I’m proud to be the Executive Sponsor of our CapAbilities ERG, an employee group whose mission is to raise awareness and break down the bias of workplace issues that affect people with disabilities and/or caregivers of those with a disability. We recently had a Courageous Conversation virtual event, in partnership with our Family Support Network EAG, on managing your career while caring for a loved one with a disability. I was fortunate to be able to share my own story with the support of Commvault. In honor of International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3rd, I wanted to share my story here as well.
My daughter Emily, now 18 years old, was born with Goldenhar syndrome, a rare craniofacial condition. She was born missing her entire lower jaw, and her craniofacial problems have required her to have more than 40 surgeries to date. While she’s come such a long way since the day she was born, Goldenhar syndrome is something she will continue to live with throughout her entire life.
I’ve been at Commvault for almost 18 years, so Emily’s journey began within my first year at Commvault. When Emily was born, I basically had to mature overnight. And I have to admit, Emily’s story was not something I shared immediately with my colleagues. There were countless times I took conference calls from hospitals and waiting rooms, and nobody knew. But as I matured professionally and became more comfortable, I went from hiding Emily’s story to advocating for it – Emily’s story eventually became a part of me at Commvault.
Our job as parents of children with disabilities is to give them the opportunity to have the best life possible, and that’s something my wife, Nancy, and I have always focused on. It’s all about advocacy – when you start with advocacy, then change will happen. And over the years, as we continued to advocate for Emily, we also instilled within her the importance of advocating for herself. And moreover, to never, ever, stop. Part of Emily’s early advocacy outreach included Bring Your Child to Work Day at our headquarters office multiple times early in her teen years. Emily brought her service dog and shared her story with our Vaulters. She loved doing it, and this opportunity jumpstarted her own advocacy journey, as she began to present at schools and talk to students about her story. Over the years, Emily’s mission has been to spread awareness about kindness and acceptance to kids of all ages by doing presentations live on-site, through video conferences, and on social media. I couldn’t be more proud of her.
Emily’s journey has taught me so much, both personally and professionally. While there have been so many life sessions and learning moments, a few that we focused our discussion on during our Courageous Conversation are:
- Listen and pay attention to detail. When doctors start using fancy words, you have to listen. When you’re home dealing with your child with a disability, you have to be able to listen to what they’re saying (and not saying) and pay that close attention to detail. These skills have not only taught me to be a better father, but a better professional as well. Staying present and listening helps me do my job better and best support my team.
- Value the impact of support. It’s incredibly important to accept the support you may need, and sometimes that means being vulnerable. Lean on the resources available to you and leverage them. As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t always open to sharing Emily’s story and accepting support at work. But to manage work-life balance and be my best self at Commvault, I realized how impactful a support network really is.
- Embrace life’s challenges. Navigating the unknown and overcoming obstacles is what makes us stronger at home and at work. While there have been so many challenges related to Emily’s disability, I realize how much I have learned and grown from our situation. The life skills I’ve developed have not only made me a better person at home, but they’ve made me a better colleague and leader at Commvault.
Without the support of Commvault over the past 18 years, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Showing how we care is foundational to who we are as a company. Our CapAbilities ERG is creating a safe and empathetic space where Vaulters with disabilities, caregivers, and allies can openly and honestly have discussions and drive change together.
When I look back, I wouldn’t change a thing about Emily’s journey and our situation. It’s made me who I am today, and Emily continues to shine and make a difference in the world every day.