At Schneider Electric, we promote and respect the rights of people with disabilities by raising awareness and tackling the stigma and stereotypes faced by people with disabilities. We foster equal treatment and equal opportunities for people with disabilities and are working to build an inclusive culture for all abilities. In recognition of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Cristiano Nazaro shares his experience with a disability in his lower limbs – throughout childhood and his career.
Challenges for myself and my family
My name is Cristiano Nazaro, I’m 43 years old and I have a disability in my lower limbs from a firearm accident that happened in November 1989. It happened while a friend of mine handed me his older brother’s – a policeman – firearm. An accident because of a child’s curiosity to hold a firearm.
It was a great challenge to accept the partial loss of movements, as I had a promising career in football. I was playing for a local team with great exposure and was told I could become a professional footballer.
However, I believe the person who felt this obstacle the most was my father. He was grappling with feelings of disappointment because he had great hopes for me to fulfill his dream of having a football player for a son. A dream most parents in Brazil share, because of the financial stability it can bring. At the same time, my father didn’t know for sure what his child’s future would hold.
Because of my disability, we faced many difficulties in my country. However, I have an interesting story. For many, disabilities are perceived as the end of the world, but for me, I saw it as a new beginning.
A new beginning
One day, I overheard my father talking about placing me in a special place so I could be better taken care of. I knew he loved me unconditionally, and only wanted my protection but he didn’t have the financial resources to do it. That day, it felt strange. As I went back to my room, I started to think about what I could do to change the situation. I wanted to show my father that I could be someone and go far in life – that my disability was just a part of my circumstances, and I would still be able to live a normal life. Without really knowing it, on this day, I started working on my first Business Plan. I wanted to change the situation and make my parents believe that our family and I could be happy even after my accident.
My first action was to choose the academic career I wanted to pursue. I knew that only education could increase my chances of getting a job. So I graduated as an Accounting Technician, and thanks to that I was able to get my first job opportunity at a postal company in Brazil. But I didn’t want to settle down, so I enrolled in a university undergraduate program in Electrical Engineering. This provided me with an opportunity to interview with Schneider Electric. And, I got the role! That’s when my professional, personal, and financial life all started changing. That was a major milestone and the beginning of a new horizon for me and my family.
I had achieved my main objective. To give my parents and me financial security – something they thought my career as a football player would bring. And I did this as an electrical technician and with a disability. I wanted to prove that it is possible to overcome the challenges of having a disability by eliminating some of the barriers, whether physical, misconceptions, or inaccurate beliefs.
A company that embraces differences
Early on in my journey at Schneider, I realized that the company’s culture was free from prejudice and that I would be able to grow professionally based on my efforts, capacity, delivery, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence. Because the company believed in me, and I believed in the company, this year I will complete 18 years with Schneider Electric. I have had a career with unique opportunities for learning and have exchanged experiences with countless professionals that I have met during this journey.
And this journey also led me to be the leader of the Network of People with Disabilities in Brazil. We are a group that brings together people with disabilities and allies to discuss, innovate, recruit and offer training to employees with and without disabilities.
We develop training and awareness actions around the challenges that people with disabilities face, hold internal and external events to cascade our knowledge as well as best practices that we are carrying out. We learned a lot from these events. In addition to being the main point of support for people with disabilities in the company, the network, and our leadership’s number one priority is to create an inclusive and respectful environment.
Schneider Electric is committed to impacting the lives of people, communities, and societies/ or environments in which we operate. Sustainability, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are core to our purpose. The initiatives we have are part of our company’s DNA and are not just something we say. We strive to achieve our goals for the betterment of everyone.
The entire DE&I strategy is fully supported. Everyone from the leadership committee, managers, and employees is essential to building a welcoming environment where everyone feels they belong. Including people with different abilities is necessary to create an innovative and disruptive environment.
Therefore, being part of this whole process makes me a better human being, it makes us all better human beings. Knowing that the company I work for is concerned with human and social values, and is committed to policies and practices that are inclusive, motivates me and my colleagues to contribute our best. I am proud to be part of this journey to include everyone.
Learn more about our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives and policies here: www.se.com/diversity
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About the Author
Cristiano Navaro has been with Schneider Electric for over 18 years and has worked in areas such as Customer Service, Tender, Internal Sales, External Sales, Service Channel Coordination, Product Manager. He is currently a Business Developer and Sales Channel Coordinator. He has a beautiful family with 2 daughters, Isabella and Samantha. Cristiano’s goal is to leave a legacy. He gives lectures in schools in less fortunate communities about the importance of academic training and entrepreneurship.