Asheigh Wilson started thinking about a career in technology only towards the end of high school. But she has not looked back, despite being temporarily stood down during COVID-19. She tells Rachel Worsley that drawing up a personal job map has helped her get the most out of her profession.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Ashleigh: When I was little, we lived across the road from a hotel in a really small town called Glen Innes in the New England region of New South Wales. Because of that, I wanted to be a hotel receptionist. During high school I wanted to be a marine biologist. Then I wanted to be a photographer. Back then I didn’t really have a set goal. It was just what I saw. And then I’d change my mind.
It wasn’t until 2013 that I discovered technology. I just knew it was the path I wanted to follow and I started my IT degree in 2015. I’m still loving the technology field, which is really cool.
How did you find your current job at Coder Academy?
Ashleigh: In my previous job, unfortunately, they couldn’t provide me the flexibility I was after to continue working while also studying. At the end of November 2017 they decided to make my position redundant. I remember getting home that day very upset, but at the same time I was also determined to find work before Christmas that year.
I looked online and made a list of opportunities to seek, and then the next day I began re-writing my resume and applied. After a few knockbacks, the next week I found Coder Academy and read through their advertisement and their continued mission. I thought to myself there was something unique about this and I applied with no hesitation.
I had an interview the following week, and then a few days later I had succeeded in my job search.
What do you find easy that others may find difficult?
Ashleigh: When I’m assigned a task, I always appreciate looking into the details of the task. It’s always the details that fascinate me. I enjoy going one step beyond and thinking outside the box of and finding new and exciting ways to my goal.
For example, I enjoy learning to code in my spare time. Rather than looking at the code and thinking “Okay, let’s get started”, I think again and again about why it is written the way it is written. Or is there another way I can achieve the same thing this code is doing, but differently?
This is why I enjoy thinking, and why I appreciate looking into the details.
How are you managing with COVID19?
Ashleigh: There are many up and down days, and for a while from March they were mostly down days. Unfortunately, in March I was stood down from my current role for 6 weeks. As soon as I found out, I fell into a deep panic for almost a week. The scenario was very new to me, and to this day I’m still recovering.
However, during this time, I’ve learned that support and communication is so important. During my stand-down period, I also became more involved in presenting and continuing to share my stories online through LinkedIn and Twitter. I also reached out to my professional network and caught up with them for virtual coffees and check-ins with each other. This continues to bring me so much happiness and positivity into my life.
Fast forward to October. At the moment, I am doing okay. Unfortunately it’s hard to predict what tomorrow will look like or the next day, because we simply do not know anymore.
I am learning to live one day at a time and continue to live it to the fullest.
Do you have advice for autistic people looking for a job?
Ashleigh: There is a light at the end of the tunnel – it may be close or it may be far away, but it is there.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends and family or network for support, this is okay! I understand we don’t want to come across as asking for help all the time, but you never know what is available until you ask.
If you enjoy coding and want to be a developer, set aside some time each day dedicated to coding. You can also share your journey with the world by doing the ‘100 Days of Code’ challenge, where you simply do some coding and share it on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook about your journey. You will receive so much support and encouragement from people around the world!
And finally, always enjoy the simple things in life and find ways to be creative every day. Even if it’s for 15 minutes a day, that 15 minutes can turn into happiness.
How about advice for autistic professionals who are looking to take the next step in their career?
Ashleigh: Design a personal job map. That’s where those strengths can really come into play as well. So for me, when I was at university doing my IT degree, I thought back then that technology was technical. I thought you can really just be working in the tech side of things like a coder or developer. I didn’t know there was so much more to it. I didn’t know that there was a whole other aspect to it, like the people/community side of things. I think when you design that personal job map, it helps you to set those goals in place and you can match your strengths to those places that you really want to thrive in.