Autistic Acceptance Month – Work/School

A dragon in the shape of an infinity symbol that is rainbow coloured like the neurodiversity symbol

The artist for the above image is @Kayas_Kosmos.

Both of these have been the worst parts of my life due to a complete lack of understanding. School reinforced so many erroneous negative beliefs, and thinking back to my time in school even now some 20 years after being in school I still dislike it. I am going to talk about the one positive work experience I had in my life.

I wrote about specific experiences at Auckland Boys Grammar here. I talked about my time at Auckland University here. I talked about both work and school here. All of these experiences made me extremely depressed.

I want to write about the exception.

Runaway – The Greatest Job Ever

I don’t know how to write about this place without crying tears of joy. I loved my job there. It was a perfect fit for my interests. They also treated me with dignity, respect, compassion, understanding and actually made me feel like I belonged in the workplace for the first time ever.

The company was founded by Tim Nixon although he was away overseas and left during my first year to work at ThatGameCompany – I’d seen him talk about it during the first ever NZ Game Developers Conference about making games for good – and I’d wanted to work there ever since. He’s a great person.

Under the clear compassionate, empathetic and outstanding leadership of Managing Director Zoe – the company is one that thrives on clear communication, honesty, respect, making things enjoyable for the staff, and actually working together as a team to achieve a common goal.

Every single person who works here is an absolutely wonderful and good person. They care and respect each other deeply and only want to see each other succeed. I miss these people every day. I think about them always and just know they are going to always do great things.

My first real team

I started out there as a Virtual Reality game programmer – working on a title called Flutter VR – available on Google Daydream.

I started at the company when I was in a really rough place mentally, I had been out of work for three months. My wife and I were in massive debt due to having to support me through this time. I was anxious, sad, and just utterly exhausted – I was going through minor Autistic burnout (there are two types in my view – one is basically unmanageable).

My team leader Emma was one of the best leaders I ever had. It was her first project as a project lead, and she was incredible at it. Alongside her and working with me was my senior programmer and absolute programming genius Beric, as well as a close friend I knew from my Software Engineering degree who was a game designer Dylan (the amazing Rudeism on Twitch always doing unique and strange things to play games), multi-award winning narrative designer Lisa, and researcher and all around natural legend Jonas, as well as Tim for a while doing game design with us.

I learned more about programming effectively in a few months working with Beric having him mentor me than I had learned in the previous 5 years I had been doing it fulltime. Any time I received code reviews he would highlight specific areas that my code was inefficient or potentially broken – and he would outline the clear solution, and show me exactly why it wasn’t good to do the thing I was doing.

I don’t think I’ve ever had someone who was as effective communicator in programming ever. On the first day he told me there was no such thing as a ‘stupid’ question no matter how small, or how much I should probably know something. I’d never had this – ever – in any job. At first I was cautious because so many people assume I am stupid for needing clarification on stuff. But I got so comfortable I started being able to rapidly accelerate through tasks.

Each day we had stand ups that were meaningful – I actually got to see how I was progressing, and discussing roadblocks wasn’t a reason to be awful to me – it was to assist me however they could – I had clear instructions always on what I was supposed to be doing and when I got stuck, there was always someone to help. I got way more independent really fast once I knew what expectations were – and no one ever assumed I had no competence.

We had maybe one week of crunch due to an external deadline we had to meet, and it was just because we had NZGDC in the middle of our sprint, and then all of us seemed to get conference illness that seems to always come from these things. So we had to make up time.

I got sick due to this – I have a lot of issues doing extra time – I want to stress here it really wasn’t that much, but even a 40 hour week is taxing for me. I prefer to work in fits and bursts – that’s just my personal preference. I can do it but I find it mentally taxing to work long term like this, and will burn out.

The office was ALWAYS quiet – despite being an open plan office – there were specific times where we would all go and get coffee and have social time, but during working time people would not try to disturb others as much as possible. No one ever judged me – I don’t think I can recall many (if any) times I heard people discuss each other behind their backs in a derogatory way.

I went to work each day with a natural smile on my face. I looked forward to Mondays, and Sunday nights were no longer times of utter dread about the week ahead. I had people who genuinely cared about me, and it was the nicest environment I’ve ever worked in.

I worked on a few other projects during my time there and had other great leaders – I am not trying to exclude anyone here I just have limited spoons at the moment – I want you to know you all made my life good – so good I actually began to believe I wasn’t an awful person who everyone hated. That was a gift I don’t think I ever expected.

I want to talk forever about my time here but I have other tasks to do today. I will try and remember everyone here but I just want to say thank you to you all.

The crew

This is going to take a few edits to truly do justice so if I don’t write much yet please understand I want to but I am tired – or just talk to me – I am on Twitter, i’ll let you know how I feel about you, but it’s always pure love. I will start with just FlutterVR team and add as I have enough spoons to continue. I will always only have happy memories of the time we spent together. You are all role models of mine, and will remain in my mind the best of friends. NOTHING IS IN AN ORDER HERE YOU ARE EQUALLY AS IMPORTANT TO ME. [Honestly have the worst anxiety of making people feel excluded because you were all amazing]

Zoe – Thank you. Thank you so much for believing me. Thank you for never attributing false intentions on my part and acting with pure genuine empathy always. Thank you for being there for me as a boss in a way I always needed but never had. Thank you for always making accommodations when I got sick and trying to always just make it as easy as you could for me when I did struggle. You are an incredible person, an amazing mother, a kick ass derby player. You are not just an Industry Icon, you are the future of what work should look like – and what clear leadership should be.

Emma – Thank you. I don’t even know where to start here, you were such a natural leader – you had incredible project management skills. I’d never had a leader before that ever tried to understand me like you, you researched Crohn’s disease when I had a flare, you tried to make life better for me, and you absolutely did. I was able to gain confidence through your excellent feedback, I never felt as though criticism came from a negative place – it was always constructive. You are the most compassionate person, friend, leader, art director, communicator… You do amazing things always. I am lucky to have gotten to know you.

Beric – Thank you. I am not a terrible programmer, I truly know that, unfortunately I can’t code due to PTSD but I think I’ll get there eventually. I couldn’t believe that someone just wanted to help me like you did always. You were the best mentor anyone could ever ask to have. I actually gained some confidence in my abilities, and you were always there when I needed help. You got me through so many negative roadblocks I had built for myself based on past experiences. It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever not had imposter syndrome. I felt like I belonged. You did that – I may have had the abilities but I never had the belief. I miss talking to you, and I know I need to reach out more to actually discuss programming. I hopefully will in time. Thank you for being such an excellent friend, a dedicated mentor, lead programmer, and for trusting me.

Lisa – Thank you. Kūmara is truly special. I am so glad you are working on a new game with help from the government. I can think of no one better suited to do the work you are doing. You taught me so much about leaning into my feminine side even just through passive role modelling. I felt safe discussing with you things that I often had to hide from others about myself. You are such a great writer, you care, you do amazing things. I will look forward to whatever you do as the multi-award winning person you deserve to be. Rising Star in the industry is an understatement – you are the whole galaxy. Miss you and Connor e hoa.

Dylan – Thank you friend. You were incredible to me, I enjoyed all the time we spent together both inside and outside of work. You made me feel at home in Ōtepoti finally. It was so daunting moving down here, but you helped me to fit in. You have such a creative and brilliant mind, you are a dedicated and hard worker. You do incredible things for other people all the time. Never undervalue what you do – you bring endless joy to so many people. I’ve never met a person who was just like “sure lets make a controller out of tea cups and bananas and play some games”. Nothing was too challenging for you. You are someone with great gifts. Thanks for being an excellent friend and I will catch up soon – maybe even in the next few days.

Jonas – Thank you for teaching me so much about nature, and animals. Thanks for listening to me rant about US politics despite never having been there. You have such incredible knowledge about all things nature, and you truly are a compassionate and caring person. I always enjoyed talking to you, and it was so great to come to work each day to see you just being the most happy and caring person to everyone there. You emanate good vibes always. I hope you are not still dealing with visa stuff… One day we will catch up friend!

Tim – You started a truly beautiful and wonderful company, you had values you lived by and those shone through each day I was there. You created an environment where team work and acceptance were core parts of the business. I’m sorry we didn’t get to spend more time together, but I truly am happy for you working at ThatGameCompany and pursuing your dreams. You deserve only the best. You were committed to a vision – some things people rarely ever do.

I will add more to this as I can remember. Thank you though, thank you for seeing me that there was some sunshine in the world after only living in darkness. Everyone here was such a joy to work with – and I can’t wait to see what you all do next.

I love you all – Rory.

Daily blog challenge

I will be writing every day on being Autistic for April using this list of prompts:

Alt-Text Format with links to other blogs – Autistic Acceptance Month – 30 Days of Acceptance and appreciation:

Published by roryreckons

I am an ADHD/Autism Coach as well as ADHD/Autism/OCD/CPTSD advocate and independent ADHD/Autism researcher. I am an ADHD/Autism Coach who trained through the ADD Coaching Academy. I write mainly about ADHD/Autism/OCD/Mental health issues, but will also discuss morality, abolition, and current affairs occasionally.

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