I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was very young. Too young to remember, in fact. Many know that life with a learning disability can be quite challenging, but those challenges have also taught me courage, humility, and perseverance.
One struggle related to my disabilities is difficulty starting tasks. My executive functioning can make it challenging for me to find the motivation to begin a project, even if it’s something I have a passion for or that will advance my career. I’ve been very mindful of this disability when working, as it can be difficult to complete a goal when I lack the motivation to meet the prerequisites for a task. To combat apathy, I regularly switch between projects. Frequent, short breaks to focus on a new task can help cement what I’d been studying. I use this strategy in other areas of my life as well. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the large amount of information needed to complete a certification or prepare for a project. Breaking up the steps to achieve these goals helps me combat work-related stress and a lack of motivation. I can gain perspective on a large project by breaking down the moving parts and gears that make up the bigger picture.
Information technology is a big field, and it’s important to make a distinction between my current role and my short- and long-term goals. Right now, I’m working as a deskside support analyst, and my job allows me to wear many hats. Having different tasks and projects to work on gives my brain plenty of things to focus on, which complements my disability well. I’ve always preferred to stay busy rather than not, if for no other reason than it can be hard to manage ADHD without consistent projects. I can become bored or dispassionate about a hobby fairly quickly, and I need to be able to focus on a variety of projects to stay passionate about the work I do.
My long-term goal is to become a penetration tester—someone who audits a business or organization’s network and security and advises them about ways to improve. This long-term career path will require me to gain an intimate knowledge of many other disciplines under the information technology umbrella, thus giving me more than enough information to learn. I find such an expansive and expanding field invigorating. My disability built that passion into me over time. Overcoming the struggles in front of me is an extremely rewarding experience. By handling challenges head on, I got on the career track of information technology, a field that requires dedication and a passion for challenge.
I recently accepted a position that will help me achieve my long-term goal of a career in cybersecurity. The position is similar to what I do now, but it also includes network design and system administration. I’m excited about this because I love learning by doing. I could spend hours studying for an exam, but without finding a practical application for the information I study, it’s difficult for me to retain and apply that information. Putting myself in a position in which I learn new material by doing helps me retain and understand the information more than just studying it would. This will help me achieve my career goals and become a more well-rounded and desirable employee.
Being a working professional with a disability is challenging in any field. We all find our own unique methods for meeting and achieving our goals, but having a disability puts what you’ve learned and achieved into perspective. Challenges are an opportunity for me to show how my disability can be a tool to overcome the difficulties I face in my personal and professional life.
I feel grateful for the challenges that I’ve faced and will continue to face as I grow older. I cannot imagine a life without my disabilities, and I’m thankful for the motivation they provided me, the empathy they taught me, and the passion for learning that I’m so fond of. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Aidan Satterwhite is a member of NCLD’s Young Adult Leadership Council and currently works in the IT department of The Hartford, and he strives to graduate to a position in cybersecurity.
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