International Day of People with Disabilities aims to create awareness and support people and their families, in and outside of the workplace.
John Black, our Diversity Equity & Inclusion, Disability Group Lead has shared some of his thoughts to mark this campaign and the challenges he faces as a neurodivergent person.
Why do you feel it is important we mark the International Day of Disabilities?
Disability is often something you don’t need to know anything about, until you need to know everything about it. As a result, it can be hard to know what our colleagues and friends are doing to ‘fit in’ or to ‘manage’ the impact on themselves or the rest of us, every day.
Awareness is important for everyone.
As a result, it can be hard to know what our colleagues and friends are doing to ‘fit in’ or to ‘manage’ the impact on themselves or the rest of us, every day.
How do you manage the challenges in your work and personal life?
I am neurodivergent, and alongside my daily responsibilities of my job, I am a parent of a beagle and toddler with a partner who works full time as a PR Director.
Across all aspects of my life I strive to proactively create an environment where my needs are met as much as possible, so that I can be all the things I need to be, to the people around me. This means constantly learning about my autistic and ADHD (AuDHD) traits to help me understand why I might think or feel something.
I’ve had some lonely and low periods which are easily tied to my neurodivergent brain and attempts to cope with the changing global and personal environment. In these situations, I sought help from professionals which really helped me process situations and focus on my priorities. It sometimes seems easier to put my head down and muddle through but this is not the case.
I’m more open and honest than some of the men I know and my ‘oversharing’ is usually due to my neurodivergent way of thinking.
What I’d like us to all get to, is a place where the social and professional environments can be safe places to share our struggles and receive the fullest support without any fear of losing friends, promotions, or other desirable things.
What do you do to look after your wellbeing?
Like a lot of AuDHD’ers, I have many hobbies. Those that get me outside include, tennis, football, crossfit and walking with my Beagle.
As we live in a country which isn’t always so friendly to the outside pursuits, I also enjoy poker, Warhammer and DIY. There are so many other sensational activities that I’ve gained some competency in for example scuba diving and rock climbing.
I find that being better with managing my diet, combined with regular exercise provides a solid foundation for me to balance things in my life and feel more human in my own right.
How has Tetra Tech supported you?
Tetra Tech has supported me in a number of ways.
I completed a workplace needs assessment (WNA) which helped me validate my working at home setup and it gave me some ideas which I might not have considered otherwise. It is very useful as it provides a legislative framework for reasonable adjustments.
I have taken full advantage of the flexibility of hybrid working. I’ve have had many conversations about finding the best working arrangements in terms of days, times and office / home working to meet my needs, and to enable me to work at my best.
As part of my wider performance development, Tetra Tech have also agreed for me to work with a supportive disability specific performance coach.
Also, colleagues across the global business have helped me with my communication approach so I can try to get my ideas to have maximum impact and influence.
Who are your inspirations/mentors?
Internally, I would say Lauren Menachekanian, who is the Communications Director for the Tetra Tech Corporate Media and Communications in Pasadena. Lauren is very good at balancing the corporate strategy and our passion for change to make Tetra Tech more inclusive.
Externally I’ve met so many people in the last year doing amazing things, two that stand out are Nancy Doyle, Professor of Organisational Psychology, who specialises in neurodiversity at work. Also, Elizabeth Bonker, who is the director for Communication 4 ALL, a non-profit organisation with the mission to gain communication access to all non-speaking people with autism.