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Celebrating Neurodiversity week with Carly Watson!

Updated: Mar 28

Neurodiversity Celebration Week is a global celebration of neurodiverse individuals that aims to raise awareness of and challenge stereotypes about a range of neurodevelopment and learning disabilities and bring about worldwide neurodiversity acceptance, equality and inclusion in schools and workplaces.

At least one in five people globally are neurodivergent. Yet, individuals with cognitive differences, such as autism, ADHD, or dyslexia, are often overlooked and misunderstood in the workplace.

Rae Evans recently sat down with WILD advocate and Pega Architect at Jetty Technologies Carly Watson to discusses her ADHD superpowers, what obstacles and challenges she has had to overcome and advice she would give to others within the industry in a candid chat.

Tell us about your journey so far…

I started my career in tech back in late 2018. The company I worked at was going through a digital transformation and had chosen Pega as their new platform. Through a few random circumstances, I went  from a call centre team leader to a junior Pega developer, and I haven't looked back since. In August 2021 I made the move to become a Pega Consultant. Only a few months into this role I received my ADHD diagnosis. It was a tough time but I was supported at work and by my family and friends. Although I loved working on my project and with my team, after two years I realised consultancy wasn't the right space for me and I was limited in how much I could grow as a developer. In July 2023 I started my journey at Jetty Technologies as a Senior Pega Architect. I have never in my life loved a job more than this one.

I couldn't be prouder of how far I have come. I never imagined I'd have a career like this. I've never even been able to figure out Microsoft Excel, how I've got this far in tech is wild!

Women in tech who are neurodivergent can bring fresh, creative ideas to the table, driving innovation and new approaches to technology development. Have you ever faced any barriers or biases?

Oh absolutely. Both as a woman in tech and as someone with ADHD. I've been told that ADHD "…isn't real" and that "…it can't be used as an excuse", and I've been refused the most basic 'reasonable adjustments'. When I was first diagnosed it was a very difficult and confusing landscape to navigate. I wasn't sure what was 'reasonable' to request, I started to feel like I was using my ADHD as an excuse. It was tough, for a long time. However, once I really came to terms with my diagnosis I did so much research, and I learned so much about what support I can ask for, what support I am entitled to, and how my ADHD should absolutely be recognised in the workplace.

What initiatives or actions do you believe are crucial for fostering a more supportive and inclusive business environment for a neurodivergent?

I'd say for me, it was knowing I had a safe space to share my ADHD diagnosis. It was knowing I would be seen and I would be heard. I also believe that it's a personal decision as to whether a person shares that they're neurodiverse. There should be no pressure from your workplace to share this information, but it should be clear that it's a safe space to do so, should you wish to. I think having a clear Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEI&B) policy is also super important. That way all employees, not just those who are neurodiverse, and even stakeholders and prospective employees or clients, are aware of the company's commitment to treating everyone fairly, promoting diversity, and ensuring inclusivity at all times, amongst many other things.

Tell us how your neurodivergence shows up as a strength…

I'm not a big fan of seeing my ADHD as a 'superpower'. It's caused me a lot of grief over my 38 years! However, I am aware that it definitely does show up as a strength from time to time. I'm an excellent problem solver and can be extremely logical (hence my career in tech!), if something excites me I am ALL in, I care (sometimes a little too much!), I can hyperfocus on a task and have it done in half the time of others (if it interests me, if not I'll procrastinate and it might take me twice as long 🤣),  I'm honest, I love to have fun, I don't always have the best filter but it means I'm kind of hilarious!

From your experience, what is the benefit of open and celebrated neurodiversity on a team?

For me, it's being accepted for who I really am. I spent most of my life masking (not knowing this was what I was doing until my diagnosis) and pretending to be somebody who I am not. In my first week in my current role, I held a meeting and told my team about my ADHD. I explained to them what this meant for them working with me. How sometimes I interrupt, but it's only because I'm too excited as I'm passionate about the topic. I explained that I will forget things, I try my best not to and be as organised as possible, but my working memory is a joke. So I let them know that they might need to ask twice for some things.

I was genuinely blown away by how well the team received what I had to say. They told me I was "strong" and "brave", the opposite of words I'd been told described me in the past. It also opened up communication, not just from others who are neurodiverse, but it allowed for other people to be more open with their struggles.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Oh my, how long do you have?! I guess if I had to narrow it down to two bits of advice it would be:

    1. You are not lazy, stupid, or too sensitive, you can (and will) do amazing things.

    2. Be comfortable with who you are, don't hide away behind a 'mask'. You are amazing, strong, clever, and deserving.

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