This blog is written by Patrick Fopma, Technical Consultant at Hable, as part of Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2022.
When I started my first job in 2012 working as part of a laptop assembly line, I had no idea what differences my autism would have in the workplace. But, after working there for 2 weeks I had some idea of the differences in behaviour I exhibited to everyone else.
Most notably – and the reason I was ultimately let go – was my inability to concentrate during menial tasks, leading to errors. The main reason being that I was lost in my own thoughts or, when I was listening to music, lost in the music I was listening to. After university the biggest hurdle was in the application process, the forms were too long and required too much detail from me that I couldn’t adequately sell myself to potential employers. During my brief stint working at my local council, I learnt that some employers don’t think it’s acceptable to ask too many questions to colleagues; that I should make more of an effort to find the answers to my questions myself. I just wish my manager would trust me when I said I learnt everything I needed to complete my work the day they decided to let me go.
My next job was working as a maths Tutor and Teaching Assistant which suited my Asperger’s the most, as it was more flexible; the focus on helping people motivating me to put effort in, making my lessons as interesting as possible. Although I didn’t get fired, I felt the tutoring work was not rewarding as the children learning maths were not passionate about the subject and just wanted to pass their GCSEs. Although I did enjoy getting to help with sport and art, as I was working closely with children who were more engaged and interested in the subject.
From 2017 to present day I have volunteered as an assistant tennis coach, which has been great for getting myself used to working in a pressure-free way, where my disengaged behaviour wouldn’t result in losing the job. When I felt I could contribute constructively to the lessons and was being included in the learning process, the head coach could start to see the value I could bring to the lessons.
Now, being in Hable, I’ve really been able to ease into my role. With my colleagues trying to get me involved in the work and welcoming me asking questions, I have found myself less idle and disengaged which has really helped my productivity.
With the culture being warm, welcoming and trusting, it has made me want to do my best and not let people down. Out of everywhere I’ve worked, Hable has certainly been the most accepting of my neurodiversity, and I look forward to many more years here.