From Peter Pan To User Assistance Developer at SAP
I remember that at age four, as I clutched onto my Peter Pan book (the actual book written by JM Barrie) I decided that I was going to be a writer.
Fast forward to 46 years later, here I am, I’m a User Assistance Developer at SAP, I write product documentation, work with UX on writing good UI text labels and error messages. It’s not what I had in mind at age four, but I didn’t think I’d get anywhere close.
Already hard of hearing at birth, don’t let the fact that I speak extremely well fool you, my hearing loss is fairly significant, with out my hearing aids, I can’t hear much and I’m heavily reliant on lip-reading. But because I could pass as “hearing”, the feeling of being stuck between the deaf and hearing world eventually prepared me for what came next.
Even when I was young, the special interests usually included Peter Pan, Wendy and the gang, my parents knew that I was different from everyone else.
I did work when I was in high school, when I turned 16/17, my first job was working at Target. Back in the mid/late 1980s, not all cash registers had scanners on them. So basically, I memorized 5-6-digit codes (later to become UPC codes) and figured out that based on what kind of products customers purchased, there was a pattern or sequence to the numbers.
That’s how I was able to memorize numbers, they call that “chunking” now, and that’s a thing with writing. I was good at that, but I wasn’t always “fast” enough when scanners came to the cash registers. I liked interacting with people.
I just didn’t have a lot of friends, other kids teased or bullied me throughout my school years, until college.
Then there were the desk jobs, I did a lot of data entry work, because I was able to see sequencing or patterns. Heck I even did Account Receivable/Payable work, and I hated those jobs. I was good, just I would finish in half a day. Plus, they were temporary jobs.
At some point the gap in between jobs got longer and longer. Then hired from a contractor to a full-time permanent employee for Kaiser, they liked me, because I did a great job, but that eventually became a double-edged sword. It was there, is how I discovered networking. Networking is a powerful thing when you know how to use it. Because of that, I was able to bypass interview process for longer a decade. It was through people I’ve worked for/with I was able to get temporary jobs at the same place.
It became a running joke for a long time, that I would come back every two years (I was in areas that just didn’t hire on permanent employees), and after a while it stopped being funny. Time eventually ran out. It was obvious that I’m not great at interviewing, and I could only bypass interview process for so long.
I stayed in healthcare for a while, then I had a job when my coworker bullied me that I didn’t even want to go back to healthcare again.
It took an intervention, to realize that perhaps why I had issues maintaining employment was maybe due to social issues that’s attributed to being autistic. My mom saw this segment on the news about “Autism to Work” program at SAP that featured the first “cohort” in Palo Alto, and Jose Velasco.
She convinced me that I should seek a diagnosis, she sent me a lot of research links and helped me through the process.
It wasn’t easy getting a diagnosis, many wouldn’t even consider testing because of these reasons:
How was I hired through the Autism at Work program? Much of it was dumb luck and timing and a lot of perseverance.
When I met other women, I came to understand that autistic women “mask”, and we don’t fit the autistic stereotype.