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Embracing the power of neurodiversity: an interview with Joe Merefield

​Joining the company in September 2021, Joe Merefield is a Senior Consultant in Investigo’s Banking and Finance team. Diagnosed with dyslexia and with a brother who is severely autistic, Joe has a detailed personal understanding of neurodiversity and is keen to raise awareness in his colleagues, clients and candidates. He spoke to us about the effects of dyslexia on his life inside and outside of work, and how embracing his neurodivergence has really allowed him to thrive as a recruitment professional.

How did being neurodiverse affect you growing up?

When I was growing up, I found it very difficult. I think the academic setup in schools is constructed in a way that people who suffer with dyslexia can find really challenging. Subjects like English, history, RE etc. that are focused on how you can convey and articulate yourself in an essay style, didn’t really allow me to show my full potential and understanding, and this is something that frustrated me.

What kind of challenges do you face in the workplace?

My challenges in the workplace have again been around written communication. I am always trying to portray myself in the best possible way. So, every day I must spend extra time on emails and writing LinkedIn content, just to make sure there are no mistakes in grammar and punctuation.

How receptive are your clients to neurodiverse candidates?

This is a difficult question for me to answer, as neurodiversity is very difficult to find. It’s not something you can see right away or something you write on your CV. However, from my own experience, whenever I have mentioned mine to an employer it’s never been a blocker.

Does your experience of dyslexia allow you to help organisations understand the potential benefits of hiring a candidate with a neurodivergence?

100%. I’m always willing and wanting to have conversations about mine and my brother’s experiences in the office or even over a beer to highlight the vast benefits neurodiverse people possess, and it’s all about giving people the chance to showcase this.

What has the company done to help you be the best you can be?

The company has been super supportive. My management team has helped me look things over and given great advice on structures which are helping me improve every day. I have also had so much help from the training team. They have worked with me a lot on advert writing and coming up with formulas to make my everyday life easier. I feel really appreciative for the level of help and understanding at Investigo.

How does being neurodiverse affect your daily life?

I used to get very embarrassed about it as I didn’t want people to think I was stupid. I have now embraced it. For me it’s just been about setting up my life to work for me, learning about myself every day, how I work and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

What advantage do you think your neurodivergence gives you over neurotypical people?

I honestly believe I wouldn’t be where I am today without my dyslexia. As much as it has its disadvantages, it’s also got its pros. I think in a mathematical way; my long term and short term memory have always been a strong point and due to this filtering through to my verbal communication, I have always been strong at public speaking.

Do you think perceptions of neurodiversity are changing?

I definitely do. I think people are much more aware of the different kinds of neurodiversity, particularly with role models in the media like Richard Branson and Elon Musk being so open about them. It’s inspiring other people to talk about theirs and be proud of them, which in turn creates a more understanding environment.

What’s the one key message you’d like to pass on about neurodiversity?

I think in D&I we speak about many issues and rightly so. But neurodiversity comes in many shapes and sizes, and you can never really tell who they affect. I think my one take away message is if we can be understanding of people with neurodiversity and create a world where we can let people express themselves in ways that work for them, the world will have access to a more diverse way of thinking. And surely that’s a good thing.

My brother is severely autistic and really struggles with social situations. However, if you talk to him about things he is passionate about, he is one of the smartest, most creative and driven people I have ever met. And it’s about giving people the platform to express themselves in ways that work for them.

What does neurodiversity mean to you?

Some of the most talented and successful people in the world are neurodiverse. So it’s about understanding differences, education and offering opportunities to create a more well-rounded world.