Claudia’s canny career advice
Working at a large investment firm would have been an intimidating thought for Claudia once upon a time, but now she’s adapted the job to make it work for her and is loving her new role.
There are many different ways to get the job of your dreams, but Claudia didn’t expect that writing a blog post about her deafness would be the key for her. “I wrote a blog on how I embrace my deafness on LinkedIn,” she says. “The company I worked for at the time showed it to a client, they asked to interview me and that’s how I’m here today.”
Claudia, who has a severe hearing loss and uses hearing aids, works as Corporate Responsibility Adviser at investment firm, Schroders. “I think my parents never thought I’d work in finance,” she says. “Maybe as a teacher or in a charity where it’s less fast-paced. But nowadays, I think anyone with any disability can work anywhere.”
Claudia attended the same small mainstream school with an attached special educational needs centre throughout her education. “I struggled at primary school because I take more time processing information than others,” she says. “I had speech therapy sessions and I had a teaching assistant to help me. But something clicked in secondary school. I think when you’re deaf or have another disability, you often become very determined and resilient.
“It’s only later though, that I’ve realised I did work really hard to do well at secondary school. I assumed everyone else was working as hard, but I was doing more hours to make up for information that I missed in lessons.
“I was lucky because I was at a small school and my social life was very confined, so I had a few good friends who I’m still friends with now. I just really focused on my work, my family and close friends.
“I love spending time with people, and having a close network of support is really important to me. Now I work hard to balance friends, family and my job to manage my tiredness.”
Claudia went on to study anthropology at Durham University. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do so I just followed the subjects I loved the most – Spanish and history,” she explains. “I had a notetaker at university. It was good because when I’m listening and lip-reading, I miss stuff if I take notes. I had a great social life at uni too, a small concrete group of friends. Having a smaller group helped me balance things as I did get very tired. I’d go out once a week and do something fun at the weekend.”
After university, Claudia went on to do a few internships, which ranged from six months to a year long. “I got them through something I call weak ties,” she explains. “That meant reaching out to people I knew of from various industries with my CV and saying: ‘Look I’m really interested in culture, and I want to use my skills in marketing to understand that a bit better.’ I worked in fashion marketing and then at a branding agency.
“I’ve always been very upfront about my deafness when applying for jobs. Companies now see it as in their interest to hire people with diverse abilities. Being deaf, you have a unique interpretation of the world. I’m resilient and determined because I’ve had to adapt to society, which has designed itself for those without a disability. This will come through when I’m working to a deadline or need to be extra focused. Because I lip-read, I have to fill in gaps which means I’m creative, more proactive and always thinking ahead. These are all really important skills for the world of work. Deafness is an asset and not a liability.”
While working at the branding agency, Claudia wrote the blog that would change her career. “At Schroders now I run initiatives to help the organisation be purposeful. I embed volunteering within the firm. It’s about engaging people in causes that they really care about. I also co-chair the inclusion group here; we have a forum where people can talk about their diverse abilities and share resources and accessible tools. This role fulfils my passions, but I didn’t know it existed when I was younger!”
Adapting to work in a large company was initially a challenge for Claudia. “It was a huge jump from my first role – from a company of 10 to 3,000. My new role is about meeting and talking to people, which I love, but then I have to make sure my evenings are quiet to rest.
“I definitely struggled in the first six months,” she says. “I had my first proper boyfriend at the time too and I found it quite hard to juggle it all with the tiredness. I had an honest conversation with my manager, and she agreed I could come in early and leave early. The team have adapted for me, they do social lunches rather than dinner.
“In all parts of my life, I find it’s about being transparent with what I need. I have quiet weekends every other weekend. I have a set routine, and I make myself a rule that I only do one sociable thing in the week and something with friends at the weekend. I had to explain that to work, and to my boyfriend and friends.”
Claudia also finds technology has really helped her at work. “I have Bluetooth hearing aids, paid for through Access to Work. My mum and my audiologist helped me apply. I do hybrid working, which also helps with my tiredness, and I do all my meetings on my mobile phone using the hearing aids instead of headphones. I can hear much better.”
Although she’s achieved so much already, Claudia still has big ambitions. “I hope to continue on this trajectory. I want to help everyone from different backgrounds get here too.”
Spring 2023 Families magazine