Blog

Proofreaders – the goalkeepers of Quality Assurance

Danele Buso, Unsplash
Danele Buso, Unsplash

When you get on a plane, it’s filthy dirty and you watch the neighbouring plane having its luggage thrown carelessly out of the cargo hold, do you think to yourself, ‘I hope the mechanics were a bit more thorough’? Yet very few companies have their websites and service level agreements quality checked before putting them out in the public domain.

Then the trouble starts.  A client pushes their luck and there’s nothing you can do because your service level agreement has a gaping hole in it. Your website promises the earth because in your familiarity with the text, you didn’t notice you missed a word out.  That word is normally ‘not’, so you’ve just promised the exact opposite of what you’ve intended.

If all this seems logical, my question is, why aren’t you engaging the services of a proofreader?  It doesn’t have to be me, although of course I’d prefer it if it was.

Would any team, football, ice hockey or netball, take to the pitch/ice/court without a goalkeeper?  I think not.  Yet the majority of PhD students won’t pay to have their theses proofread until they’ve been given minor corrections.

If this seems like a false economy to you, why not change this?

What is proofreading?

Officially, proofreading is checking for spelling, grammar, punctuation and sense.  This is different from editing.  Proofreaders aren’t responsible for making sure you stay ‘on message’ or that you don’t have a glaring hole in your plot or argument.  In truth, those of us who are good, and who have a sense of integrity, are not going to set you up to fail like that. We  will go out of their way to pick you up on those things.

Markus Spiske, Unsplash

Officially, proofreaders don’t make changes.  They make suggestions for improvement.  Many of us have worked in some kind of training, teaching or other empowering roles, so our reports do sometimes read like marking, but we don’t use red pens!  In fact, these days we mainly use computers, but traditionally we use blue pencils.  My great aunt was a proofreader for the BBC World Service and I still have some of her reassuringly chunky pencils.  One is in a memory box; the rest are still being used for their original purpose on the rare occasions I get a printed out manuscript.  The work is in my blood.

So, my question is, do you treat your quality assurance and proofreading like a ropy Sunday League team, who puts the kid who turns up every week, full of enthusiasm, but with no aptitude, in goal?  Or do you treat it in the same way the first division teams do, investing in trained, experienced personnel, and encouraging and empowering them with as much information and support as possible?  If you want to move the quality of all your words to the premier league, contact us now.

Cats and Other Nonhuman Companions

Why cats you may be asking? Why not, I reply?

We are living in extremely weird times, no social interaction, wearing face coverings, no schools, working from home and the wonderful technology of Zoom.

We here at CoomberSewell Enterprises LLP https://www.coombersewell.co.uk/ own two delightful, but very different, further babies.

Now Kevin is of a mature age,  a little rickety on the back legs, and sleeps more than his younger counterpart. Kevin is a tabby cat, who has lived life to the full and has the raggedy ear ends to prove it. He is not so keen on catching mice as he once was but will happily eat up the remains that his female companion hunts for him. Kevin likes nothing more to come and sit on our laps and snuggle up under our chins whilst we scratch his neck and ears. He will purr contentedly all the time it suits him; he will move from my lap to her lap and then back to my lap until he gets bored when he will walk around the furniture until he can sit contentedly on the windowsill watching the world go by.

And then there is Woof… A female tabby cat who is a little confused by her name and lives the persona of both cat and dog. Woof has her own personal slave who tends to her every whim and need. Her slave is autistic, a recluse and a selective mute. For him Woof is his constant companion. She lives in his bedroom with him, and though he cannot tolerate human physical contact she is allowed to snuggle into him for warmth and tummy cuddles. She persuades him several times a day to feed her Dreamies, to play games which do include the occasional scratch and bite when he least expects it.

These two cats are a delight to the whole household and in these times of lockdown have become a source of distraction and fun.

Perhaps I should also mention our eight chickens who live in a very large luxurious sun house with a huge fenced in enclosure to run around and play in. Now, I would not want you to think that these chickens are in any way, spoilt after all they only provide us with eggs everyday which we sell on to very appreciative friends and neighbours. Inside their wonderful sun house they have a large shelf that they snuggle together on, to sleep every night. They have eight nesting boxes, though I am unsure why they only lay their eggs in one? They have food and water, a ladder to walk up to their bed, sawdust on the floor and a large bale of hay to keep them warm. Out in their run they have two logs to jump on and off of and to find insects to nibble on. They have home-made climbing frames and on the 1st of January they acquired their own Christmas tree. In their run they also have a large bale of straw which has been de-roped, and they have scattered to their hearts’ content. They also have an automatic feeder which these very clever chickens have quickly learned that if they jump onto the treadle the lid pops opens and they can feed to their tummy’s content. Every morning my other half takes them out scraps of food left over from us humans, laced with plain biscuits and warm water. She changes their roosting paper, cleans up their mess, checks their water and their feeder to keep our delightful, productive chickens happy in their daily task. Every evening she visits them again, cleans up after them again, and entices them back in to their warm sun house with delightful treats.

And of course there are the fish, some who live outside in the pond with lots of lily pads and pondweed. The other fish live a warm life in their tropical tank filled with beautiful plants, a sunken pirate ship, beautiful stones and slate.  Today they welcomed 10 new companions, making them welcome in their tropical home.

I hope you have some furry friends or other nonhuman companions to help you through these difficult times. Cuddles, fussing and talking to our beloveds helps with the feeling of isolation, loneliness and the long days.

But should you need a chat with a fellow human please don’t forget we are always here, willing and able to listen and help where we can. info@coombersewell.co.uk

Phoenix from the Ashes – Happy New Year!

My first company was called HG Phoenix.  It didn’t last long – I met Joyce and it quickly got absorbed into what is now CoomberSewell Enterprises.  As any business which has survived the ashes of 2020 may be doing right now, I’ve been thinking about the symbolism of the phoenix from the ashes. I’ve been thinking about the future and how sometimes to move forward, we need to acknowledge our backgrounds and how we are the product of our upbringings, for good or ill.

New Beginnings

When I started HG Phoenix, I’d just resigned from a job with a boss who later had a class action taken out against them for bullying.  The choice of Phoenix was the obvious one. I was rising from the ashes of my tattered confidence, but there was also a family connection.  My mum always told stories of a distant ancestor called Sarah Phoenix Perfect, who, she had always been led to believe ‘came from the gypsies’.  I couldn’t call the company ‘Perfect Proofreading’. That would be opening myself up to all sorts of trouble, but I had always had a romantic fascination with SPP, as I call her in my head. I never believed the ‘gypsy’ tales but resolved that if I ever wrote romantic or erotic fiction, this would be my pen name.  I haven’t written the novel (yet). Years on however, my parents have genealogy as their major non-faith pastime and it turns out its probably true. SPP is real, and she was adopted into the family from a traveller background.  As my theology colleague Steven Horne can attest, traveller records can be a little… oral, so after that, the trail goes cold.

Background

The HG was simple – my father’s middle initials, and I’ve always been a Daddy’s girl.  It was with my parents’ faith in me, and encouragement from an unforeseen quarter, that I set out on my new adventure.  The internationally renowned jazz singer and radio presenter Clare Teal, who I knew a little and whose opinion I value to this day, encouraged me to do what I was passionate about and made me happy. The rest would follow.  The path has been winding, but CoomberSewell Enterprises is a quietly successful business.  Some people question the use of the word Enterprises, but we use it as a reflection of our mindset; innovative, enterprising, hopeful and kind.

Moving Forward

As you shake the ashes of 2020 off your feet, whatever it has cost you whether that is your job, family members or security, I encourage you to look at the strong foundations your upbringing has provided you, however barren the landscape looks.  I totally acknowledge my good fortune in my upbringing in have hard working parents who instilled strong values in me.  No family situation is perfect, and others will have got their strengths and values despite their upbringing.  Nevertheless, that is where the stories we tell ourselves are rooted.  If you are having trouble seeing the wood from the ash, do contact us for a mentoring session with Joyce.

Work Life Balance at Christmas

Joyce and I have made the decision to close the business for a few days over Christmas for the sake of work life balance.  Actually, that’s not true, we’ve agreed that unless the work is already in the diary, from the evening of 22nd December to the morning of 4th January, we’re not taking any more work on.  I have one student to see and one small proof reading job in that time.  It’s time for some Us time.  I last opened an email connected to my school work on 19th December.  So, there’s the first commitment broken, that was supposed to be 18th December.  It’s the morning of 21st December and I’m already fighting the guilt.

Work life balance is a funny thing, especially if you are in any way self-employed, if you work in education, academia, or any of those other industries where the assumption that your good will means that you will go far beyond your job description.  Already, I have a list of at least 5 tasks to be tackled over our ‘leave’ and 4 of them are career or business related.

The See-Saw of Work life balance

For all of us, but particularly for the self-employed, balancing the see-saw (teeter-totter for my American friends) of work/life can be very hard.  There is a strong temptation to say, well, if I just do a half day on my emails, I can get a head start on the first day back… That is the thin end of a sticky wedge.  Yes, most of us went into self-employment to do what we love, but it is too easy to spend the quiet times on the bits we don’t love.  I’ve just spent nearly two full days catching up on the accounts.  Yes, it needed to be done, but did it have to be done right now, in the run up to what is left of Christmas?

Prioritisation

Often, I work with my students on managing both their study and their personal time, in the full knowledge that I could always be somewhat better at it myself.  There are many charts, apps and tables you can use to help with this – just google it, or look at Stella Cottrell’s Study Skills Handbook, a great investment for academics and students alike (The link is to Abe Books, other book sellers are available).  My favourite tool, however, was originated by Dale Carnegie.  I probably don’t have the copyright to reproduce the tools here, so let me just ask the pivotal question.  In your planning, do you consider what is important, or simply what is urgent? It sows the seed in our minds, that if something is only urgent, but not actually important, perhaps there is no need to do it at all?

Take a Beat

Unplug by Jess Bailey via Unsplash

So, as we run up to what is going to be a Christmas like no other (I write this while the news that we are in Tier 4 is still sinking in), I am asking you, telling you, maybe even begging you, to think about what is important, not what is urgent.  For me, this will be Zooming family and friends, going for walks, digging fresh spud and picking fresh Brussel sprouts for our Christmas Dinner.  It will be sitting through the Dr Who New Year special with the young members of the household, because they enjoy watching it with us.  It will be taking a breath.  So, by all means, contact us for mentoring, proof reading, or whatever else it was that is urgent that we can do for you, but also, sit down for five minutes to make important plans.

So This is Christmas???

So This Is Christmas???

Well what an amazing year we have had, who would have thought last Christmas that we were heading for a pandemic?

I know it would be easy to speak about all the things we have missed but I thought 🤔 let’s take a look at some of the pluses, yes there have been a few

Zoom  Skype  Teams  Messenger  to name a couple of online, face-to-face platforms.

Jane and I have transferred all of our university students onto Zoom, which has been a great success. The majority of our students are on the autistic spectrum so meetings on the Internet are much easier than face-to-face

.

But it’s not just our university students, one of the many hats  Jane wears is as a schools governors clerk, they too have moved on to Zoom. Jane has also recently joined the Federation of Small Businesses  and is Zooming  along to several of their network meetings.

For myself I am seeing my private clients on zoom as well as attending Twilight networking meetings every other Thursday evening https://www.i-nutrition.co.uk/twilight-networking-events/

Another good thing that has been happening is exercise,  Just how many adverts have we seen in the last year to join online exercise classes. Not that I’m saying we have participated in any of these because we haven’t. What we have been doing is going out for walks  Admittedly we did far more walking during the first lockdown than we have been doing recently but that is because our workload has greatly increased. Not only have I been doing more mentoring,  but Jane has been undertaking far more proofreading  than ever before

What about actually meeting face-to-face with family and friends,  I for one more than ever greatly appreciate those rare occasions. Whether that’s having a socially distanced barbecue  in our back garden or unexpectedly meeting old friends while out on a walk 

Personally, I also like the new way our doctors surgery  is operating. I phone  them, the receptionists asks a few questions, then I’m either phoned back to say there’s a prescription sent to the chemist, or that the doctor will phone me, or the doctor will see me, and I’m given an appointment time. I for one hope this system stays in place after the pandemic is over. No more sitting in germ  infested waiting rooms.

Some things have not changed though, for instance about every eight weeks Jane and I cook, freeze, and take up to Derbyshire 70+ meals  for my old stepdad.  We fill his two freezers  and normally we would spend the weekend with him. Of course, currently this is not possible under the Covid-19 restrictions. So last Sunday Jane and I did a 12 hour, 600 mile round trip,  spending just 45 minutes with him, unloading the car, filling the freezers, and then sitting in his shed  while he stood in the doorway of his kitchen  chatting to one another through our various facemasks  and shields. 

With just under two weeks to go before Santa comes to fill our stockings  we are busy ordering those last-minute presents  off of the Internet. Though very limited I suspect we will meet with a few of our family over this Christmas. So, it just leaves me to say;

Have a very, very, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

 

Ethical Dilemmas: Can you fake it till you make it with integrity?

This blog was partly inspired by communications I’ve had with close friends and family about confidence, imposter syndrome and the rational knowledge we have skills, whether we realise it or not.  My best friend, Lou, has launched a new career as a photographer, while also changing her day job, and we talked about the gender issues connected with confidence, and whether those thoughts still hold in the 21st century.  In that 2-hour meandering way that best friends do, we came to the conclusion that you just have to fake it till you make it.  But how do you do that with integrity?

Integrity

Now, I have to say, I have a roller coaster ride relationship with integrity.  In my Civil Service days, I hadn’t even considered the need for it, and was quite happy to get down and dirty with and against my colleagues, stealing placings and whatever it took to hit target.  Now, I see integrity as an ideal that, as soon as you accept that it can never be reached, you get a lot closer to attaining.  It is impossible to get through life without telling small fibs, these are called tact and discretion.  Nobody needs to know everything, all the time, indeed, if they did, it would be disastrous.

Integrity is about the small things.  If you say you will be at a meeting at 9am, be there at 8.55.  If you promise somebody some work in two years’ time, and then fall out with that person, as has happened in my working life once or twice, do the work anyway.  Be the bigger person.  You don’t have to become their best friend again, just keep your word to the best of your ability and move on.

Fake it till you make it

Photo by Ruthson Zimmerman on Unsplash

But what about that old career adage, ‘Fake it till you make it’.  The problem is keeping control of the fakery.  Dressing for the job you want rather than the one you have is all very well, but is it ok to tell people you already have that job when you don’t?

Well of course not.  Is it OK to display confidence in your knowledge when you still have information to check?  Yes, within limits.  I always had more respect for my trainers when they answered one of my notoriously nitty gritty questions with ‘I’ll check that over lunch and get back to you’ than waffled on with what was obviously a shaky answer on a very narrow foundation.

Imposter Syndrome

There are times when you have total integrity but it feels like you are faking it.  This is really the epitome of imposter syndrome.  Here is mine: I am the world’s leading academic researching Joyce Grenfell.  This is, at the moment of writing, a true statement, and has been for the last 5 years.  There are 3 other experts on Joyce Grenfell: Janie Hampton, Maureen Lipman and James Roose-Evans.  None of them are academics and none of them have done any active work on Grenfell for nearly 2 decades.  Therefore, the statement is true because I am the ONLY Joyce Grenfell academic in the world.  Other academics acknowledge the validity of my claim to the leading academic in this field,  but it feels like a lie. So, we can say then that imposter syndrome is when you have integrity but it feels like you don’t.

I’ve been very fortunate in that I have a Joyce CoomberSewell who has, throughout our married lives, coached me in my continuing journey to building a stronger relationship with integrity, taught me skills to fake it till I make it with that integrity still in tact and has booted imposter syndrome out of my life on a weekly basis.  If you would like her to do the same for you, CONTACT US today.

Meaning Making Machines

I have just successfully survived my final review for my Masters by Research.

Tracking The Timeline and Impact Of Inequality Between Autistics And Non-Autistics In The United Kingdom From The 19th Century To The Current Day

So now I have until mid-February to get my final draft in,  ready to submit at the end of March.

So why am I telling you this, how does this link to Meaning Making Machines and why did I wait until I was in my 60s to go to University?

As a 6yr old in infant school child my desire was to be allowed to have a reading book, but to attain this I had to correctly read some flash cards. One fateful day I was called to the teachers desk, my turn had come once again. Out of all the cards there were two I consistently read wrong, COME and BECAUSE, those dreaded words. My teacher must have felt very frustrated and smacked me on my bottom.

And in that moment, I created my Meaning: “I am thick and stupid”. I then set my life on the track to prove that that meaning was completely correct.

I became the class clown at school, to hide how thick and stupid I was. I left school at 15 so as not to ‘fail’ at any O levels I might have been expected to take.

Due to my mum getting me an interview at the factory where she worked, I started work straight from school. However, within a year I became pregnant even though at that stage I had considered pursuing qualifications as I really enjoyed my job.

Once I went back to work, in between having more children, I always chose basic, factory, potato picking, shop jobs as I believed I was too thick and stupid to attain anything else.

As I got older, I used my thick and stupid meaning as an excuse to not be responsible for my actions.

For example, in my early 40s I became a Doctor’s receptionist, a job I thought was far above my station. One of the responsibilities I was given was being in charge of the prescriptions which came out from the back office. This also included filing them in alphabetical order, this was way outside my comfort zone. ABC is fine but AA, AB, AC etc is a real challenge. One day a gentleman asked for his prescription, he gave me his name, I went to the box, removed a prescription and handed it to him. Within a few short seconds he was laughing hysterically. By an alphabetical error I had given him his brothers prescription for Viagra……

Of course, I went straight to my thick and stupid excuse. It wasn’t my fault, fancy the manager giving such a responsible job to a thick and stupid person.

A few years later I decided to try and get an English GCSE. After every 2hr lesson I went to learning support to have the lesson explained more fully. The gentleman I saw suggested I met with an Educational Psycologist for an assessment. The outcome showed that I am very dyslexic but have a higher than average IQ. Oh! and I attained a ‘B’ in English 😊

Now you would think that would be the end of my thick and stupid excuse but remember, humans are Meaning Making Machines. Something happens, we make it mean something, then we collect our bias history to keep that meaning in place.

I continued to believe that I was thick and stupid even though I had papers to prove I wasn’t.

My A-ha moment…

came during a Landmark Forum course in London. https://landmarkworldwidelondon.com/  I shared my thick and stupid stance. I was asked when did I last feel this. I replied ‘at lunchtime when in the lift with others. I had said the floor number I thought to be correct and of course it was another floor number’. The leader asked for those in the lift with me to raise their hands, he then asked them if they had said I was thick and stupid. They of course said no, I quickly replied ‘but they thought it’.

The Landmark Leader then asked me when I had first thought I was thick and stupid. This I quickly related to my school flash card debacle. We then looked at my thick and stupid history and how I had used this to keep my “truth” in place. Of course, that smack given to me by my teacher could have meant a thousand different things, but I chose it to mean I was thick and stupid. No ‘truth’ there at all, just me being a Meaning Making Machine, which all humans do. Something happens, we make it mean something, then collect history to keep it in place as ‘truth’

So now in my 60s I have passed my Bachelors with a 2:1 and I am nearly finished my Masters by Research.

Now what will be my next challenge??? If you have suggestions, contact us

Engaging with the Gatekeeper

There are lots of ways to build the profile of your business, your academic expertise, your passion.  Joyce talked about networking groups the other week, and I’ve attended many networking opportunities, including exhibitions and conferences.  It is when we go to follow up these initial links that many of us fail. We forget to follow up, or find it awkward and therefore avoid it.  Often we become so intent on building rapport with a CEO or other figurehead, we forget to build rapport with the de facto key person: The Gatekeeper.

Who is the Gatekeeper?

Even in the 21st century, in this world of online meetings and directors managing their own emails, there is still a large percentage of gatekeepers and they are mainly female!  I am of course talking about the army of mainly women who hold the title of PA, receptionist, occasionally Private Secretary, Chief Administrator and so forth.  There are some really good blokes doing this role and I am sure some would identify as non-binary and trans, but that is not my rabbit hole for today.  I’m talking about relationships, power, and how we can wield it with integrity.

Photo by Laura Davidson on Unsplash

In 1952 Betty Marsden debuted the Joyce Grenfell sketch ‘Private Secretary’ which, in addition to revealing a secret, explores many of the contradictions of these roles.  By their nature, they are often unseen and undervalued, yet they hold the key to information, action and attention.  Rather than asking ‘Who watches the watchman?’, perhaps we should be asking ‘Who gatekeeps the gatekeeper?’. I’ve met some shocking ones in my life, including the school secretary who on the first occasion I ever asked to speak to the head exclaimed “Why do you keep bothering him, you’re useless to him?’.  As I was offering training and support for parents and staff, that school lost out.  Embarrassing!

Gatekeeping with integrity

There are two gatekeepers I’ve encountered in my life however, who have operated with integrity, kindness, communication and skill, both professionally and personally.  It is to these two women I’d like to pay tribute today, now that they are both exiting my life.  Sheila Wraight, one of the Graduate College Administrators at CCCU retires at the end of this week.  It’s jokingly said that one of the other Administrators ushers you into the Grad College and Sheila looks after you through the last 6 months and ushers you out.  This is so true.  Sheila has been the focus of many a frustrated email from students over issues that are nothing to do with her. Every time, she has steered us with calm, clarity and kindness to the right answer, person or process.  It was a real moment of sadness for me when we went digital because of COVID and I could not therefore place my three bound copies into Sheila’s devoted hands.

The other is my Godmother Gloria (Goy) Fuller.  Rather like the Private Secretary in the sketch, Goy professed no real ambition, but ended up in a range of rather senior positions in the Civilian support staff for Kent Police. These included gatekeeping for a Chief Inspector who was notoriously almost never at his desk.  She was Assistant Secretary and Treasurer to the Police Social Club, a role which probably led to more decision making and action taking than the actual treasurer, and she continued this post long after her retirement from her day job. Goy died this month, and I did not realise how much I would hear her voice in my head. Though neither of us knew it at the time, from an early age Goy taught me about a different kind of ambition – an ambition to have integrity, build relationship at work and outside work, to enable the young ones even when they are infuriating (I was a very gabby child), and to simply be kind.  The rising through the ranks to a position of trust often comes quite accidentally from there.

So, what are my concluding thoughts today?  Whenever you want to make a lead, make a friend first, or at least a friendly acquaintance.  Don’t just ask to speak to the boss.  Make sure you know the name of the person who picks up the phone and who checks their emails for them. Ask after them, pass a few friendly comments.  At worst, these are the gatekeepers, who can shut the gate in your face as well as open it. At best, they will be people who will enable that business relationship, so make sure you genuinely appreciate them.  They are your de facto key person.

Different Experiences, Different Times

In this blog I want to talk about the different experience of two people with autism, myself and a 21 year old.

Let me start with my own journey from school to my present day university.

I remember my first day at infant school, standing amongst a large crowd of adults and small children like myself. I remember a little boy clinging to his mother and sobbing his heart out, this boy later became the school bully.

When I started school there was no mention of dyslexia or autism, if you couldn’t keep up you were known as slow, or inattentive or even thick and stupid. Somehow, I always managed to stay up in one of the top classes, by this I mean I was not put in the class for the ‘less able’.

My overriding memory of school both primary and secondary was the people I was at school with. In the first few years of primary school I had one friend, we spent every playtime together, just the two of us. That was until her dad, who was in the army, got posted overseas. My then friend went to a group of girls and asked them if I could join their group and they said yes.

I spent the remaining years of my primary and secondary school life being on the outside of that group, never feeling like I quite belonged. The girls were never mean or nasty to me, I joined in the games that they played, but I never felt like I quite belonged. As we all grew older together, I discovered that they were meeting up at the evenings and weekends, going swimming or to the pictures together, but I was never invited.

In my secondary school years, I felt like the teachers removed me to stand outside the classroom door more often than being in the class. My school reports said things like, “if she spent less time helping others and did own work she would do better”.

Later in life I went to college to study English GCSE, but again I never made any lasting friendships. However, I did learn to hand in unusual possibly obscure subject matter for all my assignments. For instance, my story was on ‘Christmas through the eyes of the donkey’. This got published in the college’s Christmas magazine.

And on turning 60 I went to university to study for my Bachelor’s degree in Counselling, Coaching and Mentoring. I spent three years of my life, two full days a week, with the same cohort of people, with the same outcome as when I was at school. No one was unkind to me, we chatted together if the moment called for it, but I was never invited to go to lunch with them or join in social activities after the lectures.

I am now taking my Masters by Research where there are no lectures to attend or any cohort to be on the outside of. I have wonderful supervisors who help me, support me and direct me along the path to succeed.

Now let me talk about a young 21-year-old and their journey through education. They too started school around the age of five. Throughout their entire primary school experience, they felt they were treated differently than the non-autistics in their class.

In the morning they attended a normal class with everybody else, but always felt like they were treated differently both by the teachers and their classmates. At lunchtime instead of going into the dining room, those who were deemed ’different’ had their lunch separately. In the afternoon these children were again segregated into a separate class to learn more about social skills than reading, writing and arithmetic.

At the age of 11 this young person started in a special educational needs (SEN) School to continue their education. Though in this school they felt more accepted and treated more equally and were able to make friends with like-minded people, they were not allowed to take any meaningful qualifications.

Next this person progressed into college to take GCSE English and Maths and a BTEC qualification. Again, they experienced feelings of being treated differently, and though the BTEC course they had chosen had aspects that did not sit comfortably with them they continued to the end, finishing with a successful BTEC qualification.

This gave them enough points to continue on to university to take a Foundation qualification in computing. This is when they and I met, I became this young person’s mentor, and what a privilege that has been.

They have now completed their Foundation degree with a very high score and progressed onto the first year of their Bachelor’s degree in gaming.

During all of their experience of university they have not felt any of the stigma that they felt through their schooling and college life. They have made friends and been treated equally with the whole of their cohort by their lecturers.

So, what does this say about the 20th and 21st century experience of an autistic in education?

We both experienced prejudice from teachers and other pupils, we both experienced rejection and isolation during our school and college lives. But here is where the paths differ, I as a 60+ year old still felt on the outside during my Bachelor’s degree experience, whereas this 20+ year old found acceptance, friendship, and path into their future life.

Could this just be because of different personalities, different backgrounds, or is it be the difference between how older people and the younger generation view autistics?

Can study be good for business?

I think we all know that as a PhD candidate, of course I think the answer to the question is yes!  There’s a lot more to my views on this and how they were formed though.  I’ve made some mistakes in balancing work and study over the years, but here are some of the reasons why I think study and business support each other, and some tips and tricks to make it work.

Reasons

  1. If you work in another field, learning theory will improve your practice and vice versa.

I was fortunate enough to have my Masters paid for by me then employer, the Civil Service.  As a front line worker in JobcentrePlus, it was not until I started examining policy formation and strategy that I began to comprehend:

  • how my tiny cog fitted in to the machine which is public service,
  • how that related to the political party in power at the time,
  • how the Civil Service keeps its political neutral role while advising its party political masters, and so much more.

Nobody is saying that the only study you should do is work related, but it can help with your relationship with the office.

2. If you work in education, continuing to study, and being open about it, helps your students trust you.

As a study skills tutor, I hold some teaching qualifications, of course, but I find that talking about my own challenges and how I have overcome them builds a sense of trust with my students.  Got a deadline?  So do I?  How can we both meet them?  Don’t understand the brief?  This is how I analyse mine – are these techniques useful to you? Got a bogie module?  Have I ever told you about my relationship with Economics and Governance?  (No, really, somebody ask me – I’ll happily tell you how I slew that dragon).  Being a student yourself creates a sense of rapport with your students that nothing else can forge, and you will both reap the rewards.

Tips

  1.  If you are studying something relevant to your job, make sure your colleagues know about it.

I learned this one the hard way.  I initially kept my Masters studies to myself and was accused by several colleagues of being both lazy and privileged.  How dare I, as a single white woman under 40 be working part time?  What gave me the right to laze around the rest of the time?  They had made a wrong assumption that I was a lady what lunched, who played at work to remove the boredom.  They had missed the part that when I wasn’t in the office I was studying, in lectures, or travelling the four hours each way to get to Uni. One stand up row later, a now educated colleague became the first to volunteer to take part in the research for my dissertation.  My point is, you may inspire respect, a new reputation for yourself or even somebody else to go and learn a new skill.

  1. (A tip) Organisation is key, as is a touch of ruthlessness.

In the 21st Century, time is a precious commodity. Taking on study is only going to make it more precious.  This is a key example of working smarter, not harder.  You will need to get your family on board.

If you are already studying and your family are not supportive, now is the time to sit down and have a full and frank discussion with them.  What are the benefits to them of you getting this qualification?  What practical skills can your other half/young ones/house mates learn or take over that will help free up your time?  Batch cooking, putting their own washing away, dusting and hoovering, these are all gender neutral tasks. It is important that you carve out time for your study then guard it with your life! If work is a more conducive environment for study than home, go in early, or stay late (clear this with your employer first). Make sure that you don’t suffer from study guilt – you do matter and the more you prioritise your study and empowerment, the more positive role model you become for those around you.

In conclusion, then, if you’re thinking about studying while you work, get on and do it, but make sure you have your loved ones on board before you start.  If you’re already studying and have got a bit stuck in the mire, I understand, why not give me a ring and see if I can help?