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'Being neurodiverse can have its benefits! However, it also has its challenges.' This is what Gareth shared with us when talking about his experience of being a grad in cyber security and having Asperger's.

Where are you based and what's you role?

I’m based in the CYSOC (Cyber Security Operations Centre) Skelmersdale, currently in my first year of the graduate programme, after studying Computer Forensics and Security at Leeds Beckett University. I’m not really sure why I chose cyber to be honest. It just kind of happened. I’ve always been technically minded, but I just happened to fall into security and it’s the best thing I ever did! My biggest interest, outside of work, is a bit of an odd one but hear me out… I hack cars, legally, of course! Before you ask, no I can’t teach you how to steal a car… 😊 But it’s incredible what can be done to practically every vehicle on the road today, from turning on indicators, to locking and unlocking the car (without a key) and even starting the engine - all with just a laptop and a cheap device. There’s so much to talk about that it would probably require a few posts of its own! However, if anyone’s interested, I’d be more than happy to chat more about it all! 

How was it growing up with Asperger's?

I was diagnosed with Asperger’s when I was 15, I think… Around then anyway. Growing up I was an odd child and this diagnosis gave my parents some answers, questions, and a whole lot of learning to do! Which, I have to say, they did very quickly! Although, we’re still learning. Asperger’s doesn’t really have a set list of characteristics, because everyone is affected differently, some that I face are a lack of social skills, repetitive behaviour/routines, highly focused interests, and a whole host of others that I’ve yet to notice! However, a common response from people that find out about my struggles is “I would never have known!” or “Really?! But you’re so talkative and confident.”. That’s because I make a conscious effort to overcome the struggles I face. Issues around lack of confidence have been pushed aside through years of techniques and medication to help with anxiety. Don’t get me wrong I still have bad days, but these are few and far between. Sub-conscious traits are something that I’m still working on, such as routine and highly focused interests. However, these will likely be something that I can never avoid. 

What support has BT given you?

BT has been extremely supportive! From the offset, a call was arranged with occupational therapy to discuss my condition and identify any measures that could be put in place to help make life easier. BT also offers the passport, which allows you to sit down with your manager to discuss and agree on actions relating to my circumstances. Thankfully, my manager is extremely understanding. However, the document may be needed in the future. The only way, I can think of, that BT could be more supportive is if colleagues were more aware of Autism and the condition. One thing people have to be mindful of when working with someone with this condition is that they find it difficult to interpret emotions. So, if you’re just having a joke, or banter, we might interpret it as something else and take offense. Not that we can’t have a laugh and a joke, just be mindful when doing so. 

What are the positives and the challenges of being neurodiverse?

Being neurodiverse can have its benefits! Being able to think outside the box and being great at problem solving are just a couple of mine! However, it also has its challenges, routine being the biggest. Any form of change can have a big impact mentally on us. Even the smallest change to others can give us anxiety. Again, this is subconscious and, unfortunately, out of our hands… 

What are your long-term career plans?

In regard to my long-term career plans I don’t really see myself leaving BT! I’m not sure exactly whereabout’s in BT I’ll be, there’s so many different sub-sections to security. All I know is it’ll definitely be in BT and something related to cyber security!

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