On the UN International Day Of Persons With Disabilities 2020, Rosie McAdam shares her story on her career to date, and gives her perspective on why disability inclusion should be a priority for all employers.
Can you tell us a bit about your career, like where you started and how you got to where you are today?
My career in BT started back in Esat Telecom (later acquired by BT) just before Y2K was set to hit. I joined in August 1999 working on customer service and the first job I had was working in card services that provided cheaper international calls
to domestic customers. Following a number of promotions into customer service-related roles, I got the opportunity in 2004 to move into Desk Based Sales, and I’m not going to lie, this was definitely a big step change, and I hated my first
year so much I even tried to get back to customer service. But I stuck with it and after about a year it clicked and I started to enjoy the role. I continued in Sales for six years and then my personal circumstances changed so it was time for
a change in career again, something a little less pressurised, and I took up a role as a Sales Operations Specialist working with the Business Sales Team. I enjoyed this role immensely as it meant I got to work very closely with my colleagues in Sales
and also continue working with our customers. In 2019, a new role was created of Customer Success Manager. After reading the job description and finding out more of what the role would involve I applied and was successful in getting the job.
I get to use all my skills and have also developed new skills such as Project Management that will no doubt help me in the future. And I get to work directly with customers, which is the most important element for me.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My typical day changed dramatically in March this year when the first lockdown was announced. Even though working from home has always been an option for me, I preferred going into the office and interacting with my colleagues. Pre-Covid,
I’d be up at 6am, taxi at 6.45am and in work for 7am. Post-Covid, I get up 6.45am and am at my home-desk at 7.30am. There are plenty of meetings – in fact I don’t think I’ve ever had as many meetings as I’ve had
since I’ve been working from home. It’s great though as it keeps you connected to the outside world. Depending on the day, I finish up by 5pm and relax for the evening. Until recently I’d been studying a number of evenings
a week as I felt there was no better time to do a course than in a pandemic, and it gave me something new to occupy myself and will hopefully also benefit my customers as I can put my new skills to good use.
You’ve been a real champion for those with disabilities. Have you experienced any barriers in your life and how did you address them?
I’ve experienced many barriers in my life, it would be very naïve of me to say I hadn’t. I spent a lot of my childhood in hospital so my formative education was far from ideal, but I was always a very determined and fiercely independent
individual, so I knuckled down and got my Leaving Certificate and attended University to complete a Degree in Social Science. That was the easy part. The hard part was getting a job. I was a graduate so although recruiters were happy to meet
me, when they got my CV, they seemed less happy to put me forward for any roles or if they were putting me forward, I wasn’t getting any interviews so something somewhere was wrong. I recognised that my CV lacked vital work experience, so I
arranged some myself through a lecturer on a course I was doing. It made a huge difference, and within a matter of months of completing the work experience I was offered the role in Esat Telecom, which I applied for directly, as I felt that recruiters
might be an additional filter I didn’t need back then.
According to the World Health Organisation, more than 1 billion people are living with a disability. How do you think workplaces can properly accommodate and support employees with a disability?
Hire more people with disabilities would be a good first step! 70% of people with disabilities in Ireland are unemployed. There is so much talent out there that organisations could be tapping into, for the benefit of both the employer and employee.
In my view, the pandemic has given workplaces a golden opportunity to support employees with a disability. For example, many companies who didn’t have a home-working culture pre-pandemic, now do. Many people with physical disabilities,
sensory disabilities or mental health issues may find this option to work from home life-changing in that it could provide more flexibility to them.
Workplaces have also had to convert their recruitment interviews into virtual ones using Unified Communications, and all training is provided remotely, so why not promote employment for people with disabilities when these technologies are now more prevalent
The Government provides grants, such as the Workplace Equipment/Adaptation Grant, to employers to enable people with disabilities to do their roles. A person is more likely to acquire a disability in their working life than actually enter working
life with one, and many will leave their jobs due to the illness or disability. Employers should work with these employees where possible to retain them either in their current role, or if that is no longer suitable, in another role that would be
more suitable to their current circumstances. There is also a workplace retention grant available for their employer.
The theme of the 2020 International Day of Persons With Disabilities is ‘Not all disabilities are visible’. Many people won’t disclose their disabilities or seek medical help due to fear of stigma and discrimination. What more can be
done by all us to improve inclusion?
Disabilities that are not always visible vary in type and severity. Mental Health issues are on the rise, with nearly half of all people with disabilities suffering from mental health or neurological conditions. I myself was diagnosed with a mental health condition 10 years ago and it was one of the hardest times of my life. It took nearly two years to fully recover. BT was very supportive, providing additional help through our healthcare provider. Acquiring a disability can be terrifying. One of my biggest worries at the time of my illness was that I may lose my home if I couldn’t work in Sales anymore. Thankfully BT was able to find an alternative role for me that allowed me to continue to work and also work on my recovery.
Employers need to be inclusive and supportive of all staff. If an employee acquires a disability or has a disability that they make you aware of, it’s important to educate yourself on the disability and how you can best support the employee. BT
has a ‘Disability Passport’, which is a live record of adjustments agreed between a disabled worker and their manager to support them at work. This means that if an employee changes manager or roles, they don’t have to repeatedly
declare their disability and request reasonable adjustments which may be as simple as time off to attend medical appointments or counselling sessions.
What advice would you now give to your fifteen-year-old self when you reflect back on your life’s achievements?
There isn’t a huge amount I’d say to my fifteen-year-old self, as for starters, she wouldn’t listen. What she knew was that she needed to get an education to be successful in life and she did that and got a job, which took a bit of time, but as a result she bought her own apartment at the height of the property boom. I wouldn’t change a thing I did. I’m a strong believer that mixing the good and bad in life makes you who you are. I wouldn’t change my life or my disabilities for that matter. It’s made me who I am and I’m proud of myself and what I’ve achieved in life.