Herb Greenberg lost his sight at age 10. In 1961, after a nine-year stint in academia, he founded Caliper, a consulting firm that specializes in assessing job applicants. Caliper now has 250 employees in 13 offices worldwide. As told to Eric Markowitz.
When I grew up, if you were blind, you didn't have many options. If you were lucky, you ran a newsstand. Maybe you tuned pianos. I've never done either of those.
Growing up in Brooklyn was wonderful, but the New York City board of education wanted my parents to send me to a school for the blind. My parents wouldn't allow it. One day, the police came to our door and said, "You have to send your kid to school." My parents said they would, but not to some institution far away. I went to public school and graduated top of my class.
Being blind never stopped me from doing much of anything, really. I was on the wrestling team. In high school, I ran for vice president. I lost, but what the hell; it was a good election.
When I finished my Ph.D., cum laude, I applied to literally 600 jobs. I was offered 85 interviews, but when they found out I was blind, that number was reduced to three.
I realized the job-interview process was broken. I started Caliper to help companies see employees for who they really were. To be able to really say, "Who is this human being?"
So would I have started Caliper had I not gone blind? Probably not. What would be my motivation? Really, when I was growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer. I was going to be Perry Mason.
But Caliper is what I'm most proud of in life. There are tens of thousands of people who are working jobs that they are happy to be in because of our work.
Flat-Out Rejection: Herb Greenberg Talks About Caliper's Hard Early Months
Herb Greenberg, who lost his sight at age 10, developed a test to help employers see workers for who they really are. But four months after founding HR consultancy Caliper, Greenberg had failed to win a single client.