National Stuttering Association

Gareth WalkomFounder, Entrepreneur

    Gareth Walkom

    Ghent, Belgium
    Founder, Entrepreneur

    Briefly describe your daily job duties.
    I develop virtual reality tools for speech disorders, speech and language pathologists, and researchers. Since 2015, I have been researching how virtual reality can be used as a tool within stuttering, explicitly understanding how virtual reality speaking situations can be used. My research has been featured on BBC News.

    Virtual reality is an incredibly powerful tool. We can create any scenario we like, control it in real-time, and stop it whenever we please. It is my absolute pleasure to have created withVR, a company that provides virtual reality speaking situations to those who need it the most. At withVR, each day is different for me. One day I could be programming the backend of my software, the next, I could be designing visual content or giving a talk at a conference. No matter what I do, I always find pride in doing it.

    As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
    I live in the beautiful city of Ghent, Belgium, where Flemish is the first language. Even though nearly everyone can speak English, talking on the phone can sometimes be very difficult!

    How do you disclose your stutter, if at all, at work?
    It’s only me in the company and I am always very honest with myself. I used to self-disclose a lot; however, now, I very rarely do. I speak to others as if my stuttering is not something that I have to address. I do not see it as a problem, but I am also very open about it. If someone is confused about what’s going on, I get that, and I openly talk about my stutter and welcome any questions they have.

    Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
    I am very fortunate to have turned my stuttering into something others can benefit from. I think about my stuttering and others who stutter all the time, always thinking about how I can change my tools for the greater good.

    My stuttering used to be a burden, a difficulty, and something I wanted to avoid at all costs. Now, if it weren’t for my stuttering, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t have met all these exceptional individuals in the stuttering community. I wouldn’t have visited so many beautiful cities. I wouldn’t have this job. I’ve turned my stutter into my greatest asset.

    What is your proudest career moment?
    Going fully self-employed is a huge step and I am so happy that I have done it. Therefore, the moment that I created withVR on the 22nd October 2020 (International Stuttering Awareness Day!) is currently my proudest moment.

    What are your long-term career aspirations?
    I thrive on creating the most suitable virtual reality tools for speech disorders. To me, success is how many people you impact positively. I want to use my knowledge I have gained over the years and transfer it into something the people can benefit from. If I can enjoy what I do and impact others positively, it will make me eternally grateful, and that’s the only career success I’ll ever need.

    What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace and for those in a career striving to achieve greater success?
    Find something you’re passionate about, push for it with all your might, and make it your own. Your stutter may sometimes make you feel different, but it is what you do with this difference that defines your path. Who knows, maybe your stutter is your hidden key to your career success.