National Stuttering Association

Danette FitzgeraldOptical Systems Engineer

    Danette Fitzgerald

    New York City, NY
    Optical Systems Engineer

    Briefly describe your daily job duties.
    As an Optical Systems Engineer, I streamline the manufacturing process for optical measurement instruments, such as microscopes, telescopes, and interferometers. I do this by designing tests, documenting procedures, training teams, and troubleshooting failures.

    As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
    I need to use a lot of technical words, for which I try not to fall back on old habits of word substitution. As a former covert stutterer, I used to substitute words or use circumlocution (rambling rather than speaking concisely to avoid a feared word). I felt self-conscious that I may have come across to my colleagues as less competent because I didn’t “know” the appropriate technical term to use. But I did! I have now come to realize that it sounds better to stutter on the right word than to fluently say the wrong word.

    Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process? If so, how did you do it and how do you currently disclose your stuttering to unsuspecting co-workers?
    Yes, kind of. I listed the National Stuttering Association (NSA) in the “community activities” section on my resume. I only disclose verbally that I stutter if I have a moment of stuttering that seems to confuse someone, or that I feel self-conscious about. The annual NSA Conference is also a great opportunity to disclose to co-workers about stuttering, as vacation plans are always a lunchtime topic of conversation.

    What is your proudest moment at your current company?
    I gave my first presentation at a technical conference, and I feel that it went really well! After watching many of the other talks during the conference, I even felt that I communicated better than some of the other presenters. Communication is about more than fluency; it’s also about looking at your audience rather than at your slides, being engaging, and wording things clearly. My company must agree because I’ve been given another opportunity to present at another conference.

    What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace and for those in a career striving to achieve greater success?
    Communication is much more than fluency, and you can be a good communicator even while stuttering. Disclose your stuttering when appropriate to make yourself and your listener[s] more comfortable. Say the things you want to say because you’ll come across as more intelligent and competent by speaking with a stutter than by staying silent. Never turn down opportunities because of your stutter.