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Life at Deloitte
Candid Conversations: Patrick McElrath
The US veteran shares how working at Deloitte has made a difference in his life.
Employees with disabilities add to the intricate fabric that makes up America’s workforce. This year Deloitte is celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month, an annual awareness campaign that takes place in October. The purpose of this initiative is to educate and to celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. As a part of efforts to spread awareness, we are sharing stories of Deloitte professionals who have or know someone affected by a disability.
October 22, 2018
To his colleagues at Deloitte, Patrick McElrath is known simply as Mac. But many may not know that he adopted the moniker from his days serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Mac served two years as an Army Ranger before a devastating combat injury left him permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
Despite being wounded in combat, Mac looks back fondly on his time as a Ranger. The lessons he gained proved invaluable as he transitioned from the military to over two decades in the corporate world; a transition he said wasn't easy at first. Coupled with adapting to life outside the army and figuring out the nuances of the corporate world, Mac was also paralyzed. We sat down with Mac for a Q&A session to find out more about his days in the military, how his disability has impacted his life, and how he helps others facing similar challenges through The Paralyzed Veterans of America organization and the Armed Forces Business Resource Group he spearheads at Deloitte.
Serving in the U.S. Army was a great experience. It taught me a lot about leadership and taking the initiative and owning what you do. The Ranger motto is “Sua Sponte," and it means "Of their own accord." When Rangers go on missions, there is always a plan, but it goes out the window as soon as you go to execute. So, everyone from the lowest private to the highest general needs to know what to do if the plan falls apart, you need to own it and execute to make the mission successful. And I’ve brought that with me throughout my professional career and to Deloitte.
How did you get involved with Paralyzed Veterans of America?
I had the idea that we could do a fundraiser lunch for the local Paralyzed Veterans of America, a chapter here in Orlando. They’re very much underserved. One of the biggest questions a veteran asks when they’re wounded, especially if they are paralyzed, is “what does my life mean now?” Vets sometimes think “I don’t know how to go from being a soldier, a sailor, an airman, a coast guard, a marine, to a disabled person with a severe disability for the rest of my life.” Paralyzed Veterans of America does a lot to help people figure that out. And they did a lot for me to help me figure that out when I was paralyzed.
What was the reaction like from Deloitte?
Deloitte completely jumped on board with the idea. We ended up raising $3,000 to $4,000 that year for the local chapter. They couldn’t have been happier. And really, the best part was, I was the first guest speaker. And I got to be myself. I got to tell my story.
How did your colleagues react?
A lot of people didn’t know I was in the military. They didn’t know what I did before Deloitte. When I shared my story it was neat to see people kind of go, “Mac the IT geek manager did something totally different before IT!” And it just opens that personal connection that you have with people when they know a little bit more about you. People who I didn’t known were in the military are now coming up and introducing themselves to me.
How has the relationship with Paralyzed Veterans of America progressed?
There is a group at Deloitte that now runs the event every year. We also held one on Flag Day this year. Deloitte cares about local efforts to help a largely underserved part of the disabled community. We sell out that event every year. Tickets for the BBQ are gone within weeks.
How has having a disability impacted your career?
Deloitte and the US Delivery Center have always been incredibly supportive of me with my disability. I don't have a lot of needs where I have to take extra time for my personal disability, but the organization has always been very open to and supportive if something does come up. If I need to run home to take care of something, they make sure I have time to do it. If I need to go to the VA for an appointment, an hour each way, they make sure I have an opportunity to do that.
Paralyzed Veterans of America means a lot to Mac. Watch below as he talks more about his initiative to support their cause.