Briefly describe your daily job duties.
I am a Senior Financial Analyst working in Medicaid Services for the State of Maine, commonly referred to as MaineCare.
In my current position with the State of Maine I oversee the Medicaid Accounting and Federal Reporting Unit. In addition to this, I facilitate collaboration among our many partners, act as subject matter expert, and review all designed, developed and implemented solutions for the Finance components of Medicaid systems. In short, I communicate extensively, both in written and verbal communication. I have a phone to my ear most of the day.
As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
The most challenging part of my job is the sheer number of opportunities for me to get in my own head. I attend and participate in a great deal of broad, collaborative meetings, conference calls and trainings. As a person who stutters, I tend to find myself hyper sensitive to the awkward glances, snickers, and offhand comments (like “did you forget your name” or even worse, when someone attempts to finish my sentence – though I will say the latter happens quite infrequently).
Over the years I have come to realize that many of my challenges stem from my own view of my speech and not that of others and I have worked to improve that view with no shortage of help from other NSA members.
Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process? If so, how did you do it and how do you currently disclose at work?
Though it has been some time since I was last interviewed, I believe I did. I typically disclose in a relatively lighthearted manner, something like, “I have a stutter and you’ll hear it from time to time, but don’t be alarmed, I’m fine.” This usually gets a few chuckles from the audience. I find disclosing tends to put me and my listener at ease and significantly reduces the “awkwardness” often caused by ignorance on the topic. For those reasons, I do try to disclose as often as I feel the situation warrants it. I try to read my audience and weigh the benefits of disclosing against the risk of discomfort (primary for my listener). At this point if my listener is at ease, I am too.
Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
I believe my stutter has offered me a perspective on empathy that those who have struggled less in life often take for granted. If I’m honest with myself, I cannot say my life has been particularly hard, but I do take initiative that affords me opportunities to take on risks and find success. My collaborative (“I can’t do it alone”) spirit keeps people coming back and wanting to be part of the process with someone who will generously partner with them.
What is your proudest moment at your current company?
I have built and fostered good working relationships with partners both internal and external to our division and have been able to call on those partners when needed; I have found truth in “you get what you give”. My desire to understand differing perspectives brings a generosity to the table that I have found awakens similar and complimentary virtues in others. I suppose the proudest thing I’ve accomplished in my time with the State of Maine is that I’ve never (not once) let the way I view my stutter (notice I did not say the stutter itself) be an excuse not to excel, not to participate or lead, and not to take initiative, no matter what that means I’ll have to do or try.
What are your long-term career aspirations?
Long-term, I want to enjoy my work. I want to make things better for others, I want to advance the mission and for my strengths and skill to be symbiotic to the work I do. When that stops being the case, it will be time to move on, but until then — I’m here.
What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace and for those in a career striving to achieve greater success?
Foster empathy — both for yourself and others, encourage understanding while promoting your strengths, and build for yourself an environment of ease and support. I know a lot of this has to do with the qualities of those around you and with whom you work, expect generosity from others and give the benefit of the doubt. Patience, encouragement, and empathy breed the same, surround yourself with them and they will grow.
Take full advantage of the services the NSA has to offer. The NSA is more than its monthly meetings and annual conferences, we are community. A dear fellow community member once told me, “You deserve to take up a little space”. In no uncertain terms, you deserve to make yourself a priority when you speak, don’t minimize what you have to offer just because you convey it differently.