Golf, Swimming, Rugby (watching these days), Walking & Rock Concerts
How did you get started in your career?
In July 2017 I will be celebrating 30 years at UBS. I came straight out of college and worked my way through various departments in the organisation to where I am today
How do you manage your disability at work?
At 23 I went down with pneumonia and they established “something was wrong”. I had never been so ill in my life which was a huge shock for someone who was physically fit and actively playing rugby (scrum half). Over the next two years, and with extensive support from my managers, the company doctors referred me to medical experts who diagnosed a rare condition called IGA nephropathy. I couldn’t play any sport due to the impact of the condition and was under constant review by a specialist.
When I was pregnant with my son in 1997 I was on special watch with additional check-ups due to the condition and the unknown effect it would have on the pregnancy. Luckily I got to 7 months and had a healthy baby boy (just a little underweight). The impact for me was a little different but after two months mentally I wanted to get back to work and routine. My managers helped me a lot. They adapted my work to give me a flexible working arrangement that meant I could work from home or in the office.
By the end of 2000 my health deteriorated rapidly and my managers were there to support. They were aware of the impact on me and knew I was stubborn and needed to work to help me. And they never put pressure on me and were always supportive. We even adapted my work to be more project orientated but always making me feel an included and valuable member of the team who could contribute to the team goals. This was important to me as I was suffering from fatigue, severe weight loss, sickness and just didn’t know what would happen next with my health.
Unfortunately, in January 2001 I had complete renal shut down and collapsed on the way to work. I was taken into hospital immediately. Eventually, they started me on haemodialysis followed by CAPD (Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis) four times a day. Champing at the bit to get back to work and normality my managers (and the whole company) were so supportive of this new phase in my life. And they helped by arranging for dialysis equipment and medication to be delivered, managed and stored in the first aid room where I conducted dialysis twice a day during office hours. Luckily this was only until September of that year when I was lucky enough to benefit from a transplant and, as affectionately known to all, “Kevin the Kidney” changed my life for the better!
What is your organisation’s approach to disability and how has your employer helped you to do well at your workplace?
From the medical investigations at the start UBS was there for me. Not only has it been my managers but also my work colleagues and internal and external business contacts who reached out with moral support and thoughtful messages. When you have a chronic condition that people can’t see it is difficult for some to understand why you still have to go for check-ups or carry cards to flag the amount of anti-rejection medication you take.
I’m not cured as the condition is always there and could come back and lead to kidney failure again. I’m monitored constantly by the Royal London Hospital and can just call up the hospital if I have an issue (they are my National Health Service family).
What advice would you give a student with a similar disability, who wants to pursue a career in the field you work in?
My approach and personal goal is to get on with life. Today I feel fitter than when I was 25. Now my son is away at university, I’m using my free time to get fitter and take part in the Moonwalk in Edinburgh. And I learn Golf, do more swimming and take part in the UK Transplant Games for the London & Barts Team – I may even take up the javelin for the event this year!
That’s amazing! Aside from your day-to-day role at UBS, are you involved in a disability network?
I now understand the importance of sharing a life experience with those inside and outside of UBS. Larry Hughes and myself both chair the Ability Awareness network at UBS. As a team with our committee members and other diversity network colleagues, we try to contribute as much as we can. To support our employees and any candidates to reinforce the message that our company is an employer who cares. And appreciates that diversity comes in many forms and everyone has the ability to contribute in a positive way. It just sometimes needs open communication and lateral thinking.