As part of Diversity & Inclusion week at Fujitsu, I’m talking to members of our SEED (Supporting and Engaging Employees with a Disability) Network about their experiences. In this post, I’m speaking with Hannah Boots, a consultant in our HR team.
Hi Hannah – thank you very much for contributing! If it’s OK with you, could you explain a bit about your background?
In 2012, I lost the majority of my eyesight in the space of around 2 months and was registered “Severely Visually Impaired” (blind). This was due to a rare genetic condition which I didn’t know I even carried. It is thought that the condition was triggered to actually impact upon my sight by the stress of losing my dad and completing university final exams in fairly close succession.
As you can imagine, this was a huge shock and pretty difficult to come to terms with, especially in such a short period of time. But I’ve always been very pragmatic about it- there’s nothing that can be done to treat it; my vision isn’t going to return, so I have to get on and work out what I can still do.
Some things are frustratingly off-limits, such as driving (come on driverless cars!) and it really does impact all areas of my life. But, trying to look on the bright side, I have experienced new things as a result, including trials for GB para-cycling last year.
Can you tell us about your experiences in your career so far?
Losing my sight hugely knocked my confidence; despite leaving university with a first in law, I couldn’t see why anyone would employ me. It felt like my plans to be a solicitor in employment law had gone out the window.
So, I applied for several administrative type roles, where it was made clear the employer didn’t think I was capable, with one stating that I wouldn’t be able to set up a larger monitor as they had a hot-desk policy. Fortunately, I was contacted by a past employer and offered a position in a recruitment agency.
This started to re-build my confidence, and it wasn’t long before I felt like I could be doing more. Having that role on my CV also helped to demonstrate to employers that I could still do it. I joined Fujitsu in 2014 on the HR Grad Scheme, finishing in the top 3 grads in my cohort, and short-listed for “Grad of the Year”. I now work in a challenging and varied role as an HR consultant within the HR Projects team.
I have actually been given the opportunity of a training contract (to become a solicitor) but have decided not to pursue this. It feels great to be able to make that decision, as opposed to having it taken away from me.
What are you learning from your experience at work?
As my confidence has increased, I have found so much more that I can do, and I really enjoy proving people wrong. But the journey is far from over; I prefer not to use a cane whenever I feel familiar enough with the surroundings, and can still find it difficult to tell people that I have a visual impairment.
I am getting better at it though, and realise that by not telling them, I’m only making things harder for myself. People then have no way of knowing and understandably look at me rather strangely when I’m stood with my face 2 inches away from the toilet door in order to see the sign and make sure I’m entering the right one!
Finally, what’s been your experience of working at Fujitsu?
I feel very lucky to work at Fujitsu where I genuinely feel I have been given equal opportunities. The environment and people have allowed me to develop hugely on a personal level.
I love that colleagues and managers assume you can rather than you can’t, challenging my own beliefs as to what I’m capable of. For example, before joining, I hadn’t been on a train on my own. I’ve now travelled to eight Fujitsu offices independently (including Northern Ireland!) and several customer sites.
I am starting to feel that my career is back on track and where it might have potentially been had I not lost my sight.
Thank you very much again, Hannah, for taking part.
Look out for more posts this week as we celebrate Diversity & Inclusion at Fujitsu – and you can follow the SEED network on Twitter if you’d like to stay in touch.
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