16 January 2024

My Life Now - meet Martin

It’s been over two decades since the Trust first set sail – what are the young people who have been on trips up to now? Cancer may have changed Martin's path, but sailing showed him he was capable of a rewarding career in customer service.

Name: Martin Graham

Age: 31

Martin smiling on one of the Trust yachts wearing a red t-shirt and blue life jacket with the sea in the background on a beautiful sunny day.Diagnosis/year: Sarcoma in right thigh in 2012

When did you first sail with the Trust? Summer 2014

What do you do now? Complaint Investigator, Danske Bank

Explain what that means? We are the largest bank in Northern Ireland with a large number of personal, wealth, business, and corporate customers. Me and a small number of colleagues are responsible for investigating complaints, ensuring fair outcomes for customers, generating ideas for ways we can improve and following these through to implementation.

Why did you want to do this? I didn’t! Nobody has ever wanted to work in complaints - it just doesn’t sound like a pleasant job. Before I was diagnosed, I was making an attempt to complete my A-levels with the ambition to go to uni to study music. But getting cancer hugely upset that goal and changed my direction.

The best part of customer service for me is always taking an unhappy customer and putting them back on that path to being happy again - now I do that every day. On top of that, I’m responsible for initiating a lot of changes, some major, some minor, to ensure that we continue to lead in customer satisfaction.

Our hard work on ensuring fair outcomes for customers and for improving the business has been recognised at all levels in the bank, but most notably we were nominated for an industry award.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done lately? I had a party as I got the all-clear last year and have been discharged from the care of my oncologist. Loads of my friends and family came, and we enjoyed lots of good food and drink. The weather was perfect too, right up until the moment the heavens opened!

Martin sat chilling on one of the Trust yachts wearing a red t-shirt and blue life jacket with the sea in the background on a beautiful sunny day.Why did you need the Trust’s support in recovery? I don’t think I realised that I did, at the time. Learning to sail is really cool and lots of fun, and the physical challenges that came with that were good for breaking the barriers I had in my own mind about what I could do.

I think going on trips with the Trust gave me the opportunity to recognise that normal is a subjective term, that dealing with hardship insists on a lot of personal development, and that many people had gone through the same experiences as me, and were doing so well.

What part has the Trust played in you doing what you do now? Sadly, I have always struggled with self-confidence. You can imagine how difficult it is to be confident in yourself when your confidence is already low, and then you get diagnosed with cancer.

Had I not taken the opportunities to go sailing with the Trust, I think that I likely would have continued to lack the confidence necessary to apply for the jobs that I wanted and being successful in them once I got them. I, apparently, still don’t speak highly enough of myself, so there’s still some work to do!

Why did you want to come back and volunteer? Having cancer was one of the most impactful parts of my life. It came at a real juncture between childhood and adulthood, between school and work, between knowing myself and who I wanted to be. What should have been the end of my teens, and the start of my twenties, was a real tough time for me.

Knowing, intrinsically, how challenging dealing with cancer is, particularly at that age, and how important social and emotional rehabilitation is, I wanted to be part of the team to help on Trust trips so that other young people who have been through the same thing as me can benefit from the important work the Trust does.

What’s your top tip for other young people? Don’t talk fast and use big, corporate-sounding words to try to impress people. Honesty and integrity are incredibly valuable qualities, and being your authentic self, even when representing a financial institution, is important. Getting your point across clearly and concisely is more important than the corporate lingo.