How a disability led to a new, fulfilling career path

After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Doug Smith -- an Air Force veteran and international radio communications expert -- set his career path in a different direction.

Smith left his hands-on fieldwork behind, but took advantage of his technical know-how by becoming a tech expert at Verizon’s call center.

"I truly appreciate Verizon for giving me meaningful work and great benefits,” Smith said. “I enjoy helping our customers resolve issues with their smartphones and data devices. I get a great deal of satisfaction knowing that I was able to fix a problem and make a customer happy."

We sat down with Smith to learn about his journey and how he’s continuing to meet his career aspirations. 

Where did you gain your technical expertise?

It started about 44 years ago. I was in the Air Force for seven years, where I was trained in electronics and radio repair. I even worked underground on the Titan 2 missile silos. After leaving the Air Force I worked for GTE Satellite Corporation, where I maintained satellite systems used for long-distance international phone service. I then transferred to a different telecommunications company, but I was laid off in 2001.

Around this time, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

I was like, oh wow, what do I do now? I knew that I would no longer be able to do outside technical work, so I started to look into call center opportunities. In 2003 I applied for an opening at Verizon as a tech expert in the Folsom, California, wireless call center [now in Rancho Cordova]. I was hired right away.

Tell us about your job as a tech expert.

When Verizon Wireless customers need assistance with their cellphones, they call me. I troubleshoot the problem and help them be on their way quickly. I believe Verizon knew my technical background would give me a unique perspective on helping customers. Although I miss doing the hands-on work, I am very grateful that I can continue my career by using my skills in the call center to keep our customers connected.

How has Verizon given you the support you need to do your job?

My supervisor and my colleagues are extremely supportive. The fact that I use a motorized wheelchair has never been an issue. My office is on the first floor of the building, and I don’t need any special accommodations to access the office. But sometimes it’s the small things that count: My supervisor has adjusted my break schedule to give me more flexibility during my day.