Debra Charles, CEO of Novacroft, wants to recruit a dyslexic army! Will you join the cause?
A couple of weeks ago I noticed the hashtag, #sayyestodyslexia popping up in my feed. Being the ever curious blogger, I set about finding out where it came from and what it’s all about. A few Google searches later a Huffington Post article, lead me to the culprit, Novacroft founder and CEO, Debra Charles.
If you need any assistance when reading this post please note Browsealoud is installed on this site. Click the headphone logo in the top left corner of the screen to launch the assistive toolbar.
Last week I manage to grab a few minutes with her on Skype to find out just what was behind the hashtag she has been promoting over the last few months.
As we got into our conversation and Debra started telling me the story of how her company came into being, it was clear to see that passion, compassion and self-believe are the drivers that have gotten Debra to where she is today. After leaving school with no qualifications and with almost no background in technology, Debra blagged herself a job as a robotics analyst at Westinghouse Robotics, from there she moved on to working for Apple.
Whilst at Apple, Debra was seconded to a division where processes were not being done in the most efficient way. So she looked at the process, she looked at the emergence of this new thing called the internet, then added a little bit of dyslexic bigger picture thinking and realised, “there’s a better way of doing this.” From this Eurka moment she produced a paper diagram which became the blue print of what has become Novacroft today. That being an SME with a staff of 250, housed in a 22,000 square foot HQ building full of developer’s, designers and R&D labs.
In an interview I recorded a few weeks ago with the former Creative director of Saatchi and Saatchi, Chris Arnold*, he described dyslexics as mavericks. If there’s any truth in that statement, then Debra certainly fits the mould. She regularly rides into organisations to shake up processes, saving time, money and implementing some pretty nifty tech, she’s smashed through the tech industries gender divide, an industry where only 7% of tech leadership roles are held by women and is the only CEO in the transport sector to be sole shareholder of their own company.
Despite her astounding success Debra told me the impact that dyslexia had on her earlier in life, until recently used to cause her to doubt her ability and intelligence. “I spent twenty odd years – probably more than that – of fearing failure, of fearing people laughing at me, fearing that it would be found out that I am actually thick.” While it’s clear to see that Debra’s fears were unfounded, a fear that now plays on her mind is that in a time of Brexit, economic uncertainty and reduced job security, if dyslexia, and more importantly society’s attitude towards it, could derail the self-confidence of a successful business woman, how will it affect young dyslexics trying to gain a foot hold in society in the current climate. “If we have a body of people in our country that have low self-esteem, what’s that going to mean in future decades? If we could encourage an improvement in self-esteem; that improves well-being, which improves the productivity of a nation in some shape or form and that has a massive impact on society.”
It was this fear the that promoted the #Sayyestodyslexia campaign, “What we are trying to do is get an army of people together to create a short clip of something they are really proud of.” All of these video clips will be edited together to make one killer video. The aim is to inspire other dyslexics and show the world what we are capable of achieving; think the Farrell Williams ‘Happy’ video but À la dyslexic.
To join the cause, you’ll need to upload a 30 second video where you talk about what it is that makes you proud to be dyslexic. You don’t need to have been Steve Jobs and have created the iPhone or James Dyson and have crated the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner. Just talk about something that makes you proud and is personal to you. You may want talk about your dyslexic super power i.e. what it is about being dyslexic that allows you to be quicker or faster or come up with more interesting solutions than other people.
Or you could think about someone that told you, ‘because of your dyslexia you won’t be able to achieve X’. Imagine their face in the lens of your video camera or phone and let them know just how wrong they were and what you’ve achieved despite dyslexia! They can be serious or they can be fun; variety is the spice of life, so let your personality shine through.
There are three ways you can submit your videos to the campaign: share your video on the Novacroft Facebook page, upload your video at www.novacroft.com/showcase or send a link to video to firstname.lastname@example.org.The video will be launched as part of Dyslexia Awareness Week (3rd – 7th October) so entries need to be submitted by the 18th September. So what are you waiting for? Debra’s army needs you! Let’s join the cause.
*(this podcast will be released in November to our podcast on iTunes to make sure your notified when this show is out!)
The Codpast is a multimedia production from www.extraordinaire.tv