Posted by Sustainability team Sustainability
I, Josh Dennis
26 July 2018
Virgin Media and its charity partner, Scope have launched ‘Work With Me’ – a three year campaign to support a million disabled people to get in and stay in work by the end of 2020.
As part of this, Virgin Media is taking steps to transform its policies and practices to better support disabled employees.
In this blog, Josh Dennis a Virgin Media employee who has Cerebral Palsy, shares his experiences of working for the company and living life in London as a disabled person.
Hi, I’m Josh. I recently joined Virgin Media as a Customer Transformation Executive. I’m also disabled and I wanted to share some my experiences of joining Virgin Media.
It pains me to say it, but there’s limited support for disabled people like me. I’ve faced many barriers in my personal life so that’s how I tackled finding a job – just one more problem for me to find a solution to. Luckily for me, I am a fairly resilient person!
Before joining Virgin Media I never had a paid, permanent job; I did voluntary and temporary work because the employers weren’t sure on how to approach my role, or its longevity.
It felt great to be offered a permanent contract by Virgin Media, if not at first, a little overwhelming.
The fact that I am now part of a team and make a contribution to making good things happen for our customers makes me (and my family) very proud.
The partnership between Scope and Virgin Media definitely has the right focus, and it’s great that Virgin Media are helping disabled people like me.
Any apprehensions I had about joining the company disappeared quickly after my meeting with Jeff Dodds, MD of Mobile and Consumer. Jeff and I had virtually met – we were both involved in radio interviews for the launch of the ‘Work With Me’ campaign. Jeff kindly offered to take me for a coffee to say thanks for taking part in the campaign and mentioned a possible job opportunity.
It can be hard to escape anxieties and I went into this meeting thinking, at best, he would offer me some work experience.
This wasn’t the case. Jeff saw past my disability, and after hearing about my experience and abilities, offered me a permanent position. This went above and beyond my initial expectations. The fact that somebody as senior as Jeff is so accessible and approachable gave me an idea of the type of company Virgin Media is and says a lot about the business’ culture. He made me feel so comfortable and took away all my nerves - it was so refreshing.
Joining the family
My first day at Virgin Media was a breeze due to the fact that before starting Katie Buchanan (Head of Sustainability) and Adrian Bartolo (People Business Partner) were so thorough and my points of contact. They kept the process simple and removed any worries I had, such as getting into the building.
I always try to exude confidence, to show I’m no different from most able bodied people, but I still experienced insecurities on my first day. Who wouldn’t? These insecurities are magnified by my disability. However, the sensitivities shown towards me by colleagues went a long way to settling my nerves and made me feel welcome.
The first few weeks felt OK; it was all new and took some time to get used to office life.
Virgin Media is like no other company I’ve experienced in the past. It’s a business and a big one at that, and I hadn’t experienced such a strategic, ideas based environment before.
After a couple of months I had a bit of a wobble. Very quickly, my line manager, Roger, saw I was under stress and told me to take some time out to get better. He was really helpful, and one day told me that people wanted to know where I was. That meant so much to me and to be involved and acknowledged has worked wonders. I love being part of the gang!
Importance of a great line manager
Having a line manager who’s not intrusive is a real comfort, and I gravitate towards people that understand when I’m going through a tough time.
Roger has always told me like it is, Virgin Media call this being ‘straight up’ and he has never got tongue-tied over words he should or shouldn’t use. I’m very hard to offend!
I often second guess whether or not a role will work out for me, if it’s the right fit and if I’m the right fit?
Having somebody to speak to like Roger has given me a definitive sense of where I belong, and more importantly, that I belong. Roger’s been great in letting me know there’s flexibility within how I can work. This trust and flexibility motivates me.
My family has never put any pressure on me to get a job, and due to the difficulties I’ve often faced in this regard, they were OK with this. It was always important for me to show them how motivated I am, and how important having a job and the independence that comes with that is to me. If I can get over that adversity, I can do anything.
I’m a Londoner, born and bred, and if you’re too shy and retiring, London will eat you up and spit you out. My resilience comes from my prior experience; if I don’t fight for myself, who will?
My tenacity and get-up and go has been with me since I was born. My family didn’t believe it when I told them I had a job and a permanent one at that!
Life’s little pleasures
It seems trivial when considering the perks of a job, but having a regular salary going in to my bank account is so uplifting. It’s mine and I’ve worked for it. It wasn’t handed to me, and the fact that Virgin Media doesn’t underestimate that goes a long way. I remember checking out my first pay slip – my smile was from ear to ear. It was a fist pump moment!
While my condition – Cerebral Palsy Spastic Quadriplegia – means I face physical barriers every day there are other disabled people who have conditions that are temporary or non-visible.
That’s why I was really pleased to be involved in the launch of ‘Work With Me’ and I’m proud to work for a company which is committed to transforming the lives disabled people, like me, across the UK.
I’ve only been here a couple of months but it’s gone beyond my expectations. I’m finding out more about myself, who I am and what I want from my career in the future.
It feels like this is only the beginning and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
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