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Meet the Maddens: Family of 3M Canada president shares stories of employment diversity

Posted on January 25, 2016

By Janice Richmond

Like many other Londoners, Chris Madden and his mom headed into the Hutton House Learning Centre at the Cherryhill Village Mall one day to ask for help finding a job.

There they met Joe Gansevles, a specialist at finding people with disabilities meaningful work.

Gansevles explained that when searching for work, most people start by asking family and friends. 

So what does your dad do? Gansevles asked.

He works at 3M, was the answer.

Oh, what does he do there? Gansevles asked.

He’s the boss.

Thinking Chris must have meant his Dad was a team leader or something, Gansevles asked:

“The boss of what?”

The boss of 3M was the answer.

It takes quite a bit to surprise Gansevles. But that answer certainly did.

The President and General Manager of a multi-billion dollar global innovation company that employs about a thousand people in London, ON should have no problem finding his eldest son a job.

But Paul Madden, the head of 3M Canada doesn’t believe in nepotism.

“It was never really in the thought process,” he explains.

Even though he didn’t show favoritism by getting his son a job at 3M, he does believe companies should diversify their workforce. And he’s happy to talk about Chris’s success and the parallels at 3M.

Chris was still attending Fanshawe College when he first rolled into Hutton House. He persevered as a student and graduation was a special day for the Madden family.

But seeing how happy and mature he is now that he’s actually working at Fanshawe means the world to parents Paul and Jackie, and Chris’s brothers Mark, 17 and Kevin, 20.

Chris has spina bifida. He uses a wheelchair. He’s smart, witty and his smile lights up the room. He’d like to marry one day. He loves sports. He’s been a part of the Wortley Roadhouse football pool for ten years. Even when the family was living in Australia, Chris would make sure to email his picks to London.

Like many young Canadians he loves to play and watch hockey. Every Friday night in the winter he’s off to the London Knights game. He watches brother Kevin play for the London Nationals Junior B team and brother Mark play for the North London Nationals Midget Minor Development team.

The sledge hockey team Chris plays for won the Ontario Championship last year. A winger, Chris hasn’t scored as many goals as he’d like, but he loves the game and keeps playing. It’s a passion and a work in progress. And so too are his life goals.

“I really like working at the school. I also like sports so I might want to do something with that,” he says while pondering his future.

Mom Jackie has now scored one of her long-time goals.

“As a Mom, all I want is for Christopher to have a place in the world. You need to have a purpose.” Hutton House and Fanshawe College have given him that.

Paul, who often gently places a reassuring hand on his 22-year old son throughout an interview, has his own goal.

He wants 3M Canada to hire more people with disabilities.

“We have a lot of opportunity to do a lot more,” he says. The strategic effort to do that is underway. A 3M diversity program called “I’m In” was recently launched globally.

“I just came from our meeting where it was specifically stated that it will be part of our diversity plan moving forward and that it’s been a gap, a recognized gap, so this is the next phase. We’ve worked on lots of different types of diversity to this point in time and the next step is to take this even further and work with people with disabilities.”

Paul recognizes that as the father of a son with a disability, he doesn’t have the concerns that others may have. He has seen firsthand how successful someone with a disability can be.

“It’s easy for me, but it’s a natural evolution. It’s a natural thing to happen. It’s part of being a good 3M-er, it’s just part of hiring the best people. It’s nothing bold, it’s just what should happen.” 

His wife Jackie pipes up to acknowledge that this program is not driven by Paul. 3M-ers are driving this.

Paul agrees.

“I’m a little biased, so I would like to hire a hundred, but I’m not sure I’d be able to pull that off,” he chuckles.

So someone else within the organization who is passionate about the issue has taken it on and is driving it forward.

“And I’ve got to say I’ve seen some great examples from some of our customers who have hired people with disabilities and it’s very humbling when I go in and see the fantastic role they’re playing. And it isn’t about charity; it’s just about people as part of a team doing a great job,” he explains.

That very first job for anyone is so important. Chris credits Gansevles with helping him land his.

“Joe helped me figure out what I liked to do and build a resume and understand the job, and how to interact with my colleagues,” Chris says.

Now you will find Chris Madden behind the Fanshawe College welcome desk in the office of the registrar every afternoon Monday to Friday. He’s your go-to guy. 

In fact his one-year work anniversary is fast approaching. In all of that time, Chris says he’s only had one bad day at work. It was a day in which he didn’t know the answer to someone’s question. It upset him and he talked about it with his supervisor.

She explained that he didn’t have to know the answer to everything, that in fact he couldn’t possibly know the answer to everything. It was a relief.

Gansevles credits Fanshawe College with being a great partner.

“When this process started Fanshawe gave us some autonomy to try and figure out what was the best fit, because we really didn’t know, because this was his first real work experience.”

They built a resume mostly based on a co-op experience that Chris had from his high school television program while living in Australia. They picked every skill he had learned from that and went from there.

Paul Madden agrees that Fanshawe deserves a lot of credit.

“What I’ve learned from Fanshawe and I’ll take back to 3M is they really were, OK how can we make this work, what’s the right role? Often times over the years we came across, well this isn’t going to work, but Fanshawe’s attitude was we’re going to figure out how to make this work.”

And like proud Moms everywhere Jackie says, “Chris enjoys what he’s doing.” We’re seeing his personality come back. He’s comfortable. He comes in everyday with something to say about work.”

And when talking about how other people notice how mature he’s become, the whole family smiles, with Chris’s grin looking a little sheepish.

Working matures just about everyone, not just people with disabilities. There are times when it’s the people without a disability that need to grow up. Jackie has several stories of baffling experiences with such people. One time when she was noticeably pregnant with her third son, and out for a walk pushing Chris in his wheelchair while towing along her second born son, a man came up to her and said, don’t you think you already have more than you can handle?

Another time when Chris was about four years old, Jackie took him into a bank to use an ATM. It was at night. She was tired and didn’t want to bother with the wheelchair. So she carried him and let him play with the machine’s buttons to keep him happy and entertained. After they were finished a man came up and actually poked Chris and said to him, you young man, you shouldn’t be so lazy, you should be walking. The Madden family laughs and shakes their heads at these stories.

They don’t pass judgment. In fact Paul thinks of others and how they may have it even harder.

“Where I think there is more bias is the non visible disability…those kids growing up have a much tougher time than Chris. Chris was treated great and the worst thing that happened to him was he had his ipod stolen in grade 8, but that could have happened to anyone.”

Jackie agrees. She says when they moved to Australia everyone embraced Chris. They wanted to hear him talk. They said he sounded like Justin Bieber.

The Madden family shows an incredible sense of compassion and humour. Running a multi-billion dollar company can wait an hour while Paul shares his love of his family and his desire to score that goal of seeing more employers hire more people with disabilities.

Jackie’s goal of seeing Chris lead a normal life is already happening. The goal of watching him move out and marry one day requires a whole different set of stick-handling skills, something that can be challenging for many moms.

As for some of Chris's goals, he wants to score more often in hockey, and perhaps one day score a career in the world of sports.  

Gansevles, his job coach at Hutton House is only too happy to help him win. 

Hutton House specializes in helping people with all kinds of disabilities find work and positive experiences. If you, or someone you know could benefit from our expertise, please give us a call, visit us in person, or online.

519 472 1541 x 232 Email:

301 Oxford St. W. in the Cherryhill Village Mall, London, ON N6H 1S6