National Stuttering Association

Jeff FettMarketing Director

    Briefly describe your daily job duties.
    As the Marketing Director, I oversee a department of seven marketing professionals. It’s my job to oversee the execution of all of the company’s marketing efforts including: Print Collateral, Social Media Posts, Digital and Print Ad Campaigns, Internal Communications, as well as Brand Development/Management to name a few. My first big project in my new position is to develop a new corporate website. That should launch after the first of the year.

    As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
    The most challenging part of my job has been proving that I am capable. In college, I was told by a Graphic Design professor, “Please change your major. No one will ever take you seriously or hire you.” At my one-year evaluation of my first professional job I was told, “You may have noticed that we haven’t let you go out and meet the clients. That’s because we consider you to be disabled and we feel you will embarrass the clients.”

    After working as the Creative Director for 10 years at my previous job, I was promoted to Marketing Department Manager. Six weeks after the promotion, I was told there was going to be a “restructuring.” They wanted me to go back to being the Creative Director again and someone new was going to brought in at a higher level to oversee Marketing and other company efforts. The reason they gave me was: “We feel you don’t have the voice for the job.” So, they took away the promotion based solely on the fact that I stuttered.

    In April of 2013, I was hired in as the Marketing Manager at America’s Preferred Home Warranty (APHW). I was brought in to start up and build APHW’s Marketing Department. When they APHW hired a CEO a few months later, I was told he would eventually look to bring in a Chief Marketing Office (CMO) to oversee all of Marketing. His background was Fortune 500 companies, mine was small businesses. This past year he finally acted on looking for his CMO. The candidates he interviewed didn’t pan out. I was told that I wasn’t qualified for the position, so I didn’t seek it out.

    Following those interviews, they realized it would take two years for a CMO to become effective and in the meantime, they would also bog our processes down with a lot of questions.

    That opened the door for my recent promotion to Marketing Director. When the promotion offer was made, which was a total surprise, I was told they wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. I have also been told that after I go through a period of training, I will eventually become the Chief Marketing Officer. I have now achieved what many had told me could never be accomplished because I am a person who stutters.

    Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process?
    Yes, I did disclose my stuttering during the job interview. My stutter during the interview actually became an asset. At what I would consider to be the halfway point of most interviews, the company president stopped the interview. He said, “I’ve heard enough. I can see from the way you handle your stuttering, that you are a fighter. I sense that if you don’t know the answer to a problem, you will go to great lengths to find the solution and solve it. I’m not going to interview another person for this job, you are my person. And I promise you the stuttering will never be a problem.” To date, the promise has been kept.

    Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
    During my interviews, I have always described my stuttering as an asset. I mention that people who stutter are natural listeners. When you are interviewing a client during the development process for a marketing project, if you are doing all of the talking, you are not listening to what the client is saying.

    I also mention that when I block, I’m usually really fighting to say something that I feel is important. That has taught me to listen to the inflections in a client’s voice. From my stuttering behaviors, I have learned to listen for the words/phrases a client emphasizes when speaking and the words/phrases or thoughts a client repeats.

    These are the cues that I focus on when developing a project. I have found that they provide me the key to developing the “true flavor” that my client is seeking.

    What is your proudest moment at your current company?
    My proudest moment came two years ago. APHW, when I was hired, was housed in a small 4,400-sq. ft. building and doing business in only five states. Two years ago, we moved into a 27,000-sq. ft. building. The morning of the Grand Opening for our new corporate office, I was standing alone with the APHW President in the middle of the office. We were looking around and realizing just what we had accomplished in four short years. The new office interior is a direct reflection of the branding look and feel that I had developed for APHW. At that moment, it really hit me, I had totally rebranded a company and been successful with it. That is a graphic designer’s dream. It proved that all of those who said I couldn’t do it, were wrong. Currently we are doing business in 49 states, soon to be all 50.

    What are your long-term career aspirations?
    My long-term aspirations are to be the best CMO I can be and retire from APHW in about 10 years.

    What’s your best advice for people who stutter striving to achieve greater career success?
    My first piece of advice is to surround yourself with a good circle of close friends. My job at APHW came from a reference from the printer I worked with at my previous job. They just happened to be the main printer for APHW as well. They knew of my frustration at my previous job, with the promotion being removed. So, when the APHW President was in their shop talking about his need to have someone come in and build a Marketing Department for him, they hooked me up for interview.

    My second piece of advice is to always give your employer “results they can’t argue with.” That was how I overcame my CEO’s objection to my background only being in small businesses. Having the CMO candidates not pan out, made him take a closer look at the results I had achieved. That was why when the offer was made, I was told, “We won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

    Your stuttering will always create doubts and roadblocks in employer’s minds, but if you continuously achieve excellent results, that will be your key to unlocking the doors for future opportunities.