ArticlesOur Unique Accent: An Inspiring Story
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Our Unique Accent: An Inspiring Story

We’re all unique and different in our own special way, and we should learn to be confident in ourselves and allow our differences to shine! This is the story of Mehr Hussain, a person who stutters in the Private Equity world!
Her Story

For most individuals, finding one’s voice, establishing self-esteem, overcoming insecurities are built over a span of decades in life. Every individual faces these challenges, but people who stutter are put to the test earlier. I grew up with a stutter and with that came a lot of assumptions on what type of life, education and career I would choose (basically working in a back office, probably in a cave with minimal to zero interactions with people).

Well, I ended up jumping straight into Private Equity and Venture Capital, where you would find me interacting with clients, who were high net worth investors looking for investment trends or closing deals. After three years of working on PE deals, I got the opportunity to join a reputed multinational company in May 2021. So let’s just say I am not hidden in a cave somewhere, but very much in the center of the action, interacting with my colleagues and meeting new clients every day.

Effect of Stuttering on Childhood

Coping with stuttering as a child is a solitary endeavor. I did not meet anyone else who stuttered. I was that kid that used to tell her parents to ask the people in the food court for extra ketchup, because I couldn’t say the word without being stuck on K for 30 seconds. Or praying in every class that the teacher doesn’t pick me to read in front of everyone as it would take me 2 minutes more than others to complete even a sentence.

With that being said, empathy played a funny role in my journey. I remember a moment in grade four, when I built up the courage to finally go up to my teacher and say, “I would like to participate in a school play”. She looked at me (a look that I will never forget) with pity and said, “I don’t think it’s a good idea because of your stutter, it’s for your own good”. What upset me the most was that my stutter was seen as a ‘problem’. This was where I was made aware of how empathy suddenly became a road block for me tapping into things that would come easier to everyone else (i.e. presentations, roles in school plays,etc.).

Moments like these happen in our most formative and vulnerable ages of development, where seemingly small interactions and experiences can cascade deeply into our view of ourselves and our habits. I could either let my stutter define my every outcome or start embracing it because the world will never make you forget it. Therefore, I started telling myself and others, you know, just like someone who has a strong French, Italian or American accent; well this is just another accent. The minute I changed my perception, and decided that this does not define me, I found myself connecting with people and tapping into opportunities like never before.

By the time I graduated high school, I was the ‘Head Girl’ of the entire school and by the time I was in the UK for my undergraduate studies, I was the Vice Editor of the university’s investment publication. In my life, stuttering developed discipline and creativity, made me comfortable being uncomfortable, and developed empathy for others’ struggles.

Dealing with Insensitive Comments
Stuttering has developed a quirky lens within me that allows me to view these dialogues as purely human defenses. And in the end, the insensitive questions/attitude is purely from the fact that they imagine what life would be if they had a stutter, which makes them uncomfortable and leads to such dialogue. To date, I get asked how stuttering will affect my ability at work, as a lot of people get surprised that I chose a career that is so people orientated. But I think it’s about being confident with the skill set you have. So the way I see it is that there is something more important than fluent speech that my brain has set its focus on.
Future Calling

I believe in breaking barriers and doing things differently than normal standards. As I said, I started my career as an analyst in Private Equity and Venture Capital, where I was the only female in the team. So let’s just say I truly felt my gender for the first time. So here I was the only female in the team with a stutter and guess what? I made sure I got the seat on the table and made sure it (my stutter) was heard. Therefore, when I first joined the workforce, I teamed up with some incredible women to launch Women in Business practice. So excited to share my experience and learn from other women.

Hopefully, as I continue my journey, the experiences I gain in the industry is something I want to pass on. I remember the best professors in university were those that were working in their respective fields and they would teach using their real life work cases. Hence, eventually I would like to have the opportunity to become a visiting professor for investments/deals, where I can educate the next generation (yes, that means teaching in front of a big group)!

Stutter: Is it a Blessing?

In the beginning, it wasn’t a battle to correct my stutter as much as it was a battle to hide it. But as I grew up, I saw people with fluent speeches get anxious and scared before doing any sort of public speaking. Here I was with a stutter, thinking that I will never be able to talk to anyone over a phone for meetings, ordering food (this would be disastrous as I am a food lover), etc. to ever be able to do presentations. So how could people with no stutter be scared? The answer was, we all have insecurities and we are our own best enemy when it comes to criticizing/holding us back. I remember my friends/ acquaintances in university/high school coming up to me to help them with public speaking and how to work the room.

Do I still get nervous when we have to go around a room and introduce ourselves for the first time? Sure. But I don’t let it stop me from speaking when it’s my turn. The minute I stopped letting stuttering define my aspirations and personality, I accepted that it’s a unique accent and I have an empowering story to share.

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