As a teenager, Salem experienced a life-threatening brain haemorrhage with a one per cent chance of survival. He spent several months in a coma and had to re-learn how to walk, talk, eat and even swallow. Determined not to let his injuries slow him down, Salem returned to complete his last three years of high school and went on to study at University.
In July 2019, Salem completed a Master of Information Technology, receiving a high score and gaining great work experience during his studies. Despite his qualification and work experience shining through on paper, Salem found it extremely difficult to find work in the IT industry after graduation.
As a result of his injuries, Salem has a speech impairment, which acted as a barrier when applying for graduate positions. He found it challenging to go through an interview process and therefore rarely found himself in the position where he was considered for employment.
Realising that he required support, Salem reached out to his career advisor at La Trobe.
“I was determined to find something, and I knew I needed help as I could not do it alone,” he explained.
The career adviser told him about GradWISE, a program which helps people living with a disability enter the workforce.
Only a week after his first meeting with his GradWISE Career Coach, Grace, Salem secured several interviews, which due to the COVID-19 pandemic, needed to be conducted over the phone or via video conferencing.
This presented an issue in itself, as digital interviews made it difficult for the interviewer to understand Salem. With that in mind, Grace made the necessary steps to support Salem through each process.
“Grace worked extremely hard to contact the different businesses to organise suitable adjustments for me, which gave me the confidence that I wouldn’t be disadvantaged during the interview,” explained Salem.
“I met with Grace every couple of weeks, and we were in constant communication via email. Before I submitted each application, I would send my answers to Grace. She would then tell me what the recruiters were looking for and the changes I needed to make to ensure I would stand out from the other applicants.”
In February 2020, Salem attended a two-day masterclass with GradWISE where multiple companies spoke about their graduate programs. Evelyn Crowe and Chris Smith from Telstra’s Early Careers team were there and spoke about how Telstra works with, and supports, candidates and employees living with disabilities. They instantly noticed Salem.
“In a room of around 30 people, Salem stood out because he put his hand up, asked great questions and got involved in the conversation. I thought he demonstrated great courage speaking in front of an audience, despite his communication restraints,” Telstra’s Early Careers’ Experience Delivery Lead, Chris, said.
When Salem applied for the Telstra Graduate Program, Evelyn who is Telstra’s Early Careers’ Talent Acquisition Team Lead, worked closely with GradWISE to ensure Salem was supported throughout the recruitment process. As the process took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, all interviews were conducted online.
“We reached out to him to find out what adjustments he needed for each step, so we could help remove any barriers for his specific needs.”
Chris thought it was a great interview. “Salem was excited to have the opportunity to mix with technical people, learn from our team and be in a structured environment. His consistent enthusiasm and desire to be in a corporate environment meant he would be a great fit for team Telstra,” he explained.
Soon after, Salem was offered a position as a Graduate Network Software Specialist at Telstra, and he’ll start in February 2021. He’s extremely excited about the role and knowing that the years and effort he put into his education, and all the hard work he and Grace put into finding employment, did not go to waste.
Catch Salem on the panel discussion at the 2020 Incl(us)ion Forum
Wednesday 5 August
Inclusion Forum – Student & Employer Panel
Time: 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. via this Zoom link with password: 333265
Hear from students and grads including La Trobe alumni who together with their employers & support services will share their experiences and insights of their career journeys so far. Features GradWISE & Telstra, Himilo Community Connect, Australian Network on Disability, Victorian Government Grads – Indigenous Pathway
Facilitator – Anthony Gartner, Manager, Equity and Diversity, La Trobe University
- Jesse Felsinger – La Trobe Bachelor of Business student
- Tess Whelan, Program Coordinator PACE Mentoring, Australian Network on Disability
- Salem Abdallah, LTU Alumni & Telstra Graduate Software Network Specialist
- Edward Osano, Head of GradWISE |Graduate Disability Placement Services
- Evelyn Crowe & Chris Smith, Telstra Early Careers team
- Karen Hill, Senior Adviser, Aboriginal Employment (Vic Gov GRADS program)
- Mark Latchford – Associate Director, Pride In Diversity (ACON Pride Inclusion Programs)