Sara-Jane Harvey, Founder at Agony Autie Samar Birwadker, Founder and CEO at Good & Co
Sara-Jane Harvey | Founder at Agony Autie 0:00
I'm going to begin with the myth of normality. I just think there's no greater myth than the myth that we are normal. There's such a thing as normal people. And if you don't behave and act that way, then you're the abnormal ones. And the reason neurodiversity is so fascinating is because that's why you've put all the abnormal people into neuro diversity. neuro diversity is brain diversity. It's difference of the brain, it is where you will find your autistics such as myself, people with ADHD, that's attention. And people with sensory processing, so aversions to lights, or sensitivities to light, some people experience color, when they taste, some people will taste a word. It's the way that the brain connects, receive senses, and allows us to think and make sense of the world. That is, what is what it is to be neuro diverse, you make sense of the world differently from your pro dominant peers. So what is in the mix of neurodiversity? While the sociopaths are there, too, and the great thing about neurodiversity is we do me different minds, you do you mean, different minds, in your workforces, to diversifying the way you think, the way you can move forward, because no one ever achieved anything great, or wonderful, when we're all thinking from the same song sheet, and delivering what the status quo anticipated. And for me, nor diversity to smash open the concept because most of the people in this audience, can I just say, raise your hands? Who knows someone who is autistic, ADHD? OC Oh, wow. Okay, so can I keep keep those hands up? If that a close relative? So your child or a brother? Yeah, cool. Okay, so the people that hands on, you probably know, by diverse to this room is full of neurodiverse people. And this is what I mean, it is a myth to think that we are all the normal ones who have gotten this far. Because I used to think that I say I'm normal, even though I wasn't, I'm autistic, which means I have different barriers and different experiences, which means so mix environments, and workplaces are simply not accessible. And for me, neurodiversity is everywhere. I see it a lot in science, I see a lot in tech, in our creative industries, but especially within entrepreneurs. Why? Because no one will employers, normal employers. So if I'm saying that entrepreneurs are neurodiverse, like, a lot of them are not all. This means that this room in this conference will be full of people today who have had to work differently in different avenues to get here.
Unknown Speaker 2:59
And it means that you are in a fantastic position to help change the shocking state of affairs in the UK, which is 16% of autistic people are in employment. I'm not in employment, I'm self employed. Because the system's been warming, because of the way I behaved. And because of the difference in socialization. And because I burn out and break down. So I'm asking for companies to revolutionize the way they think about what work even is with ethics work practices, the interviewing process, the way we even go about bringing people into the system. Because if you use the stain standardized tax and frameworks and evaluations that we've already been through as neurodiverse people, we've been through it at school. And a lot of us fell through the cracks. They're only then to go through it into employment. look at different ways. Look at maybe a week long process of interviewing an autistic person and I will go into some of the details with some, some are about the barriers that we face. But I want to focus on the virtues of autistic people because it's such a deficit model on autism, what we can't do and what I can't do this like burnout from the autistic virtue virtues are traits virtues, and according to the Greeks, virtues wasn't just your model. If you're a basketball player, and if you're tall, you're you've got good virtues. So it's your characteristics in terms of that height. Could Excel is wrong. So for autistic people, our virtues can excel the way that you are trying to deliver a product or an idea and innovation. Artistic virtue, some of us mostly is an attention to detail, an aversion to small talk, and a huge hyperfocus on special interest areas. And if you employ someone who loves what they do, James When he loves what they do, when Aristotle and the stoics, were arguing about what happiness is what defines happiness, they came from a few things. They said, comfort within the environment, everyone wants to be comfortable and feel safe. Integrity to who you are. And they said this, they said, intense, focused, repetitive interests. That's a red flag for autism. And yet, here we are, the definition of happiness. And if you want a happy workforce if you want happy people when it comes to OLS, but you cannot pick and choose the parts that you want from your nor diverse workforce, which does mean that you have to adapt. And it is about looking at how economic you can make those adaptations, not only for neurodiverse people, but if you make changes for us to access your workplace, you will also benefit the person who's going through grief, the person who's going for depression and mental health, the person is almost on the cusp of a nervous breakdown. Because if you give them one more task or demand, you're going to lose them. If we make these changes for this subgroup of people, you will revolutionize the way that we treat your workforce, because you start treating them as people. And the best thing is the fact that this this room is full of these people today watching me, it means that you're open to this. you're open to this, you're here, you're sat here, you're listening. That's the hardest part for me, is to even get you here. So thank you for being the type of minds who want to at least consider this. Consider including AWS. Thank you. Oh, and one more thing, Steve Silberman, Greg in San Francisco. What's the word on fancy scavenging? That sounds like?
Unknown Speaker 6:54
Well, he said,
Unknown Speaker 6:56
just because a computer isn't running Windows, or Mac, doesn't mean it's not broken. We do run from different operating systems. Everybody does. And that's what nor diversity is. So bring those different operating systems into your workforce. Thank you.
Samar Birwadker | Founder and CEO Good & Co 7:19
Thank you, sir. One of the things I want to start talking with you about Sarah is, and get your thoughts on when you give the talk last time, why it was very meaningful for me because I learn a lot through trial and error with Carrie. And oftentimes we we get caught up in looking at neuro diversity as just a token diversity measure, right. And now, when I look back at the last seven years, the immense innovation that carries build that good CO, even in an atypical way, has created massive advantage and value for the business that carry for example, sometimes I wouldn't hear from her for a week, and it would frustrate me, I'm like you were a coupon or wherever you disappeared, right? And at first, it was difficult to do with that. But as I understood the patterns more, I was like if Carrie works two nights in a row after having disappeared for a week, because she wasn't feeling great, right. And she created more value in those two nights working nonstop, then, like five psychometricians could do in a month. Do you think businesses are missing out on that value? Because they're not actively seeking out neuro diverse people?
Unknown Speaker 8:27
Oh, gosh, absolutely. Absolutely. I looked at myself in a spoon. And I was like, why am I upside down on this site and facing the right way? And I know it's to do with the way light bends. And I asked the question to my autistic community. And within a few hours, I came up with full sign scientific diagrams of the way that light refracts and bounce and I had a clear answer. We are intense, intense. And that's probably why she goes away to recuperate, but it's because no offense, you're intense from our perspective. It's all relative to the autistic person, the socializing and the demands and wanting to talk about this process. If I can just say I've done that, and I've done this and just trust me, just give me a week and I'll throw it out. We do work in different ways. But we do have this this strange thing. And I understand why between employers and employees with trust, when trusting was to do the work, and often I remember having supervisors kind of hovering over me, making sure observing that I'm doing the work. I can't work like that I cannot work when you are watching and observing me because I can it's stifling to my creative process. And also, I just can't think so going away and isolating oneself allows me to talk to this is how I operate as an autistic person. Yes. It's that You're missing out is the answer to that.
Unknown Speaker 10:02
And we'll we'll learn this over the years. And we actively recruit in the near diverse community, quite frankly, not because you want to hire for diversity, but because it's an immense business advantage. Yeah. And it's kind of like a well kept secret. In some ways. Obviously, we don't want to keep it a secret for much longer. Yeah. I remember this one anecdote with Carrie, after we got acquired, and a parent company has invested in the business quite a bit for the long term. And it was just a natural progression for me, Carrie, you're like the chief psychometrics officer. Now you need to be a manager, you need to build a team, and hire people and train them and sort of grow. And this is like the obvious next stage for your career. Yeah, that whole idea bombed. Because, yeah, Carrie just didn't want to not that she didn't want it. You don't want to disappoint people. And she tried to adopt that new environment and a new reality, because we were looking at it as like, it's just make sense, right? So basically, I remember just one anecdote. I realized later that carrier to prepare mentally for like six hours before a one hour meeting that was scheduled. And basically, she had to have thought of answers for every possible permutation and combination, or scenario that could come up in the meeting. And she would kill it and then meeting and people won't answer that one hour. But they forgot how much strain and how much work it was for just mentally prepare for that.
Unknown Speaker 11:20
Absolutely. So the reason I'm looking away from you, for example, it's because I can visualize what you're saying. So visualizing the room and visualizing and stressing out and visualizing her like thinking for six hours. I can't do that when I look at your face. And what I do is I look at your face. And I don't hear a word that you say that processing can go out as well. So yeah, we can we work so differently. And when we're not supported or understood, it means that we can end up just completely collapsing out of the workforce. And I relate to the challenge that she's going through, because without any orting, I went from being unemployed on my kitchen floor and thinking my life is over, because I basically became chronically ill. With earless danlos syndrome, it's a collagen disorder, face stretchy ligaments. And now I'm getting to the grasps of being a founder of agony, or II and speaking to hundreds of 1000s of people. And what happened is a few weeks ago, not even a few weeks ago, 10 days ago, and please don't be alarmed when I say this. I will say this though, to break stigma. I am the type of autistic that punches myself in the face. When I become distressed. And I have great shame. great shame over it. Um, well, I won't hide it because it isn't a threat to you. And what I beg is that if you understand that, okay, this autistic person has just too many demands, not a lot of how, and her book is full because of my pain and my overbury ism, sensory overload. I cope in a non constructive way. What if we can have employees creating quiet safe spaces or quiet zone, so instead of social breakout area, that's a nightmare for autistic person. I'm so sorry. I've been working all day. And now you want me to walk socialize that for work. So if I could go to either a quiet room was literally nothing, no sense is devoid of it. And I can interact or integrate how I want with myself, or a sensory room, sensory rooms, different sensory rooms, a sensory seeking. So that's where you can go lalala fidget, fidget, do Bang, bang, because you can't do it there because you're disrupting the work force. With you can do it in your room there. You don't have to go home, you don't have to go and get fired. You can literally nip in and out of your work because hey, whoa, presto, you've got an accessible employer. Accessible environment. What was your question? My love. Thanks again, and thanks.
Unknown Speaker 13:54
So I follow that up with this is something again, we learned through trial and error with Carrie, Carrie can come to the office when she wants she can work from wherever she wants. If we don't have daily check ins, that's completely okay. But when Carrie goes to work, for example, one night, she was working, she came up with like 18,000, multiple permutations and combinations of different unique insights that get delivered as part of the assessments. And I could not have hired 10 psychometricians to do that work in like four months. Yeah. So like, really, and it's meant it's insane. Like the models that she's built. People can't imagine that and she comes up with it. I remember you mentioning one thing that there there are autistic and neuro diverse people at the core of some of the biggest innovations of the last century. Yeah, it's just that it's not well known. Can you talk about a little bit
Unknown Speaker 14:42
Oh, it breaks my heart. I see autistic culture and autistic innovation creation absolutely everywhere. I mean, some of you are even holding in your hands like right now and filming from it. And we are heavily in the sciences, especially with the with space programs, which means A lot of the technology was filtered down to earth. It's helped with our health as well. What we do we I felt we've advanced and moved humanity forward, but we don't get the recognition. We don't get the recognition because a lot of people don't own up to it. And I'll give a wonderful example. A girl, she eight year old girl, she raised her hand and she said to Neil deGrasse Tyson, famous astrophysicist. I'm dyslexic, which is neurodiverse. It's where it's a neurological disorder of the words. I'm dyslexic. Can I be a scientist? she asked him, and he burst out laughing like a belly laugh. Like that? And he said, Are you kidding me? Everyone, nearly every one within the scientific community 90% or nor diverse on the spectrum, light sensitive. If you're not dyspraxia, or autism, not autistic is almost a disadvantage to enter those communities. Because of the way we think, and could you just refer me? Could you bring me back on to the second part of the last point?
Unknown Speaker 16:10
So you mentioned earlier that there neurodiverse people at the core of some of the biggest inventions, how do we how do we identify that we're working with someone who's more diverse, who just needs to be you need to just have different patterns of working with them.
Unknown Speaker 16:24
So identifying is difficult because not everyone will want to come out because of the stigma because a lot of people also think that you won't employers. If we tell you what you can identify it usually, I don't want to go too much into traits or characteristics because everyone's so difficult and so different. And it's difficult to try and play Sherlock I guess, in diagnosing but stimming is a huge part of my behaviors. I stim a lot flap a lot in home a lot. And, but I can always tell when autistic people are near me, because they'll just carry on talking about their focus interest.
Unknown Speaker 17:01
You can pick people in a crowd that you that are interesting. I know do that a couple of times.
Unknown Speaker 17:05
Oh, yeah, yeah, I'd have to like interact and engage with people for a little bit. But I'd be able to tell if they're more diverse within a few minutes.
Unknown Speaker 17:11
Yeah. And you remember every little detail from every meeting like photographic memory, it was crazy, you could recall the shoes I was wearing and the coat I was wearing. Yeah, in our in our short meeting we had several months ago,
Unknown Speaker 17:21
this is in crew, basically, I can see the whole room and I can see why you are you on the right hand side with round table form. And I can see you here and here in two different countries in two different times. And it can come overloading what is a wonderful skill set. Because it means I can operate with nine or 10 different channels on and it means that with agony or tea, we are the brains, we are the video makers with the business operations, we're apps, we have our minds in all the pines because no one else will do it. So we will do it for God themselves. Until we got the hell.
Unknown Speaker 17:56
It's amazing to have you speak about it because some of the or some other experiences I've had with autistic neuro diverse people, they tend to be very introverted. And I think and if I'm not being politically correct about this, but you're one of those rare, extroverted, autistic people, I think, spectrum work.
Unknown Speaker 18:14
I think it's funny, because I am definitely extrovert, my husband's more introvert, and you meet some autistic people who won't really want to talk with you. And that's totally cool. I get it. However, I'm extrovert because I'm talking about my special interest, autism, and neurodiversity. This is my focus. This is my hobby. This is my life. This is my love. And I've loved it ever since I was a young girl. So try to talk to me about anything else. A little bit, I'll just bring it back to autism. Let's talk about that. Yeah, there's so much to talk about that. Do you?
Unknown Speaker 18:52
Do you think that just in, in comparison, where we are in working with and adapting to, and adapting our environments to the autistic near diverse community? would you compare it with where we were in other marginalized groups like few decades ago, whether it's based on race or sexual orientation? Absolutely,
Unknown Speaker 19:14
I would, and I and I have to be very careful to not appropriate and whenever I looked at over stigmatized and marginalized communities, I do so with the greatest respect, and I do so to to look at how did they overcome adversity because there's a lot of adversity that autistic people or neurodiverse people go through, mainly, that people still think we're a disease of the mind, the way that homosexuality was being taught as a disease of the mind. And what that means is that autistic people, when I say the shame to be autistic is this. They don't think we're normal. I'm not normal. If only I was normal, then I could do x y Zed. If only I wasn't autistic. This myth of not of normality is what does make us L and only if only we could love our otter. Stick virtues. And that does mean this hard times, punching yourself in the face and an overload is the worst experience you could ever go through. I always think why am I like this? Why, why, why? But then I remember is because I am in great pain, I am greatly struggling to process and every time I learned from it, but I will never learn from it. If all I get is you're broken, you're wrong. You're full of challenging behavior, and agony or tea. It's been about decoding that challenging behavior and actually saying to you, it's not that it's because I'm having PTSD. flashback memory is very visual for me. So very traumatic, or having sensory memories, or the something in the environment bothering me. And I'm a privileged position to do that, because I'm verbal, and not all autistic people are so yes, extrovert, verbal, we're also talking about my interest. It can be great, great employment material. If you support us correctly, and focus on the individual's needs.
Unknown Speaker 21:02
Do you have tips for us on? What are some immediate things we can do to become more sensitive and adaptable to more neurodiverse people in our workforce, especially here in Silicon Valley? Like I bet?
Unknown Speaker 21:16
Yeah, absolutely. If you're just when you realize that nor diversity is just a normal part of life. It will be normal. It's what Harvey Milk, said the great Harvey Milk, who is my icon, and this is his hometown in San Francisco. So this is a dream for me to be here. He said to everyone who was gay in 70s. He said, Come out, come out. Because once that they know that they know at least one of those. It will change everything. Because no diverse people, everyone who put their hands up, you already know what they serve your cups of tea. They press your left buttons, the creating the attack the sending people to space, they are the reason you have the internet. We are here. We're just not seen. And that is that's the great tragic thing.
Unknown Speaker 22:08
One last thing last few is. I mean, what are some of the more immediate issues you see the community facing? But more importantly, how can we we seek out and hire new diverse people? Are they groups or their associations or their hiring events we could participate in? Yeah, I know we actively do in the UK. Yeah. I don't know a whole lot in the US.
Unknown Speaker 22:30
Yeah, well, Microsoft in the US is doing awesome at the moment because their whole diversity. They looked at disability diversity, but they're very aware, because they're like, this whole place is full of autistics, maybe we should make an autism program for the ones with more complex needs to join in to. Because this is quite, you know, internal bias it because the autistics who can talk the extrovert and can be most supportive, that's great if they can get there. But what about the ones with more obvious behaviors? The ones with the stims, which are loud or with Tourette's or with tics? Why can't they be a two? It's not an excuse to say that they're just disruptive that is neuro phobic. And it may not be recognized that that now what it will in 10 years. But back to the last point of your question. The last are there communities, we can actively seek out and hire new talent. So basically, in the US, I know a lot of neurodiversity groups are starting to pop up on in universities and campuses. And Steve Silberman, the author of Nova tribes, I'm meeting him tomorrow, by the way, I can't wait. He's been trying to go to universities to get, you know, champion the next generations before they come out to be open about their neurodiversity. But in terms of approaching people, I just think as as a company, you need to be proud. You need to be proud of the fact that this day that diversity exists, and if you're proud of the fact that you want to try and you also need to recognize that you're dipping your toe into a community that really is undervalued. So don't be afraid to make mistakes. Don't be afraid to get it wrong. Don't be afraid if you offend us by saying the wrong thing. What matters is your intent. Is that your training? Please just at least come and say how can we help talking to autistic people is the best way to go about it. Um, just want to don't just listen to me. Go and speak to hundreds of autistic people. Thank you Sarah. That's her time. Thank you very much.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai