Embracing ADHD in the Tech Sector: 5 Key Strategies for Success
Fri 1 Dec 2023
In this feature, Georgina Shute, Founder of KindTwo, shares her unique experiences having ADHD in the fast-paced tech industry. She challenges common ADHD misconceptions, emphasising its complexities and advocating for an inclusive workplace that recognises diverse thought processes.
Georgina outlines the top five ADHD-related challenges in tech, such as maintaining focus and managing time. She offers strategies to turn these challenges into strengths, highlighting the importance of understanding and adapting to individual needs.
Her personal journey, marked by both setbacks and achievements, illustrates the impact of workplace environments on individuals with ADHD.
Through her story, Georgina calls for a kinder, more understanding tech world.
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Navigating the tech industry, a place that is constantly evolving for anyone, is a daunting task. With ADHD it becomes a rollercoaster you never signed up for, but here you are smiling and screaming at every bend, rise, and fall.
I have personally encountered many challenges and experienced some of my biggest strengths in this world of constant flux.
ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is widely synonymous with a lack of attention and an abundance of activity. In my experience, it is not a lack of attention. It is a lack of interest – a constant struggle to do ‘boring’ things society has come to expect of all of us.
We all come to the table with a difference of thought, we have the opportunity to innovate, create and transform. For some, this comes easier than others. The more you fit the mold, the easier it is to be understood.
Here are the top five challenges I have experienced, and ways to turn them into strengths.
Embracing ADHD in the Tech Sector: 5 Key Strategies for Success
1. Maintaining Focus in a World of Distractions
The tech industry is known for being fast-paced, agile, lean, and rapidly changing, among other buzzwords. This can be super exciting and also demanding. Maintaining focus as a person with ADHD amidst the constant influx of information can feel impossible.
While we may not focus in the traditional sense, many ‘ADHDers’ apply focus differently. For example, I can tell you the energy in a room immediately; when someone is feeling their best or their worst.
Or I can tell you when someone is lying. When you are trying to understand why someone isn’t quite themselves or if you need someone to hype up a tedious meeting after lunchtime when everyone is ready to leave, I’m your girl.
It may not be traditional, but it gets the job done.
Focus means different things for different people. In the words of Albert Einstein: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
2. Managing Time and Deadlines
Work comes with deadlines and timelines. Sometimes companies include their teams in creating these timelines, which is great. But sometimes this isn’t possible, and sometimes this is unfortunately done on purposefully.
Either way, deadlines and timelines can be stressful to everyone. For ADHDers, this stress can be amplified.
Whilst we can be creative, and great under pressure; we can sometimes get lost with time management. In other words, we can get lost in an ADHD paralysis – a state of wanting and knowing what needs to be done. but finding it impossible to arrange your thoughts and activities to succeed.
In many instances this leads to tears, fears, and an inability to communicate if something cannot able to be completed.
Try to make space for your team to feel safe, acknowledge that everyone works at different rates, and account for that in planning with your team.
3. Dealing with a Multitasking Culture
Multitasking is a celebrated and glorified skill. Whilst individuals with ADHD can be extremely good at juggling multiple things at once, it can come at a cost.
Whether that is decreased productivity, burnout, sick leave, or exhaustion; we need ways to support colleagues who struggle with multitasking and make an effort to normalise non-multitasking work ethics as well.
Consider offering body doubling sessions to team members. This is a technique often used by ADHDers where they can complete tasks with another person present. It can be an opportunity to talk through specific challenges, swap tasks, and share notes, building a community of support.
4. Navigating Impulsivity
We are taught that impulsivity can lead to unexpected and even unwanted consequences. And that impulsivity should be stifled.
On the contrary, my impulsivity has saved me many times. I have had creative breakthroughs, which led me to create courses for the Financial Times, speak at companies such as 10x Banking about my ADHD journey.
Is it true that we may need to check in some of our ideas with others, especially if they are bigger than us and affect others.
Do not stifle impulsivity. Embrace it instead. Think about your window of failure. How do you address issues when things go wrong?
You can enable successful impulsivity by creating a culture where people are not afraid to fail, because it is very rarely one person who is at fault. They are much more likely to tell you when something has gone wrong and, as a group, it can be fixed.
5. Coping with Rejection and Criticism
The tech world can be fiercely competitive and brutally honest. Not all projects succeed. Not every decision is shared. And not all people are kind when giving constructive criticism.
In my experience, there can generally be a lack of empathy, and specifically occupational empathy, in the business world.
But in the case of ADHDers, it becomes far more than a feeling of failure. It can become paralysing.
For individuals with ADHD, rejection and criticism can be extremely emotionally challenging – to the point of exhaustion. Often leading to self-doubt, self-criticism, and can be a big knock to one’s confidence.
As a business leader, try to clear expectations, establish regular check-ins and a safe space for people to share the highs as well as the lows.
Embrace Differences and Be Kind
Despite the challenges faced in the tech sector, people with ADHD have unique strengths. In a world of ever-changing needs and a drive for innovative thinking, differences should be highlighted, understood, leveraged, and celebrated. Our creativity, dot-connecting minds, and adaptability can lead to groundbreaking innovations.
Companies and professionals need to understand and celebrate neurodiversity, whilst understanding the challenges people face on a daily basis.
I have worked in technology for over 10 years, and have been the best (and the worst) employee. I have been fired, made redundant, and asked to leave projects. In other places, I have led UK mission-critical work during the pandemic for multiple companies, supporting hundreds of humans through work and life changes.
It completely depends on the environment, people’s level of understanding, and my own ability to express my needs.
Not everyone knows how to do this. So in a world where you can be anything – be kind.
Remember, acknowledging challenges is the first step towards creating an environment that fosters creativity and innovation – something we are all striving for.
About the Author
Georgina Shute is the Founder of KindTwo, an ADHD coach, and tech leader who champions kindness. She became a manager at 19. And has spent the last 12 years creating safe, brave spaces for colleagues to thrive. Georgina set up KindTwo to empower as many people as possible to work with Neurodiversity – not against it.
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