#TakeFiveWith Graeme K Whippy MBE
Could you tell us about yourself and your job role? And one hobby/fun fact?
I'm a 55 year old guy who has found his niche in life by helping employers be brilliant at employing disabled people. This ranges from working with C level executives to build the business case and leadership, to implementing best practice policies and processes, to supporting individual disabled employees and their managers.
Whilst I don't self-describe as disabled, I am neurodifferent (inattentive ADHD and probably a touch of Asperger’s) and I have a hereditary health condition that requires regular medical intervention.
I'm a bit of a geek and love geeky things, my latest fascination is astrophotography and trying to take photos of deep space objects.
What is a typical day like for you?
I don't have a typical day - and that's what I love about my work!
As a consultant I work for several clients, so what I do depends on the nature of the engagement.
For example, right now I'm doing day-to-day disability employment management for one, another I'm helping achieve Disability Confident Employer status, and I've been engaged by another to fix their workplace adjustments process and associated activities across their organisation.
Common to all of my engagements, is building relationships, understanding people, understanding how companies work and putting a friendly arm around their shoulder to help them on their disability confident journey.
I also love public speaking, sharing best practice, chairing events, all of that kind of thing which is slightly ironic given that I'm a bit of an introverted Aspie.
Could you tell us how you got into your role?
As an undergraduate in the 80s I taught disabled people how to use computers, so I kinda 'grew up' with disabled people, particularly a group of blind physiotherapists from St Mary's hospital in London with whom I used to get regularly inebriated... and had a great laugh.
I then had a career in IT that spanned programming, analysis and eventually project management. It was as a project manager at Lloyds TSB in the early 00s that I got interested in digital accessibility and decided to make a difference in this field. I campaigned for a couple of years at Lloyds for the creation of a formal approach to accessibility, resulting in the setting up of an IT Accessibility team in 2005.
I ran that team for 5 years, became recognised as an expert in accessibility and shared best practice with other organisations via the Business Disability Forum.
In 2010 I found myself in the right place, right time and well prepared for a conversation with the newly appointed executive sponsor for disability who was the COO at Lloyds Banking Group. The next day I got a call from his office to say he wanted me to work for him on disability full time.
I then spent 6 years working as senior disability manager at Lloyds, focusing on the employee side of disability and becoming best known for implementing a ground breaking workplace adjustments process. I also lead a cross financial services working group on the creation of a Dementia Friendly Financial Services Charter.
In 2016 I left Lloyds to become a full time independent disability consultant.
What motivates you to do a good job?
A number of things.
Firstly, I don't like it when people don't play by the rules, I've got a low tolerance of shortcuts, sloppy work and treating people unfairly. So my original motivation in accessibility was to simply get people to play by the rules, do a good job and stop creating barriers for people. That's now extended to giving disabled people equal opportunity to succeed in gaining employment and having great careers.
Secondly, I am a geeky chap and I love understanding how things work and trying to make them work better. I used to do this by writing programmes and creating websites, I now do it through process engineering, writing policies and generally helping organisations work more efficiently and give better service to disabled employees. It's hugely satisfying when I see something I've created that didn't exist before and that is genuinely benefiting others.
Lastly, on that last point, I'm grounded by the fact that what I do affects actual people, it's not an abstract thing. If I do my job properly it will help disabled people get into work, it will help them be successful in work and it can be life changing for them.
How do you learn at work?
That's very difficult to answer, it's a bit like asking how I walk or breathe. I'll give it a shot.
I've come to accept that despite of - or maybe because of - my neuro differences I'm a pretty sharp guy and I pick things up quickly. I'm inquisitive and I like to understand things. In that respect I'm a bit of a sponge.
I'm a visual thinker - when I used to programme I'd "see" the way the programme would do what I wanted it to do more than plan out the algorithm. I'm also a very structured thinker, everything has a beginning, middle and an end. Processes have repeatable sub-processes, that kind of thing.
I'm very persistent, like a dog with a bone. For example, not work related but I taught myself guitar aged 45 in one year. I'm now teaching myself astrophotography. I don't give up, I learn from my mistakes, I practice until as perfect as possible.
Lastly, I learn by absorbing from others. Listening to what people say, the examples they give, stories they tell and then internalising and synthesising that into my own thoughts.
What are your aims for the next year? For example, if you work in accessibility do you have any plans to help make workplaces more inclusive? If you work in Learning and Development how are you going to promote workplace learning?
I've had a brilliant time working in the TV sector for the past couple of years, and I've come to understand and be frustrated by the challenges disabled people have in getting into TV production (let alone getting on screen).
I'm really hoping that next year I'll have the opportunity to do more work in TV (and maybe other parts of media, like advertising) and fix some of the systemic issues that are preventing disabled people from having careers in this sector. I know the solutions, it's just a matter of getting broadcasters and independent production companies taking them on board.
Beyond that, I'd love to chair more events (like I did in 2018 at the Scottish Government's Congress on Disability & Employment), have more speaking and best practice sharing opportunities, and do more writing (because I love writing).
YOU CAN CONTACT GRAEME ABOUT CHAIRING EVENTS ON THE FOLLOWING PLATFORMS:
LinkedIn: Graeme K Whippy MBE
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