In this episode of The Codpast, Sean is invited to Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) to learn how dyslexic employees have helped keep the British isles safe for over a 100 years.
The story behind the podcast:
Around the time I started The Codpast, there was this story that was all over the papers. The Telegraph headline read, ‘GCHQ (the british intelligence service) employs more than 100 dyslexic and dyspraxic spies.’ This is a story that has intrigue me for years as part of what I want to do with The Codpast, is to effectively communicate to dyslexic individuals, managers and employers the benefit that dyslexic employees bring to an organisation.
I often hear people talk about how they pitch dyslexia as a positive attribute when interviewing for jobs. They say things like, ‘It allows me to see the bigger picture,’ ‘it enables me to connect the dots’ or ‘it makes me a great problem solver’. These things are all true, and are great attributes, but to an interviewer that has limited knowledge of dyslexia, it can be perplexing to try and find the connection between ‘bad spelling’ and bigger picture thinking.
The problem with terms like ‘bigger picture thinking’ and ‘great problem solver,’ is they are quite abstract terms. And even though we probably have great examples and anecdotes detailing how we do both, it can still be difficult for many to see how those positive attributes are connected to dyslexia. Especially if that person starts with a negative view of dyslexia in the first place. For myself, and many dyslexics I speak to, it can be almost impossible to tell where we stop and dyslexia starts. So what chance does a potential employer have of working out what good bits are you and what come from dyslexia?
There could quite foreseeably be a situation where an employer has two great candidates, one neuro-typical (non- dyslexic) and the other neuro-diverse (dyslexic), and who both claim to ‘see the bigger picture’ and ‘think outside the box.’ The dilemma for an employer is then, “do I go with the known quantity, the person I have experience dealing with and that can hit the ground running, like all the ‘other’ employees. Or do I go with the employee that has this scary ‘condition’, may need to work in different ways to the ‘other’ staff members and may need reasonable adjustments that could be expensive. For years I had been thinking, what story or anecdote could I tell in this situation that could level the playing field.
When I saw that article in the Telegraph, I realised I may have found the story I was looking for. The story that would allow me to tangibly communicate to my next employer why because, not despite dyslexia, I was the best man for the job.
I imagine the HR department at GCHQ. Recruiters frantically scanning applications for the words dyslexia and dyspraxia; two words that often fill employers with fear, now being the qualifying factor that catapults me on to the interview stage.
I imagine being in the interview room and dyslexia not being something I have to pitch as a positive, but instead being a calling card that say’s, ‘I inherently have the attribute that will make me a great employee for your business.’
When I snapped out of my daydream, I had this burning desire to speak to someone from GCHQ. I wanted to find out what it was, that had driven them to launch an exclusively dyslexic and dyspraxic recruitment drive.
But how do you get to speak to someone at one of the UK’s most secure organisations? Turns out you just wait around for them to approach you.
A year ago I met someone from GCHQ. I asked if there was any way I could organise the recording of a podcast to learn more about why GCHQ give out so much dyslexia and dyspraxic love. I was told my details would be passed on and their people would call my people, and that was that. I heard nothing back for over a year. Then a few months ago an email popped up in my mailbox. The title, ‘GCHQ and The Codpast.’
Off the back of that email we have produce arguably one of the best episodes of The Copdpast. It’s something I have been thinking about for over 4 years and never thought I’d have the opportunity to make, so I’m really excited for you to here this, and can’t wait to here what you think of it.
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This podcast really helped me out and has REALLY motivated me to continue and finish what I am doing so I can move on and do what I want to do. I’m dyslexic as well and have had a hard time getting through school and life actually because people didn’t want to help me but I’m glad where I am today.
Thanks for doing this podcast!!!
Great to hear you are finding the podcast a valuable resource. Thanks for taking your time to get in contact.
really enjoyed this! please do more!