London, 1990. On my daily morning walk to Green Park underground station, an image always caught my eye along the way. Through the lace curtains of a Victorian house, I would glimpse a middle-aged woman typing on her computer. I imagined her telling stories, as I myself hoped to do, one day, from my own home.
I’d just finished my degree and, like so many youngsters, I’d gone off to England to master at last the language I’d been studying for ages but still didn’t really speak or understand properly.
Nearly a year later, I left an unforgettable city to begin my working career in my own language and my own country. Back then, the world was still an open book. Youth and good health saw me through the daily challenge of meeting tight deadlines, working almost round the clock, constantly nipping here and there and even taking the steps two-by-two up the endless staircase connecting Torre Picasso with the Moda Shopping mall to pick up my motorbike for my journey home. It was a long, 15-year period of employment in which I’d never heard of inflammatory outbreaks or synthetic biology drugs, not to mention the HLA-B27 antigen involved in the autoimmune disease I suffer from.
Nor had I heard of Enron, the company whose 2002 bankruptcy shook up, among other things, the status quo at Deloitte, where I was working at that time. A year before, I had watched aghast, together with the company’s chairman, the harrowing TV scenes of the two airplanes flying into the Twin Towers, first one, then the other. Both collapsing towers marked our epoch forever, just as the Enron debacle took down its accounting firm Arthur Anderson, trimming the Big Five accounting firms down to four. We were also reminded of just how fragile and fleeting even the most colossal skyscraper might turn out to be, or one of the USA’s biggest firms… or life itself. These unforeseeable events, after years of working under the aegis and guidance of companies and professionals, prompted me to fulfill my dream of telling my own stories.
The arrival in Spain of Mexico’s top technology firm, consolidation of the government’s only association of ICT executives, Europe’s first Disability Congress held in Madrid… these were some of the stories I covered as a freelance writer. For another 15 years, this freelance status enabled me to reconcile my daily work with a debilitating and challenging autoimmune disease that set in only a few months after paying my first social security contribution. For that very reason, during GMV’s Diversity Awareness Day, I identified perfectly with athlete Eduardo Carrera when he spoke about his difficulty accepting his new situation. Accepting that your body is no longer capable of keeping up with your overconfident mind calls for a disciplined training regime, in my case self-taught, and this is still a daily challenge 14 years after the diagnosis. My new situation, like that of more people than we might imagine, means adapting work to the fluctuating capabilities of a body whose own defenses are constantly turning against it.
At my current age of 48, with a 44% degree of disability, I can now imagine no other option than self-employment to balance my “autoimmune” disease with a job. GMV and I barely knew each other. Over a couple of years of collaborating with the firm, I came across a Group of Vibrant Minds, grown from a seminal idea 36 years ago and now developed into a remarkable, diversity-rich group driven by humaneness and talent stemming from the equal opportunities it provides.
Today I no longer commute on a motorbike, nor do I have to scale sweeping staircases to get to work. My company ensures the working environment is accessible, diverse, and inclusive. I could go on about the Alianza #CEOPorLaDiversidad (#CEOsForDiversity Alliance) that GMV is a member of, or about its equal-opportunity and inclusion strategy and the charitable organizations it collaborates with (ONCE Foundation, Adecco Foundation, Women for Africa, etc.) or the fact that over 24% of the staff are women in what had always been a male-dominated sector. But I’ve preferred to tell my own story. After all, it’s a story that is now part of the company whose flexibility now allows me, five years after we got to know each other, to adapt to my situation.
Author: Maole Cerezo