How did you get started in your career and what drew you the Civil Service?
In 2014 I graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, with a degree in Geography, Politics and International Relations. During my final year, I’d applied for the Civil Service Fast Stream, as I wanted to be a diplomat, and that’s the way in! I was also drawn by the variety of experience and responsibility available. I wasn’t successful in achieving a place on the Diplomatic Fast Stream however I was successful in becoming a Generalist; this means that I’m experiencing so many departments in a short space of time.
How do you manage your disability at work?
I have Asperger Syndrome, and I am very sensitive to light. I use a screen filter to adjust the colour of the screen, as well as changing the colour’s in my computer profile. I also use tinted paper- several people have commented that they’re jealous of my lilac paper! Additionally, too many phone calls or emails can make me anxious, so I intersperse these with other work.
How has your employer helped you to do well at your workplace?
Being understanding and acknowledging when a potential task is far from my comfort and ability zone. The fact I can use my headphones to limit and control my sensory input is really helpful too. I’m also very outgoing and an extrovert (though I struggle with social skills), so having colleagues who are willing to be chatty and supportive is wonderful.
How would you describe the diversity culture at the Civil Service?
I’ve been really impressed, particularly by the gender and racial/ethnic diversity of the Civil Service, as well as by the support available to all groups. I’ve only had positive reactions, so I’ve been happy to be open about my (invisible) disability to several colleagues. There’s also a strong movement working to support those with mental illnesses across the Civil Service, which is incredibly gratifying.
What advice or top tips would you offer?
Work out what you need as quickly as possible, then organise a DSE (Display Screen Equipment) assessment and Ability passport, which is a document that details the adjustments you need. This way you can make sure everything is in place for when items need re-ordering or you change department. It can be a little slow to order items, so request them well in advance of needing them.
Also, be confident to be open about your disability to your line manager – it can be intimidating, however they can’t help if they don’t know that you need help.