The recently released “Neurodiversity at Work” survey from global tech company Alludo found that 51% of neurodivergent workers have quit or are willing to quit their jobs because they don’t feel supported by their employer.
Yet, neurodiversity of all sorts — including ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia and dyspraxia, to name a few — enlightens and enhances the workplace community.
“Neurodiversity is diversity,” said neurodiversity advocate Becca Chambers, 39, Alludo’s senior vice president of global brand and communications.
Chambers, herself diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, is the mother to a son with dyslexia and ADHD.
“As employers seek to break through plateaus and innovate in this new phase of work, embracing all types of diversity is key,” she continued.
These neurodiverse professionals share their career journeys and tips for navigating the workplace with neurological differences.
Since 2017, Martinez, 34, has worked through New Hope Community as a farm associate at Hope Farm — an organic farm project initiated in collaboration with SUNY Sullivan’s sustainability team and Culinary Arts Program.
Located in the Catskills, the community works to enhance the lives of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“We empower them to pursue their interests and become active members of their communities,” said Megan Green, the organization’s head farmer.
Previously, Martinez worked in landscaping and at a local grocery store, and was offered a position on Hope Farm through New Hope Community’s supported employment program, explained Debra McGinness, New Hope Community’s CEO.
Employees are fully integrated into their place of employment.
“For Anthony, this means he has found a career, not just a job,” said McGinness.
The project’s employment specialists considered Martinez’s qualifications and worked closely with him to determine his career direction, or what he now calls his “favorite job.”
In January, Martinez transitioned to a full-time staffing position with full benefits.
Martinez calls working at the farm “just amazing,” crediting both his co-workers and the natural surroundings.
“The environment makes the best office,” he said.
Knowing he’s making an impact on others inspires him daily: “I love putting a smile on people’s faces. I love telling people how to eat better and where the food comes from.”
This twice board-certified clinical hypnotherapist and neurolinguistic programming practitioner was diagnosed with PTSD, adult ADHD and autism spectrum disorder.
The now 20-something Brooklynite attended a prestigious school where she wasn’t as “privileged” as other pupils, which, coupled with her undiagnosed neurodivergence and experience of sexual trauma as a teen, led to myriad challenges until she was in her early 20s.
Once on her recovery journey, she felt motivated to devote her career to healing work.
Miracle invented the Neurointuitive Method, which combines neuropsychology, hypnosis and intuitive practices, and has helped clients on six continents to date.
“I’m extremely attuned to nuances both as a product of masking in earlier years and my neurological structure,” she said. “Often my clients have a ‘coming home’ sensation because for the first time, they do not have to translate absolutely everything.”
As an industry engagement advisor supporting the Office of Small Business Programs at the Department of Defense, Martinelli has actually found neurodiversity helpful.
“I was diagnosed with dyslexia in a time in American culture where it was a dirty little secret,” recalled the 55-year-old, who now splits her time working between the Pentagon and a fusion center called the Joint Innovation Lab in Crystal City in Arlington, VA. “I was a good student, and discovered in middle school and beyond that I had a gift for foreign languages and storytelling.”
Directly out of high school, Martinelli joined the Army and worked as a linguist for 21 years.
Despite her dyslexia making learning Russian and Arabic challenging, she mastered both.
“While serving in military intelligence, I was trained in recognizing indicators and warnings and analyzing those data points to give a commanding officer a decision advantage,” she said. “This tapped into my skill at nonlinear thinking and I parlayed that into supporting the Defense Department as an innovation thought leader.”
Martinelli “often can offer strategic advice that is richer and more nuanced than my neurotypical colleagues,” she said.
In fact, a senior leader once told her that her brain works so much faster than others when confronted with uncertainty that it’s intimidating.
For her, this cerebral quality has been almost exclusively positive. “I love the way my brain works … and the fact that spellcheck is everywhere these days, because I still can’t spell!”
Shea Hunter Belsky
This 26-year-old autistic software developer is proud to be the chief technology officer at Mentra, a neuro-inclusive hiring platform for neurodivergent jobseekers.
While 15% to 20% of the world is neurodivergent, this population is disproportionately unemployed or underemployed, said Belsky.
“The goal of Mentra is to simplify the hiring process and connect them with well-paying and well-supported jobs,” he said, noting that this process is much more complex for neurodivergent jobseekers.
After being diagnosed with autism at age 3, Belsky was lucky to find constant support from advocates in his life, chiefly his parents.
After graduating from Cornell University in 2018, he landed a job as a software engineer in Boston, where he worked on digital accessibility to improve web experiences for those with a disability.
“I became an advocate for them, explaining the importance of accessibility to decision makers,” he said.
“In 2022, I became Mentra’s first chief technology officer after we raised our pre-seed round from Sam Altman [OpenAI’s CEO]. It was a dream role for me — I could commit 100% of my time to standing up for neurodiversity.”
Belsky loves that being autistic allows him to zero in on solutions to ill-defined tasks.
“I can make connections and identify patterns that often go unmissed and architect the solutions,” he said, adding that this talent has contributed to his success as a problem solver.