Asperger’s is not a barrier, it’s who I am

For many years, I used to be very closed about the fact that I was on the autistic spectrum. From the age of three, I was diagnosed by a Doctor as having Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a mild form of autism, which affects the way I interact and create relationships around me whether that is friendships, university acquaintances or contacts I know from networking events.

Fast-forward into my late teens and into my early twenties, I’m a lot more open about discussing to people about Asperger’s Syndrome. Maybe it’s the fact I’ve matured a lot or the fact that I feel more comfortable discussing about it with people now than I did in the past. I have always felt that having Asperger’s is not a barrier to me making friends and working extremely hard to get to my dream job and I’ll explain to you why.

Using past experiences to help me grow into the person I am

This is something I struggled on in the past, but through learning my past mistakes, they have helped me realise how much potential I have as an individual to give to someone I know. As I’m two months away from finishing my university degree at Birmingham City University, studying a BA (Hons) – Media and Communication (Journalism), I’ve learned some very tough lessons which have shaped the way I have become around my peers and lecturers.

For far too long, I would stick around with people who I would think were my friends, but were merely acquaintances who would get a very easy ride from me if they needed me to help them understand an assignment or use me to get their sports team/society to where they wanted it to be.

Suddenly, I realised since the middle of last year, its completely okay to cut off friendships that do not work both ways, which then led to cutting people who I thought were my friends on my social media accounts.

This in turn led to me feeling a lot happier about myself and the friends I associated myself with. I automatically knew whether the things I was doing were benefiting me or I was made to look like a complete joke in front of everyone, which in turn is why I have a great set of friends around me who appreciate me for who I am.

Having such an amazing support network of friends

Despite being well-known around the university I go to, it’s fair to say I have an amazing support network of friends who always look out for me, as well as me looking out for their own health and wellbeing.

As someone who finds it difficult to make long-term friendships due to Asperger’s, being on schemes such as the National Citizen Service programme The Challenge and doing three years of my degree at BCU and support from the Students’ Union have made me realise I can make worthwhile friendships that will last me a lifetime outside of education.

My friends know if I’m feeling down or if I ever need to talk to them, they will always be one conversation either in person, via text or phone call to see how we can deal with situations in a proactive and professional manner. The last thing I would want is for me and my friends to get seriously hurt and whilst I do struggle socially, I give it 150% to always be by my friends’ side every step of the way.

Asperger’s does not define me, so why learn Tableau and Data Analysis?

Since the first day of 2017, I have been learning Tableau, which is a data visualisation software used by people who work in the business intelligence and data journalism sectors. I stumbled across Tableau when I realised the potential it could give me to create more interesting data visualisations.

Two and a half months on, and I am still learning more about Tableau and Data Analysis and how those skills can help me get into securing my first graduate job when I finish my degree in under two months’ time. Doing Makeover Monday every Monday, as well as doing my final year project in Tableau is an indictment of the fact that I’m willing to learn new skills and apply them to my future career.

The Tableau community on social media are incredible and they go the extra mile to ensuring that the feedback you get for your visualisations and Makeover Monday entries will help you make better vizzes in the future.

I have found Andy Kriebel and Eva Murray’s feedback to be extremely useful in making my vizzes easier to understand for an audience who does not understand the story I am trying to convey with my visualisation. It’s all about making the viz simple enough to communicate and understand without having too much waffle which can be annoying for the audience.

Brum TUG – Throwing myself into the deep end

Last night, I attended the second-ever Brum TUG (Birmingham Tableau User Group), which is run by Rebecca Abrahams. It was a big stepping stone for me in terms of the fact that I managed to meet some of the people I had knew from the Tableau community on social media and network in a environment full of like-minded people who have used Tableau for many years.

Whilst the speeches from The Information Lab’s Mike Lowe and Transport for West Midlands uses for Tableau Server were first class, I saw the potential of using Tableau Server in the future if I ever needed to make any vizzes online without being completely dependent on Tableau Public or Tableau Desktop. But there was something I did last night, which really boosted my confidence in Tableau.

When I did the breakout group for “Worksheets, Dashboards and Stories”, working with other people who knew Tableau and Mike Lowe facilitating the group, I threw my hand up to present what was being discussed. I knew that it was a risk worth taking and immediately presented what was said very well without being too complicated in my delivery.

The feedback I got from the people attending BrumTUG was excellent and cemented the fact that despite having Asperger’s, it did not affect the way I delivered the presentation. A really proud moment considering I have only used Tableau for two and a half months and will be continuing to use the software for years to come!

The future? Life after BCU…

Whilst I only have under two months’ left till my tenure at BCU comes to an end, the future is looking pretty exciting as I have applied for graduate jobs as I’m looking to secure employment immediately after finishing university. But there’s the small matter of finishing a dissertation and final year project which I am well on track to complete, as well as an online portfolio.

It’s quite exciting considering the fact that the blood, sweat and tears I have put into my time at university have shaped me for the better and I would not expect anything less when I secure full-time employment. As someone used to say to me “What you put in is what you’ll get out of it” and that could not be more truer. University is about creating your own experience and BCU has given me that.

If you want to view what I’ve done in Tableau so far, check out my portfolio on Tableau Public via the viz here.

Dashboard 1

I also want to say a big thank you to some amazing people who have helped me break through the Asperger’s barrier and recognise the fact that it’s just part of who I am. These people I will name shortly, but without their continued support, I would not be the person I am today.

I know who you are and I will continue to be the hard worker I always have been. For anyone who has Asperger’s, please do not use it as a barrier, use it as a positive to help you achieve your dreams and ambitions. You will continue to break those barriers that have been partitioned and break those glass ceilings above you.

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