A synthesis of passion and ambition drives the development of an impactful business leader. How a leader makes practical use of one’s potential and extracts success out of collective efforts determines the efficiency of a leader. Realizing opportunities and crafting pioneering works of art out of them should be a leader’s definition of achievement. A beacon of inspiration, an amicable coworker, and the enthusiasm to be the torch-bearer of an organization’s vision are the evident traits of a complete leader. One can only imagine the outcomes if such potent traits were put to use for transforming the lives of people across the globe.
Karen Chung, the Founder and CEO of Special Learning, Inc., is one such exemplary business leader who is on a path to provide the global community with access to quality training, education, and virtual services to support people with autism and other special needs. She achieves this commendable feat through her magnum opus, Special Learning, Inc. “We are a company with a mission to positively impact the lives of every person in the world living with autism and other special needs,” states Karen.
Karen’s development as an entrepreneur kicked off during her job as a CEO Coach for a company called Inc. Eagles CEO Roundtable. Her three-year tenure at the CEO group, working with CEOs of high growth companies, gave her the motivation she needed to enter the entrepreneurial world. Karen asserts that in retrospect, she feels she has ended up exactly where she needed to be to carry out her personal mission. All the decisions — positive or negative — she’s made in the past have put her on a path on which she can leverage her background and experiences spanning over 20 years to create a business that can make a global impact.
Karen possesses a natural tendency to embrace diversity and inclusion, as well as a global outlook. With Special Learning, she is able to fully embrace these aspects, and create opportunities to encourage and facilitate collaboration among parents, educators, and clinicians who provide education and intervention to people with autism and other special needs. “Collectively, we can do a better job of helping many more people attain greater levels of independence to achieve happy, fulfilling lives,” states Karen.
A Socially Reformative Organization
Special Learning, Inc. supports the autism community by creating innovative resources that can serve the greatest number of parents, teachers, and professionals who are charged with helping individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities achieve independence, quicker. The organization places tremendous emphasis on providing parents, teachers, and clinicians who provide intervention with access to quality training materials, curriculums, and virtual consultation at the touch of a button. This way, parents and service providers are best able to maximize the time they have to deliver the highest quality service in the moment.
Special Learning, Inc. is striving to maximize the productivity of the very small group of 31,000 Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), the only group of certified experts in the field of ABA available to serve the needs of the global market.
The organization is currently working on projects that use augmented reality to revolutionize the learning and implementation of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), the world’s only evidence-based intervention with nearly 50% success in mainstreaming children with autism. “With use of this technology, we can solve the problem of parents not being able to access qualified experts in behavior analysis,” says Karen.
Karen believes that every tech entrepreneur has an opportunity to make a significant positive contribution to the world. She asserts that if every tech entrepreneur made a conscious decision to incorporate a single functionality or an aspect that can positively impact the world, into their tech solution, be it a single app or an entire enterprise solution, what can be done collectively would be evident.
In her view, the single vital attribute that a tech entrepreneur should possess is the intent to do good. What she implies here is that every tech company, whether a multinational or a single app designer, with profit as the primary mantra, has an opportunity to positively impact the world. She adds that this can only be realized if a motivation to do good becomes a conscious and deliberate part of one’s thought process and a way of looking at the world.
Karen recalls that her greatest challenge was jumping into a market in which she had zero knowledge, limited resources, and virtually no connections. The first project that she and her team decided to undertake was in yet another area that she knew nothing about, which was, mobile app development. “The idea was solid. The execution was rocky. As someone with very limited technology experience, managing a team of developers located around the world was challenging, to say the least,” states Karen.
Through this experience, Karen learned how to effectively manage remote teams. Applying these lessons from running a virtual tech team to her business, Karen has learned how to hire the right talent, put controls in place to drive accountability, monitor and maintain progress across all departments, and move at the speed of the Internet.
Charting New Horizons of Excellence
Karen and her team are now working on using technology to connect the global autism ecosystem. The organization’s new platform, Special Learning Connect (SL Connect), provides real time peer-to-peer consultation to connect clinicians with others for collaboration, consultation, and second opinions.
Phase II of the technology will be to connect parents around the world with experts so that they can bridge the gap between the ‘have’ and ‘have nots,’ in terms of the availability of the clinical resources that exist today.
In her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, Karen says, “By making a conscious decision to use technology to create something, understand that you have the power to help a lot of people, while still making a lot of money. In every app or device, you can add lines of code that can add value to people’s lives. Do that with intention and no matter where you end up, when looking back on your accomplishments, you should be able to say that you made a positive contribution. In doing so, your journey would have been worthwhile.”