I attended a cyber security conference and there were sessions on zero trust, securing generative AI and emerging threats. And then there was a very atypical keynote session called “Understanding and Managing Neurodivergent Staff” (presented by @Rick Doten). It was one of those “you don’t know what you don’t know” presentations.
I learned that there is a wide spectrum of neurodiversity, and ADHD, autism, and dyslexia are some of the conditions. In general, neurodivergent individuals interpret, experience, and interact with the world differently. They typically approach problem solving and critical thinking in innovative ways, generating creative insights and solutions. You can recognize neurodivergent individuals and not realize they are neurodiverse. Or individuals may be undiagnosed and unaware that they are neurodiverse.
Neurodivergent skill sets
Image courtesy of Debra Shannon
If everyone thinks differently anyway, how do you know if someone might be neurodivergent? Some examples of skills of neurodivergent individuals are:
- High level of attention to details. spotting errors and inconsistencies that others might overlook;
- Strong analytical and problem solving skills. be able to solve a problem quickly with creative solutions without any prior knowledge or experience (ie, fluid reasoning);
- Strong pattern recognition – tasks that involve analyzing patterns and making inferences;
- Determination and perseverance in overcoming challenges;
- Hyper-concentration on specific tasks. execution of tasks with decisive attention;
- Creative thinking and innovation, coming up with fresh perspectives and harmonious solutions; and:
- Honesty and ethical behavior.
Neurodivergent individuals are not limited to these skills. Their abilities will vary based on their interests and strengths. As part of their personal development, find out what is important to them. However, you should encourage and have open conversations with every team member.
Individuals with this skill set are well-suited for jobs that require detailed work or the elimination of complex problems and systematic analysis. Depending on their interests and strengths, some roles and careers that may be a good fit are accountants, administrative assistants, graphic designers, librarians or pharmacists.
Neurodivergent individuals have a deep passion for specialized knowledge and have a natural aptitude for technical skills such as mathematics, programming, and scientific research. This means they may naturally gravitate towards the IT and security fields. Some roles and careers that may be a good fit are statisticians, data analysts, IT support professionals, quality assurance testers, and ethical hackers (Red Team).
Harnessing the superpowers of neurodiversity
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Stop by the next time you look at a job description (JD) either as a job seeker or as a hiring manager. The person may not be an obvious choice on the surface, but could be a great fit and a superstar. Some job description skill sets that may match the strengths of neurodivergent individuals are:
JD Skill Set & Strength Descriptors
- Attention to detail – meticulousness, accuracy, precision, thoroughness
- Analytical Thinking – Analytical skills, problem solving, data analysis
- Pattern Recognition – Discover trends, discover details to discover subtle patterns
- Perseverance – Perseverance, endurance, commitment
- Creativity – Creative problem solvers, innovators
- Honesty and integrity – Privacy, customer service
Match the job description to the individual’s specific skills and interests. We hope that your application process allows individuals to highlight their relevant skills and experience during the application and interview processes.
If you have the right role for the right person, nervous diversity can be an asset. Offer reasonable accommodations to enable neurodivergent individuals to thrive. This can include flexibility in working hours/environment, a relaxed/sensory friendly workplace, communication preferences for expectations, as well as structured feedback.
For example, neurodivergent individuals can range from uncommunicative to overcommunicative. There are several tools and technologies (such as noise-canceling headphones, fidget toys, and task/time management apps) that facilitate communication, organization, and well-being in both personal and work lives. If you foster an inclusive work environment, research shows that neurodivergent employees may have lower turnover rates, which can reduce recruitment and training costs for the organization.
Having a diverse team with different perspectives makes the team stronger. Every person, neurodiverse or not, is unique and brings something different to the table. Value those different perspectives and encourage and support each person.
For more information on understanding that neural diversity is a superpower, Follow me on LinkedIn!
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