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Christine Leong has the uncanny ability to remember the details of every conversation she has—usually without taking notes.
She credits her remarkable memory for detail to having Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. It’s just one of the qualities that has propelled her to leadership in Accenture Security’s Biometrics and Blockchain Identity team in New York.
In Christine’s case, having autism isn’t without challenges. It means she's uncomfortable in crowds and has an aversion to loud or high-pitched sounds.
At the same time, to hear Christine tell it, having Asperger’s has its advantages. She thinks it might be the reason she is so good at getting straight to the root of a problem and coming up with a solution, a key element of her job.
She shares her career journey and why she credits Accenture’s open culture and commitment to inclusion and diversity for her ability to be who she is and build a successful career—not in spite of her autism, but because of it.
Doing work with global impact
I work in an exciting area, leading our blockchain identity and biometrics capabilities in Accenture. My team manages projects that have major global impact, including collaborations with the World Economic Forum.
One example is the prototype we developed for the ID2020 initiative, which is dedicated to using cutting-edge technology to provide digital identity solutions for all. Our solution was one of the world’s first in blockchain identity, combining both biometrics and blockchain in a secure and private way, paving the way for other impactful solutions in the future.
Our groundbreaking work with the Known Traveller Digital Identity project is another example. Piloting the world’s first cross-border biometrics blockchain-based identity will enable a personalized travel experience that is both seamless and secure.
Accommodation goes both ways
Every individual on the autism spectrum is different.
I understand that a client or coworker might not be accustomed to my work style or my personality, so I am candid in explaining that I have Asperger’s and the best ways to work with me.
But accommodation goes both ways. I believe it’s also important that I accommodate how other people work and that I’m equally attuned to their needs.
Most people with Asperger’s are very structured, thrive on routine and struggle with being interrupted. The most important thing I value and appreciate from my team is that they do not judge me for what could sometimes seem to be “socially awkward or unacceptable.” Being accepted for who I am is the greatest accommodation that others can provide.
Respecting each other’s differences
I am forever grateful for the professional and personal support of my coworkers and leaders during my 10 years at Accenture, particularly after relocating from the United Kingdom to New York five years ago.
My team is phenomenal in accommodating and respecting how I work. For example, when we are on conference calls and sharing screens, they will always tell me in advance if they are scrolling the screen fast, so it doesn’t send me into information overload and cause a meltdown.
Additionally, access to Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and networking support groups offer resources for various life topics. Employees who have a form of autism or caregivers to those with autism can receive guidance and support through the Accenture Autism Empowerment and Support Group (AE&SG).
Working with people with autism: Be honest and direct
To best understand and work with people on the autism spectrum, it’s important to just be open, honest and direct. It can be difficult for us to read body language and understand people’s nuances, so telling us things in a simple, straightforward way (even if it sounds impolite to most people) is helpful.
People with Asperger’s may sometimes seem rude, insensitive or angry, but most times they don’t mean it that way. Try not to take it personally, as we might not even know this is the case. It’s also helpful to tell us directly if our behavior is not acceptable; we sometimes struggle to read people, so it is hard to know if our behavior has caused offense.
Be yourself and do work that’s truly making a difference. Find your fit with the Accenture team.
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