Last time I talked about how I received a job at Household International. Today I want to tell you what the job did for me. Let’s face it. Working is usually boring and you usually hate it, but I loved it. I don’t mean that it was the perfect job. Yes, there were some frustrating times. Nobody has the perfect job.
I started at Household International on September 19, 1994. At the start, I was reading about the corporation. That was interesting and boring. I didn’t really understand why they had me reading for weeks. Later I understood the purpose of reading about household International.
The first major project that I had was a new software for a small group of employees. To develop a new program when you just graduated from college is remarkable because most companies usually have their new employees to maintain the existing systems. I had two consultants who were also recently graduated from college helping me. The surprising thing was that the guy went to the University of Illinois too. So he and I got along great.
I would say in the middle of the project, Household International was going through some cuts so the consultants were being let go. The project manager was freaking out because he was a new project manager, so he just wanted the project to go smooth. He didn’t really know that the guy and I were doing most of the work.
When the consultants left, the project manager had to rely on me. Little by little, he started to see enhancements being made that he asked me to do. Seeing his confidence in me grow made me have more faith in myself as a programmer.
My next big project was again a new system which was unbelievable. I was living a life that a regular programmer dreams of having. It was a project where the big bosses kept a close watch on. The project had two components to it. One part was for me only. Since the project had a hard deadline, I worked long hours and I would have to work on the weekends too. The thing that I loved about this project was that I could work alone and did not have many people stopping by.
Best Project Ever
We got the project done nearly on time. After that project, I got my first promotion and that really gave me the confidence that I was doing a good job. For me, with being disabled, I had a sense of I must do better. I am not saying that people made comments to that effect, but I just felt that way.
With having no role models to look up to, I was unsure what to do. At work, we really didn’t have a mentoring program. I feel that there are no role models for people with Cerebral Palsy. I have to take that back. We do have one from the TV show Speechless. I think we need a lot more role models to show the next generation of people with Cerebral Palsy that they can be successful. They need to hear that they could do whatever they want to. I want to be a role model.
With a promotion, there were more responsibilities to have. One of the responsibilities was to manage projects. That meant a lot more communicating with different people. For a nonverbal person, conversations are slightly more difficult, but if I wanted to stay employed, I needed to communicate better. I learned that I could email better than talking with the persons.
With emails, you think your writing sounds professional, but you learn it is not. That was my biggest trouble at work. That was my downfall at work.
A Change in Command
In 2002, HSBC bought out Household International and it was a beautiful marriage for a few years, and then the housing market was starting to fall apart. HSBC was starting to say buying Household International was the worst idea ever. I think that really hurt us who were from Household.
During my time at work, I had a few chances of giving talks. I remember one talk was in front of the whole department. I really loved it and it felt so good.
Birth of My Disability Advocacy
The other talk was that started me thinking about disability advocacy. HSBC had diversity groups and I heard New York had a group of employees with disabilities. I attended a few meetings by phone naturally and I thought Chicago needed a group like that. So I contacted the HR and learned there was another person who was thinking the same thing as me. We got the paperwork in and we were approved.
During the month of October, we had several talks about disability that employees could come and listen in. One year I talked about my Cerebral Palsy and the employees loved it. I think that planted a seed in me to start my disability advocacy work.
Worst Day Ever
On March 1st, 2009, I went to work as usual and people were talking and walking around which was not normal. I got to my desk and logged in. I went straight to my email and there was an email titled a department meeting in the cafeteria at 9. So I went to the meeting and heard the worst news ever. HSBC shut down the business that we were supporting and nobody knew what meant for us. It didn’t sound good. All day they were closing projects. By the end of the day, I had no projects.
For the next two weeks, I had nothing to do. They usually let people go on a Tuesday. Tuesday came, and I have a sense that day would be the day and I was right. My senior director stopped by to tell me that I would be let go and how sorry he was. They would get me when they were ready. That day they let the people who were being let go to say goodbye to other people. That was really nice. Normally once you were let go, the security guard would be with you until you were out of the building.
Looking back at the time at work, I don’t regret working for Household International and HSBC. The fourteen years made me a stronger person. Yes, I miss the work and people. I say that I miss the people more because they accepted me for who I was and treated me as a regular employee.
If you have Cerebral Palsy and have a chance to work somewhere, you will love it. It gives you a feeling of being needed. It is a great experience. I just hope that a company gives you a job like Household International gave me.