Career insights from blind graduates at J.P. Morgan
Firstly, how did you get started in your career and what drew you to J.P. Morgan?
Saad: My initial contact with JPM was at their annual Code For Good Challenge where students are given the chance to design solutions to real problems faced by charities. Following on from this I applied for a position on their Spring Week program as I felt it crucial that I advance my skills learned at university by using them within an industry environment. After a successful week with JPM I applied for a place at their 2015 summer internship and am due to begin at the end of June.
Olu: I started a degree in Mathematics and in my final year when I lost my sight, I switched to start a BSc in Business IT in Bournemouth University. I have a passion for technology and its use to resolve problems and improve processes. This passion motivated me to secure a placement with IBM UK Ltd, one of the top technology consultancy organisations in the world, as a Business Analyst. My role involved training employees in locations across UK to use IBM business applications.
After university, I wanted to work in a more challenging environment where technology is implemented to solve specifically challenging problems, like financial issues. I was attracted to J.P. Morgans investment in technology and strategic successful use of technology to be one of the top investment banks. I joined through the graduate programme in 2011 as a Business Systems Analyst supporting the banks major Global Custody application. My role involved capturing and translating business requirements into technical requirements, and stakeholder engagement (product, business and technology).
How do you manage your disability at work?
Saad: I find that I am heavily reliant on technology to assist in my daily work routines. I am totally blind and have therefore found that one of the most essential programs to become acquainted with is a high quality screenreader. As well as the obvious benefits such as enabling use of a computer to complete submissions for work, a portable and accessible laptop allows a blind person to carry out many other tasks essential to the workplace. These include taking notes at meetings, reading company memos and simply being able to read a slide as it is presented at a demonstration or seminar (for example).
The latter example relies on good communication between myself and colleagues as presentations are not instantly accessible. For example, there is a large difference in what a blind user can gain from a slide that contains a correctly formatted table accessible to a screenreader versus a screenshot/image of a table – which would render the slide useless for most screenreader users. On a more basic principle, a blind user who wishes to read a set of slides as they are presented would need access to the presentation file prior to the start of the presentation. This often can lead to issues when the speaker wishes to make last minute changes. For this reason it is essential that staff are aware as to what makes an accessible presentation and what may need to be altered to make it visually impaired friendly.
There are other ways to overcome the above issues however, I find that technology can go a long way to making visually impaired people more independent within a work environment. There are of course many simple things often taken for granted that can require some time and thought such as simply learning a route to the nearest toilet or finding a way to independently use the vending machine. All of which can be done within an initial familiarisation phase.
Olu: I am open about my disability and always state my requirements to be able to accomplish any task. I am also keen to try new things. This provides me with the opportunity to create work-arounds to solve problems and test my limitations. The team trusts me to highlight any tasks I have issues with and are happy to provide reasonable alternatives. For example, my role involves a lot of modelling and communication. My team are very supportive and take time to explain models or provide descriptive alternatives to ensure that I am engaged. I believe I manage my disability very well, as most of the stakeholders I communicate with are always surprised to know that I am blind when they meet me in person.
How has your employer supported you at work?
Olu: When I applied to join the graduate programme, the recruiting team contacted me to gain a better understanding of what I required to participate in the interview and assessment process. Upon my success into the graduate programme, the recruiting team contacted me to ensure that I was provided with reasonable adjustments for the induction. They then handed over to occupational health and my line-manager, who worked with Access To Work to ensure I had the right equipment. Since then my team has been supportive in providing equipment or work-arounds to overcome accessibility challenges.
Saad: I find that the most useful thing that organisations such as J.P. Morgan and the university I attend have done is begin investigating any changes that may be necessary to support myself prior to the start of my time at the organisation. It can take time to find out the level of support a person requires and simple actions such as J.P. Morgan giving me copies of the slides for the spring week presentations before hand go a long way. As well as this it was extremely useful when I was put in contact with an existing employee at JPM who had very similar disabilities. It provides some insight as to what issues to expect as well as reassurance that they have been handled in the past.
What advice or top tips would you offer?
Olu: Be confident and open about your requirements. Take on new challenges and test your limits. Always remember you are an ambassador for other people with disabilities.
Saad: My main advice would be to not under estimate the time that must be invested to fully support employees with a range of disabilities. I believe that companies will find it much easier to support employees by simply asking them of their needs. People with a disability have a drive to be independent and have usually already developed effective to solutions to their daily issues. This means that by simply interacting with the employee and requiring as to their specific needs and prior experiences of handling them should save the company a lot of time.
Read our interview with Adhurst trainee, Michael Smith and learn how he managed a visual impairment during his placements at city law firms.