Saturday, October 8, 2011

Inconsistency and perception

Two thing occurred to me today. The first is that I have been in an extreme introverted space for quite a while now. I barely interact with people at work and have limited my social interaction outside of that. It has gotten so bad that I have even dreaded posting; here, WrongPlanet, anywhere. I am not real sure what triggers these spells. Usually I make an effort at some extroversion if nothing else than to bolster my position at work.

The other thing that occurred to me is that this sort of inconsistency can be a real drag for people who experience you one way and then see you change. I wonder that my wife does not go crazy waking up one day and finding she is married to a different person. In the workplace I think that people are more offended by the effort it takes to get to know a 'new' you than they might have been annoyed by the old one. Maybe that is why meltdowns have longer impacts for ASD folk than for egotistical CEOs. The CEO has been known to do that and people have adjusted... the ASD person tries hard not to have meltdowns so it comes as a shock when they do happen.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ignoring social mores

All pictures of lynchings are disturbing to me at some level but the one below haunts me like none other. It has the usual horrific scenes... the victims; the jubilant crowd; someone pointing with pride to the evil work. However the thing that stands out is the couple in the lower left. He has a tie on, she is conscious of being on camera but not ashamed. I do not know their story but it appears that they are on some sort of date... to see men murdered by a mob.

I cannot say that I would not have gone to look out of curiosity but I pray that I would have the decency to be ashamed of the entire thing including my curiosity and presence. Indeed if my image was captured for posterity at such a tragedy I might not be able to live with myself. Part of me wants to grab the people here who are the curious bystanders, the gawkers, the lookie-loos and demand an explanation of why they are not outraged.

So how does this apply to work and having ASD? For some reason that various scholars from multiple disciplines have studied, for centuries really, people as a whole can suspend their rational senses and act in inhumane ways with stunning rapidity. We tend to focus on the most egregious examples: lynchings; genocide; internment. But if anything Groupthink showed that this happens when the impact is not so high.

How often though, are those of us on the Spectrum left out of the mass movement? Not because of any immunity to racism or stupidity but simply because of a resistance to change? An adherence to 'the rules' as we learned them? This resistance may lead us to question mass delusions in business settings where an idea takes hold and suddenly the leadership and our peers believe that some idea or process will save the day. Our lack of joy, much less our outspoken skepticism, is seen as a betrayal; criticism and ostracism follow. It is painful but it does not mean that you were wrong.

I cannot offer a clear piece of advice because mob mentality cannot be broken down to simple actions. If you see someone pulled from a jail with the intention of being hanged by a mob be sure to speak up. On the other hand if the Director of your department calls a meeting excitedly talking about a new way to do business that involves semi-comical chanting and wearing taupe bandannas is pointing out that it is silly really worth losing your job? That is up to you.

For myself I can only say that more often than not I have spoken up and while I have the knowledge that I was true to myself I also know that it has kept me from better salaries, projects and positions. There are consequences to our actions.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Career Advice

I have a stock response for people who use the line "Do what you love!" as career advice.  Here it is:


Sorry, the internet seems to be censoring swear words today. Anyway, I hope you get the idea. First off it is a dicey proposition that whatever you love will be economically viable. For instance I love petting cats but cat sitting is not really that lucrative; I am sure my wife would be a little annoyed if I quit my job to go and pet cats.

But more that that, I have noticed that among the ASD crowd we love accumulating knowledge about something or somethings. Knowledge is great; I love knowledge... the money comes from the application of that knowledge. Just accumulating it is not as valuable. Sure you may carve a niche for yourself in a company as a go to person for a specific subject but that is an uncertain position.

One of my best positions was one where I was required to learn calculus, statistics, financial mathematics (really an extension of calculus and stats) and programming. Of course that was all in order for me to understand a system/series of programs that were poorly documented and understood. When I was done we had a baseline for another five years worth of work that I was involved in.

So my career advice to you is find a way to apply what you learn. You will enjoy the learning aspect of it and benefit from the security of being a subject matter expert on something your business values.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

RIP Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg

One of the greatest sources of literature on the web is Project Gutenberg. It's founder, Michael Hart, passed away Sept. 6th at the age of 64. You can find his obituary here:

Monday, September 5, 2011

Volunteer for MIT

MIT's Open Courseware is looking for someone to help them add subtitles to some video lectures in Electrical Engineering. I imagine this could be a remote job and rather interesting too:!/MITOCW/status/108230839736864768

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Are you a stalwart?

The Harvard Business Review has an article about the types of employees in an organization. Rather than your standard 2x2 grid it identifies a fifth group they identify as stalwarts... people who are not motivated by advancement or money but simply want to do a good job. They form the backbone of an organization yet are frequently overlooked by management because they are not 'stars'.

Unfortunately managers often overlook stalwarts primarily because they are not stars. Managers want stars but an organization made up of entirely stars will be mired in politics, backbiting and intrigue as not all stars can be treated equally.

Take a look at their discussion and keep in mind the myths the article debunks. The logic may help you in your next review.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Missing the truth of a position

One time a friend and I interviewed for the same position; it was offered to us both and we both wound up turning it down but for very different reasons. For me the money was not good enough to change jobs. My friend rejected it because he thought it was a horrible job. Turns out he was right and I totally missed that it was not a good job.

In examining why and how I missed that the job was not good I realized that I got trapped into seeking the approval of the interviewers rather than looking at the cold facts of the job. I cannot say whether other ASD folk experience the same thing but I can certainly hypothesize that our shared experiences might drive us to seeking approval and ignoring things that can harm us. And certainly our difficulty in realizing when someone is lying to us or doing a good sales job does not help.

In previous posts I have spoke about red flags to look for when interviewing but I will add a new piece of advice here. See if you can find someone else who interviewed for the same job or a previous holder of the position to see what they think.