Phil's Story

Phil Gorf, 47, from Newport near Milton Keynes, was born with a birthmark across three quarters of his face. The birthmark also appears on his chest, left arm and right leg. For the past twenty years he has built a successful career working in process improvement for the logistics company DHL.phil

But as a younger man starting out in employment, he experienced discrimination because of his disfigurement.

Phil said: “Before I joined DHL, I had an interview with a water company and the man interviewing me said ‘I’ve noticed your face, is that anything that can get in the water?’. I explained that it was just a birthmark. Unsurprisingly I didn’t get the job. At the time, I was so young and didn’t understand that I was being discriminated against and so I just accepted it.

“Then I had an interview at a company that fitted satellite dishes and TV aerials, where the man said ‘I can’t employ you. I couldn’t send you out to a customer with a face like that’. I found that experience to be really upsetting.”

Eventually he joined DHL, who he found to be a welcoming and supportive company. But his earlier experiences and their impact on his confidence meant that he also began to question if he could ever work in a customer-facing role:

He said: “After working for DHL for a couple of years, I was in the position of Operations Manager, looking after a small technical workshop where I had a team of engineers repairing photo copiers and cash machines. One day my boss summoned me to the office and said that he was changing my role to include account management for seven of our contracts. I remember being really surprised and saying to him “are you sure you want to send me out to customer meetings with my birthmark?” His reply was the turning point in my career, “Well at least they are going to remember you!”

He could see past my birthmark and knew it made no difference to my ability to do my job. It was the first time that anyone had put a positive spin on my condition. ‘

Phil’s role now involves facilitating two to three workshops a week in front of all levels of personnel within DHL and their customers. His ability to engage with people is considered to be one of his best assets.

Looking back on those earlier experiences, Phil believes that although it was upsetting to be discriminated against because of his birthmark, it fuelled his ambition to succeed in life. 

He said: “Being discriminated against all those years ago has made me want to work harder and achieve more in my life. In my job I have to go through a lot of training and exams to do what I’m doing, and it’s made me work hard at that. Within DHL we have certain qualifications around these skills and I’m first person in DHL to have achieved all of the qualifications. 

My experience of discrimination has driven me to work hard so that people don’t have an excuse or reason why I shouldn’t be doing something. It’s made me realise that I do have to work harder to get anywhere than someone who doesn’t look like me.’

Phil is now using his experiences to benefit others who are going through similar situations. As well as being on the Changing Faces User Council, he has also spoken at workshops about his life and the coping strategies he has developed.

He’s keen to show that having a disfigurement should not be a barrier to a successful career and that it can actually be used to a person’s advantage: 

“To paraphrase my boss all those years ago, if you are successful in what you’re doing and you have a disfigurement, you get remembered!” he said.