How did you get started in your career?
I came to UBS out of college and worked my way through various departments in the organization. In July 2018, I celebrated 31 years at UBS.
How has having a disability been part of your experience at UBS?
At 23 I came down with pneumonia. Over the next two years, with extensive support from my managers, the company doctors referred me to medical experts who diagnosed me with a rare kidney condition. This also affected my pregnancy and I needed additional check-ups. Luckily I got to 7 months and delivered a healthy baby boy. Two months later, I wanted to get back to work and a routine. My managers helped me a lot. They adapted my work and gave me a flexible working arrangement that meant I could work from home or in the office.
By the end of 2000, my health had deteriorated rapidly, resulting in a kidney transplant in 2001. However, my managers were there to support me. They were aware of how this would impact me but also knew that I was stubborn and needed work to distract me. They adapted my role to be more project-orientated and always made me feel like a valuable member of the team. They even helped me with the practicalities of living with the illness and arranged for dialysis equipment and medication to be delivered, managed and stored in the first aid room.
What was UBS's approach to disability and how have we helped you succeed in the workplace?
Even from the medical investigations at the start, UBS was there for me. I have gained support from not only my managers, but also my colleagues and wider business network.
You're taking part (very successfully) in the UK Transplant Games. Can you tell us more about this?
After taking part in the British Transplant Games 2018 in Birmingham this year, I came home with 2 silver medals (in golf and swimming butterfly) and 3 bronze (for swimming freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke) – hurrah! Who said I can't swim butterfly?
Open to all transplant recipients, the Games celebrate the life-changing effects of transplantation. It encourages transplant patients to regain fitness, while increasing public awareness of the need for more people to sign the UK’s NHS Organ Donor Register or Anthony Nolan stem cell register, and discuss their wishes with their families.
Without the selfless act of donors, many of those participating would not be here today. Without Kevin the Kidney (now 17 and named after its donor), I would not be here today. And now … Snowdon Triple Challenge here I come (cycling, trekking and kayaking), raising money for Guide Dogs!
What advice would you give to someone with a similar disability?
My approach and personal goal is to get on with life. Today, I feel fitter than when I was 25. Now that my son is away at university, I'm using my free time to train for a charity walk in Edinburgh.
Next to your day-to-day role at UBS, are you involved in a disability network?
I now understand the importance of sharing a life experience with those inside and outside of UBS. I chair the Ability Awareness network at UBS alongside my colleague Larry. The aim of the network is to support our employees and any candidates with disabilities, and to also reinforce the message that our company is an employer who cares. We also want to emphasize the message that we appreciate how diversity comes in many forms and that everyone has the ability to contribute in a positive way. It just needs open communication and lateral thinking.
Sarah in a nutshell
Sarah is an Executive Director for our EMEA Documentation Unit, in London. When she’s not participating in the Transplant Games, she enjoys golf, swimming, watching rugby, walking and rock concerts.