What led you to this role? Why did you choose to join this organisation?
National Grid has been really supportive. When I dropped out of uni (which they were sponsoring me to do) they offered me several roles, a foundation degree course that was shift work and I’d have had to move home, or the same course but 9-5 near to me, or a direct entry role. I accepted the direct entry role as I found formal education difficult and now National Grid is supporting me to work towards my HNC via distance learning which works better for me.
Tell us a bit about the type of work you’re doing at the moment; what are your day-to-day tasks?
I’m working on how we can be better, cheaper and quicker. This involves both data analysis, data visualisation, process performance and working with lots of people, often who are expert in their areas, and I’m encouraging them to consider working differently.
How do you manage your disability at work?
I’m a lot better now than I used to be because I speak up. I have a special keyboard, mouse, and seat which really help. I’m allowed to flex my hours to attend hospital appointments. I tell people I have autism when I meet them for example when doing introductions in meetings. I used to struggle because I would interrupt, not look people in the eye or be too blunt, people misinterpreted this and thought I was rude. Now they know and appreciate the honesty.
What is your organisation’s approach to disability; how has your employer helped you to do well at your workplace?
I think inclusion and diversity are moving from being perceived as the morally right thing, to the right thing to commercially help the business. Most importantly, the culture is supportive even if we’re still working on cutting through the bureaucracy that can exist in large corporations. Everyone I’ve met, from directors downwards want to help on a personal and business level but sometimes the procedures aren’t designed with additional requirements in mind. The enabling employee resource groups presented on this to the Exec and this is now being corrected.
What has been your proudest achievement since starting work?
Getting the 1,000+ operational staff to change how they approach work to use the data to improve what they do. They’re experts who have worked for years in a certain way but the industry is changing.
What advice would you give a student with a similar disability, who wants to pursue a career in the field you work in?
Work on your strengths that you can demonstrate. E.g. you can use types of software like Tableau, R, Python, SQL to show what you can do rather than, or supplementary, to formal education. This was particularly important for myself who struggled to cope with formal education and dropped out of uni. If applying online, you may be able to provide links to web pages with your work.
Let people know when you apply, particularly if you’re going to something like an assessment centre with lots of parts, not just an interview. Rightly or wrongly people will judge on things like reduced eye contact, interrupting others or being blunt. You may have other difficulties, that if not expected can be interpreted as negatives. If you’re worried the company will “hold it against you”, consider whether you really want to work for them.
Find out what support is available at work, both practically e.g. physical adaptations, but also mentoring and other schemes. National Grid offers reverse mentoring which means I’ve been able to work with senior managers to talk about some of the difficulties I face. This is great for personal development and career progression.