As a senior learning and development leader, I've spent my entire career helping empower others to reach their full potential. When I was left fully paralysed down my left side in 2015, I embarked on my own personal journey to reinvent myself and achieve my life passions.
I currently head up Oracle Sales & Partner Academy in EMEA for Oracle's most dynamic and fastest growing group: Oracle Digital. Together with a world class team of facilitators and sales Performance Partners, I ensure all reps, sales consultants, business development consultants and sales managers are enabled and empowered to be more productive and successful. This starts with on boarding, followed by continuous skills development, both virtual and face-to-face, throughout their Oracle career.
Outside of Oracle, I am a motivational speaker on resilience and goal setting based on my personal experience of learning to walk again. In August 2015, something went terribly wrong during surgery, resulting in a massive bleed that rendered me fully paralysed down the left side. The journey that followed—trying to get my body to function again and getting my independence back—was without any doubt the fight of my life, and one that I won. I’d like to share a few of the most important things that I learned along the way.
Learn to ask for help
I’ve always been fiercely independent; according to my dad, my favourite words while growing up were “do self.” When your body isn't functioning properly though, you have two choices: be too proud to ask for help and miss out on about a thousand things, or find the courage and be vulnerable enough to reach out for help. Brene Brown once said “Vulnerability is the most accurate measurement of courage” and here’s what I learned; when you finally do dare to ask for what you need and want, it turns out people are more than happy to give you that help. You allow them to lighten your burden and make a difference, which in return makes those who help you feel good too. By now I have my independence back and I love to “do self” again, but when there is something I can't do by myself yet, I'm no longer afraid to ask.
Know what defines you
I was going through a particularly tough time during my stay at the Rehabilitation Hospital, when I was presented with an opportunity. The recreational therapy department was struggling with brand awareness, and I offered to lead a workshop on how to formulate a brand strategy—something I’d done countless times in my career, but at the time felt quite nerve-wrecking, still being in hospital and very insecure about what the future would hold for me. The workshop was a huge success and a turning point in my recovery. It made me realise that while my walking wasn’t perfect and my arm may never fully recover, what made me “me” was still there. I still loved facilitating and empowering others, and it changed everything. I knew then and there that I did still have value, that there would be a future for me and I would go back to work and contribute. When you realise that you can only lose what you have, never who you are and when you know what your ‘why’ is, you will always find yourself again.
There is always a way – never give up
Three weeks after the surgery, my medical team came to tell me, that based on the most recent MRI, it was highly unlikely I’d ever walk again, and then handed me a list of assisted living facilities to look at. I decided on the spot that not only would I walk again; I'd walk on the Great Wall of China. Over the months that followed, I worked to become the person who could achieve that goal. There were times when my body was in more pain than I thought I could handle, when every day was a battle and people around me told me to just "give up and accept."
I didn’t and in August 2017, exactly two years after the bleed that destroyed the connections in my brain and changed my life forever, I walked on the Great Wall of China! Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you are and aren’t capable of. Set your goal, work to become the person who can reach that goal, smash that goal! If you want to learn more about how I reached my goal and how you can learn to build your resilience, I welcome you to watch my workshop in the Brain for Business series.
Less than a year after the surgery I went back to work and six months after that I joined Oracle. Disabilities are the last frontier when it comes to Diversity & Inclusion and the biggest challenge is the staggering lack of role models with visible disabilities in senior leadership positions. I’m extremely proud to work for Oracle as a Senior Director in a highly visibly position where I interact with stakeholders and participants on a daily basis. Doing so gives me the opportunity to use my story to raise awareness while at the same time being an Oracle employee like everyone else.
Moving companies was a bit daunting; in my old company everybody knew what happened, which made it safe and comfortable. But I just couldn’t bring myself to pass up the opportunity to join a company like Oracle. I want to share an example of something my manager did that made me realise I made the right choice.
Shortly after I signed the contract, but before I started, I realised that I would not be able to fully comply with Oracle’s local ‘Business Smart’ dress code. Because I wear a leg brace, I can only wear trainers and there just aren’t any that fit within that dress code. While this may seem like a small thing, when you are still in the process of trying to come to terms with having a disability, the last thing you want, is to be ‘an exception’. I felt bad having to write to my new manager, asking her if this was going to be an issue, but did so nonetheless. Her reply came back the following day: “Sacha, I hired you for your brain and what you will bring to the team, not your sense of fashion”. I don’t think I ever told her but that one simple email gave me such an instant sense of belonging that it made me cry. With one simple sentence, and without making a big deal out of it, she told me that my disability would never be an issue.
Oracle’s recognition of International Day for Persons with Disabilities and new employee resource group for diverse abilities signifies the importance of our support for employees living with, or caring for family with, disabilities, both visible and invisible. .
If you are looking to join a company that helps all people reach their full potential, I encourage you to explore careers at Oracle.