It's World Autism Awareness Week this week - 1 to 7 April 2019 - and in an effort to raise awareness, we have invited two of our staff members to share something about their experiences as autistic adults and about working for us here at SYPO. We feel proud to be able to say we are an employer that is positive about autism.
Mark first started working for us in June of 2015. At this point, we took him on as a freelancer as we had seen that he probably had what it took to work here: we wanted to make sure. He was also winding up his own business at its previous premises. That was PiciScan, which we took on from October that year and is still going today. Mark takes up the story:
I wasn't diagnosed with autism until I was thirty-eight. It's not something I had pursued before then, but when it came, it helped me make sense of a lot of the things that I had found difficult in life. Having the diagnosis hasn't helped the struggles go away, but it does help me make sense of why they are there.
The job application process at SYPO was perfect for me. I already knew I could do some of what was required as a web developer - I'd taken the website for my own small business, PiciScan, through several incarnations, over a period of several years, learning as I went along. But, what I didn't have was a qualification or actual paid experience to back that up.
The process I went through to start working at SYPO was almost accidentally exactly what I would have wanted as an autistic adult. There was a short informal chat, I was invited to come along and show what I could do, a couple of days a week for a few weeks, and then I started work full time in August 2015.
Working here has been good for me. There's just the amount of social interaction that I can cope with and I get to work on things that I enjoy and know something about on an almost daily basis. As well as that, I always know where I'm going to be working and I've been allowed to set up my desk area just how I like it. I've also been given the opportunity of developing my skills and my responsibilities at work have increased over time.
I've always been open at work about being autistic, and have felt as if everybody's been fine about it. My boss, Alan Jewitt has been particularly supportive, giving me the space to take time out when I've found things difficult: thankfully, this hasn't been very often. We're also a dog friendly office and have a flexible working policy.
But, I think what's best about working here is the way in which we are all relaxed around each other. We're not afraid to take the mickey out of each other. And that's something that I think's sometimes missing when you hear mention of autistic people: we do have a sense of humour!
According to research carried out in 2016, only sixteen per cent of autistic adults are in full-time work, a situation that hadn't changed for at least a decade. Read more about the research here. We are thrilled that we are helping buck this trend and will soon be applying for our own Autism Friendly Award.