About the author
Gillian is a Transformation Experience Consultant (TX), and part of Jenny’s team. Gillian leads clients through process reviews, configuration designs and implementations of the Cornerstone products.
I am dyslexic…It’s not a proclamation and it is not my superpower it is just part of my life. I am often asked “What’s it like to be dyslexic?”, or,” What do you need from a support capacity?”, but I find the first question difficult to articulate as I have no frame of reference in terms of not being dyslexic, and the second question is usually a loaded one, only asked to provide lip service to a diversity and inclusion policy with no real impotence or budget supporting it.
For a long time, I was embarrassed about my perceived shortcomings, hiding the fact that my written communication was poor or that my reading was slow, because I was frightened of being labeled stupid. I have spent a lifetime finding creative ways to mask my apparent weakness, some, like using overly complicated language has helped me improve my vocabulary, others like squiggling rather than writing, to hide the fact I couldn’t spell the word have been less helpful - Looking over notes or study aids, badly written, combined with a poor memory were not the most successful methods during exam time.
Despite all the odds, I have found myself in office-based roles for the majority of my career, and yes my dyslexia has held me back in some ways. It has also provided me with a unique perspective often missing in the world of business administration, as someone who’s spent a lifetime figuring out ways to do tasks around the edges, I have a well-honed problem-solving skill seeing solutions others would miss or overlook. Process mapping and reviews are also something I find I have a natural gift for, I never remember how to do things so I can complete the same task a different way every time I do it, regularly coming across more efficient ways of working by happy accident. Questioning things that make no sense to me can help to identify unnecessary steps, and thereby streamline processes.
It's not all a bed of roses though…
…that email that took you 2 minutes to write has taken me 10 minutes to read (I’ve tried 50 times before I managed it)
…The quick one pager you asked me to pull together will take me the best part of the day as I write, and rewrite, it over and over again.
…The training session I need to facilitate has kept me up all night because I am worried I won’t remember what to say or all of my knowledge will disappear out of my head (imposter syndrome is alive and well for me).
…The constant teams and outlook notifications, derailing my already fragile concentration, meaning I need to repeat easy quick tasks several times because I have forgotten where I am or what I was doing before the interruption.
…The training I need to take, and the test I need to sit will take me much longer that the average person, and I will probably have to re-sit the test more than once.
…The problem you set me to solve will only come to me when I have distractedly mulled it over for hours, but to you it looks like I am lazy or not working as hard as others.
…I struggle to do tasks I don’t understand or can’t see the point of. I put them off until the last minute.
…In short, I end each day exhausted from masking and trying to produce the same volume of work as a “normal” person would, to simply conform to the social norm of what a productive businessperson “looks” like.
For the most part I have been really lucky in my career, although I have worked for some really bad organisations and line managers, I have also had the good fortune to work with some great people. I’ve learned over the years to be open and upfront about my dyslexia (ok maybe not all nitty gritty struggles and details, but certainly from a high-level perspective) and have found that this helps me find opportunities with people and organisations who really want to try and understand and support me and people like me. Vitro have been a great fit with this – yes, I have deadlines to meet and customer facing meeting and training sessions that I need to facilitate but I also have the flexibility to do tasks when it fits with me and my thought process, and the knowledge that if I do need help and support I have a great team around to bounce ideas off of.
From one dyslexic to another don’t let it define you or limit your potential, and to organisations out there don’t let it cloud your perception of what a person is capable of and the value they can bring to your organisation.
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