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February 24, 2017
How Far Can You Go? #IWD2017
By: Fatima Traore

Fatima Traore shares her inspirational story of determination against the odds as part of Accenture’s IWD 2017 “How far can you go?” ThinkNation event.

After arriving in the UK unaccompanied in 2012, Fatima taught herself English in six months and despite being warned by doctors her visual impairment would make a career in technology very difficult, Fatima joined Accenture’s Technology Apprenticeship programme in September 2016. As well as working full-time, Fatima is currently studying towards a BSc in Digital and Technology Solutions.

Fatima hopes to inspire other young women to go wherever their determination takes them.

I decided to apply to speak at Accenture’s “How far can you go?” ThinkNation event because I want to show other young girls that whatever their goal in life, through self-belief and action-backed determination, they can set out to achieve it.

I was born with a rare genetic condition called Corneal Dystrophy, which means my central vision is very low and bright lights are difficult for me. This definitely makes traditional classroom learning a challenge! So as you can imagine, when I decided I wanted to pursue a career in technology, the doctors and my consultant had their doubts. They knew I’d be working with a computer screen all the time, and the challenges this would bring. I was asked on several occasions, ‘…Are you sure?’

I said yes, of course! I’ve had this condition since birth, I learnt English in less than six months and I know there are lots of assistive technologies. I can manage it. But I didn’t realise until I started work how hard it would be.

I joined Accenture six months ago as a school leaver. I was looking for an alternative to university and I picked Accenture because I love technology. Plus I knew I’d have the opportunity to work in different industries, on interesting client projects. Despite being delighted with my job offer, I was really nervous! It was the amount of work I knew I had to do; university and a full-time employment with real projects for big name clients, so failure was not an option!

The last six months have been a steep learning curve but not at all as scary as I first thought. My first month of training was amazing and really prepared me for the role. Accenture were flexible and supportive of my needs and I have tools like ZoomText software on my screen. What I found hardest however, were sessions with external training providers. It’s surprising how despite my file and the legal requirements, there is often not appropriate support in place for visually impaired learners.

I’ve been asked, way too often: ‘Well you’re wearing glasses, so why can’t you see?’ Which is pretty frustrating.

This didn’t make the training impossible for me, but it took so much more time and effort. Especially with the technical side of things – I need to grasp every part of a demo and when I miss out it means a late night catching up with YouTube tutorials.

Recognising that my visual impairment is a handicap in the practical aspect of my learning was a real challenge. It took self-awareness and the confidence to speak up. Thankfully in these situations I’ve been able to contact our HR team to ensure the arrangements are in place.

So asked: ’how far can you go?' I’d say as far as my determination will take me. I will never let my visual impairment stop me going further in my career as that would be giving in. I want to share my story to empower other young women who, like me, will encounter more hurdles on the way to creating the career they want. I‘m extremely passionate about the importance of education in supporting girls to achieve their ambitions. That’s why I have set myself a goal to provide life-changing education for at least 100 girls from where I was born in Guinea, West Africa. Until I achieve this goal I won’t stop!

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