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Neurodiversity in Tech

I’ve wondered for years why tech roles attract so many neurodivergent people, even when I didn’t know anything about neurodiversity. Why does it attract people who are great at problem solving, but not always so great with the people skills?

 

Let me just debunk straight away that neurodivergent people don’t have any customer service or people skills, because they absolutely do. They’re not all anti-social, quiet loners who want to sit in darkened offices ignoring the whole world while they write incredibly brilliant programs that solve the world’s problems.

 

I mean yeah, there are some of those people but generally, most of the tech people I meet are absolutely brilliant at problem-solving.

 

They’re good at spotting errors and their attention to detail can be incredible. This means that when something goes wrong, they are more likely to be able to sit and pick apart code or read through reams of logs to find the error.

 

Neurodivergent people are also amazing innovators. The speed at which some of their brains work and calculate outcomes, from multiple streams of thoughts is truly a wonder to behold. The creativity that can come out of a conversation between two neurodivergent people is magical.

 

I think there is also something about being able to sit behind a screen and (hyper-) focus on something you’re good at and enjoy doing. These jobs don’t have to be in an environment where you’re talking to customers all day.

 

Having said that, there are some wonderful neurodivergent people who can explain complicated issues to a customer in ways that mean they better understand what’s going on. Analogies seem to come easily to some neurodivergent people.

 

I’ve worked in a few roles within Tech Support, starting on Helpdesk where I had to speak to people all day, every day. Sometimes I enjoyed it and sometimes, particularly Mondays, it was the worst job I ever did.

 

Mondays were the worst because it was mainly password resets or people being annoyed that something wasn’t working as it should and in a bad mood because, well, Monday.

 

I went on to helping fix things and doing a mixture of project management, support and customer management which I loved. It was a job that rarely got boring because there were different things to do all the time.

 

I was learning new skills, problem-solving, talking to people and planning out how to make things work for the organisations our team supported.

 

Within the tech sector, I believe there is a job for everyone:

 

🌟 Creative roles - driving forward change to improve products or by helping customers work in a better solution. Problem-solving current issues and finding ways to streamline or make things quicker. Brainstorming new ideas for products, resolving recurring issues and improving the organisation’s performance.

 

🌟 Detail-oriented roles – problem solving day to day technical issues, whether recurring or one-offs. Finding workarounds when all seems to have gone to shit. Noticing links, trends and patterns that need to be sorted out. Digging in and getting it sorted out asap.

 

🌟 Customer-facing roles – friendly, chatty people who can help customers feel at ease. Those who can find a quick analogy or something that bridges the gap between the technical jargon and how that translates into non-technical speak. People who are open, honest and endearing.

 

🌟 High-level, big-picture roles – keeping people on track with the big picture. Those who have the ability to plan for different outcomes and make sure stuff gets done. Being able to change plans and adapt to what’s going on or stay unwaveringly dedicated to the path that their team need to be on.

 

I think the main reason people struggle, not just in tech, but in a lot of organisations is a lack of understanding and open conversation.

 

Being able to freely talk about things that feel like flaws (time-blindness, being easily tired, sensory issues) isn’t something that traditionally people tend to do. We go to work, we get on with things and we don’t get emotional or make a scene 🙄.

 

Except people do.

 

And if we let people advocate for the things they need, without judgement, how much more productive would they be?

 

How much more would the organisation benefit from this?

 

There seems to be an assumption that accommodations will cost a lot of money or being a pain in the arse, but they don’t have to be.

 

I’d argue that the biggest accommodation for ALL staff, is being able to have an open, safe space for people to talk about what’s going on for them and what would help them do their jobs.

 

Imagine if you had flexible working times – not only would it benefit people who struggle to sleep and get up later in the morning, parents of children who have had a rough night or people who are caring for sick family members.

 

Imagine if noise-cancelling headphones or quiet spaces were available to people who needed them – not only would it benefit people who struggle with too much sensory input, it would also increase workplace productivity in general. How much more quickly would things get done without distractions?

 

Imagine if your staff felt like someone cared about their wellbeing. How much happier, loyal and more productive would they be?

 

These are a couple of examples but there are so many things that could be achieved with some thought. Plus, how much better does it feel to look at what’s possible rather than what isn’t?

 

It’s freeing, and with some neurodivergent creative thinking, there are no limits, not even the sky.

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