Sean McPherson Data Analyst, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
“I think being able to show my skills in a less formal, more relaxed manner helps the hiring managers make better decisions as to who to hire. I for one have great difficulty in describing my talents, but I am quite adept at showing them. Standard recruitment processes have me telling my skills, Specialisterne has me demonstrating them.”
Meet Sean from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning where he has been working as a data analyst for over a year. Through his supportive workplace, and a love of his job, he now has the confidence and means to be independent. He dreams one day of getting into space science, and also having a family of his own.
When did you receive your diagnosis? I was diagnosed in 2015 at the age of 25.
What impact did your diagnosis have on you? My diagnosis had quite a profound impact upon me. Once I knew why I was the way I was, I could begin my years long self-improvement voyage. I could finally overcome internal barriers that prevented me from doing so much because I could recognise them.
What was your plan for your work and career when you were at school? When I was in school so many years ago, my plans were to do something related to physics/mathematics. These were my favourite subjects. I found myself drawn to the wonders of space and thought studying space would be cool.
What did you do when you left school? When I left school, I went to University to study science. I decided to specialise in space science. The subjects that I needed to do were fascinating and I ended up learning about quantum theory and relativity. Sadly, I was unable to complete these studies due to being undiagnosed and having the subjects for my specialisation cancelled before I could complete them. “It is extremely important for employers to offer alternative recruitment pathways. Had I gone through the standard interview process I would likely not have the job I currently have.”
Did you work in any jobs that you weren’t suited to? How did this affect you? I once had a short run working at a McDonalds. I was given little orientation and was put on the front counter dealing with customers. Soon (and without training) I was put on drive thru. I never really got to know any of the other staff working there and as such felt isolated. This eventually led up to me becoming more upset every time I went, resulting in me having to leave. Why did you apply for the Specialisterne programs? (RISE @ Dept of Health and Human Services, and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning – Digital Cadastre Modernisation) I applied for the original program after seeing that I would be given the chance to show my skills in a program that seemed dedicated in getting people like me meaningful employment. I went for the second program because it would get into a field of work that was much better suited to my skillset. Having had a good experience the first time around and seeing the second program was much shorter (which was a good thing as I had adjusted to working by then), is what convinced me to go for the second program.
How did you find the Specialisterne recruitment process? I find the Specialisterne program to be a great way of getting hands on with the actual work. And getting to meet some of the people I’ll be working with and the supervisors/managers, really helps me know beforehand if I’ll be suitable for the job.
How is it different to other recruitment processes you’ve been through? I think being able to show my skills in a less formal, more relaxed manner helps the hiring managers make better decisions as to who to hire. I for one have great difficulty in describing my talents, but I am quite adept at showing them. Standard recruitment processes have me telling my skills, Specialisterne has me demonstrating them.
What have you gained from this process? One thing I have gained from going through this process is a greater awareness of how prohibitive the standard recruitment process is, and not just for autistic people.
How beneficial was the support from Specialisterne during the program? The support I have received from Specialisterne has been quite beneficial. They were able to get me some workplace adjustments that catered to my sensory sensitivities. Namely to not put me too close to exterior windows. I have also benefitted from getting support in keeping personal issues from impacting my ability to work. The support there has kept me working during times of personal hardship, which I think has been invaluable in ensuring that I not only continue to work but grow.
How important is it for employers to offer alternative recruitment pathways? It is extremely important for employers to offer alternative recruitment pathways. Had I gone through the standard interview process I would likely not have the job I currently have.
Was the involvement of the employer in the process helpful? Having the employer involved in the process is helpful. Getting to know the people who are employing me lets me know if they are people who I can work with. I can better judge if they are willing to work with me to maximise the skills that I bring. “I feel as though my employer really understands me and what I need to work. This makes me feel as though I can take on more/different tasks. It gives me the confidence to act more autonomously on tasks that I feel will provide good outcomes for the project I am working on. I also feel that because of the support and understanding that I can voice my opinions.” What role are you working in now? I am more or less working in the same role I was hired in for the second program I partook in. However, the exact tasks have expanded. I have taken on significantly more tasks and am now involved in higher level meetings as my knowledge of the job has elevated to the point of warranting me being involved in those meetings.
Do you feel supported & understood by your employer? How does this make you feel? I feel as though my employer really understands me and what I need to work. This makes me feel as though I can take on more/different tasks. It gives me the confidence to act more autonomously on tasks that I feel will provide good outcomes for the project I am working on. I also feel that because of the support and understanding that I can voice my opinions.
How has having this role impacted other areas of your life? Having my current role has also greatly improved other areas of my life. Because of the people I have met and the stability of my work, I have become more independent. I have purchased my own home and have become far more confident going out to socialise (before the pandemic).
What are you able to do now that you couldn’t do before? One thing I am able to do now that I couldn’t do before is be comfortable in moderate to large social gatherings. I can attend social events with strangers and not be worn down or have the anxiety I used to have. I am now also able to ask for different/more work without running through an anxiety cycle beforehand.
Do you have further career aspirations? I would like to at some stage finish my undergrad science degree and my dream would be to work as a space scientist. As for right now though I think finding some more permanent work in something like what I currently do would be fine. I would like to get a permanent role to have the stability to go for my dream of shifting over to studying the wonders of space. What are your dreams for the future?
Other than the whole space science dream, one dream I do have that is not related to work aspirations, is to meet someone and have a family.