Figuring out your own route

Sep 02, 2019
John Dick, Internal Audit in Barclays Bank Ireland plc, could have let his hemiplegia stand in the way of his personal and professional success, but instead, he is on track to becoming a Chartered Accountant.

What obstacles have stood in your way of achieving your dreams, and how have you overcome those obstacles?

My biggest challenge will always be the belief in my own abilities. It is important to stop and reflect on how far I have come and look at my next achievement and decide how I am going to accomplish this goal.

I have hemiplegia which has put a lot of obstacles in my way. However, while these obstacles may have stalled my progress, they have certainly not stopped me in my attempt to achieve my potential. 

While reflecting on my situation I found a quote from a famous NBA player Michael Jordan: “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall ... figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

I had to find a way get over this obstacle. I had to admit to myself that I needed to walk before I could run. For example, attempting all papers at once while sitting my exams was too much, but splitting them up allowed me to progress at my own pace.

How has this affected your career?

I believe that what is for you will not pass you by. The first obstacle I can remember having to overcome was not getting the grades to get on the course I wanted to take at university. This resulted in me taking a different route to university, but it gave me the opportunity to study business and spend two semesters in a rural, liberal arts college in the American mid-west. The opportunity to study business (at the time I was studying environmental management) kick-started my passion for business. Since graduating, I got a job in a Big 4 firm and have not looked back.

Why do you think diversity and inclusion programmes are essential?

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) programmes are a forum for one of the most interested stakeholders in a business – its employees – to voice their opinion on how the company can help them and give  them a sense of belonging.

D&I is not about giving a hand out to any one section of society, but levelling the playing field so every section of society feels able to participate and contribute.   

You were a brand ambassador for Chartered Accountants Ireland – what made you want to become a Chartered Accountant?

I wanted to become an accountant because of the high regard given to the profession and the opportunity to travel with the qualification. Throughout my training contract, I have been encouraged by some really great mentors and this has increased my tenacity and vigour for being part of the profession. 

The reason I chose the Chartered route is because it is an Irish brand, and any help and face-to-face interactions I needed could be accessed locally. 

Being a Chartered Accountant means being part of a network that helps each other which, in turn, strengthens the brand of the organisation and reinforces the idea that while a Chartered Accountant can build a personal brand, it is also part of a collective brand. I chose to be a brand ambassador for Chartered Accountants Ireland because I have experienced first-hand how members live the values of being a Chartered Accountant. I wanted to give back to the organisation and share with others that it is possible to achieve such a goal, no matter your circumstances. 

Who has inspires you?

I am inspired by the many family, friends and colleagues in my life who have never seen me as having a disability. It was frustrating growing up with siblings who would never give me a hand but, in hindsight, that motivated me to learn to adapt and find my own ways of completing tasks.

Starting out, I was conscious that my vulnerabilities would be exposed, but the workplace has forced me to start a conversation about my differing abilities. This has taught me that talking is a good way of making subjects like disability less of a taboo and can help people learn how they can support others in a similar situation.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

In five years, I see myself being an influential leader, bringing more visibility to the area of differing abilities. 

There are still many barriers to access for people living with a disability but with the advancement in technology and business innovation, we should be able to overcome them.

What would you be doing if you were not on your Chartered journey?

I think I would have been an actor. I once gave James Nesbitt my autograph and told him it would be worth a lot someday. Watch this space!