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Mariam's banking on success

Photo: Read Mariam's story

Mariam (24) is thriving in a corporate office environment using Access to Work (ATW) funding from the government to pay for interpreters.

“Growing up I didn’t know what my career would be. I’ve always enjoyed maths and science but English has been a bit of a challenge because of my deafness.

I failed my hearing test at a routine nine month checkup and was diagnosed as profoundly deaf. My family had no knowledge of deafness but my mum learnt British Sign Language (BSL) to level two and I was brought up using BSL and spoken English at home. I wear a cochlear implant and hearing aid but only tend to wear the hearing aid when I’m in a new situation.

I’ve been lucky; I attended a well-supported primary school unit and then a specialist deaf secondary school. Although I felt a bit isolated at primary school as the unit was small with few deaf children, boarding at secondary school was a completely different story. It was fun and me and my classmates grew up together. I still meet up with my secondary school friends now on a regular basis.

At school I always had to put in extra hours to stay on top of all my subjects and ended up getting nine GCSEs. Taking the exams was so nerve-wracking but with the support of my teachers I passed them all. I went on to the University of Essex to study Biochemistry. My experience of university was difficult as it was the first time I didn’t have any deaf people around me for a long period of time. But I went on to achieve a first class degree.

When I left I got a part-time job at Tesco stacking shelves. Finding a job after graduating was one of my biggest challenges but working part-time allowed me to go to other job interviews. I heard about a programme called Change100 from one of my friends. It’s a programme which offers three month paid internships for students with a disability, so I applied. They offered me three internship placements, one being at Leonard Cheshire [a disability charity]. I decided to take it and ended up staying there in an accounting role for a year.

"The graduate scheme has been an interesting rollercoaster ride."

While I was there I filmed a video for an internal Barclays training scheme, showing their call centre staff how to communicate with the deaf via Sign Video app. I found out they had a finance graduate scheme there so I applied.

The initial stage of the application process was a bit difficult for me as the questions were based on videos and there weren’t any subtitles. I attempted them anyway and emailed the Barclays recruitment team to tell them that I’m profoundly deaf and need subtitles. They then invited me to have a telephone interview call and I asked for a face-to-face interview with my interpreter instead. Next was the assessment centre; they would normally have interviewees and assessors present but I was able to have a one-to-one interview with the assessor. When I found out I had the job, I was so surprised! I didn’t think I did that well at the assessment centre, I remember waffling when answering a question!

The graduate scheme has been an interesting rollercoaster ride and massive learning curve for me. It’s a completely different environment to my previous job and has been an eye-opener. On a day-to-day basis I’m involved in the effective transition of technology to the existing finance department and I assist with the learning budget too.

I work full-time and am in the office Monday to Thursday with interpreters and then work from home, without an interpreter, on a Friday. I use ATW to fund interpreters and I find the process of securing ATW quick. My current job involves being very interactive with people every day so I do require interpreters. We work closely together to ensure we understand each other. Occasionally there are misunderstandings – often because of the financial jargon – but when that happens we’re quick to spot it and clarify.

"My job involves being very interactive with people so I always require interpreters."

Barclays offered to pay for my interpreters if I need them to and they offered BSL courses to my colleagues. All of my colleagues have attended a deaf awareness course and have learnt basic BSL. There was one occasion when my interpreter rang in sick – I had a few meetings that day so my line manager made sure I was involved in the meeting and sat opposite me so I could lip-read her.

When I started, Barclays also updated their video conferencing facilities and asked for my input into the process so I’m able to communicate with team members globally via the video conferencing facilities.

My favourite thing about working at Barclays is the people. They come from all walks of life and bring different experiences to the job. When they’re told I’m deaf they’re always careful to understand what they can do to help me and after a while they forget about my deafness because I’m just part of the team.

My dream for the future is to become a qualified chartered accountant; Barclays is paying for my training now. My advice to other deaf young people wanting to work full time in a finance or office environment would be to be yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’ve got this far so believe in yourself and you can achieve anything you want to.”