Canadian HR Reporter

June 2021 CAN

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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Page 30 of 31 31 C O L U M N S I N S I G H T Having grown up unaware he was on the autism spectrum, William Hughes of Willis Towers Watson faced a few challenges early in his career. But in learning about his condition, and with employer support, he has come to enjoy a successful life both personally and professionally AFTER a year where the world has either stopped, changed or simply turned upside down, I've been thinking about my life and career and how some of the interests that seemed mundane or unusual have turned into the career I currently have and the direction I want to go. In 1988, I was granted SSI (Supplemental Security Income) disability payments and told I would never be able to work as an adult due to the social difficulties I had. I disagreed with the assessment intellectually; however, I knew some- thing was holding me back and I did not have the social skills needed to succeed in the world. Two of the great developments of the 1990s were the proliferation of the personal computer at both home and the workplace and the rapid growth of the internet. I was able to learn the Microsoft Office 97 suite by exploring how the programs worked, and I developed a specialty in the database program Access, which led to my working as a temporary administrative assistant for several years. I then landed several jobs, including tech support at a public relations firm and an informa- tion security analyst. I also moved into my own apartment for the first time and started living independently. In 2003, my mother sent me an article about what was then called Asperger syndrome. Suddenly, a lot of things made sense, but I still didn't know how to go about finding help. I never came completely out of my shell, but in 2005, I met the person who would have the greatest impact on my life, the woman who would become my wife in 2010. After the 2008 economic crisis, I saw an oppor- tunity to go back to college. I went on to earn my B.A. and M.A. in Political Science and I finally started finding the right treatment services and learning more about myself. I was referred to a new job development and placement program for people with autism called Specialisterne and started a 10-month job placement. After that success, I was hired by Willis Towers Watson to work on its marketing team, where I have been ever since. Meanwhile, I am pursuing my M.S. in Data Analytics, which I hope to be able to use on a professional level in the not-too-dis- tant future. Diversity in neurodiversity There are many different stories out there that involve neurodiverse people. I have met a person who held both a J.D. and a PhD; I have also met people who barely finished high school. My strengths include time management, resourcefulness and a professional demeanour. I see patterns very well and tend to draw them out when I do most forms of data analysis; others tend to see the patterns I do right away. Some learn better when they can visualize what is being taught; I prefer to read instructions and explore what is possible. My greatest weaknesses are networking and communication, which plays a part in the limited number of people I talk to on a regular basis, both in and out of work. Functions such as company and family holiday parties are where my autism shows up at its worst, and I tend to not be a very active participant on LinkedIn. I rarely turn my camera on when I'm on a call and almost never participate in monthly regional calls. The autism spectrum is a wide variety of items that people live with. I do not suffer from it, I live with it, and I would like to start a campaign to eliminate the word "disorder" from the diagnosis in the DSM-5. We have a large and varied set of abilities and can be found in many different areas of work. Employer supports The unemployment rate for those of us who live with autism has been estimated at being as high as 80 per cent. Many places are committed to programs or hiring practices that will help change that unfortunate statistic. Recently, I read about a program for neurodiverse people that would have them learn how to work in a supermarket. Perhaps the current version of me would not be interested, but the 18- to-21-year-old version of me could see it as a way of developing the social skills needed to be successful in the workplace. The most important relationship you can have is the one you have with your manager. If the two of you work well together, more often than not, the rest will fall into place. For managers, if you find that someone on the spectrum has a hidden talent or is developing a skill, encourage them to bring that out more if they are interested in doing so. Other than the employment issue, my biggest concern is the lack of resources for adults, especially those over 25. Since I did not find out about my condition until I was much older, the options were more limited than they are for someone who is a child or adolescent. Nevertheless, I have developed a successful life and I continue to grow on a professional level. In the end, my early struggles have become later triumphs. With the right guidance, this can be true for others on the spectrum. CHRR William Hughes is a marketing data analyst for North America at Willis Towers Watson in New York. He can be reached at MY STORY AND MY HOPE FOR NEURODIVERSE PEOPLE IN 2021 The most important relationship you can have is the one you have with your manager. If the two of you work well together, more often than not, the rest will fall into place.

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