May 28, 2024

Straight to the point

After an overwhelming response to his September opinion piece, TripStax CTO Scott Wylie shares more insights on working and travelling with neurodiversity

Since I’m CTO, I should probably sound off about blockchain, quantum computing, or something equally geeky, but the overwhelming response to last month’s column – in which I outed myself as neurodiverse (ADHD in my case) – has inspired me to elaborate more on it.

My ‘confession’ rocketed to the top of TBTM’s ‘Most Read’ articles and huge numbers of people wrote to me about it, many neurodiverse themselves. It made me realise that talking openly about this ‘ability’ (yes, you read that right, not ‘disability’) is liberating for other neurodiverse folk, and it creates better understanding for those who aren’t. 

Because of my ADHD, I like to get straight to the point. So, while it’s great we are talking about it, I see little advantage in having this conversation unless it drives change.

One improvement I’d like to see is better working conditions. I get uncomfortable seeing companies forcing workers back into the office post-Covid. A little understanding and compassion go a long way. Homeworking has been a godsend for many neurodiverse people, allowing them to organise their surroundings and routine to suit their needs. This oversight risks many quitting their jobs.

“While it’s great we are talking about it, I see little advantage in having this conversation unless it drives change”

There are a lot of things we can do to support neurodiverse travellers, many of whom find the unpredictability of life on the move challenging. If you want to understand the mind of a neurodiverse traveller, look inside my laptop bag. I know every item in it and where it is located. If my passport isn’t in its usual place, I don’t cope well.

Neurodiverse travellers may need a bit longer to navigate the trip process for example, such as getting through the airport. So, avoid booking us indirect flights with tight connection times.

Conferences are another area worth a rethink. I sit at the back or side of the room. It’s not because I’m being unsociable or rude, but so I can slip away discreetly if I need to, but there isn’t always somewhere to slip away to. More dedicated quiet zones would be great.

I tend to retreat and internalise things, but doing so enables me to gather my thoughts, rationalise them and solutionise. Contrary to what some might think, neurodiverse people can be excellent communicators. I can articulate issues very directly and clearly because my hyper-focus filters out the noise of what’s irrelevant. Less fluff and more efficiency.

Finding out about my ADHD is like a switch has clicked for those around me too. It’s helping them to understand why I am, the way I am.

You may be questioning whether it’s worth going to all that trouble to help a minority of people. Well, we’re a pretty big minority: 15-20 per cent of the population is neurodiverse, according to Zurich Insurance Group. 

“Finding out about my ADHD is like a switch has clicked for those around me too. It’s helping them to understand why I am, the way I am”

That’s a hugely talented pool to overlook. We are abled. In fact, we’re more than abled. We have superpowers. We may not wear the ‘normal’ label society is comfortable with, but ask yourself, what really is normal? 

One last plea. If you are going to support neurodiversity, do it sincerely and invite feedback. If you’re doing it just to tick a DE&I box, don’t bother. Although I didn’t go to university, I have four A-Levels and 13 O-Levels, one of them being Latin, so here’s a helpful phrase to close with: nihil de nobis, sine nobis – nothing about us without us.

Scott Wylie is Chief Technology Officer for TripStax