(Photo by Piia Arnould/ MeNaiset Sanoma)
I have been open about my childhood challenges, but I have not talked much about how it affects me as an adult and at work. We often think that learning difficulties and dyslexia are somethings that only show up in school. But that is not the case, dyslexia is a part of me at home, at work and in my hobbies.
I have received many supportive phone calls after I opened MyDyslexia site. I've got the privilege to hear touching and wonderful stories about what it is like to work and have dyslexia. Often, these calls extend to hours of conversations. So I decided to open up my own experiences as well, because it’s important for leaders to understand that we’re all different and how important it is for different people to be able to reach their full potential at work. This benefits the team and the entire company.
When we see different people as a strength, the result is for the employees; they feel good, work together, see that everyone’s contribution matters and that the employer genuinely cares about them. This will ultimately also lead to better productivity.
I remember how excited I was about going back to work after my maternity leave because I immediately got a good job. But at the same time I was scared. I was afraid I would be exposed and my dyslexia would become apparent.
So I worked hard, including evenings and weekends. I prepared for everything. For the first three months, I vomited every single morning before leaving for work. I was so scared that I got physical symptoms. I lost weight and I had to buy a belt so that the pants would stay up. But I had to push forward. Looking back at that time now, I did really well at work. I quickly gained more responsibility, I was good at co-operation, working together with our partners, and succeeded in all my duties. I was also considered a good co-worker. But this was not easy, I often cried in the evenings and was powerless. I had to go through all the texts many times, and I did not allow myself any mistakes. I wanted to show myself that I could succeed, and I feared failure like shit. This is actually quite strange, because I am open by nature, cooperative, relaxed, supportive and very positive. I don’t think any of my workmates would have guessed what I was going through. But dyslexia shaped me in a sad way, because I saw it only as a negative thing.
People with dyslexia usually learn to work very hard for things but often also carry shame, and they are feeling bad about dyslexia. This is, of course, completely wrong. This fear and anxiety can affect badly, preventing this person's own gifts from being seen and making the person not able to do the tasks because of the big pressure. And very often the company would benefit from the dyslectics’ mindset: they often have strong social skills, they are empathetic, good problem solvers, and they know how to simplify things and see beyond things. Isn’t this the kind of skill needed in teams?
“I thought I’d never make it and was sad and confused why I was given such a passion to do this kind of work I can’t get into. Just torture”.
I remember when I was younger and was searching for a job. I was invited to two interviews in big and well-known companies. They both believed in me and immediately promised me I’d get the job. Everything was clear and we shaked hands. I only should take some aptitude test just for the sake of formality. I wasn’t open at that time about my dyslexia and was afraid that it would show in the tests.
I went to both tests scared and I couldn’t concentrate. I didn’t get through the tests. I remember when I got these phone calls while I was walking to our home in Pasila. I cried all the way. I thought I would never make it and couldn't understand why I was given such a passion to do work I can’t get into. Just torture. I called the person that conducted the test and she said that I should have told them about my dyslexia in advance but now it was too late. I decided that I would never again apply for a position with such tests. We cannot be measured in this way, my gifts don't show in this kind of tests.
I'm good as I’m, and that's enough
However, I have received a lot of praise at work. I am good with people, I'm fast and I get things done. I have a business mindset, but at the same time I’m warm. I have been involved in developing new types of business. I’m often described as an extrovert, positive, hard working, and even a rainmaker. In my own opinion I’m a social introvert who likes to get things done and loves to help people to bring out their full potential. All kinds of superficiality is something I can’t stand.
Life is a journey and dyslexia is always a part of it.
Dyslexia has affected me in a strong and negative way since I was a little girl. I have been ashamed, tried to hide it and been close to losing my life twice because of it. So now I have decided that this is enough. I’m what I’m and that's good enough.
I have learned to be merciful to myself and try to focus on my strengths.
We are just people and no one can do everything alone. We need good people around us with different kinds of skills and insights. It is also extremely important to remember to enjoy work and the journey. I have been fortunate to have great workmates, I've been able to rely on them. For example, I could give my text to a great editor to read and make the text work, because writing is not my strongest ability. I'm used to working with different experts. I’ve often been sitting around the same table with a salesperson, a marketing expert, an IT expert, a project manager, a designer and a customer. In these situations it's good that we are not all the same.
I have opened MyDyslexia site with the purpose to grow awareness about dyslexia, provide aid tools (to help in reading, writing and math) and help people who are struggling with dyslexia like I’m. But most importantly, the goal is to encourage and make people see that dyslexia is a gift and a great opportunity. We need people who think differently.
I want to help leaders in companies to encourage their employees to be themselves and show their potential.
We talk about this in schools, but we should also talk about this in our work environments. This is why I also do speech gigs in companies and share my own story. I want to help leaders in companies to encourage their employees to be themselves and work together. At work places it is important to be able to face people in a right way to understand their potential. This results in better well-being and eventtually better productivity. Then we work together and everybody shows their full potential.
BTW, here are a few entrepreneurs with dyslexia: Bill Hewlett, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Steven Spielberg, Henry Winkler, Richard Branson, Barbara Corcoran, Ingvar Kamprad, Tommy Hilfiger.
AT WORKPLACES, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT DIFFERENT PEOPLE AND LEARNERS CAN BRING OUT THEIR FULL POTENTIAL. EASIER SAID THAN DONE.
Founder of MyDyslexia, Sirkku Jauhiainen.
Contact me if you want me to give a speech or want to collaborate with me:
firstname.lastname@example.org / 050 5710 439