Some words of inspiration from former Outpost Student, Chantelle Penny. Since becoming a winner in our very first Power of Speech event back in 1989, former Outpost student Chantelle has risen above and beyond her hearing loss to now thrive in a culturally and ethnically diverse career that she loves:
My hearing journey started when I was two-and-a-half years old. With no ear infections or childhood issues, the cause of my hearing loss is unknown but I am profoundly deaf. I wear hearing aids and rely a lot on lip reading to get by.
My mother, Vivienne Penny, was a primary school teacher when she had me and became a qualified Teacher of the Deaf when I started school. She also worked at Speech and Hearing Centre (TSH) supporting other deaf and language delayed children. Having a mother with this additional support was handy and she pushed me to be my very best. My sister, Natasha, grew up alongside me in my journey and now serendipitously works at TSH and Newman College as part of their Outpost team.
I was at TSH until age seven, when I then integrated into Newman College Primary School as part of TSH’s Outpost program. Here, I was supported by a Teacher of the Deaf on a weekly basis to ensure I was integrating into mainstream school with ease. You could say I was really stubborn as a child – wanting to be able to do the same as every other child and was determined to not let my hearing loss make me miss out on anything. In high school I refused to have an Education Assistant – I needed my independence to do this on my own. It was a challenging time in high school and university but this has made me who I am today.
After highschool I pushed myself to work in retail as a means of putting myself out there and getting experience in adapting to loud and busy environments. I thrived in that environment – however it was challenging. Since then, I have found myself in jobs that deal with customers and interior design and eventually found my way to IKEA, where I am currently an Interior Design Manager in Perth.
At work, I lead a small team of interior designers whose role it is to look at how our local market lives and find solutions to the everyday living frustrations we all have in our homes, then demonstrate this in our room sets in store while reflecting the IKEA identity. It is my perfect environment of many different cultures and ethnicities – there are so many accents and language barriers for me to overcome.
Over the years I have developed my confidence in speech and being in large groups of people by throwing myself into anything that will challenge me. My role as project manager for many IKEA rebuilds has allowed me to gain experience and skills in managing large teams of people and to co-ordinate the project from start to finish with outstanding results. I thrive on the challenge and enjoy the fast-paced work environment. Managing these type of projects has made me realise my potential and has inspired and motivated me to want to lead and manage any project that comes my way.
On a personal note, I have been with my partner Adam for 20 years and we have a two-year-old son named Logan together. I am very blessed to have a partner who is a stay-at-home dad to support my career. With his support I have the best of both worlds – me as a mother and me as a career minded person. It has not been easy but if anything, it has made me more determined to be the best I can be. My advice for others is – don’t let your hearing loss hold you back. Use it to your advantage to motivate you and
others that you can do absolutely anything you set your mind to.
It’s not easy but the journey you will find yourself on will be rewarding. Be the inspiration and lead by example.
Telethon Speech & Hearing love to hear stories of our Alumni and what they are up to! Get in contact with us and let us know how you are going and what you’re up to now: firstname.lastname@example.org