Behind the scenes: interning at GoCardless
Last editedSep 20213 min read
I joined GoCardless as an intern in the Talent team around two months ago. As a university student, this has been my first real experience in the world of work. However, as someone with a disability, this has also been my first real experience in the world of work learning how to manage my condition in the workplace. This article will sum up my internship experience so far, from the start to now. I aim to highlight how I have been finding my work, life, and health balance; something that is hopefully helpful to everyone.
Looking for work as an individual with a disability
“Disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed compared to non-disabled people” (Scope UK)
This statistic is shocking and for me was an immediate worry about future job security. When you dig behind the statistics for the reasons as to why the situation is as it is, one of the biggest reasons is the absence of work adjustments.
When thinking about my career opportunities, bearing this statistic in mind, I have always wondered if there is a workplace out there that is right for me. Will future employers be flexible to my needs, as someone who falls into the category of being disabled, or will I be met with box-ticking exercises and rigid ways of working?
I came across this opportunity to intern with GoCardless for three months through the Leonard Cheshire Change 100 scheme. This scheme, run by Leonard Cheshire, matches talented university students and recent graduates with any long-term condition or disability with progressive employers. My decision to join this scheme was driven by my negative experiences with job applications. I felt that when I disclosed my condition, I never heard back and when I requested adjustments that they were never fulfilled. The turning point for me was after an assessment centre for another internship. I was offered a place on the waiting list, and when I asked for feedback they told me I didn’t seem ‘comfortable’ or ‘confident’ enough throughout the three-hour assessment. Bearing in mind that I had contacted the team to let them know that I had been discharged from hospital only a day before the assessment centre and may move around often and be quiet at times due to pain. At this point, I gave up with all applications and began searching the internet to find internship opportunities where I won’t be disadvantaged for my situation, and then I found this scheme.
By being part of the scheme, GoCardless demonstrated that they are truly interested in inclusivity. This meant that during the assessment process, I was immediately reassured that I would be fairly assessed with any appropriate adjustments. Upon receiving my offer the first interaction I had was an introductory zoom call with my senior manager. It soon became clear that in this environment, my disability does not define my capability. The importance lies in understanding my needs so I can work at my best by feeling my best.
Inclusion at GoCardless
From my experiences, I believe the first step to build an inclusive workplace is through conversation otherwise, how will anything move forward? Being open about my disability is nerve-wracking, especially in an environment where I want to leave a good impression.
GoCardless is an easy-going place to be, everyone is welcoming, easy to talk to, and not intimidating for an intern like me. Therefore, disclosing my disability and talking about it has not been a problem for me here. A simple way to put it is that GoCardless values me and my well-being before the quality of work I produce. Adaptive working has been a blessing to me, allowing me to work in the office but from home when I am unable to travel to the office or am experiencing higher levels of pain and fatigue. Most importantly, I know that if I am having a hard time, struggling with the workload, or not able to deliver, that the support and understanding will be there without a doubt.
How inclusivity can enrich the workplace further
Alongside the usual intern tasks, I have been able to make an impact before my time here ends. It is more than just work experience, it is a platform for me to learn, grow and spread my wings.
At first, I was apprehensive to voice my perspective on the accessibility at GoCardless and what more could be done - no one would want to come in straight with criticism and leave a bad impression. However, everyone I have shared this with has truly valued and appreciated my perspective as a disabled individual and what I bring here. As an intern, I would never have imagined that I would be supported in creating my own accessibility initiatives, such as educational pieces for my colleagues.
This journey has helped me realise that the people in the workplace bring more than what meets the eye or the job requirements. It is the people that create the culture, success, and individuality of an organisation. As a person with disabilities looking for work, I shouldn’t be worried about my disabilities being disadvantageous to me. Instead, I should be proud of what extra I can bring to the workplace, which is what GoCardless enables me to act upon.
Has my opinion on inclusive workplaces changed?
Yes, it has. If the workplace is open to understanding and valuing diversity, then inclusivity is welcome. This is diversity not just in terms of race, gender and sexuality but also physical and mental differences, mindset, thought processes.
GoCardless has shown me what every workplace can become if they truly want to be inclusive. Is there more we can do? Of course, there are always things we can continue to do. But as I said before, the conversation is the first and biggest step, and trust me there are large visible contrasts between inclusive workplaces and those that are not.