My counselee and I

Norbert Freitag, Germany

Director, Fraud Investigation & Dispute Services

 

In December, we mark International Day of People with Disabilities, a day where we celebrate the contributions and achievements of those who have visible and non-visible disabilities. We sat down with Norbert to talk more his involvement in the disability space and how EY has supported him in doing so.

 

Tell us a bit more about yourself — your journey to EY and what you do.

I am a director at EY, along with another colleague of mine. I am also the head of Digital Forensics and Incident Response (DFIR) team within Fraud Investigation & Dispute Services (FIDS) in Germany. We are working together with law enforcement agencies and companies within this industry. I also have a background in e-discovery, where I was the tech lead for the LIBOR investigation at Deutsche Bank.

 

We have been told that you counselled someone with a disability. What was that like? How did you support him? 

The challenge in being Michael’s counsellor was helping our colleagues to better understand the strengths and value that Michael’s disability would bring to our team. He has a strong background in security and some people still don’t include him in engagements as they don’t know or understand his background. So, we’ve tried several things over the last few years, including email communications from our team partner. Michael has done great work at our summer schools, where he was a presenter. Everyone was wondering what it was like for a blind person to be presenting on stage, but he did a fantastic job. Still, people don’t understand that in spite of being blind, he is able to read a lot faster than many of us, and that he can write documents and provide high-quality work. He does need to get all the data, information and format correct and organized before he can get access and his screen reader can understand the content and assist him. The main challenge is that some colleagues still don’t go beyond the border to reach out to him personally and try to involve Michael in everything they do.

 

What did you get personally out of working with this person? What did this experience teach you?

His strength of never giving up is something that encouraged me to do the same. I knew him before he was fully blind, and the way he adapted himself to the changes and his positivity have been inspiring.

 

How did the team work with Michael? How did they support him in his role? 

Whenever Michael is around, the team will always be there to help. People will accompany him and assist him with both the simple and difficult daily tasks. Also, nearly all the team knew him before he was blind, so the team strongly believes in him and in what he can do. They look beyond his disability and see him for what he is, what he can do and what he can produce in his role. They are all very inclusive and make him feel like he belongs to the team.

 

What advice would you share for others in similar situations?

Connect with colleagues who are in the same situation as you. Don’t try to solve challenges on your own – help each other.  Discuss potential solutions with others to finally improve your counselees working environment.