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For me, I never truly regarded my dyslexia as a challenge until I began my A-Levels. I could always grasp the necessary coursework and discern the most effective approach, but when it came down to executing the actual work, my output often fell short of my intended goals. After investing countless hours in reviewing my work, I would frequently entrust it to one of my friends for a quick once over, only to witness a look of astonishment, followed by: “Emily there are three spelling errors in the first line”. Although I never let this affect my academic achievements, I did have to explore alternative strategies to complete my studies which cultivated a sense of resilience within me.

Dyslexia, a condition that affects reading, writing, and spelling abilities, is more common in the data and analytics community than you may think, while everyone’s experiences with dyslexia may vary, it is important to recognise the unique strengths that this condition can bring to the table. In this blog, we’ll explore the insights and experiences of Michael Green, the Head of Data and Analytics at JD Sports, who shares his journey and the advantages of being dyslexic in the professional world.

In 2019, BBC News reported that schools were failing to identify 80% of dyslexic students. Additionally, The British Dyslexia Association observed that the diagnosis and support for dyslexia were at the lowest point since government funding commenced in the 1980s.

While Michael has not received a formal dyslexia diagnosis, he acknowledges dyslexic characteristics in himself and within his immediate family, including his children and sister who have been formally diagnosed. He is well aware of the difficulties dyslexia presents in his everyday life but also emphasises the distinct opportunities it has afforded him.

One key aspect of dealing with dyslexia is developing strategies to mitigate barriers and provide a unique opportunity. For Michael, this has meant relying on spell-checking and grammar technologies and software to ensure the accuracy of written communication. He also emphasised the importance he had to place upon carefully analysing written communication before submission. By having to focus on the content of his emails, documents etc before sending he has mastered the art of getting to the point effectively, using words to describe his concepts clearly.

The need to navigate around the challenges of dyslexia has enabled individuals like Michael to develop unique problem-solving and creative thinking skills. Dyslexic people often excel at conceptualising ideas and looking at problems from multiple perspectives. Techniques like brainstorming and drawing diagrams have become invaluable tools in unlocking thought processes that might be challenging to express in written form.

Michael’s role at JD Sport demands an understanding of complex data architectures, which benefits from his strong spatial awareness, a trait common in dyslexia. Dyslexic individuals, offer a different lens through which to view and solve complex problems, adding a fresh dimension to the data and analytics field. Michael’s experience offers valuable advice for dyslexic individuals looking to leverage their strengths in the workplace.

Michael notes that firstly, understanding both your strengths and weaknesses is crucial. If writing is a challenge, explore opportunities to audio-record your thoughts and ideas. Secondly, identify situations where your unique skills can shine, whether it’s through presenting complex data visually or brainstorming creative solutions on a whiteboard. The key is to showcase your abilities in a way that perhaps hasn’t been considered before.

It’s often great getting advice/knowledge on how we can embrace the strengths that dyslexia brings but if you’re dyslexic you’ll know the struggle that comes with implementing daily strategies to manage its challenges. Michael notes that when he was growing up dictionaries were always on hand to tackle spelling and grammar issues. However, with the advancement of spell checkers and grammar tools in software, the chances of making mistakes have significantly reduced. Michael still reviews his written work meticulously but acknowledges occasional slip-ups with seemingly “simple” words. Access to different communication tools like audiobooks, podcasts and webinars has been a game changer for learning new ideas without relying on reading alone.

Michael and I also delved into the increase in dyslexia awareness and its potential benefits, I believe that our education system and workplaces still have room for improvement in creating more inclusive environments, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. Michael emphasises that leaders must give their teams the space to work in ways that suit individual strengths and styles, within the company’s standards. Collaboration is also a powerful tool for normalising differences and ensuring everyone has opportunities to contribute.

From this interview, I think we can see that Dyslexia is not a limitation but a superpower waiting to be unlocked.

As Michael’s experience demonstrates, dyslexic individuals bring unique strengths and perspectives to the data and analytics community. It is time to shift our perspective, celebrate these strengths, encourage diversity, and create more inclusive environments where dyslexic individuals can thrive. The future particularly in a GenAI era, holds exciting possibilities for harnessing the unique skills and interests of neurodiverse individuals, and it’s a journey well worth celebrating.

Dyslexia is not a barrier; it is a valuable asset.

About the Author

Emily Cawley

Talent Partner

Emily is one of Orbition’s amazing Talent Partners. She has a passion for enabling organizations to drive decisions and obtain value from the use of Data, Analytics, and AI. She does this by connecting leaders and professionals within the senior end of the Data & Analytics space.  Read more.

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