Holding on to your dreams

Kieran White, Customer Satisfaction Analyst, shares his journey from EmployAbility scheme student to carving out the IT career he always wanted.

I always wanted a future doing something I loved and for me that’s always been IT. But in secondary school, I was involved in a life-changing car accident that damaged the nerves in my neck. I was left suffering from intense headaches, dizziness, nausea and dangerous blackouts that could be brought on by certain things like exercise or just happen at random.

For the next 11 years, my medical challenges kept me out of school for days or weeks at a time and not only affected my education but also how reliable I could be as an employee. Travelling freaked me out, even getting to London alone was impossible for me.

For a career in IT, experience and adaptability are the most important things, and I had to rethink how I’d achieve the future I’d imagined. I still had a plan but, to be honest, it was pretty bleak; requiring years to build a portfolio and the prospect of financial uncertainty that comes from working in commission-based jobs. At the time, only around 5% of people with a disability were finding employment. Smaller businesses may perceive you as a liability and so are unwilling or unable to take on the risk. It’s impossible to underestimate the affect your disability has on your psychology too – you worry all the time.

I didn’t let that deter me though. I attended Hereward Collage in Coventry, which caters for people with special needs. In my final year, I was given the opportunity to come on the National Grid Employability scheme. And my life changed again.

With the right attitude and the chance to prove yourself and thrive, anything is possible.

During the course of a college year I had the opportunity to gain the office-based experience I needed. National Grid’s managers have the training, patience and a real desire to work with people with special needs. It’s the most liberating and empowering experience I’ve ever had and it’s helped me transform my life.

The scheme’s job coaches are incredible as the bridge between the needs of the business and the students. But the most important thing is the working environment here. A problem-solving mindset is ingrained in our culture, and that means the company does whatever it can to make it easier for you to shine and prove your value to the business.

While I was on the scheme, I received special treatment that repaired the damage to my neck and landed my current permanent role as a result of the fantastic help and support I received with my development.

That was three years ago! I’m excited and ambitious for the future. I’ve developed a skill-set that’s opened up numerous career paths within the business. Making the most of the opportunities I’ve been given here has really opened the world to me. In October I travelled to Japan, which I wouldn’t have been able to do without using skills I’ve gained in my career.

Now I know that with the right attitude and the chance to prove yourself and thrive, anything is possible.