My name is Serena and I work for Fidelity International, a leading asset management firm with over 10,000 employees. My current role is Early Careers Attraction, Diversity, Engagement Manager – which essentially means all the exciting parts of Early Careers recruitment! I lead on our events programme for the UK & Ireland, I manage global Early Careers diversity and inclusion initiatives such as our Fidelity Future Forward Scholarship programme, I work with schools, universities, and student societies across the UK, and I also support our employer branding strategy. I also have ADHD, OCD (which is managed), and some other mental health conditions as well.
Previously, I was on a HR graduate scheme at a prestigious FMCG firm, rotating across various HR placements including Reward, HR Business Partnering, and Sustainability and Inclusion – I even worked in an ice cream factory! I feel very privileged to have had a number of exciting roles, with many more to come. It was at my previous employer that I was diagnosed with ADHD – this made a lot of sense, as I found some of my rotations very challenging. Being diagnosed with ADHD has unlocked a language which helps me to articulate my ways of working and advocate for my needs in the workplace. The word ‘overstimulated’ has been a great addition to my vocabulary!
When applying to Fidelity, I was open about my disability. With the nature of the recruitment process, I did not feel as though I needed any adjustments or additional support. However, during one of the interviews, I referred to my ADHD as I talked through an example. The reaction was fantastic – ‘You don’t need to tell me anything about your ADHD or health, but please can I check whether you feel you’ve had the right adjustments and support in the process?’. I knew right away that this would be a supportive and inclusive environment.
Coming into Fidelity, I was impressed to see that in the joining materials I was given on my first day, they showcased a partnership with Posturite which allowed me to self-refer for a workplace needs assessment. I did this straight away, and had a neurodiversity coach for six weeks, as well as being given some software and training. The coaching helped me adjust to my new role, which had a very different rhythm to previous jobs, and establish good ways of working with my manager from early on. Currently, I do not have any formal adjustments, but I benefit from flexibility including:
An understanding that my attention span can wax and wane, and therefore I might take some longer breaks through the day and work a little later into the evening as well. This enables me to work according to my own rhythm of concentration… my manager says I’m a bit like a stray cat!
An understanding that I find structure helps me to perform my best, by supporting me in prioritising my time – so when my manager asks me to do something directly, they let me know how urgent it is, and if there is a deadline. Time-blindness is real, so this helps me manage my diary appropriately.
Psychological safety – there’s no awkwardness or intake of breath if I mention my conditions. There’s a willingness as a wider team to understand, to listen, and to try new things!
It’s not all been plain sailing. There can be challenges and shame associated with having a health condition or disability; the thoughts of ‘Why do I struggle with this when no one else does?’. Particularly when I realised I had OCD, while at my previous employer, that was really tough. I already struggle with being punctual due to my ADHD (I am convinced showering takes five minutes when it really takes me 15) … running around my flat checking the lights were off, the windows were shut, the hob wasn’t going to explode didn’t make me any more on-time!
OCD is also a condition with a lot of attached misconceptions, too – I am really clean, but that’s just a coincidence. Once I had my diagnosis, I was definitely a little nervous about speaking up, but I knew I needed support from my workplace as well as the CBT. I was able to speak to Occupational Health and was on reduced hours for a period of time, phasing back to my normal hours over a few months. Starting later in the morning gave me a lot more head space and reduced my stress. It also gave me time to put into practice my CBT homework. Now, I manage my OCD almost subconsciously! When I’m stressed, I might feel an urge to run back and check if I actually shut the front door… but that’s my cue to take stock of my workload and make sure I take care of myself, knowing my team is there to support me if I need it. I confidently manage a very busy and varied workload and feel like I’m thriving in my career.
That’s because alongside all the challenges are all the strengths you have, too. I might be a little time-blind, I might have to set 10 alarms in the morning, and I might work a little like a stray cat… but I am also a brilliant communicator, able to react quickly to challenges and changes in circumstances, able to be decisive, and am able to pick up new concepts quickly. Plus, with my ability to hyper-focus, I can write a position paper or strategy proposal at lightening speed! When I am interested and passionate about something, I will learn everything I can and drive progress, quickly. This means I can deliver programmes and events at speed, as well as project managing longer-term initiatives. No matter your disability or health condition, you will have strengths! There will be things you are fantastic at – don’t be shy to show them off.
My advice to students would be:
Become the expert in your disability/health condition. This is an ongoing process, but the more you know your strengths and development areas, and the more you understand the ways and environments which support you best, the better an advocate for yourself you become.
Open a dialogue. At Fidelity, we are a Disability Confident employer, and we welcome discussions with students about adjustments and support they need to perform at their best. But if you don’t ask, we won’t know.
Lean into your strengths – we all have them. Understand what really energises you and look for that in roles and opportunities.
I wish you the best of luck in your future career. You’ve got this!