Shani Dhanda, Business Disability Specialist
Name: Shani Dhanda
Job Title: Business Disability Specialist
My position in a nutshell… I work with big brands and businesses, such as Virgin Media and LinkedIn, to help them become a more inclusive organisation for their customers and their employees. One in 5 of us in the UK will have a condition or an impairment and I am one of those people. I was born with a rare genetic condition and, because of all the experiences I faced growing up, I really wanted the opportunity to help businesses understand what disabled people need and how they can change to support them better.
How I got the job… Throughout school, I never knew what I wanted to do. But, as I was always the person in the family that organises the get-togethers, the holidays and the parties, I decided to go to with something I enjoyed, so I went to university and studied a degree in event management.
My typical day… Involves replying to a lot of emails, chairing, and being part of, many meetings. I often have to have some quite tough conversations to try and persuade people to think in a different way. A lot of my job involves changing culture, which can be difficult, but I am passionate about the reason why I am doing this. No two days are the same – this week I was even interviewed by Vogue and I have some other interviews coming up as well.
The worst part of my job… The admin. I am a really hands-on person and would prefer to get stuck in to the task at hand and not have to deal with emails and write reports, but admin isn’t going to escape many jobs, so figure out your style of dealing with it and get in to a rhythm as quickly as you can.
The best part of my job… I am able to create positive change for many people, not just disabled people, and that is the whole purpose to why I do what I do and the passion behind it.
Key skills needed… Being a strong communicator. Speak confidently, write in a good manner, but also have great listening skills. You will need to be resilient, good at problem solving, as well as organised, empathic and understanding of different people’s perspectives.
Advice for anyone wanting to do something similar… Get lots of experience. Throughout university I did three years’ worth of free work experience because I wanted to leave university, not only with a degree, but also with the experience. It can help you understand what you do/don’t like doing at a younger age. Try and build your profile online – have strong social media profiles, good LinkedIn and really use it for networking. And you don’t have to go to university, there are so many different options now.