Jane Sadler writes:
During the last 20 years of my career, I worked in a marketing role for Interserve, the international support services and construction group. A significant part of the job involved providing advice and support to a wide variety of different teams and individuals across this diverse business. I was accustomed to receiving requests from all quarters, so when a new senior member of the consulting team, Arran Linton-Smith, needed help, it seemed like just another day in the office.
When Arran sought advice relating to the production of marketing collateral for his team, I knew nothing of his autism diagnosis. My impression was of a rather shy individual, who seemed anxious for help but unable to state specifically what was required. I remember quite clearly thinking “What a nice man, but why is he holding back?” It was as if he wanted to describe what he needed but was hesitating for some unexplained reason. There seemed to be an invisible barrier in place. We worked together to produce a satisfactory solution, but I never did quite understand what made him tick.
Being open about autism
When I learned of his autism many months later, everything fell into place. At that point Arran had made the decision to be open about his diagnosis, sharing the news with work colleagues and this brave step immediately raised awareness of the challenges he faced.
From then on Arran began to reveal his true self. His friendly, enthusiastic and engaging personality shone through as he gained confidence and pursued his personal journey to promote awareness of autism in the workplace. This led to his involvement in several high-profile initiatives with the company, including filming the story of his experience within Interserve for the National Autistic Society and speaking at a major construction conference and within Parliament. He also became a great supporter of marketing, providing much appreciated advice for a large charity cycling event.
Promoting the message of inclusion
From my own observations, being open about his autism changed how work colleagues saw Arran, but most importantly, how Arran saw himself. He visibly grew in confidence, developing his career as a senior consultant and tirelessly championing the benefits of employing autistic people. Someone who I had originally perceived as rather shy, was now never afraid to promote his message of inclusion.
Arran’s courage at talking openly about his own experiences has certainly helped raise awareness of autism and I have personally been given a greater insight into autism because of his honesty, for which I am grateful.