I often hear that I can come across as distant or uninterested when I first meet people. That’s not the case. I’m actually quite engaged, but I am also a bit nervous, because I see and process things differently than many people.
Allow me to explain in more detail: I’m on the autism spectrum. More precisely, I have Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), previously called Asperger's Syndrome. People with ASD are often characterized by having difficulties interacting socially and communicating nonverbally and they can be restricted and repetitive when it comes to interests or behavioral patterns.
Where do I fit in this category? While I do have difficulties in social interaction, that mostly applies to when I meet someone for the first time. The actual issue, however, is that I feel a little uncomfortable when meeting new people, and I’m not always sure how to interact with them.
People who’ve known me for a while can confirm that this is only something that happens near the beginning, and once we’ve gotten to know each other I become more open and interactive.
I do have a tendency to go about things in a similar pattern – like when I get up in the morning, or how I plan to go about my day. I am, however, open to change and can adjust to the situation if necessary.
For example, for a good while I didn’t really consider trying to work from home. I felt I needed a specific environment, like an office space, to get my work done. But when my work situation required working from home because of COVID-19, I had to adjust myself to the new situation and was able to get into it pretty quickly.
While ASD does occasionally hinder me when it comes to social interactions, it has never held me back from producing quality work. In fact, people with ASD also have a lot of strengths, which can include significant focus and persistence, an aptitude for recognizing patterns, and a very strong attention to detail.
When I work on a project, be it a video or graphic design work, my focus is primarily set on delivering the best possible end result. Therefore, I pay very close attention to even the smallest details. If the tiniest thing looks or feels off about the potential end product, I look at every possibility there is for me to correct it.
One of my favorite sayings about autism is: “Autism is not a processing error, it’s a different operating system.”
I may look at the world differently and act differently than how society expects, but it isn’t something that needs fixing. I’m proud of who I am and what I can do, and the value I bring to my role at Roche and in society.