How did you get started in your career and what drew you to Citi?
I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa when I was 11 years old. At the age of 17, I went to study computer programming at the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford, and it was at this point that I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in information technology.
I was attracted to working at Citi due to the opportunities it could provide me with and the global nature of the job. Initially, I joined the firm as a contractor in 1997 before becoming a permanent member of staff in 1999. Citi has a strong culture of inclusion which I was drawn to. My disability has made me stand out, and I have used every opportunity it has provided me with to enhance my career.
How do you manage your disability at work?
I am comfortable telling people what I need in the workspace to enable me to do my job. I am the expert in my condition and therefore it is important that I communicate my needs to my colleagues.
I use a range of technology, including screen reader magnification, a standalone magnifier and a printer which can print font in any size required. I would like to point out that reasonable adjustments come in a wide variety of forms; I have an assistant who manages my post and prepares documents for me, she ensures that any post I receive that is not in an accessible format is reproduced in an enlarged font size for me. I am very confident of my ability to do my job, and having the right support and adjustments in place ensures there are no barriers to me doing my job.
My own personal experience throughout my career has made me a ready and willing partner to help others identify what their needs are. I am the co-chair of Citi’s Disability Network, and as part of my role, I collaborate with colleagues working in management, human resources and technology. I ensure that people are aware of what a reasonable adjustment is and am consulted by people who are upgrading technology systems.
How has your employer helped you to do well at your workplace?
My employer has given me every opportunity, I have never felt side-lined. I have always felt included because I have shown that my disability is an asset. I am seen by colleagues as the guy with a white cane who overcomes challenges and is always upbeat. I have made the most of every opportunity available to me at Citi and have progressed to become a director in information security with global responsibility. I am also very active in disability initiatives in Canary Wharf and abroad – my disability has led me to meet influential people others may have not met.
What advice or top tips would you offer?
In my experience of being a member of Citi’s interviewing panel on a number of occasions, and of leading CV workshops, I would say openness is key. Recruiters are impressed with candidates who are confident telling a prospective employer about their disability. My advice is to be authentic in any interviews you have – we can look past your disability. People with disabilities come with the ability to overcome challenges, which is needed in the workplace. Recruiters are looking for a candidate who can demonstrate a combination of the best aptitude and attitude.
At Citi, we are looking for well-rounded candidates who will fit in with our culture and can play an active role in our networks. If you have a limited CV, try to talk about any leisure activities you have been involved with which demonstrate teamwork, or you taking on a position of responsibility.
How do you manage a work-life balance?
I have always wanted to be the very the best at what I do and enjoy my job; I, therefore, see it as a vocation. I am at work by 7am and often don’t leave until 7pm. When I am with my family they have 100% of my attention with no distractions – being visually impaired I don’t use a smartphone so that’s one less potential distraction to consider!
My advice to graduates entering the world of work is to decide what your commitment is. As you build up your career you may have to relax your expectation of what a work-life balance is, however it is for you to make a conscious decision on what is right for you.
What have you done with your annual leave from work in the last year?
Every year I dedicate one week of my annual leave to charitable activities. Last year I trekked 100km across the Sahara desert with a group of people who also have visual impairments. I thoroughly enjoyed working as part of a team. Our next challenge will be to climb the three peaks. In the last 12 months, I have raised nearly £15,000 for charity. I was able to raise such a large amount of money thanks to the network of contacts I have built up throughout my career. For graduates entering the workplace, it is so important that they are mentored by colleagues and make an effort to build up a network of contacts to help them develop in the years to come.