Paul McDerby is a former Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby athlete, who won bronze and silver medals at the European and World Championships. He’s also been working for Capita for over 12 years and is now an application consultant within Shared Services. He’s been speaking to us about his background and his experience of working for Capita as a wheelchair user.
I was born with a condition called Cerebral Palsy, which is where my brain was starved of oxygen at birth leading to brain damage. When I was born the doctors told my mum that I wouldn’t lead a normal life and that I wouldn’t be able to walk / talk or even have the ability to eat or drink for myself. While some of that is true, the doctors were very far from the mark. As a child I learnt to walk, talk, eat and drink just like any normal child would, as well as learning to ride a bike, which was a huge achievement. I successfully went through mainstream primary and secondary schools and passed my A-levels in college.
As I got older my legs started to deteriorate and this was the point I started to use a wheelchair to get around. Having a wheelchair comes with a range of challenges. There are a lot of places where access is poor, such as no level access or no disabled toilets. I also found that the jobs I had were very limited in terms of career progression.
Accessibility means everything
Around the same time, I started a job at Capita as a trainee customer service advisor for O2 in Dearne Valley. I’ve always been computer literate and my interest in technology really suited me to this role. Before I joined Capita, I’d been having quite a bad employment experience, where I was being made to do things that I wasn’t capable of doing as a wheelchair user. So I was quite shocked at how easily accessible the building was. There were ramps everywhere, lifts to floors, disabled toilets, even disabled parking. You would be surprised just how many companies don’t have these facilities. Even on the winter days when it snowed, the facility staff would clear the snow from paths, ramps and car parking spaces, and help me where I needed to get safely from the car to the building. Everyone was so accommodating that nothing was ever an issue.
The opportunity to keep growing
It’s not just physical accessibility though. Wherever I’ve worked previously I’ve always been restricted with how to progress my career because of being in a wheelchair. The career progression at Capita is endless, especially when it comes to roles, as there are so many varied positions on offer. In 2015, I was doing really well and I was asked to move to a lead advisor role, taking on more senior, escalated calls to help deal with issues that customers had. This led to me eventually becoming an acting team manager and I did so well in this role that they asked me to become permanent 12 months later. It’s something I never dreamed would have happened. Being a manager wasn’t something I’d ever thought I’d be able to do because of the limitations of access. Capita made all this possible.
By 2018 I was doing really well in the manager role and I‘d built up such a huge amount of knowledge in O2 that I became the development team’s manager. This felt surreal, that it was only eight years earlier that I came through the doors of Capita nervous, starting a new adventure. Now I was a team manager, guiding them on their journey.
Taking on new challenges
In 2019 I saw a job advert within Capita for the role of application consultant within the Aida Team. With my love for technology, I just had to try and so I applied for the job. I felt the time was right to try something different, although I was very scared at the time. I would be leaving a role I felt I could do with my eyes closed to do something so out of my comfort zone. It was also located at a completely different site.
I went along to an open day so I could see what the access was like and also what the role was like. Just like Dearne Valley, everyone was so welcoming and couldn’t do enough to help with whatever I needed.
I was thrilled to find out that I’d been offered the job and started in April. Fast forward to 2022, from being that very nervous person starting a whole new role that I knew little about to today, where I won a HEROES award for helping Capita simplify a business need. This shows the not only the progression I’ve made, but also that the opportunities at Capita are endless. I’ve had a great career so far with Capita and I’ve also had two beautiful children, with a third on the way.
Empowered to reach for more
Right now, I’m very happy in the role I’m in. I’ve been an application consultant for around 3.5 years and there is still lots left to learn. I like to know the job inside out before I look at moving on. I’d really like to see my career continue with this team, so when the time is right I’ll probably be looking into a more senior role within my area.
During my time here, I’ve also been privileged to be sponsored by Capita while I competed for Great Britain in Wheelchair Rugby. They arranged for me to have the time off to compete and represent my country at the highest level of competitions. I’ve competed in major tournaments, travelling around the world winning silver and bronze medals, (narrowly missing a gold by 2 points) and playing in WWRC (World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge) in the Copperbox London in 2015. I also got to star in an England team advert alongside Charles Dance for the Rugby World Cup 2015. Even today, I still get asked to do the odd TV appearances for the Paralympics and share my experiences to help encourage others into sport. I honestly couldn’t thank Capita enough as without their support, this would of never have happened and I wouldn’t have got to experience the life I’ve had. I feel so supported by Capita, both at work and within my sporting achievements, and that’s enabled me to go after my goals and say yes to any opportunities that come my way.