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Achievement against odds


HE'S A software developer. He watches TV and reads books in his spare time. He holds an M.Sc. in Mathematics. He goes out with his friends. He's recently been selected as one of Microsoft's Most Valued Professionals. The only thing he doesn't do is answer the phone.

M. Rajesh, a senior developer at ICICI Infotech in Chennai, has been hearing-impaired from childhood. "We took Rajesh to the doctor when he was nearly three and were told that he was deaf," says his mother, Shashikala. "Back in the early 1970s, there weren't many schools or much help for children with hearing disabilities. But the doctor referred us to Bala Vidyalaya (a school that trains young deaf children in language and speech skills so that they can be integrated into regular schools by the age of five) and because of the training there he was able to join Don Bosco in Egmore."

"Coping in school was not a problem," says Rajesh. "The difficulties I faced were the same as the other kids in my class." Friends acted as a support system, explains his mother. But life got a little harder after that. Rajesh was denied a seat in engineering and went on to do undergraduation in Mathematics. He wrote staff selection exams to become a bank officer, but it was only when a friend convinced him to join a computer class that he "realised a career called software development existed and decided to become a professional in the field." But jobs were a problem. "When I applied, all the enthusiastic companies called me for interview. But then I'd get rejected because I was hearing impaired," says Rajesh.

After a stint in Goldlabs, he worked with ICICI Infotech in Mumbai for about a year and was then transferred to Chennai. He now works at the Haddows Road Branch of ICICI Infotech.

In February this year, Rajesh visited Seattle as one of Microsoft's Most Valued Professionals (MVP). He'd been participating in online forums and was part of the Microsoft .Net community in India, providing support solutions to other developers and users.

He was selected as one of the 33 software developers to participate in a summit at the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Seattle. ICICI Infotech sponsored his trip to the U.S., where he got to meet Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Eric Rudder, Lori Moore and other Microsoft executives. The MVP community consists of developers from more than 40 countries.

"Most software development is done in India now and so it's a career option with good opportunities, especially for hearing-impaired and handicapped people because you don't need much physical strength," says the 32-year-old. "People do have to realise that the hearing-impaired who have been integrated into regular schools are as capable as the rest."

SHALINI UMACHANDRAN

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