National Stuttering Association

Kunal MahajanVP – Middle Market Leveraged Finance

    Kunal Mahajan

    New York City, NY
    Vice President – Middle Market Leveraged Finance
    Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC)

    Briefly describe your daily job duties.
    I work in the Middle Market Leveraged Finance group which consists of providing financing to private equity companies to finance their acquisitions. My primary duties consist of managing all aspects of the deal process which includes researching and conducting due diligence on different companies across different industries, communicating with clients, and presenting in front of credit committees to get a deal approved.

    As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
    Presentations are the most challenging aspect of my job as a person who stutters. As the lead underwriter on a transaction, I am responsible for presenting in various committee meetings and am expected to be the expert on a transaction to get the deal approved. That pressure makes me feel that I have to give the perfect presentation and I become very anxious that my stutter will prevent me from doing so.

    How supported at work do you feel by your co-workers, supervisor(s) and the company itself?
    SMBC and my co-workers have supported me completely throughout my entire tenure with the firm. When I expressed my concerns to my managers that I was afraid I would be letting them down by stuttering during my presentations and when talking to clients, they assured me that they do not care whether I stutter or not. They said they are just focused on ensuring I am prepared for the presentations and are only concerned about what I have to say.

    When I told them how important becoming an effective communicator was to me, they supported me in my pursuit of programs such as Toastmasters, the Dale Carnegie Leadership Program, and getting me a private public speaking coach to work with on a one-on-one basis to improve my communication and presentation skills.

    Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process? 
    No, I never did. However, I wish I did because my bosses thought I was just very nervous during my interview because they did not realize that I had a stuttering disability.

    Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
    Being a person who stutters and being open and authentic with my team about it has brought us closer together. They have been able to see how trusting I am of them and it has created an environment within our team where we all can be open and honest with each other and help support each other.

    My stutter has also made me become an employee who is very focused on helping others. Having gone through so much hardship with my stutter and having had many people who have been compassionate and supported me, that has made me want to do good for others. I am very focused on mentoring people within my team to help them grow and am involved in running initiatives at the firm for helping other people with disabilities get the support they need in the work place.

    What is your proudest moment at your current company?
    Hosting a Mock Interview Event for People Who Stutter in January of 2019 at our offices in NYC was my proudest moment at SMBC. We had 30 people who stutter from across the country come to the event to work on their interview skills. Members of the SMBC senior management team served as mock interviewers and provided interviewees feedback. I was proud that I was able to help bring together a life changing day for everyone in the room and that I work for an institution that is so accepting to people of disabilities.