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  1. Neurodivergent Engineer

    Neurodivergent Engineer Jeff

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    Over the last year and a half I have had a journey that I never though I'd have. I decided to share my story here in the hopes that someone facing my same situation might gain some insight into their own. I was working very happily with a manager with whom I had a good relationship. The work was good but had started to slack off. I was told that the team would be splitting and was asked whether I would prefer to go with the back end services team or the front end user interface team. I of course chose the first since that is where the bulk of my experience lies and where I feel the most comfortable.

    On joining the services team I was assigned to a new manager. He seemed a decent sort right off and we got along well. The problem came in the way he "ran" his team. Work was basically put into a pile and the team instructed to "get it done". Tasks were to be pulled off the pile and worked in no particular order or priority. In my mind the result was chaos. Anytime I chose a task I was quickly informed that it was either a task that someone else would be taking due to some history or that it simply wasn't ready to be done yet. I had to consult every member of the team to learn the history and requirements before taking on any task. I had no actual personal connection with any member of his team and they all seemed to resent my presence for some unknown reason, making things even worse. My inability to navigate the intensely cliqued structure of the team resulted in my taking on only small insignificant stories. The stories were not well defined, organized or ready. When I expressed my concerns and struggles with the lack of team organization and the way stories were handled to the manager I was told that as a Senior Engineer I was expected to do it on my own and leave him alone. I lost count of the times I heard "Here's what I expect of my Senior Engineers...". I attempted on a few occasions to explain to him that attempting to interact with his team was like trying to reach through a series of running buzz saws to snatch out a piece of wood.

    As a result, I went into a depression. I started showing up late for work and just going through the motions. This of course led to disciplinary action. At my wit's end I went to a Psychologist for some help. After our first session she recommended some testing. After a number of sessions of testing I was given the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder Type II. This was a game changer for me. I always knew that my mind worked differently than everyone else but I had no idea. Suddenly my inability to navigate the complex, multi layered and silo driven team dynamic was explainable.

    It was at this time that a reorganization happened and I was assigned to a different manager. I was elated. The new manager was one with whom I already had a good relationship and we could move forward leaving my previous toxic team behind. I informed my new manager about my diagnosis and he seemed willing to work with me.

    Things went well for a while until my new Manager began expecting things from me that I wasn't able to live up to. He expected me to take on leadership of the team. He expected me to actively mentor junior team members. My attempts to negotiate an accommodation with my disability failed. In one session I was yelled at, something that hadn't happened to me since childhood. I quickly realized that this manager did not want someone with Aspergers Syndrome for the role. He wanted a hard charging type A person. He wanted someone who would basically take over the team for him. I could not do those things and it led to a toxic and hostile work environment.

    I did the only thing I could think of, I requested to be moved to a different manager. I was informed, though, that such a move was not possible and couldn't be considered until my organization hired a new vice president of technology. I was stuck. I avoided my manager as much as possible and just dealt with the crippling anxiety. This went on for 6 months. I was continually put off and delayed until finally after another reorganization we were put under a new group. Under the new group a VP was hired and I was told that finally I'd be moved to another team and out from under the hostile manager.

    That's when the layoffs happened. Because of my status of not being on one team or the other and because I had a disciplinary record I got axed. I was the only one at my level who did, so I know why.

    So that's my story. I found out why I was having so much trouble working for bad managers but the price I had to pay was my job.
     
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  2. Crossbreed

    Crossbreed Neur-D Missionary ☝

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    Hello & welcome @Neurodivergent Engineer .

    I think your inopportune disclosure was a big part of what happened to you.
    • Before disclosure, you were a "geek," likely an "alpha" geek.
    • After disclosure, you were seen as defective (and not worth the effort).
    (I use the terms "neur-D" & "neurd" for neuro-diverse. [​IMG])
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
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  3. Giraffes

    Giraffes Active Member

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    My employment record and success have often been affected by my manager and team dynamics, even when I’ve declared my Autism, in fact more so since I have, I wish you luck with your employment
     
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  4. GadAbout

    GadAbout Well-Known Member

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    Sorry this happened to you. Never tell anyone where you work that you have autism, and never seek any accommodations due to that diagnosis. (You can still request a darker office or reseating in a less busy location, though you might not get them.)

    When you say to a manager "I cannot do x because I have this incurable neurological condition," they start to view you as a liability. But when you say, "Well, I've never done that before so could I get some coaching or a class?" they view you as having a can-do attitude.

    Getting to work late is never okay, whatever your reasons. Don't excuse that as being related to depression. Because your boss certainly won't!

    It sounds like you do have employable skills, so get busy looking for other employment ASAP. Despite layoffs and social distancing due to coronavirus, there are companies that are hiring right now for telecommuting /work from home jobs. You'll feel better and your resume will look better without a long gap in employment.
     
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  5. Varzar

    Varzar Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I actually disagree. I'm pretty sure you would have been laid off either way...
    Just for reference, I worked in the same industry for 10 years, and in the latter half was managing a team of 20 developers.
    At some point in IT they usually want senior software engineers to take on a more mentoring role with the more junior engineers.. It's almost part of the job description for senior software engineers to be leaders and mentors.. If you're not able to do that part of the job, you're effectively just a very expensive intermediate level engineer..
    My brother, who is also in the same industry (although as far a I know, is not AS), is generally reclusive and doesn't talk much to others. Never has. At one point in his career, they tried to push him into a leadership role as well. Expectedly, he did terribly at it, but in his case, the company just demoted him back to being a developer, but that also included a substantial pay cut... In other words, he wasn't worth that money unless he could also be the leader/mentor they wanted for that role..

    So perhaps your company could have cut your salary instead of laying you off, but... That may have created an even worse working relationship, and I can sort of understand why they'd take the lay-off route instead..
     
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  6. Crossbreed

    Crossbreed Neur-D Missionary ☝

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    I could probably mentor a junior neurd, [​IMG] but mentoring an NT seems like it would be daunting.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
  7. clg114

    clg114 Still crazy, after all these years. Staff Member V.I.P Member

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    This is one of the reasons why I do not tell anyone that I am autistic. They can not or will not understand and some of things that they think are scary. Need to know basis only!
     
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  8. Varzar

    Varzar Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    It is, and it was daunting for me too.. I guess I didn't know then about AS.. So, I was just perplexed at some of the behaviours I had to try and correct in some of the people..
     
  9. Giraffes

    Giraffes Active Member

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    How can a person’s way of being be ‘corrected’ please help me understand what you mean, a neurological disability is not a choice of being but a different way of being and relating to others
     
  10. Varzar

    Varzar Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I was talking about managing NTs, not AS people. I've never to my knowledge managed an AS person.
    And as far as "behaviours" go, I was meaning more things like, not surfing the net while you work, showing up on time, and not showing up high on marijuana... :p
     
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  11. Giraffes

    Giraffes Active Member

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    Ok thanks for the clarification, have a good evening
     
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  12. Crossbreed

    Crossbreed Neur-D Missionary ☝

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    You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear...
     
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  13. Varzar

    Varzar Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Lol, so true..
    The guy that showed up stoned I did end up firing. It didn't help his case that there was an critical failure with some of his code that same day, and the CEO of the company came to talk to him about it.. *facepalm*
     
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  14. Crossbreed

    Crossbreed Neur-D Missionary ☝

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    That is true, but it is complicated by the fact that industry does not recognize that form of blindness.

    (ASD1 is like a social color-blindness.)
     
  15. Varzar

    Varzar Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I don't know if it's solely my opinion... But the normal career path in software engineering is that you spend about 2-3 years being considered a junior software engineer, followed by 3-8 years of being considered an intermediate software engineer, and 8+ years is generally considered a senior software engineer..
    They don't often consider those "promotions" from what I've experienced.. You just get pay hikes, and yeah, they generally start having higher expectations of what you will be able to do.. And at the senior level, there is very regularly the expectation that you will mentor and lead more junior engineers..

    I can only assume you got the associated pay raises and were being paid like a senior engineer? Did you really expect that came with no additional responsibilities?

    As for your particular case, they (and you) didn't know you were AS until your very last manager, and it sounds like from your story that you were already having issues at the company prior to that.. So what *is* my opinion, is that they likely were already considering laying you off before there was any AS explanation of why you were unable to fulfill some of the expectations they likely had of a senior engineer..

    I often had team members from other teams get transferred on to my team.. They weren't working out on the other team, but the other manager didn't want to actually do the laying off part, cause I guess they had no spine..
    HR would often try to convince me to take them on instead.. For one, because I was able to work with more people than a lot of the other managers.. And for two, cause if it didn't work out, I wouldn't hesitate to let the person go..
    Sometimes it worked out, and I found a way to take advantage of someones strengths and mitigate their weaknesses.. But other times, I couldn't and I just had to let them go..

    I'm not saying I agree with what they did to you.. Or that it was the right decision.. All I'm suggesting is it probably didn't have anything to do with the AS diagnosis that you shared... The writing was probably on the wall long before that...
     
  16. Crossbreed

    Crossbreed Neur-D Missionary ☝

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    If they [were?] sufficiently geeky, they were probably neurds. [​IMG]
     
  17. Varzar

    Varzar Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Lol, indeed.. There were definitely no shortage of interesting people I worked with.. With very eccentric personalities.. Whether or not any of them were AS is anyone's guess..
     
  18. Varzar

    Varzar Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    @Neurodivergent Engineer
    The reason I'm trying to give you an alternate perspective on this is not to try and defend the company. It's that I don't want you going into your next job interview with a chip on your shoulder.. At 57, you're already going to have a hard time finding software engineering work in what is predominantly a young person's profession.. Going in with the idea that your last company laid you off for AS reasons isn't going to help.. Any good interviewer will pick up on that..

    One suggestion I'd give is that when you go out applying for jobs, you should probably aim for intermediate level positions, and when they ask why you're applying for a job at that level, tell them you're not comfortable with mentoring and leading people, and you just want to help them develop their software.. But you should then expect the intermediate level salary to go along with it..

    Alternatively, there are a few positions out there where you wouldn't have to mentor that much.. They tend to be more on the R&D side of things as opposed to mainline product development.. Those jobs usually also require strong analysis and design skills as well as development ability.. I don't know what your resume looks like, but perhaps that would be place you could fit in at a company, maximize usage of your skills, maximize your income, and minimize the mentoring/leading responsibilities that don't work for you..

    Also, I agree with GadAbout's point about having a can-do attitude.. Maybe mentoring and training makes you uncomfortable, but if you are willing to work at it and learn, perhaps even take some classes on it, then say that.. If you really really can't, then don't take the job. It will only end poorly.

    I hope this helps you.. :)
    I guess I skipped over being empathetic.. I'm bad with empathy.. But I am sorry this happened to you as well.
     
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