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Overcoming a stammer for career success

29 May


Tom Battelley’s journey into the professional world has been full of adventure. After being born with a neurological infection that affected his speech, he went through years of physio and speech therapy to overcome his stammer. Now, he’s thriving in his role as Senior Technical Associate in the Investment Trusts Custody Team & Transaction Reporting at DST. Here’s his story:

My neurological infection meant my speech and development were affected

“I had years of physio when I was younger, but as I grew up I started to have issues saying certain words and putting sentences together. I participated in NHS-funded speech therapy to improve my stammer but didn’t find this effective, so took it upon myself to improve my speech. It took resilience and confidence but I knew I needed to help myself.” In my 20s, I noticed the signs of a stammer coming back “While I self-managed my speech when I was younger, my 20s saw my stammer become lazy, and I was showing signs of not being in control or managing my speech. I struggled to answer phone calls successfully and people were often finishing my words and sentences. I found it hard to do the simplest of things like buy a drink or contribute to meetings. But then I turned 24 and my life changed radically – for the better.”

The McGuire Programme has changed my life

“In 2014 I applied for a speech development course, funded by a production company for the show Stammer School – Musharaf Finds His Voice. The McGuire Programme is run by stammerers, for stammerers, and is the most intensive, exhausting and rewarding experience I’ve had. I was filmed during the first four days of the programme, where I sat in a chair for 14 hours a day re-learning the phonetic alphabet, learning a new breathing technique and adapting tools to help me improve my speech. I also undertook a contact challenge, where I had to make a minimum of 100 verbal ‘contacts’ within four hours. This was hard, but helped me practice my techniques and work past any fears I had around rejection.

This training has completely turned my speech around – I now feel comfortable chatting on the phone, attending and leading meetings and taking part in interviews. Now that I have control of my speech, I even enjoy public speaking!”

Society takes verbal communication for granted

“With so many different communication platforms these days, non-verbal communication has become popularised – but in business, you can’t escape face-to-face speaking. It’s important to establish rapport and relationships in the working world, and for me, the ability to attend and lead meetings, seminars, talks and networking events is really important for my career success.”

I was limited in being able to communicate professionally

“Words can’t explain how hard it was for me to build up my professional and social life with a stammer. People with speech difficulties expend so much more energy speaking, and while I’ve been working in finance for five years, I was limited in my professional communication skills. The McGuire Programme was draining but I knew I had to put the effort in to change my life. Now, networking and building professional relationships come easily, and I’ve been able to grow my career the way I want. I attend courses regularly and use McGuire techniques every day to maintain my speech and make sure I keep moving forward." 

DST has helped me to develop

"I’ve been at DST for a year and a half. After working in discretionary asset management, I wanted to pursue a career in fund administration. After a supportive, encouraging interview process with the support of Katie Stopps, Ross Cattell and Adele Carnera, I joined the Book and Pricing team as a Lead/Senior Associate in Asset Servicing. Everyone was approachable and understanding about my stammer, which made me know DST was a great place to work. I was then promoted to my current role and became part of the Creating Community Events team and have become a Service Improvement Lead for the Group Forum, which has not only been a fantastic professional progression, but also allowed me to develop my speech with confidence.

Though my development courses that take place are outside of work, DST has given me the chance to practice my techniques in the office environment. Everyone has been so supportive, particularly my managers who have encouraged me to move through the business. I interact with people all over the business and I’m loving having my voice heard. I feel like part of the DST family.”

I’m always working on my speech and myself

“I still have to work hard, but I have my tools and techniques to draw upon every day. Now, I love speaking, and have no fear of getting stuck in to both work and social activities. In the future I’d love to be able to lead a seminar on the importance of communication in business and social life, and continue to spread the message to my colleagues and friends. Now I’m looking at becoming a Primary Coach through the McGuire programme to help others find their voice.

I want to show other people it’s possible to overcome a stammer and lead a successful professional life. As I say every day, “Fight the fear, or the fear will fight you.”

Tom is just one of the many amazing people who are part of the DST team. If you’re interested in joining us, take a look at our latest vacancies.

For more on Tom's journey, take a look at his before and after videos.
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