Joe Duffy

May 1, 2020

Duffy using crutches, poses with wife and daughter

Joe Duffy traces many positive events in his life directly back to Prudential. But prior to joining the company, the Scranton-based senior investment operations associate in Prudential Retirement, faced enormous challenges.

When he was 9, Duffy was diagnosed with stage 4 bone cancer. During two years of treatment, he lost his hair, the use of his right leg and 80% of his hearing. But worst of all, he lost friends: Many of the children he’d grown close to at New York City’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center had died.

Just before he finished his treatment, Duffy and his fellow patient-friends made a pact: “Since we’d been blessed to make it as far as we had, we would vigorously pursue a great life to honor our friends who didn’t make it,” he recalls. “Pretty deep for a bunch of kids, but being faced with death at a young age made us grow up fast.”

He finally returned to school at age 12, now with profound hearing loss. He sums it up this way: “I worked twice as hard to get half as far, and it was enough to keep me progressing.”

Duffy attended Penn State University, taking advantage of tutoring sessions and peer study groups to stay on track. He needed an internship to graduate and lined up a phone interview for one with Prudential.

Then panic set in.

He had only a 50% chance of hearing the interviewer’s questions. And if he actually got the internship, he wouldn’t have the safeguards he’d had in college. “To say the least, I was terrified,” Duffy recalls.

The solution? The best hearing aids money could buy. Unfortunately, those cost almost $10,000, which he didn’t have. But through a fortuitous connection to a philanthropist in the hearing-aid industry, he ended up with the most advanced hearing-aid technology available—for free. And he got the Prudential internship.

The internship led to a full-time job. “Getting the email with the subject line ‘Job Offer’ was one of the proudest moments of my life,” Duffy says.

Partnering with schools for the deaf

In Prudential, Duffy says he found a company that supports people who are deaf and hard of hearing in many ways. This includes a longstanding partnership with Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Prudential has offered many internships to the Institute’s students, several of whom have become full-time employees.

The Rock—but flexible

For employees with hearing loss, Prudential takes advantage of advanced technology, including a service that allows someone to have an ASL interpreter join meetings on-demand via tablet.  Job candidates who need accommodations are also given the tools they need for interviews, including an in-person interpreter.

“A lot of what we provide is not required. But we want employees to be engaged,” says Diane Hettinger, director of workplace accommodation and environmental health. “We want to be known as an inclusive employer that values each individual’s unique talents.”

This has certainly been Duffy’s experience: “I find Prudential’s willingness to accommodate is our strongest and most consistent characteristic. We may be the Rock, but when it comes to individuals with disabilities, we are flexible.”

This extends to customers, too. For instance, if a financial professional meets with a client who is deaf or hard of hearing, Prudential will provide a captioning service or an interpreter, even hiring the client’s own interpreter.

Duffy considers his employment with Prudential a turning point in his life. He pays his good fortune forward through a charity golf outing he started to benefit those who are deaf and hard of hearing.

“Because of Prudential I was able to purchase an engagement ring and ask my girlfriend to marry me,” he says. “We were able to purchase a home, welcome our daughter in 2013, and diligently save for our future. And because of Prudential I get up every morning taking pride in the fact that, despite many hardships, I am able to keep moving forward.”

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