Pamela Mertz

    Pamela Mertz

    Albany, NY
    Outreach Specialist
    Questar III BOCES

    Briefly describe your daily job duties.
    I am the Outreach Specialist in a career technical high school. My primary job is to recruit students from our local school districts for the vocational training programs we offer. I give presentations to interested 10th graders about the benefits of a career tech pathway. Sometimes I do up to five 40-minute presentations in a day. I also lead tours of our school and give presentations to other stakeholders, like parents, counselors and Board of Education groups.

    As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
    The most challenging part of my job is always deciding if I should disclose at the start of presentations that I stutter. It’s always a dilemma because I’m not there to talk about stuttering and don’t want my talks to deviate from my primary message, but disclosure always makes me feel better. I basically decide each time based on how “stuttery” of a day I am having!

    How supported at work do you feel by your co-workers, supervisor(s) and the company itself?
    I feel very supported by co-workers. I often share about what I am up to regarding volunteerism I do with the stuttering community. The CEO of my organization met with me in the Fall at my request to learn more about our Diversity & Inclusion program and has stated she will invite me to be on the committee. She also stated that when our “We Stutter @ Work” launches, she will profile my involvement in that on our company news site. I am thrilled with that, even though I have to write it up myself.

    Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process?
    Yes, I disclosed that I stutter in the interview process for the job I currently have. I was very direct and during my introduction of self in the opening moments of the interview, I said “and something really cool that you should know about me is that I stutter. It’s really shaped the person I’ve become.” That sparked interest and questions and I believe a genuine respect for how confident I was to share something that some people might frame as a weakness. It’s definitely not a weakness. I was invited back for a second interview and then offered the job.

    Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
    Stuttering helps me be a valued contributor at work because I see differences as opportunities rather than obstacles. I am one of the first people to ask “why not” when suggesting that we do something different than what we have always done in the past. This is particularly helpful when a group is trying to come up with an innovative or flexible plan for student needs.

    What is your proudest moment at your current company? 
    Several years ago, I was asked to be on a panel in a first ever tried conversational approach at our Employee Orientation Day. We had traditionally always had administrators talking at us, so it was a delight to have “regular employees” asked our thoughts and opinions about our organizations core values. I was up on stage in front of 500 employees and projected onto a “big screen” at same time so that everyone could see us. It was definitely a vulnerable moment but I was so proud that the CEO believed I had things to say that needed to be heard.

    What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace?
    I would advise those starting out to really look at how stuttering can be viewed as an advantage. In the workplace, we all need a way to stand out and be memorable. Stuttering makes me memorable. If I am one of 10 people being interviewed for a job, chances are that I’ll be remembered as “the one who stutters.” How that is handled is key. If I stutter with confidence and demonstrate that it’s a difference and not a deficit, that confidence will help them remember me and hopefully want to learn more. In striving for career success, I think it’s crucial that people who stutter try not to hide it – be yourself and allow yourself to be your most authentic self. In workplaces that increasingly value Diversity & Inclusion, the only way employers will know that we represent diversity is to tell them.