I never really thought much about the effects of my speech impairment in my earlier years. I was the best (or top three) in my class throughout primary through to high school and still survived the subtle giggles from friends. I had an angel of a mother who made me feel safe even when I was at my most vulnerable, until she passed in 2012 – just four months after joining Standard Chartered.
I got to university and decided I wanted to contest for a student leadership position in my second year. My first attempt at campaigning in a senior class went horribly wrong. I choked in my throat and practically ran out of the class without delivering one full sentence.
My worst experience was when I had the opportunity to get into bank management trainee programmes. I went through the first hurdle, the aptitude test and then was called for an assessment centre. I was nominated by my team to do our first presentation and right there in front of everyone, I began to stammer terribly. The words did not come out, the facilitators were stunned, and I just walked back to my seat. At the interview session that followed, the panel told me to build confidence before looking for any of such roles. I told myself I would not miss that opportunity ever again.
When the opportunity to join Standard Chartered came, I fought through the stutter and made sure nothing hindered the words.
When the opportunity to join Standard Chartered came, I fought through the stutter and made sure nothing hindered the words. Yes, I stammered at the various interviews, but I made sure I gave my best and I got the job.
Since then I have aced every interview and seen myself grow and better my speech. I joined Toastmasters International, decided to take MC-ing jobs, poetry and other speaking engagements.
I have seen people laugh. I have a beautiful wife and a lovely son, and anytime I look at him, I pray he takes after the flawless speech of his mother. The world I grew up in has not been kind to people who speak like me and I have decided to use my voice and pen. I wrote a poem titled ‘Speechless’ which summarises what it feels like to be in my shoes:
“I choose silence in every situation
Not because I am unintelligent
Not that I want to mind my own business
It rather makes sense to mind my own business
Because no matter what I think about
They are better kept as thoughts
My views are voiceless
My ideas are silent
Even synonyms evade my counsel
And the words choke deep in my throat
I want to speak without hesitation
But I know they will laugh and giggle
And make jokes about my situation
I won’t be perturbed by their insensitivity
Cowardice cannot be by best friend
I will begin slowly
One word a minute is a good start
The world can run as fast as they will
My speech will wait for me
Until my thoughts become words”
Read our employee stories
We have spoken to Kudzai Zendera who shared his experiences working for Standard Chartered
We have spoken to Andre Omar Taylor who shared his experiences working for Standard Chartered.