Embracing the Power in a Name
In the face of challenges, Zeus—a Toronto, Canada-based Strategic Sourcing Director—uses optimism, strength and tenacity to lead his team, accomplish his goals and manage his disability.
May 12, 2023 3 Minute Read
You’re open about your diagnosis. Can you tell us what it was like growing up?Growing up with a disability in India in the 1990s was difficult. Society has come a long way since then, but at the time there was no sensitivity training or information on disabilities. I felt stigmatized and uncomfortable talking about it. It almost felt taboo.
I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, a neurologic condition caused by birth asphyxiation in my case. Put simply, it’s a motor disability that causes problems with muscle coordination. As a result, I saw many doctors and physiotherapists over the years. When I was 14, I worked up the courage to speak to my parents about surgery. When school ended that year, they took me to a surgeon, and I had skeletal and muscular reconstructive surgery from the hips down.
At the time, my back was severely hunched over, my knees were bent at 90-degree angles and my left foot was turned inward completely, but the surgery helped correct a lot of that. It was an arduous recovery. The casts didn’t come off for 3 months, and then it took several more months to learn how to stand and walk with a cane—and almost one year to walk unassisted. The major plus was how much taller I was after my surgery. The first time I stood up straight, I realized I was taller than my dad!
My dad was the one that decided to name me Zeus shortly after the diagnosis. He was inspired by the god in the DC Comics book he was reading and thought it would be a powerful name for me to take into the world—he believed my condition would drive me to overcome hurdles at an early age and achieve great things later in life.
Did the surgery give you more confidence?Initially, I was afraid of going to college with a walking stick. At first, people would point and whisper when they saw me. Gradually more people got to know me, and I finally started feeling like I belonged. Just when I’d conquered my fears and finally felt back on track, after being placed on the waiting list my dream school announced they had a spot for me. I was terrified about having to start over once again, but I rolled the dice and decided to step out of my comfort zone and join my dream school.
That experience taught me a valuable lesson early in life—If I want to get ahead, I must be able to reinvent myself, make tough decisions and sometimes start over.
In that same spirit of starting over, what brought you to Canada?I wanted more global peers, so I decided to get my MBA at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and broaden my network. After graduation, it took me over a year to find a job, so I focused again on my body—building strength and power. For a while, I was really into boxing – I even had a license with Boxing Ontario. It was revoked when the organization saw a news report about a boxing fundraiser I was doing and decided they were no longer comfortable with the risk. Usually, neurological conditions that affect your locomotive ability automatically prevents you from getting a boxing license, so getting it in the first place felt special—I even managed to raise some money for charity. I'm currently working with a physiotherapist to maintain my strength and balance. And I’m switching to lower-impact activities like weight training and swimming.
How has your life experience influenced how you approach your role at CBRE?I joined the company in late 2022 as Director for Strategic Sourcing, servicing a government account in our Global Workplace Solution business segment. Living with my disability has given me the drive and resilience to work hard and achieve results, but also the empathy needed to lead large teams. As a director, I'm responsible for helping to set the culture, making sure it’s a positive workplace and our account team is taken care of.
I don’t worry too much about external bias or judgment; I look inward for validation, to understand and pursue what’s important to me. Sometimes, life or work can seem impossibly difficult. But even when you feel like you're losing, it’s a sign you need to grow into the person who can get you to a better place—and that’s what makes the adversity worth it.
What are your future career goals?I have very high aspirations: I want to be a global CEO someday. I've picked up 17 books to read this year about leadership, organization, design strategy and more. I also assess the effectiveness of my leadership with my team throughout the year. I ask myself what do I need to learn? How do I become better? There may come a point in my life where I decide I’m done fighting battles and want to stay in my comfort zone, but I'm not there yet.
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