February 27, 2018
Focussing on strengths and working with dyslexia
By: Sam Shires

Hello. I believe that everyone has the strengths to succeed. My blog covers several topics: the transition from university to work, the strengths a disability can provide and some tips and tricks I have learned along the way – if this sounds of interest to you or if you are considering a career in management consultancy read on...

Sam Shires

My name is Sam Shires. I live in London and am a keen football player, skier and DIY novice. I studied geography at the University of Leeds which sparked my interest in travel. I am a management consultant at Accenture where I have worked since early 2013.

I wanted to open with a widely-cited Einstein quote: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judged a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it would live its whole life feeling stupid!”

Focus on strengths, be conscious of weaknesses

For me this quote advocates capitalising on my strengths, growing these and doing the things I most enjoy and being cognisant of the things I am less good at – using my colleagues, friends, tools and techniques to get around them in diverse teams.

At Accenture, we use a comprehensive strengths assessment to get a formal view of what you are best at. We are encouraged, through our performance achievement approach, to capitalise on our strengths and look forwards. I target 3 of my strengths each 6 months to grow using defined actions to achieve this.

It is just as effective to reflect (as often as you can) and write down each time you have felt success and explore in yourself why… what was it I did really well, what action allowed me to succeed and what did I enjoy? Over time you’ll build a picture up of your strengths. Be sure to ask others who work around you such as lecturers, friends in group work etc. to develop a rounded picture. And also, reflect on the not so good.

Sam Shires 

Going back to the Einstein quotation, the second thing this quote tells me is that every single person has their strengths and weaknesses. A disability gives you an ability others simply don’t have. For me a love and strength in problem solving. But we also see, for example in the Invictus games, strengths such as a dogged determination, passion, and tenacity to overcome.

How did I become a management consultant?

Consultancy is an industry defined by variety, excitement, creativity and ideas – exactly what I felt as a dyslexic I would thrive upon. I wanted a company which would challenge me and let me learn quickly – Accenture seemed the right answer. When I applied, the level of support and care I received made me feel at home…

Dyslexic people have succeeded at so many different things from painting to plumbing to PowerPoint – management consulting just felt right to me so I went for it and now love it. Find what feels right to you.

Have a thirst to learn about yourself and how your disability can impact you – it took me 2 years to begin to understand how ADHD and dyslexia impacted the way I work compared to a 'normal' person; I still learn about and refine this each and every day…

Sam Shires 

Consulting brings a huge variety of work, this allows you to learn what you are best at fast. Becoming known for these things then lets you get the type of role you enjoy most and importantly do best at. Problem solving and verbal reasoning are two things as a dyslexic I am good at and have become known for. I love working with my clients to explore down to the route of their issues and to solve these problems.

I often receive good feedback on the way I manage my time - something which I (as a dyslexic) find difficult… so I overinvest time and effort to make sure I manage my time and focus upon the important activities throughout my day.

What have I learnt - my top tips…

I would encourage everyone – disability or no disability – to spend time finding how they work best and what enables them to succeed. Be open and collaborative about you with the people you work with on a regular basis.

I use tools and learned techniques to help me with the parts of my job I am less good at, some of my favourite tools are:

  • Noise cancelling headphones – in the bustle of an open plan office these are life changing, they uplift my concentration by 50%

  • Read and Write software – I used this software to check this blog. It reads it out to me and lets me hear spelling and wording mistakes which I make

  • Emailing myself – speaking with one the leaders who I admire most at Accenture… we found out we were both dyslexic after each emailing ourselves to remember to do something. I email myself more than anyone else!

  • Blank paged notebooks – allows me to draw and craft my notes instead of writing

  • Coffivity – ambient background chatter from a coffee shop, ironically amazing at drowning out the distracting ambient background chatter of an office or university

  • Google keep – a great little notes tool which I use to organise my life

You are almost at the end...

By closure, I hope this short blog has helped you to believe you have the strength to succeed in whatever industry you hold a passion. The final counsel I would like to leave you with is this – to take pride in whatever you do, try your best and above all don’t let your worries hold you back – just go on and do it!!

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