Disability is not a barrier: a career in site management

Ümit Demici
About the author : Ümit Demirci

Site Manager, Sodexo Turkey

Published on : 7/14/21
  • My name is Ümit, I am married with one daughter and I live in Turkey. I am also disabled. I only have one finger on each hand, one toe on each foot and I am diabetic. But I’ve never let my disability stand in my way. I am a naturally hopeful person. I can do everything I need to do, and my family have always been fully supportive.

    Ümit Demici

    After graduating from high school, I found a job with a local government organization in Bursa, Turkey.

    On my first day they told me: “You’ve been recruited because of the government quota on hiring disabled people; you cannot work or write properly so just sit here and take your salary.”

    I like to be useful, I’m not the kind of person who wants to just sit and do nothing.

    So, I began to research roles I could do within the building. Eventually, I secured a transfer to the business administration department where I had the job of delivering photocopies around the building. Since this task took me all over the building, I learnt how everything worked and started to use all the different programs. I became the go-to person for questions about how things worked.

    Over time, I supported other members of the ‘disabled team’ to find useful roles too. The whole mindset of the management team started to change. They began to understand that not only could a disabled person perform a useful role, but that they would often work harder than their colleagues without a disability.
    I stayed with this organization for 14 years. Despite this gradual change in mindset and everything I had achieved, I left with the same job title and salary which I had when I joined. It was time for a change.

    We are like family

    I joined Sodexo as a junior manager at a client site in Bursa in 2018.

    I spent the first two weeks learning how everything worked at the headquarters in Istanbul. I quickly understood that I would be given all the equipment I needed and that I could come to my managers with any problem or question and be fully supported. After that, the job was easy.

    I was absolutely amazed when, after a year, I was promoted to site manager. I never imagined I would be able to progress after previously spending 14 years at the same level.

    Since then, I have gradually taken on more responsibility. I am now responsible for 13 additional smaller locations, as well as my main site. I manage a team of 135 people, 35 of which are direct reports.

    The part I enjoy most about my role is supporting my team. We are not just colleagues; we are like family, and I am a very proud member of that family. I feel completely accepted. I love that I can support the people in my team to solve problems, either personal or work-related, and open doors for them.

    Disability is not a barrier

    I am so happy that I’ve found a role where I can be useful and a company where my work is valued. I’m not looking for big promotions, but I know the management team here will support me to reach my potential and my aspirations.

    In some countries, people with disabilities like mine can take a driving test with specially adapted vehicles, but the law is different in Turkey. I hope that one day this law changes so I can drive independently as currently I rely on a team member to drive me between the different locations I manage.

    I am so pleased that Sodexo doesn’t see my disability as a barrier to my ability to manage a team and perform efficiently. I am proud to support and spread the word on this topic.

    I want to show everyone that I can do my job well, even with a physical disability. And I hope that will help to increase understanding and awareness on the topic.

    In Turkey, Sodexo has introduced a training program at a vocational high school for children with disabilities. I work directly with the school to inspire the children and show them that a career is possible. We’ve taken on interns from the school and, I’m proud to say, two of those interns now have full-time jobs with Sodexo.

    Disability is not a barrier and I want to tell the whole world about it!

    Find out more in this video:


    Find out more about a career at Sodexo!

    This article was created by Ümit Demirci, Site Manager, Sodexo Turkey.

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