So a bit about myself: I’m rapidly approaching the big four-zero (positively ancient, I know), I’m happily married to my long suffering wife Jennifer and we have five fantastic children. My career began making cars ready for customers in the Birmingham city centre branch, and I have now worked for Enterprise Rent-A-Car for nineteen years. From there I progressed onto the Graduate Management programme. Following this I moved into the Loss Control department and, thanks to some more promotions, I’ve now been Head of Risk for nearly twelve years and I have won two Exceptional Achievement awards – recognition from Enterprise of my hard work and great results.
I have worked hard to progress in my career and the employee rankings and the various awards I’ve been given over the years will testify to that. However, what the facts and figures will not tell you is just exactly how hard I’ve had to work personally to get there, and this is because I am dyslexic.
When you’re dyslexic simple things like emails, that so many people take for granted, can become problematic. Yes, auto-correct is amazing, but it can’t help if the word is spelt so badly that it can’t be recognised. It also doesn’t tell me if I should use their, there, or whether I need your or you’re. In the past I have had to forward important messages to my wife to check for me before they are sent out, as emailing a large group of people with a note full of errors is not very authoritative!
In addition to this I can get easily frustrated if things don’t go right and I can often suffer a crisis of confidence, which is particularly difficult to deal with when you are heading up a large scale presentation in front of important people. To try and minimise this and avoid panic attacks I prepare and rehearse (and rehearse and rehearse again) any presentations well in advance.
In the past, I will confess have struggled greatly with my dyslexia. Let me transport you back thirty years – longer than some of you have been alive I know! My time at school was not happy, and there are no warm fuzzy memories of the best days of our lives for me. Children who struggled with writing and spelling were considered slow and unintelligent. It was implied that they would never amount to much and they were constantly reminded of this fact.
To compound this, parents were also in the dark about learning difficulties and I have many memories of being forced to do my homework for hours and hours after a tedious day at school. I would stare at a blank piece of paper, willing the words to come so I could go out to play. As a result I made up my mind early on that education was not something to be enjoyed.
I now have a son at primary school, and like me, he was in a similar situation. Dillan didn’t enjoy school from day one. My wife was constantly at the school, sorting out one problem or another, and working in education herself she was able to recognise the signs. As soon as he was old enough we took him to visit an educational psychologist, who after running some tests confirmed that he was dyslexic. Along with his dyslexia came dyspraxia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia.
When we were meeting him, the psychologist worked to see if there were any external factors which may have caused Dillan’s condition. As part of this, he pointed to my wife and asked “How do you spell because?” When she answered correctly, my heart began to pound because I knew what was coming next. He turned to me: “How do you spell…”. In all truthfulness it wouldn’t have mattered at all which word he picked because the chances were I wouldn’t have been able to spell it. The psychologist then looked directly at me and told me; “It’s you. You have dyslexia and because there is a genetic link, you are the reason your son has this learning difficulty”.
To fast forward to the present day, Dillan is doing well in school and is able to utilise all that technology offers, and I know that, unlike me, he will be able to look back fondly on his childhood. Thankfully, because of my experience, we have been able to make sure Dillan has never been inhibited by his conditions.
As for me, over the years I have worked hard to build strategies to help me achieve my goals. My life is run by spreadsheets. Organisation and planning, both at work and in my home life, is key to avoiding the stress associated with unknown variables.
I have also tailored my approach to work through the years and this has never been a problem for Enterprise. Note-taking in meetings used to cause me to feel embarrassed due to my handwriting (which often I can’t read it back anyway). Now I either type my notes as I go along, or I memorise the facts. Thankfully I have a good memory for statistics and figures, but this comes at the cost of remembering people’s names. So if I meet you and I’ve forgotten your name don’t be offended! It’s just because I am too busy storing the latest data I’ve been given.
In conclusion, if I had any advice to pass on it would be to speak up about any difficulties that you may have. Do not feel ashamed, as some of the most successful people in the world have dyslexia, and Richard Branson has never let it hold him back. And although my successes have yet to put me into the ranks of entrepreneurial billionaires, I am wholly proud of my achievements. I choose not to look at dyslexia as a disability, but rather as an ability that allows people to approach problems in a different way, and I know that Enterprise shares this ethos.
Enterprise has always embraced the differences that make us unique, and this comes from our Founding Values created by Jack Taylor. I would recommend anyone to work for a company that treats each employee individually, but also has operations all over the world: apply to Enterprise’s Graduate Programme now.
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