Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects people’s behaviour. Those with it can seem restless, have trouble concentrating and often act on impulse.
Recently we set up a support community at Made Tech for team members with ADHD and those with friends or family members with the condition to come together. We’re also looking at setting up a semi-regular ADHD support session for those interested where we share our experiences, swap coping strategies and generally help improve life at Made Tech.
Today we’re sharing stories from our team with all types of experiences to learn in the open, offer support and share ways to make life a little easier.
My colleagues helped me discover who I am
Kate Phillips – Head of Talent
“I hope you don’t take offence but have you got ADHD?”
This is a question I’ve heard an unreasonable amount of times in my adult life. Up until recently it’s something I took little notice of and generally dismissed. No, I don’t take offence because I’m an adult and adults don’t have ADHD, do they?
This was how I felt until one of my brave and inspiring colleagues gave a presentation on neurodiversity to our company. They shared their experience of having ADHD, dyslexia and how their parents played an important role in supporting their diagnosis and management. After recognising many of the symptoms I started to do some research.
First stop, a free and confidential online test provided by a great company offering support across many aspects of neurodiversity. I’ve been so impressed with free access to tools online and now I’m looking into how we can support exceptional individuals as a business. What’s really helpful is looking at ways of managing ADHD. Something I’d been doing without realising is going outdoors. Doing regular exercise and finding ways to prioritise my workload has been instrumental in managing and enriching my mental health.
While doing this research and gaining more understanding, validation and explanation for some of my hyperactivity and impulsiveness, I was also introduced to Toby Mildon. I really encourage anyone who’s interested in the topic of diversity generally to check out his podcast, which is all about supporting employers to be better. (If you need this in a different format, you can also access transcripts.)
My own experience amplified what I already knew: that we need to support neurodivergent people during hiring and employment processes. At Made Tech, so far we’ve taken action by running neurodiversity training for line managers and recruiters. We also have internal communities, providing a safe and open space for neurodiverse groups to chat and share tips.
We encourage a culture of openness and inclusivity. It’s an environment I feel at home in and will continue to nurture in my leadership role. I encourage all those leading the people’s agenda in businesses to take a strong, active lead in promoting the inclusivity and support of individuals with neurodiversity. It’s reported that only 7% of companies around the world have a neurodiversity plan in place. Let’s all take action in our organisations to get this number up.
When ADHD awareness month came round in October, I decided to share who I am. I’ve felt vulnerable and embarrassed during this process of discovering what it means to be me and now I feel empowered, supported and more knowledgeable. I also feel I can be a better leader too, by recognising and supporting neurodiversity in my teams. It’s essential to include, support and understand people.
Be kind to one another, accommodate where possible, listen, and most importantly: learn.
Too loud, too distracted, too much: ADHD & user research
Chloe Coleman – Senior User Researcher
“Chloe, sit still.”
“You need to grow a thicker skin, you won’t be successful if you cry or get angry all the time.”
“I get that you’re excited, but there’s no need to shout.”
I was diagnosed with ADHD a little under a year ago at age 26 after years of wondering what was going on in my own brain. It was a relief to be told I was “textbook ADHD”.
My symptoms landed me in a lot of trouble over the years. At school I was regularly kicked out of class, told I was too emotional and constantly reminded to “pay attention” (if only it was that easy). In my working life I’ve had complaints about my noise levels, been told my “passion is overwhelming” and just today, flipped backwards in an office chair during a meeting.
Others who’ve been told they’re too loud, too distracted or just “too much” know how it can sting. I recently went through my diaries from my teenage years and re-read my scrawly notes. I’d promised myself to “stop talking in lessons”, “hold my breath and count to 10” and “not cry at school for a week”. It made me feel sick to go back to that 13-year-old who thought she’d never excel at anything.
But now ADHD is my superpower. I have endless curiosity, empathy and the ability to find unique solutions. When it comes to user research (especially qualitative) these traits are invaluable. In research sessions I make connections easily and bring people out of their shells. I’m fascinated by their stories, their lives, how they overcome barriers, and what they feel, think and do.
Empathy allows me to support my team with the tools they need to see the journey from the perspective of our users and the creativity to walk them through it. I lean on this skill when we’re designing for vulnerable users. It’s hard for some to imagine themselves in a situation they’ve never been in, so being able to vocalise and help the team visualise different user experiences is incredibly important. Being able to take those findings and pull recommendations means that if you’re empathetic and curious – your solutions will be too. Often, it’s not just about answers or solutions, it’s the questions that no one else thought to ask.
I used to think that these traits would hold me back in life, but now they’re the ones that allow me to do something that I love every day. This isn’t to say there aren’t things I still struggle with. But taking time to debrief after an emotional session, giving myself time to decompress after difficult discussions with stakeholders or communicate that I’m having a challenging day are ways I can help myself. Organisation can be (and often is) difficult, but knowing I can turn up and be 100% myself makes even the greyest days a little lighter.
If you want to learn more about how we’re working to create an inclusive environment for everyone at Made Tech, read our latest insights on Life at Made Tech. And why not subscribe to our Made Tech Insights newsletter to get new blog posts straight to your inbox?