idea. Helen’s campaign idea was to create the first silent conference debate about deaf and hearing impaired users.

Just before lunch we had a seven minutes group session each with different employees who works  for Google. The session was called ‘Grill a Googler’. First up was Helen who we already know about having discussed the Googleyness Explained presentation. Second to speak to us was James Morgan who lives in London and works for Google’s Customer Service division. Interestingly James studied at Glasgow University doing philosophy and psychology. He had been with Google for five years and he echoed what Google is, it a company that is constantly evolving and learning new knowledge every day. Next Helene and Beth spoke to us about the Google’s recruitment and what programmes Google offers to students. Dan was next to speak to us, he comes from Wales originally and once again, he expressed the positive experiences of working at Google, followed Ashley Hall who now works for Google after having successfully apply to the Google TechAbility Intern programme last year.

After a delicious lunch in the Google’s canteen which was modern, vast and open, we returned for the afternoon session which was delivered by Helen who talked us about CV Prep and Interview Advice. Time was tight so she only managed to the CV Prep section and what Google look for. It was informative and a valuable session for those keen to perfect their CV.

To get everyone on their toes again, it was time for the Google Business Challenge. Our mentor for our group’s challenge was Stephany Van Willigenburg who is the New Products and Solutions Industry Manager. Stephany has an impressive international upbringing and she started working for Google back in 2004 as a Sales Analyst and working her way up to where she is now.

The objective of the Google Business Challenge was to think of a charity, brand or club and in our groups, design their mobile site and advertising followed by presenting to the overall group of thirty five students.

Interesting facts to date about mobile marketing and why is important to utilized the platform, over 50% of UK have a smartphone; users nowadays want to use their mobile phones to search the web, use social media and shops and most crucially advertising on mobile is another important marketing channel for brands to use.

The last session of the day before we headed for a tour of Google and to a networking reception we heard from Ashley Hall who had been with Google for a year now and he talked and answered questions for us of the ‘Experiences of an Intern’. Ashley initial studied for a degree in Geography followed by hoping to do a Postgrad however the Employability’s Google TechAbility came along and decided to grasp the opportunity. Ashley is dyslexic. Ashley was intern and it was a learning experience for him because Google is such a vibrant place to work and everyone is treated equally. Google embraces inclusion. Ashley now works full time for Google in their Dublin offices which has been a great success so far.

I cannot expressed how much this event shaped my technology vision, given me ideas and tools to apply to my PhD research taking for example Google Plus. It was simply an incredible day to be surrounded by Googlers (staff) who are fervent about what they do in the fast paced digital technology industry.

It has been an unbelievable 24 hours after getting home from London. While the event on Wednesday gave me the capability, concrete vision and ideas to take forward and horn in my specialized field of assistive technology and my studies, I must confessed I thought my hopes were dashed about the possibility of being selected for the Google TechAbility Europe mentoring programme because there was so much information to absorb and when I was having to relies on a palanytypist, I thought my contribution to the group work was hindered. I particularly find teamwork difficult in noisy environments whereas when I am outdoor doing challenges, it all about teamwork and communication which I can cope with.

Today, looks set to spearhead me on my technology leadership and career at last! Thanks to Google and Employability they have delighted to confirm me a place on the twelve-week Google TechAbility Europe mentoring programme. The Google team was extremely impressed with my level of enthusiasm and look forward to working with me in the coming months.

Wow!! I am so thrilled to be given the opportunity and my journey start in earnest with my first in-person meeting with my mentor which will take place at the mentoring programme kick-off event on Wednesday 28th November in London!

I look forward to charting this journey with you all.

Fashion Quest

JULIE McElroy is no stranger to a challenge, and her latest mission will take her to new levels – thanks to the captured photo featured in the newspaper earlier this year. Julie was inundated with messages of a new search to nurture for the future.

This triggered Julie to set-up her quest to produce a dress designed by one lucky disabled student from her former school and in partnership with Amanda Buchanan a Fashion and Textiles Lecturer from Cardonald College to fit Julie’s winning design.

When asked George Godfrey, art teacher of Ashcraig School, the former school where Julie once attended what inspired him to partner up with Julie, he says ‘Our students have been involved with many partnerships over the years and working with Julie has given our students new experiences in real life situations. Seeing what difficulties Julie has overcome, the challenges that she has succeeded in will inspire confidence and determination in the students.

He goes onto says “What is truly inspirational about Julie is her commitment, drive, ambition and fortitude. Had Julie been able bodied without impairment she would still be inspirational. You then add the difficulties attributed to her mobility, her communication and the attitude and discrimination of others and you then can really appreciate just how significant an impact she has made on others”.

Describing her reasons for being so active in promoting disability rights and encouraging people with disabilities to aim for success, she says: “I want to experience a totally new existence, challenges that are different from what I experience in everyday life. I know that I have the commitment and passion to succeed and I want to show people that regardless of their disability they can achieve anything.”

She said: “I want to take this fashion concept to another level in Scotland. Some disabled people take their passion for fashion and the way they look seriously. I want disabled people to feel confident, have the professional approach and confidence about what they wear and thus change the perception for the public that they can be good looking! Also it will help nurture the next generation of disabled individuals.”

This is furthered echoed by George stating “More role models, promotion and positive media coverage. There are also many technologies available that could support learning even in the design industries.

The project phrase of designing the dress is now completed by the students and George commented on the fact that “Throughout the process students have become more confident, more self aware of issues relating to disability. It has been empowering for them to be on their own and be committed to the new challenges that they have experienced”.

Now that the winning design is completed, Julie says “After much deliberation with Amanda about which dress would really suits me it came down to one after looking at ten designs all put together by students. However, the winning design caught my eyes in the early stages of the design when I was up visiting the school in April 2012. There was something wholly unique about this design, I fell in love with it!!

The winner of the chosen design is Rae’esah Ismail who was born with Cerebral Palsy and currently attends Ashcraig School. When asked what sparked her eye-catching design, Rae’esah says “Images of inspirational landscapes symbolic images for courage and that clearly matched Julie’s personality”. She goes on to say “My mum is fashion conscious and we use to enjoy designing clothes at home for fun”.

It is clear to see that Rae’esah is thrilled to have her design transformed as she said “I’m really excited and proud that my design is going to be seen on someone who is as strong as Julie”.

Winning this fashion design competition has given Rae’esah confidence to take her artistic flare further beyond school as she said “I would like to go to college and do more art and design work. I also love graffiti art and would love to do more of that type of art”.

Meanwhile, the production of the dress has begun in earnest and expected to be ready by November. Amanda tells how she met Julie and now turning Julie’s dress into reality “I had the pleasure of meeting Julie some years ago at a course we both attended. She struck me as a resilient and determined woman with the ability to achieve whatever she put her mind to”.

When asked what inspired her to take on the task of making a dress for Julie “It is a privilege to be involved in such a brilliant project mixing the imagination of children and promoting the best idea through creative work. Knowing Julie I feel confident everyone will be rewarded by participating in this collaborative effort”.

Julie views this as the ideal platform to put disabled fashion out into the spotlight, and is urging everyone to get behind her idea. When asked how she would encourage people to take part who may be self-conscious of their image due to their disability, she said: “Although I have accepted my disability and myself for who I am, I know that this is far from easy to do. However, I would encourage others to do the same. You realise anyone with a disability isn’t any different from everybody else.

We are all equal and all human and have the right to do the same things as normal peers but they will have to be done differently.”

Cardonald College Fellowship

It was a memorable day for the graduates of Cardonald College 2012 on Friday 2nd November as they celebrate their hard work and success throughout the academic session of 2011/2012. It was an incredible day and to see such a diverse range of students graduate on this occasion.

I had the privileged in joining the graduates at this Graduation ceremony to be awarded the Fellowship of College which is a prestigious accolade to accept. However, I must emphasized that it was Cardonald that gave me the leap forward and transform my life around and I now hold Cardonald in the highest regards.

Now that I’ve been made a Fellow of Cardonald, I look forward to joining the other fellows and the board of management in promoting Cardonald at the heart of the education in Scotland and beyond.

I will still continue to offer my expertise and share my journey through life with students at Cardonald College with a vision of drive, motivation and passion.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the involvement of the marketing department for the preparation and hard work they’ve put into the Fellowship award along with Fellowship documentary.

Congratulations to the Graduates of 2012.

Cardonald College’s Website

Cardonald Fellowship Documentary click here

Wilderness Reunion

It has been four months ago since the Wilderness project took place in Kintail earlier this year and it was resounding success as the participants bonded extremely well. As a result, the group wanted a reunion for the autumn so we all pulled together to deliver a fantastic reunion down in the Scottish Borders on Saturday 27th October.

After months of planning the logistics with fellow participants, the realization of this reunion was in full swing.

It was a fantastic reunion and we were gracious with absolutely fabulous weather and beautiful scenery in the Scottish Borders. I can perhaps understand why people who live down there like the peace and tranquility in the area. At times, I felt I was in a different part of the world.

Susan, a Ranger, from the Scottish Borders Trust was fantastic and made our day far more interesting. She delivered a bio-diversity trail and tree management session. We had a jammed packed day which was highly echoed by everyone.

It is so rewarding to see that we have fulfilled in reuniting for a reunion.

Finally, we were truly blessed with weather and a nice way to round off the summertime.

Photos below:

P=f (AMO) – Ability, Motivation, Opportunities

Individual performance is a function of ability, motivation and opportunity or, alternatively, P= f (AMO) (Boxall and Purcell 2003).

This article is centered around ‘P=f (AMO) – Ability, Motivation, Opportunities’ and it has prompted me to share the backdrop to how I’ve come across this formula.

It is nearly five months ago when I won one of the eight categories in the national Adult Learner of the Year Award from the Scottish Learning Partnership and as part of the award you had to undertake a module or further studies of your choice. I opted to study a foundation module in Fundamentals in Human Resources Management (HRM) as this has appealed to me for many reasons.

Matt Moir of the University’s Lifelong Learning Academy, nominated me for this award this year (2012). Throughout my time at UWS and especially my connection with Lifelong Learning Academy, Matt made my learning process at UWS worthwhile after having experienced problems previously at UWS. His warm personality and attitude was instant during the guidance process. If I had a query or problems, I was able to approach Matt in confidence. Still to this very day we have maintained in contact and have good mutual collaboration around my University studies and beyond.

I have truly embraced this learning opportunity of erudition about Fundamentals in Human Resources Management (HRM) as I can apply the theories today’s employment situations in relation to equal opportunities and diversity.

One seminar lecture became evident and apparent as it was about HRM and the Individual and came across this formula ‘P=f (AMO) – Ability, Motivation, Opportunities’. I thought love that as I now realize why some individuals who possess these attribute of Ability, Motivation, Opportunities (AMO). To master all these three performance indicators takes a lot of self belief to apply yourself to any situations then remain motivated at all times and thereafter seize the opportunities that come with it.

However, I also realized to the implement Ability, Motivation, Opportunities (AMO) strategy with team members, employees or whoever that maybe is the responsibility of a leader, manager and line of management to ensure the strategy is effective for the individual’s motivation and the formula is designed to maximise individual contribution in the project, workplace or any situations, therefore an element of leadership is required too.

In my case of applying ‘Ability, Motivation, Opportunities (AMO)’ in relation to the Adult Learner Award has demonstrated that I am able to explore my learning in a different area, a degree of motivation to remains persistence in my continuing personal development (CPD) and have taken the opportunity to discover a new learning spectrum in Human Resources Management (HRM). This module will be completed by December and I can’t wait to have the fundamentals background of Human Resources Management.

I would like to take the opportunity to express my gratitude to Matt Moir who nominated for the Adult Learner of the Year Award this year as I have clinched an opportunity to further my knowledge in a different area at foundation level.

ParaCommonwealth Challenge

For the next few years, I will share the journey with you through one of Scotland’s top newspapaer, Evening Times and films produced by GLASGOW2014 of capturing what it takes to be a para athlete undertaking Paralympics sports that will be featured in the Glasgow2014 Commonwealth Games. They consists of athletics; swimming; track-cycling; lawn bowls and powerlifting.

It is the fear of unknown of not knowing what to expect on the mammoth journey. It will require a different mindset in comparison to other challenging projects I’ve taken on in the past but relish the opportunity that awaits me. It is incredibly exciting to be part of the Glasgow2014 project showcasing the Paralympic sports that will be performed and showing the attributes, attitudes it takes to complete in performing some these competitive sports. This is once in a lifetime opportunity, I just don’t know how to feel…………

You can follow this project is in a varieties of ways:

GLASGOW2014 website
GLASGOW2014 Video Gallery

GLASGOW2014 Commonwealth Games, Official Channel: YouTube
GLASGOW2014 YouTube

Evening Times
Evening Times

Evening Times e-dition
You can order any of the missed ParaCommonwealth features via the e-dition
Evening Times