Being born with a severe hearing impairment did not prevent Vanessa Lamorre-Cargill from becoming Strategic Project Director at Sodexo. She tells how her disability influenced her career and how she was able to manage it.
What obstacles have you had to deal with in your career so far?
Vanessa Lamorre-Cargill: “Some people have preconceived ideas about my disability: because I cannot use a phone easily, they think that working with me is complicated, or that my particular way of speaking makes conversation impossible. People often lack reliable information about disabilities, which can lead to biases. In terms of career progression, I had to work against many odds: not only do I have a disability but I am also a woman, and quite young to boot. So if there is one thing that my professional path shows: it is that there are no limits, or at least not the ones we imagine.”
How did you overcome these limits?
VL-C: “One of my strengths is an ability to think out of the box. I have adopted Apple’s slogan as a way of life: ‘Think different’. I am lucky to belong to the email, text messaging and chat generation. Video conferencing has made a real difference for me because I know how to read lips. Not all of Sodexo’s sites are yet equipped with this technology but the fact that I can now use it is testament to Sodexo’s forward thinking.”
In what other way did Sodexo help you progress?
VL-C: “I was initially lucky because the person who recruited me was attuned to the issue of disability, being himself slightly hearing impaired. He was more interested in finding ways to effectively work together than focusing on my disability. I soon realized that one of Sodexo’s strengths is its capacity to welcome people like me. ‘OK, she has a hearing impairment, so what can we do to help?’ This kind of flexibility is rare in large companies which is one of the reasons why I work here.”
Where do your strength and obvious motivation come from?
VL-C: “I was 8 years old when I read the book ‘The Story of My Life’, whose American author, Helen Keller, was mute, deaf and blind. I was really impressed by her story; that in the end, she could speak in front of large crowds despite her hearing impairment. I thought one day I would do the same. I think it is essential to promote stories like hers because there are many people who live with a disability and we need to tell them that it is possible to be successful despite the odds and that they should never give up until they come through, because everything is possible when you keep your mind wide open.”