Friday 10 June 2011

Spreading Brand Awareness Down Under

Welcome back to Autism Works. After a busy week and, at times, confusing I have finally managed to submit our bid to the Adult and Community Learning Fund for a grant to cover training costs for Autism Works' first two trainee software test analysts. Most interestingly this week though, we have had a visitor from Australia and a regular follower of this blog Garry Burge.

An active advocate for Asperger's Syndrome in Australia, Garry and I first 'met' in 1999 via the E-mailing list University Students with Asperger's Syndrome formerly run by Clare Sainsbury (author of the book Martian in the Playground). Twelve years on, Garry is determined for the Autism Works model to be replicated in Australia. Though we are still in the process of getting Autism Works off the ground in the UK, it certainly won't hurt to spread our brand awareness internationally, in which Garry, with his passion for social media use can play a part, together with the creative flair that our Marketing Intern from Newcastle University Sumanjeet has brought to Autism Works, can hopefully help us to win contracts from software development companies.

To sell our technical services in the UK and overseas, we are focusing on both the unique abilities that adults with an ASC can bring to software testing and also that, not being a software development company, we are able to look at and test software from an independent perspective, which can often be more effective than companies testing their own software. Using another mindfulness analogy, we so often find ourselves carrying out tasks on 'automatic pilot' because we get lost in the working practices of the organisation. Like with Asperger's Syndrome, when we see things through a system, or in the case of Asperger's Syndrome, a set of diagnostic criteria, it can condition us to the extent that we often 'miss' certain details. Similarly, such minor errors within software can often go amiss when doing it from the template or system in which the software is designed.

Such outside-the-box thinking can take quite some effort, but opening up to the way that people with Asperger's Syndrome think can often enable it, as Grayson has found out from the Awareness Training course that he has just completed this week and I have found out from the funding bid I have been working on. Being a learning grant, the Adult and Community Learning Fund is different to previous bids that I have worked on in the sense that we need to sell our application  on the training aspect of Autism Works, the ISEB Foundation Certificate, which is an industry-recognised qualification. When you have been used to writing bids in a particular way, you often forget to review it through the eyes of those who allocate the grants.

Elsewhere, Dan is continuing to make excellent progress with the new Autism Works website, including linking this blog to it. In the meantime, continue to watch this space for more developments at Autism Works.

Friday 3 June 2011

Personal Progress and Team Working

This week at Autism Works has seen me continue working on the funding bids and also working on an evaluation form for the Department of Health about my experience at Autism Works, focusing on what personal benefits working with Autism Works has brought me. This questionnaire also ties in nicely with an interview that I have been doing for The Autism File magazine.

Much of the employee-focused questions on the Department of Health's questionnaire are about whether or not I feel that my skills and confidence levels have risen courtesy of the project. Despite the challenges that this role has at times presented, particularly the continual adjustments that I have found myself having to adapt to as well as having to learn new skills, I have been very fortunate to have had the support to enable this. For the main part, I can happily say that I have grown in confidence since I started working at Autism Works back in September 2010. Where much of the confidence has come from is knowing that I am involved with an organisation that has the potential to make huge differences to people's lives, not just people on the autistic spectrum themselves, but also their family/carers.

As regards personal skills, now that the Autism Works team is starting to grow with Grayson coming on board and Dan Cottrell, there is much more scope for me to develop my team-working skills. One of the most fascinating aspects of team-working is that there is much that I can learn working with others as much as there is that others can learn from working with me. Grayson seems to have picked up quite a bit about Asperger's Syndrome from working with me and Dan, while I am beginning to pick up more about IT and the terminology involved in software testing from Grayson. Grayson's Asperger horizons look set to be broadened further next week when he attends the Autism Awareness training course organised by ESPA Training. Who knows, by the time he completes it, he may even feel more comfortable in the Asperger world like Peter!

We have also had a visit from Karl Hardy, ESPA's Finance Director and Company Secretary for Autism Works, this week who has kindly provided us with some spreadsheets for one of our funding bids, hopefully we will get something this time - fingers crossed! Next week sees our Marketing Intern from Newcastle University, Sumanjeet Sandhu, start with us. One of Sumanjeet's tasks will be to raise brand awareness of Autism Works through social media. Sumanjeet's skills and interest in digital marketing should help to continue to raise the profile of Autism Works.

In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to Adventures with Autism Works as the company continues to develop.