To begin with I am only really starting my journey in the technology field in the sense of a full time, permanent focused IT job.
I am going to try and write an introduction about my career ideas through my life because even though I really liked technology and was good at handling it growing up, it certainly wasn’t the career path that I thought I’d take.
If you just want to read what my experience working in IT is like as both a woman and being Asperger’s then just skip to after the image in this post 🙂
I always wanted to be a vet, doctor or zoologist as I loved animals and learning about the body. I ended up losing the love to be a vet rather soon as I realised that it was exactly for me. Later on in my life I lost people and it crushed me but I knew that the important thing to think about is the times they were alive instead of thinking about the fact that they’re gone. So I continued to pursue my career as a doctor; nursing and psychology slipped through during secondary school.
I fell in love, psychology, the subject that just kept me awake at night, so many questions and so much to read and learn. Baring in mind I was only about 11 when my love of psychology really kicked in, both of my parents have a huge interest and lots of knowledge in the mental health, behaviour and psychology fields. So I always had my own therapists at home who could read me like a book no matter what haha…
I started working in a garden centre in 2014, I stayed there till late in 2016, I loved helping people even in the most simple of ways by helping them find what type of dog food is best.
I was doing really well in ICT and when I was picking my GCSEs my teacher heavily suggested I take CIDA (Certificate in digital applications) which was our version of IT/ICT. I did later choose to take CIDA, I ended up completing my GCSE 6 months early, I loved it more than anything and I found it came naturally to me. I got to build my own game and website which was just awesome to me and the exam went really smooth for me. It combined my love of creative technology and logic based technology.
I first went to a grammar school to start taking my A levels, the first problem I encountered was the fact they refused to allow me to study computer tech, I finished all the summer tasks and got top grades in them yet they still refused (the actual lecturer didn’t mind and was confused why they wouldn’t let me). My previous teacher wrote letters to the school to prove that I was more than capable and showed evidence but alas the headmaster didn’t care and it crushed my hopes. I was sent to study ICT which doesn’t sound too bad but the curriculum was awful and I may have also been a tad bitter 😉
In 2016 I left my job in the garden centre to work in a supermarket, this wasn’t the best experience in my life especially compared to my lovely job at the garden centre but due to the location it was easier to get to work.
I ended up quitting the grammar school and moved to the wonderful Highlands College; yes I name dropped and sorry if that isn’t allowed but I have to, that college was the reason I regained my love for technology and my love of working with people came back, my mental health got so much better. They supported me during my diagnosis and allowed me to go home a lot or go to work due to already handing in my assignments, yes I was that person who handed in work extra early. They helped me when I was bullied and I’m going to be honest I loved the teachers so much.
In 2017 I started working in a pharmacy and even though I was very conflicted about going into pharmaceuticals, IT or uni. I ended up being very lucky and getting onto a tech apprenticeship scheme. However, after about a year I thought the apprenticeship wasn’t for me and after a little break and trying different options I came back into an IT Service analyst role (to the same company that I did the apprenticeship with) which suits me a lot better at this time. My goal is to combine psychology with IT as its such an important combination.
I have studied IT and technology subjects for a long time now and I have worked in the Tech area for about a year and a half (it’ll be two years in the summer). I feel that I am very lucky with the company I currently work for, they are very kind, understanding and inclusive. Whenever I have an issue it is almost always solved or at least discussed so I or others who need to, understand.
I honestly don’t have many negatives about my experiences. In terms of gender, I have to admit the lack of women in the field is rather shocking, this isn’t the companies problem this is because I don’t think many of us go into the field and I don’t necessarily think its because of lack of encouragement.
While in school I noticed little to no interest in IT from my female peers, when I was in college there were a few female students however they didn’t seem very bothered about progression and most of them said they took the subject because they didn’t have anything else to do and they thought it would be easy.
I met one or two female students in secondary school who seemed to have a slight interest however they seemed to prefer many other subjects and there were one or two women within college who were very good and very positive about the subject.
I think companies could try and advertise IT as a subject that is taken by both men and women but with my experiences they’re waiting too long to do this because by time GCSEs came around I saw no other woman even slightly interested in the subject, I was the only girl in my class and then during college the women around me were very negative towards the IT field, telling me they hated it, it was boring and many of them struggled to keep up with the work and complete tasks.
I do believe that this was just an anomaly as I see more young girls getting into IT in schools now which is lovely but a career is based on interest and sometimes IT is just not interesting for some of us, it was for me and that’s why I came back! I love IT because it is an everchanging and expanding subjects with hundreds of topics and fields to go into.
Please go and try and reach your dream, if someone says you cant just keep trying. Do not punish yourself if you cant reach them right now, you will find your place I’m sure, speak to others and make sure there’s a good support network and look after yourself!
In regards to being Asperger’s and working in general, I didn’t like retail that much and it wasn’t the people that made it bad, I actually didn’t mind talking to people in fact I was rather good at it (or at least I thought so) I never had complaints and if I couldn’t help I’d find someone who could so I was very lucky on that front.
The worst part about working in retail were the sensory issues; I didn’t like the bright lights and buzzing of the freezers upset me a lot in the supermarket.
When I worked in the pharmacy this reduced slightly, other than the lights of course, however there was now another problem…the germs. I felt as though I had to wash my hands every time I touched something or whenever I had to touch something. It got to the point where my already existing germ fearing issue got worse due to my job.
I have issues when I am unable to wash my hands, I feel my chest tightening, I struggle to breathe and I’m overall very techy, uncomfortable and upset.
I feel as though my work made it more of an issue however due to working in a small area I could access a sink whenever I wanted and this lead to very dry and cracked hands and arms. I have very sensitive skin and the continuous hand washing made this so much worse.
Once I left this job and began working in IT this anxiety around germs lifted massively, not only are the people around me really clean but I am also working in internal IT so I don’t often go out of the office or see members of the public.
The noise levels can sometimes be an issue but I have headphones and the team I work with are lovely so they often have nice topics of choice or interesting knowledge to show me.
Overall my anxiety has gotten better since I started back at this workplace, admittedly we are all working from home due to the virus so that’s given me time to get both feet on the ground and do some studying and research around the areas of my job.
Sometimes those of us with Asperger’s just need a bit more time adjusting to big changes, I am overall fine with change in my life when it comes to studying or what type of work I am doing however a desk move or members of staff leaving or even a change in the office can make me feel a bit uneasy.
I have been spending a lot of my life, even before my diagnosis, learning knew ways to cope to make me more at ease during stressful moments in life as I am a naturally nervous person. This has had both a negative and positive affect on my life, I tend to bottle my feelings up and forget that getting a bit stressed or worried is normal. I am a very nervous person, filled with nervous energy, I shake, pace and massively overthink without even realising it because I have found a way to bottle up the generic anxiety/stress feelings which I should instead learn to realise, accept and make more positive ways to cope with instead of hiding it. Everyone needs to be honest with themselves sometimes and I am lucky I work somewhere I do and they understand so I can instead of saying “I’m fine” just be honest and admit that sometimes I’m not. It’s honestly ok to not be ok sometimes, its noticing when you’re not ok and then finding ways to make sure you are ok, whether that’s by doing a certain activity you love, speaking to someone or even just having a little break.
I think more companies need to be like the one I work for especially when it comes to the technology or non client facing teams.
We are able to wear clothes of our own choice as long as they’re appropriate which lessens one of my sensory issues, I don’t need to wear horrible scratchy clothes. The flexible time is wonderful so if I need to complete a task at a certain time means that I can, I can also be very flexible with what I do especially at the moment, I am currently working in a different area and learning new skills that a lot of other companies wouldn’t support workers to do.
As well as also being able to be open to managers about how I feel or if I don’t like a particular thing about my day or work I can just have a chat and we can figure out how to make it more comfortable. I’m not saying I can pick and choose but I am able to ask for help or get some support which I think is really lovely this massively reduces worries and anxieties around the work place which means you don’t feel nervous about going into work.
Overall working in IT is for me; I really like the group of people I am surrounded by and I cant wait for things to one day go back to normal and I can see them all again like normal. I have had some bad experiences in life just like everyone but I believe that I am incredibly lucky and through everything I have met some lovely people who have really impacted my life and I am very thankful for them. Thank you.