ND diagnosis or self-identify as:
Autistic and aphantasic.
Current job title:
Chief Data Officer (CDO).
What does your job involve?
Until recently, I was Chief Data Officer and focused on leading change programmes to help the company exploit new data and data technologies. I’m now working on a startup to scale what I learned in my previous role.
Degree/apprenticeship or route to current job:
I studied Maths, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics.
What were your challenges in school?
I disliked a lot of school life as I’ve never really understood small talk, and it is such a huge part of school social life.
What strategies/assistive technology do you use to help you in your work?
Noise-cancelling headphones to be able to focus. Whiteboards in every meeting to be able to explain what I’m thinking.Most of all a supportive team helps. I build work relationships and teams slowly but change teams only if necessary.
What ND skills have allowed you to succeed (or progress) in your STEM career?
I can’t visualise images in my mind, but I can visualise concepts and systems. This is incredibly powerful for understanding complex systems like organisations or software. I get fixated on some ideas. This is very useful when you work on innovative and/or transformational work. It helps you keep going long after others have moved on.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Self-awareness is critical to managing in life if you are neurodivergent and becomes increasingly important if you take on high-pressured roles. You can develop some self-awareness alone, but you can only make real progress with help. Asking for help isn’t giving up. It is refusing to give up. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from counselling so far is that not everything needs to be understood and fixed. I argued against that suggestion for a long time but once I accepted it life has become a lot more manageable.