My autism diagnosis was good news for me and my career
Beckie explains how everything fell into place when she could see her ‘oddities’ as strengths.
‘I was 32 years old when I was diagnosed with Autism. I can understand how for some people that might seem like quite a negative experience but for me it was amazing. Suddenly I felt I had permission to forgive myself for my own perceived shortcomings and to see my ‘oddities’ as strengths.
‘An example of this would be that I’m always the quietest in meetings. I’d had feedback that I should speak up more and make more of an impact, which had dented my self-esteem. Re-assessing this once I knew that I was on the autistic spectrum, I could see that I did speak up when needed and challenge as necessary, and I’m an acknowledged high-performer even if I’m quieter than some. Feedback has to be taken in context.
“ There are also very definite strengths associated with autism which make me good at my job. An eye for detail helps me spot patterns and trends in large quantities of data. I also have a sort of hyper-focus, the stamina to stay immersed in complex work for a long time. ”
‘Around the time of my diagnosis, I was considering applying for the Future Leaders’ Programme at Nationwide Building Society where I work. However, I knew it would involve two elements that I find challenging – dealing with ambiguity and being in the spotlight. The HR team were phenomenal in giving me the support I needed to successfully complete the programme, whilst maintaining a level playing field for all participants.
‘From the start, HR were very clear that they were already talking about autism but that they didn’t have a formal process because everyone experiences it differently, so it’s about what each individual needs. The team involved in refurbishing our offices has also been great at taking feedback from the Autism Support Group because hot-desking and noisy open-plan spaces can present difficulties.
‘It saddens me when I read in online Autism support groups that people fear for their jobs when they’ve disclosed their diagnosis. My experience has been overwhelmingly positive.’
Nationwide has also started the conversation about recruiting neuro-diverse people with other leading business and HR figures at an Asperger’s round-table event they’ve hosted. Their aim is to help change the perception of Autistic Spectrum conditions from being considered a disability to a welcomed and valuable difference.