My name is Nariyah Mensah, and I am a Revenue Assistant at Weil, Gotshal and Manges; I live with dyslexia and dyspraxia. I started my career in Legal Finance after graduating from university; my first role was an Operations Assistant in the Finance Department of an international law firm in 2017 and I have been in Legal Finance ever since. Whilst my role has changed it is still connected with supporting the accounts team in billing and credit control.
During my first recruitment experience I didn’t disclose my disability during the first round of interviews but instead waited until I had to take some numeracy tests because I knew that my learning difficulties would affect me at that stage. The recruitment team were very receptive and reassured me by saying that they had processes in place and were readily prepared to make the necessary adjustments for anyone with learning difficulties.
Now, I tend to disclose after I’ve gone through the interview process. With my current position I waited until I had completed the interviews, and I was offered the job before I disclosed that I had any learning difficulties. I wanted to go through the interview process in the same way as everybody else and I wanted to be judged equally; you don’t know how people are going to react and I didn’t want to put myself at a potential disadvantage by disclosing too early on.
Once I was offered a role at Weil, I decided to disclose my learning difficulties and I was overwhelmed with the positive response I received; the firm was very accommodating and asked what support I needed. From that point I knew that Weil was an employer that was going to support me all the way. I was offered support in terms of the reasonable adjustments I needed, which is one level of support, however what is more important to me is the acceptance; knowing that my difference was not going to disadvantage me was the most significant way of supporting me.
One of the ways Weil supported me was through a workplace assessment with Lexxic. Weil are trialling some initiatives to support people with learning difficulties, and I am helping with the Lexxic pilot. Weil are very involved, very hands on and want to ensure that they are at the forefront of inclusion when it comes to people with disabilities.
In terms of sharing my differences with my team, because I work differently, and it is therefore likely to be noticed by others I decided it was easiest to just let the team know. I explained that I have learning difficulties and I do work a bit differently including needing to take a little longer to process, digest and absorb information. My approach was to send out an email to the members of my team which I did in my second week into the new role, once I had been introduced to the team and I felt a little more settled. I encouraged the team to ask me questions as I wanted them to know that I was very open about talking about my disability and it isn’t something that I shy away from.
At Weil we also have a Disability Sub-Committee and a wider disability network. We have regular meetings where we discuss events that we would like to get involved in and events we would like to organise. We recently hosted an event for the Legal Neurodiversity Network (LNN), who we enjoy working with where different law firms come together to discuss neurodiversity in the workplace.
In the past I have seen my disability as a hindrance, particularly with dyspraxia, because it means I work differently including having to do additional tasks. However, when I remove the idea of difficulties, I can see how my disability has benefitted me. The biggest strength is organisation and self-discipline; it is very important that I have routine, keep notes, and keep things together in a certain way. I need this to function in my daily life and so I bring this into my work life too.
Another strength is attention to detail, coupled with my desire to understand the bigger picture. When I am exposed to new tasks, I need to understand where they fit in the bigger picture as this helps me to understand how the smaller tasks tie together.
I am also very independent, and I like being able to manage my own work. This is a skill that I can use in any role; I can self-manage, know what benefits me and what my working style is. I am also very self-aware.
Whether your disability is visible or invisible, it is part of the many things that make you who you are. It is completely up to you whether you choose to disclose your disability and be open about it, or whether you choose to be more private.
Regardless of what you do or how you manage your disability or learning difficulty, you will want to work for an employer that is going to embrace all of you. My advice would be to seek an employer who is genuinely enthusiastic and invested in recognising the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, who understand what they can do to support you and how they can create a working environment where everyone feels that they belong.
And finally, do not let your disability knock your confidence; own your disability and know your strengths.