Autism in the Workplace - Paddy's Story
Autism in the Workplace - Paddy's Story
On Tuesday, October 16, 2018, the Presidents Group and our partners hosted an ‘Autism in the Workplace’ conference at the Goodlife Fitness Family Autism Hub in Richmond. The conference ran from 8:30am – 3pm. There were sessions led by both professionals who have experience supporting individuals with ASD and organizations that have successfully implemented strategies to make their workforce more neurodiverse.
This is Paddy’s Employment Story.
– (Narrator) So now we’re going to hear about Paddy’s employment.
– (Paddy) Hello, my name is Paddy Gallagher. I’ve been at Vancity for four years. I started out as an administrator there, who worked part-time, and now I’m a full-time administrator in the Learning Development Department. A big part of my role is to help run Orientation Immersion, Vancity’s on-boarding program. Some of my responsibilities include sending out the what to expect emails to immersion participants, connecting with our branches, and making logistic arrangements.
I started out with Vancity because they were working with an organization called Possibilities that I was connected with. I never worked in an office environment before, let alone a credit union, but I did well on my interview so, I was hired. During my first months, the manager and co-workers helped me learn my task, either through example or through a visual aid. And as the weeks went on, I started to develop a relationship with the Learning Development Team, who helped me with my transition through their reassurance and support, especially during stressful situations.
They eventually since expanded my role to include other people on our floor and sometimes, outside of it. Even though I’m a capable employee now, there are some struggles that I continue to improve on each day. For example, it was tricky for me to learn how to discreetly complete some tasks, and find the right opportunities to ask questions without interrupting anything. After gaining some feedback, I’ve since learned to take cues from my other co-workers before I start any course of actions during the lessons. I also learned that despite the structural schedule of Orientation Immersion, I had to be flexible if the session went over time or if I get behind my work, so I can always then count on my coworkers for support if I get anxious.
During my early days, as I was pointing out earlier, sometimes I would skip my breaks in order to get some more work done until my colleagues convinced me to take them so I won’t become fatigued or too stressed. One major struggle now I have is overloading myself with tasks, like, someone would ask me to do something and I accumulate more and more. I really hate to let down anyone basically, I should remember though that most of my colleagues are very understanding and they would not want me to become too stressed or bogged down.
Eventually, I also made an impact on my team as well, by showing them I can work independently and not having to be constantly supervised. Before I started Vancity, there were a few facilitators if I ever needed to run the program, one to do the talks in front of participants, while the others handout the duties I do now, such as fetching the beverages. Now that I’m working in Vancity, only one person is really needed to facilitate the learning while everyone else can stay downstairs and work on other projects they would be doing.
So, during the interview, when the staff were arranging some tables, I surprised them by giving them a hand even though I was a guest and wasn’t expected to do any work. Another time, I was asked to organize a storage closet and everyone was astonished to see how neat and orderly I made it. I even surprised my manager one day by asking him if I can have more tasks for Immersion and within the head office.
Most recently, my manager asked me for any feedback of what he can improve on in his part. I just said he can try to be on time for our meetings. Thank you, and to reschedule if he cannot make it, even if it’s just a few minutes before the time, and he’s since then taken my advice to heart which has benefited the whole team as well and I’m very grateful that it’s great to have a manager who trusts me on my own opinion.
So, though I still mainly work with the Learning Development team at Vancity, I do now support other members on my floor. I’ve also became somewhat a mentor for other people with diverse abilities and sometimes give them advice to them, or their coworkers, how to make their transition more easier. I also had several opportunities to train some work experience students involving tasks required in an office environment.
I am truly grateful working at Vancity where everyone treats everyone like equals and looks out for each other. If I had to name three things that helped me succeed at Vancity that would be the support, the encouragement and trust from my coworkers,the inclusive, non-judgemental work environment and learning through visual instructions or hands-on approaches. If I have any advice for the other employers it’s to keep an open mind when hiring people with diverse abilities.
We are often full of surprises by showing our dedication into our workplace environment and being punctual. Employers would have to be more and accommodating during the first few weeks, but eventually the new employees will become more independent and comfortable with their work. And I’m truly excited to see so many people in the audience attending this session of how to hire more people like me. And I hope this speech helps you why hiring diversely is a good option for you. Thank you.