[Intro slide: Blue CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo appears in middle of screen. Company website www.cai.io appears at the bottom center of the screen. The following screen shows eyebrow text that reads "Webinar On-Demand", below is the title of the webinar, "Building an inclusive workplace for neurodivergent employees to thrive." And below the title is the CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo]  [Title slide: An image of a group of 3 individuals in an office setting is shown as the background with the title of the webinar "Building an inclusive workplace for neurodivergent employees to thrive", is displayed over the image in the middle of the slide. Above the title is the CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo.] 00:00:07 - 00:01:06 Anthony Pacilio Welcome everyone to today's webinar, Building an inclusive workplace for neurodivergent employees to thrive. My name's Anthony Pacilio, vice President of Neurodiverse Solutions at CAI. And a little bit about me. My responsibilities are to help organizations build neurodiversity programs and to lead our global expansion efforts of CAI Neurodiverse Solutions. My expertise lies in managing neurodiversity recruiting efforts, developing candidate pipelines, and ensuring best practices for onboarding, support, training, and organizational success. And a couple things before we begin. I'd like to take a moment to go over some of the fun housekeeping items that we have. So if you have any questions to submit during the discussion, we ask that you use the Q&A feature found at the bottom bar of your Zoom app. There's going to be a time at the end of the discussion then we'll address as many questions as we can. In addition, you're going to find more information on the event in the chat box, so be sure to follow along with that as well. [Agenda slide: A white background is displayed with "Today's agenda" in the top left-hand corner. In the middle of the screen are four boxes. The top left-hand corner is a dark blue box with the number 1 on it. To the right of the box is text that reads "5 min. | Introduction". The bottom left-hand corner is a blue box with a number 2 on it. To the right of the box is text that reads "35 min. | Discussion". The top right-hand corner is a light blue box with a number 3 on it. To the right of the box is text that reads "15 min. | Audience Q&A". The bottom right-hand corner is a green box with the number 4 on it. To the right of the box is text that reads "5 min. | Wrap Up".] [Guest slide: A white background is displayed with all four speakers on it. In the top right-hand corner is text that reads "Meet our guests". The speakers are displayed horizontally across the middle of the screen. The far left is the first speaker's headshot. Below the headshot reads "Dr. Alicia Martinez, Dean of Student Experience and Belonging: Chief Student Affairs Office at Mitchell College." To the right, is the second speaker's headshot. Below the headshot reads "Chris Sienko, Content Acquisitions Manager and host, Cyber Work with Infosec Podcast". To the right of that speaker, is the 3rd speaker's headshot. Below the headshot reads "Renaud Jean-Philippe, Service Delivery Lead at CAI". On the far right is the fourth speaker's headshot. Below the headshot reads "Anthony Pacilio, Vice President, Neurodiverse Solutions at CAI." Under his title and company is a blue button that reads "moderator".] 00:01:07 - 00:01:55 Anthony And lastly, I want to let you know that we're recording the session today for future viewing. So first, let's take a look at today's agenda. As you can see, we have a few things that we'll be talking about today and we're also going to be sharing with you each question visually as well. Now let's move on to our guests. First, let's meet Dr. Martinez. Dr. Martinez is a seasoned leader in higher education currently holding the esteemed position of Dean of student Experience and Belonging, as well as Chief Student Affairs Officer of Mitchell College. With a rich background spanning various roles, Dr. Martinez's expertise is deeply rooted in fostering student well-being and community engagement. She earned her bachelor's degree in English from Stony Brook University, where a passion for education and student advocacy first ignited. 00:01:56 - 00:02:46 Anthony She went on to complete her master's in organizational leadership from NIA College and her doctorate of education from St. Peter's University in higher education administration. DR. Martinez's professional journey is marked by her relentless pursuit of excellence in leadership development, service learning, and a holistic wellness as well. She spearheaded numerous workshops, seminars, and conferences aimed at empowering students to thrive academically, socially, and personally during their college experience. And driven by a deep sense of purpose and a commitment to fostering inclusive environments where every student feels a sense of belonging. Dr. Martinez continues to make significant contributions to the landscape of higher education, leading an indelible impact on the lives of students and colleagues alike. Welcome, Dr. Martinez. 00:02:47 - 00:03:39 Anthony And next let's meet Chris Sienko. Chris is the host and co-creator of the Cyber work with InfoSec podcast, which I joined and it's awesome. Since 2018, Chris has welcomed and interviewed over 250 cybersecurity thought leaders to the podcast to learn about the latest cybersecurity trends, and he strives to make the cybersecurity and careers accessible and fun to all. Chris is also an online acquisitions editor for InfoSec's Daily blog, InfoSec Resources. He's a graduate of Elma College with a BA in English and communication. And in his spare time, he's written about music and art for many print and online publications. He watches an unhealthy number of movies. He has never walked past the used bookstore without going inside. Welcome, Chris. 00:03:40 - 00:03:42 Chris Sienko Thank you for having me. 00:03:43 - 00:04:50 Anthony I'm glad to have you here. And lastly, let's meet Renaud Jean-Philippe. Renaud is a service delivery lead here at CAI. He's been working in information technology for over 15 years, which is quite a long time Renaud, and currently supports an engagement with a financial institution in the Midwest. I point to my left because I might need [inaudible 00:04:05]. Working within analytics and software testing. So thank you all for being here with us today and I think we're going to get started. So let's chat real quick here. So neurodiversity is a valuable asset that brings diverse skill sets, opinions and backgrounds to an organization. So by providing resources and supportive accommodations, players can cultivate an environment that encourages and motivates their employees to not just survive, but to thrive. And that's the key here. So embracing neurodiversity and creating a strong workplace culture empowers those employees to show up to work as their authentic selves. 00:04:51 - 00:05:30 Anthony But in doing so, employees feel valued and they're driven to learn and advance in the organization. So that results in increased retention, loyalty and morale for everyone. So in this 60 minute webinar, our guests are going to share best practices on how to create a supportive workplace where neurodivergent employees can thrive, including some of these like the steps for establishing an inclusive learning environment, how to build employee confidence to advocate for future goals, ways to foster a diverse workforce that embraces neurodiversity and tips for designing mentorship programs that promote ongoing professional development. [Question slide: The slide is shown with a blurry background with the question over top of it in the middle of the screen reading "Building on years of experience within the corporate atmosphere, how do you start to lay the foundation of an inclusive learning environment? What have you found has helped you the most?" Below the question is a white banner across the bottom of the slide. Speaker, Chris Sienko's headshot is at the far left of the banner with his name, title, and company written out as: Chris Sienko, Content Acquisitions Manager and host, Cyber Work with Infosec Podcast to the right of his headshot. The CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo is in the bottom left-hand corner, and to the far right of the slide, two speakers and the moderator are in frame having the discussion.] 00:05:31 - 00:06:04 Anthony So again, if you have questions during this entire time, please make sure you use that Q&A feature and we'll get you as many as we can. So Chris, Mr. Sienko, first question to you, my friend. So a lot of years of experience that you have within the corporate atmosphere, how do you start to build and lay the foundation of an inclusive learning environment, I guess? And the second part to that, what have you found that's helped you the most? 00:06:05 - 00:07:00 Chris Yeah, great question. Thank you for having me again, Anthony, and thank you CAI for hosting this. To start with a little bit of my own story, I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 48, which is about a year ago. And I only discovered it because I happened to read a crucial book about it because someone in my life asked if I thought they had ADHD and I'd never really given it a thought. I read it, saw myself in there. It was like a solving a 40 year cold case mystery that it just slotted many things into place. I started in public relations in 1996, switched to publishing in 2007, and then cyber security in 2013. So all this is to say that corporate culture in the late 90s and early 2000s was in such different places that I worked at, the small amount of therapy that I would get back then I would do out of pocket because it seemed like the people in the financial department could see when their employees were using their health insurance and for what. 00:07:01 - 00:07:55 Chris And there was always this fear that they might report it to your boss and might find reason to terminate you. To find ourselves in 2024, where the very idea of neurodiversity as being discussed, not just as an issue to be solved or avoided, but an alternate way of performing that can be accommodated and encouraged. It just feels like I've skipped sideways into a different timeline, especially in the last 5, 7 years. So that being said, in my current position, the corporate attributes that have been the most successful for me in the growth and development have involved... So to give you a sense of what InfoSec does, we have 2 main learning tracks. There's the boot camp classes where you go somewhere for 5 days and you learn 14, 18 hours a day. You just live and breathe the certification. And then it's like the going to the gym. 00:07:56 - 00:08:49 Chris Once you get to the gym you can't leave, then you just do the thing. So for people who might have anxiety or nervousness around starting something new and big, all you got to do is get your gym shoes on and get there. So by comparison, we have another platform called InfoSec Skills, which is a learning platform that you do in a self-directed way. You can choose from all sorts of modules and videos and hands-on things. And that's more like the going back to night school kind of approach, which can be maybe a little fraught for certain people because you might have another job that you're doing and you're trying to learn on the side and where do I start and how do I get started and can I really even doing this? So I've seen most success with people that involve learning modules and environments that were almost micro regimented in their progression of topics. 00:08:50 - 00:09:39 Chris You know very clearly go from here to here, go from here to here, you're swinging from branch to branch kind of thing. And what feels so radical to me now versus 25 years ago is the idea of treating an employee or a student who's neurodivergent not as a problem to be solved, but as a special asset to the company that could be hard for great things provided that the position is structured as much as possible to their viewpoints and needs is just amazing. The most important thing I've seen within all of these is using a single guiding principle with your new employees, with your learners, is that even if the tasks are set in stone, the positions and responsibilities can and should be adjusted to get those tasks done in whatever way is going to be the most beneficial for the person. 00:09:40 - 00:10:29 Chris Whether it's lately modified working hours or focused work hours or online or in-office doubling or small but frequent logistical checkings. I'm one of those people that I might ask you a 5-minute question every hour for the first 2 days and then you won't see me for 2 months. But those 5-minute questions, I just need that one point poked at until it makes sense. But these little small changes were not a given 10 years ago, 20 years ago. Do your work, do it the way we said for you to do it. And the ability to really improve a neurodivergent's professional's ability to do great things comes from really being open to the small changes that can radically improve the person's success rate and just general good feeling about the work they do. 00:10:30 - 00:10:52 Anthony Yeah. And I think you make a good point. So you talked about small changes for the individual, and I think that we say it a lot, but it is so true, even if you're talking about interviewing or you're talking about learning systems, those small changes, they work for neurodivergent individuals, but they also work for neurotypical people too. 00:10:53 - 00:10:54 Chris Absolutely. 00:10:54 - 00:12:14 Anthony So you're coming back to the 25 years ago. Gosh, if we started that 25 years ago, we'd be light years ahead right at the moment. So I think that's valuable commentary for people to understand and hear is that by making those minor modifications, you're not only supporting that individual, you're actually... You don't even know it, but you're supporting the people around them because those small modifications lead into, okay, I understand this a little bit quicker, a little better. And now the people to my left and to my right understand, okay, they got it. Now we're a cohesive team. And I think that part of it makes the inclusive environment itself that much more great. So I think what you said holds a lot of truth. So thank you for that. I appreciate that. Renaud, I'm going to switch to you, my friend. As a service delivery lead here at CAI, you're front and center when integrating CAI Neurodiverse Solutions associates into a client's environment. What's been your experience when you take a look at the client's environment? [Question slide: The slide is shown with a blurry background with the question over top of it in the middle of the screen reading "What has been your experience when accessing the the client's environment?" Below the question is a white banner across the bottom of the slide. Speaker, Renaud Jean-Philippe's headshot is at the far left of the banner with his name, title, and company written out as: Renaud Jean-Philippe, Service Delivery Lead at CAI. The CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo is in the bottom left-hand corner. To the far right, two speakers and a moderator are visible having a discussion.] 00:12:15 - 00:13:05 Renaud Jean-Philippe And that's really a great question considering once an engagement between CAI and the client starts, we definitely need to pivot and see what's the operating model within the client's environment while addressing the need. Whether it's testing, development, operations, et cetera, et cetera. So in that sense, as part of my role, I'll come in, review what's the technology stack that's being leveraged within the client site. And also I'll be very transparent with the client as well just to say, "Okay, my understanding of this technology and its intended purpose," just to ensure that we ultimately align. Ultimately, I find that it's important for me to understand this because ultimately we're looking to eventually staff a team. That's the ultimate angle. And as part of that in my assessment, I have to ensure that the skill set that we're ultimately looking to acquire for the team ultimately aligns, right? 00:13:06 - 00:13:45 Renaud Many times when I find it's programming languages such as Python, Java, or maybe it's a database querying tool which requires SQL, and those are all skills that we're looking for our Neurodiverse Solutions team and ultimately our team lead as well to bring to the table such that we can begin quickly looking for the right fit. Ultimately, I'll say the second thing is looking at the need. What is the ultimate problem that we're coming in to resolve or help address? This is where I'm starting to look at what are the tools that the organization is privy to? So in essence, do we need new tooling? Do we need new technology or can we already leverage what's already there and optimize what's already in place. 00:13:46 - 00:14:17 Renaud Depending on the engagement, so some clients they may be open about using the open source community such as mainstream frameworks such as Selenium, Cypress or any other technology where we can easily get access to it to the open source community, or there may be another or other organizations that require high level of approvals, which we ultimately knew, okay, we ultimately learned at that point maybe we're confined a little bit, so we're gathering that intel to make quick decisions such that we can add value. 00:14:18 - 00:14:54 Renaud Ultimately, I do have the conversations and let's say for example, a client may say, "Hey, Renaud, we're looking to have a new testing framework." We'll ultimately make suggestions, but of course we're going to ultimately dialogue about options so we can quickly uncover the limitations that we have as well. I like to say that ultimately these conversations lead us to making decisions quickly. Things can always change as we're uncovering things, learning new information, but ultimately we're ultimately looking to add value. And then last point that I'll say there is, I also assess how the team members will fit into the overall project team. 00:14:55 - 00:15:27 Renaud Depending on the engagement sometimes we may be integrated into an existing team already, so they may have a team that is already doing work, we're just going to be paired with that team, so we have to get that intel as well. Or is it our team that is going to be starting up a brand new project? Or there's a new initiative within an organization, is our team going to be working independently or being integrated with the existing team? So these questions help us assess how we're going to play a role and how we can quickly make those decisions and ultimately add value to the client. 00:15:28 - 00:16:16 Anthony So the client, have you found that clients have been hesitant or overwhelmingly welcoming in some of the feedback that we're able to provide to them? When we go out and we look at even the physical environment, we're trying to make sure that our associates or people coming into that organization feel comfortable. We want them to be able to walk in and do the best job that they can, but sometimes when you point out to a client that maybe, hey, the lighting here is a little tough or it's a little distracting over here, have you found them to be okay in making those minor modifications within that environment? 00:16:17 - 00:16:47 Renaud Yeah, it's about communication. You can ask a client, but we also have to give them the reason why, right? In that sense, does it aid in our productivity? Is it a detriment? These minor things that we've seen minor, that we may think at times as minor can be distractions. So I had an instance where we have a team member who's going into the office hybrid 3 times a week and then in dialoguing with her, ultimately uncovered that while folks are in the office, it gets quite noisy at times. So I can't come in and say, "Hey, y'all need to keep it down." 00:16:48 - 00:17:20 Renaud Ultimately, we're looking for options. Okay, can we have this team member sit in a less occupied area, it's he or she comfortable with that? In addition, on our end, we'll say, "Okay, do we need to provide noise counseling headphones, right?" But in that sense, it is about finding a justification because again, it may be an asset is not common to say the least, but as long as we're justifying, we're giving the information to the client and here's the reason why we're asking, it's going to help. And then in essence, I haven't found any challenges with that implementation there. 00:17:21 - 00:18:00 Anthony All right, that makes me happy that you say that, right? Sometimes you're dealing with large organizations. Can be a little bit disconcerting to have to change. Change is always one of those big things that gets people per se, but I'm glad that we're doing a good job in making that happen. Well, let's pivot a little bit to education. So Dr. Martinez, what's Mitchell College doing to make sure neurodivergent individuals coming from Mitchell College are prepared for this workforce and what it entails? [Question slide: A blurry background of individuals walking outside is shown with the question over top in the middle of the screen. The question reads "What is Mitchell College doing to make sure neurodivergent individuals coming from higher education are prepared for the workforce?" Below the question is a white banner along the bottom of the screen. To the far left is speaker, Alicia Martinez's headshot followed by her name, title, and company written as: Dr. Alicia Martinez, Dean of Student Experience and Belonging: Chief Student Affairs Officer at Mitchell College. The CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo is in the bottom left-hand corner. To the far right is two speakers and the moderator having a discussion on screen.] 00:18:01 - 00:18:41 Dr. Alicia Martinez Absolutely. Thank you so much for asking this question. I think it's to start off, let's just talk a little bit about Mitchell College. Mitchell College is a small private institution in New London Connecticut. The mission of the college is really about celebrating and developing the power of unique minds. And I think that's really important to understand our population and the foundation of the work that we do. One, I would probably say about 48% of our population are students who are identified as neurodivergent. And the big thing for us is being very intentional in the approach to student learning and the career readiness. 00:18:42 - 00:19:23 Alicia When we look at everything that we do here, it's really starts with the Mitchell Ability Model. And the Mitchell Ability Model focuses on several essential abilities that are really interwoven throughout the curriculum so that every student develops these competencies, which are important skills needed to be successful beyond college and really be really workforce ready. The competencies include critical thinking, communication, social interaction, diversity and global perspectives, values, ethics and social responsibility, analysis and problem-solving and last but not least, information and communication, technology, literacy, all of these things clearly are really important foundations for students to be ready to go into the workforce and really be able to contribute positively. 00:19:24 - 00:20:15 Alicia But in addition to that, our students are expected to be able to prepare by being a part of a lot of different types of experiential learning activities. So we have internships, learning labs, service learning, and this is something that's a requirement for students to be involved in these high-impact practices. And in support of this, Mitchell also offers specialized support services and programs including the Benson Learning Center. And this is a program that really focuses on the academic development of the students and helping them to learn time management, how to manage their coursework, how to be able to self-advocate. The other aspects that we have is the Mitchell... Excuse me. The Mystic Sales Program for students needing extra social and executive functioning support as well as a variety of other learning communities. 00:20:16 - 00:21:02 Alicia So all of these things are mapped out together so that students can really chart their own path. So when you think about the way that students learn today, students don't necessarily come in and all of them have to follow the same exact path. We understand and expect that students may take different pathways. So we start off here at Mitchell College, students have the opportunity to have a transition program. So the transition program from high school to college, and that's really for students who are college-able but may not be college-ready. So the themes that Mitchell program helps students prepare for that transition, and then they have the option of going into Mitchell College and they have a 2 year or 4 year degree so they can again decide which is the best pathway for them and then after the 2 year or 4 year degree, they can go straight into the workforce. 00:21:03 - 00:21:42 Alicia If they choose not to go straight into the workforce, we also have another transition program called the Stairs Program, which focuses on helping students become more independent. Again, build some of that self-confidence and learn how to manage and maintain a career. So they have those different aspects and then while in college, they also have the opportunity to be a part of what is called again The Mystic Sales Program, which focuses on that executive function and social skills while they're in college so that they're better prepared beyond. So really it's Mitchell has provided a really neuro-inclusive and equitable learning environment for learners and provides multiple pathways to help support them to be able to get to that next step that they're looking for. 00:21:43 - 00:22:20 Anthony Yeah. And I appreciate the whole equitable learning piece as well. I think the things that you're providing to the students now in preparation for the workforce and whatever that workforce looks like to that individual, it's going to look different for everybody. I think the 7 pieces that you mentioned play a large part. I think the executive management and those skillsets play a huge part, but I think there's one thing that you said, and we're going to have some questions on this as well, is the advocacy part. 00:22:21 - 00:23:25 Anthony It is one of those things that it can be... It's a personal preference, but it can be one of those things that is a very challenging piece for individuals to do. Myself included. So I'm neurodivergent myself, it took me... Chris, it took me 40 some odd years to do that as well, but I think Dr. Martinez, the pieces of Mitchell College that you're putting in play right now, those can only help as soon as they get into the workforce because they have those skillsets. So I appreciate the advocacy piece. And I think Chris, just riding on the advocacy, the role that the individual can play in their own careers and advancement opportunities about advocacy. What are some suggestions you've seen companies partake in to make sure that they're promoting that advocacy? [Question slide: A blurry background of an inside of an office is shown with the question over it in the middle of the screen reading "What are some suggestions you've seen companies do to make sure they are promoting advocacy?" The bottom of the slide is a white banner across the slide. Speaker, Chris Sienko's headshot is at the far left of the banner with his name, title, and company written out as: Chris Sienko, Content Acquisitions Manager and host, Cyber Work with Infosec Podcast to the right of his headshot. The CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo is in the bottom left-hand corner, and to the far right of the slide, two speakers and the moderator are in frame having the discussion.] 00:23:26 - 00:24:23 Chris Yeah, this is a really good question and it's one of the more challenging things I've seen for many organizations in corporate environments to get right, because to take an active part in the professional advancement and career opportunities of its neurodiverse workforce means I think to some degree, at least in a perceptual way of sacrificing some degree of productivity, even if it's only in the short run. I mean, one of the things again that I've really seen, Covid, remote work really shook up the snow globe in a lot of ways in terms of going from this model in many places of what is wrong with you over to what can we do to help you kind of models? And like I said, I've interviewed over 250 guests since 2018, and one thing that comes up again and again is that a lot of companies want their employees to take part in professional development of one type or another. 00:24:24 - 00:25:23 Chris They like the idea of it and even better if it directly relates to the work that you're doing for the company. And they'll tell you, "We really strongly encourage you to improve yourself and we have these resources and feel free to do it." And then that's what happens. And yet very little time in the work week is often allotted specifically for those employees to do the hard and often, especially if you're neurodivergent the slow work of learning new skills. So for a large swath of these professionals learning new skills that you need to advance your career or even learn how to do the work that you do in your job better now requires not just the company springing for the tools or the tutorials or the learning paths or even a road map to success to really truly do the work as part of your professional development means carving time into a work week I think with a reasonable number of hours in it. 00:25:24 - 00:26:13 Chris And that this time where this person will not be doing their actual job, which might lead to a little productivity leak for the whole department. And again, this is one of those things that just has been such a slow development. I think you see enough parodies of this kind of thing. Well, feel free to do your grieving during lunchtime and then slack us from your open heart surgery, whatever. So those jokes work because that's been the perception for so many years. But the main issue I've seen with professional development across the board is that I think a lot of companies treat it like the wicked stepmother treated Cinderella's plea to let her go to the ball. It's like once you finish your chores, once you've made your stepsisters dresses for the ball, then maybe you can go. If you get all your work done for the week. 00:26:14 - 00:26:59 Chris And also there's all these other emergencies to deal with this week. If you get all of that done, by all means get into the finish line and maybe give yourself an hour on our learning thing. And if a company wants to get you to get a new certification or a degree or even an intensive self-study course that'll help you do your job better but doesn't pull back any of your workload, they're forcing you to do your already hectic job and then spend nights and weekends to better yourself. I mean, if you want to learn something that betters you in a larger scale, then yes, do that in the evening. Don't do that during your work day. But one massive improvement I've just seen in a lot of companies that we've talked to is initiatives like Focus Friday where all but the most crucial meetings are taken off the table so that people can just sink in for hours at a time. 00:27:00 - 00:27:42 Chris People will put the focusing thing on their slack saying, "Not now I am working on this one thing." And maybe even a swath of hours in which team members are encouraged, if not outright requested, to turn off all work obligations even if there are deadlines and focus directly on the work of self-improvement. So I mean, I think we know that neurodivergent professionals don't do well when it comes to rapidly cycling between tasks. [inaudible 00:27:25] 45 minutes you could be deeply immersed and into a series of learning exercises or a naughty chapter of a study guide, and you can be completely outdone by an out of the blue urgent email request. Well, not all neurodivergent professionals learn the same way. Many of that I've spoken to require some degree of focus and centering and self-created quiet. 00:27:43 - 00:28:09 Chris And letting professionals do this as part of their work, I think requires a little more than a little trust on behalf of companies. Like everything that I've got to talk about today. Companies who want to do the real work of advocacy need to understand the collaborative and challenging nature of it and the perceptual nature of it. It requires trial and error and knowing that setbacks are inevitable and that these will lead to little slowdowns that will ultimately make everyone better. 00:28:10 - 00:29:33 Anthony Yeah. And well said. And I think there's also a bigger piece to this. So Focus Fridays is awesome, and I think that's great, and obviously to spend time doing some upskilling or getting certifications is great. But what I don't think that companies understand is when they get these certifications and when people are upskilling themselves, hopefully they're staying in that company as well, but that's going to learn to a better investment for that company as well. That can be the productivity, that can be a new thought process, that can be a new discovery. You got to give people the ability to see what they have internally, expand their minds, do something for themselves without having to hopefully do it on the weekend and cut into their family time. Because there's also that work-life balance that goes into this piece. So if you're working 60 hours a week on your job and doing your upskilling, what is that leaving you for you? And I think that is a lot harder to pitch to companies than it should be. Very focused. Chris, you're going to say something. I'm sorry. 00:29:34 - 00:30:15 Chris Yeah, yeah, just to add to that, that's all fantastic, and I totally agree. One thing I just wanted to add to that is that as we talk about each of these aspects of advocacy with the company, I think it's worth noting that none of them ever just stop at the thing. Getting the skill, like you said, is not the end point, and it doesn't mean now get back to work. If you have these greater skills, then possibly you should be able to be doing something different or improved within your company. You can either rise in your own position or you can take on more or different responsibilities. You can get things taken off your plate because you can do more high value things now. 00:30:16 - 00:30:59 Chris So all of these things that... These companies that a lot of companies say they want, we want a better skilled workforce, we want people who are happier and more fulfilled and more likely to stay. It requires buy-in in a lot of different ways, and one of those is... Like I said before, it's micro adjusting at all points. If your job hasn't changed scope or anything in 5 or 7 years, that's a problem. And either you're going to leave and find something that will give it to you or you're just going to calcify. So yeah, so I just want to make sure that we point out that learning is not the end point. It's a transformative aspect. 00:31:00 - 00:31:21 Anthony No, absolutely. And I don't want anybody to calcify on this call. There's no calcification. Renaud, kind of the same piece, and I'm just going to focus on the person themselves. So advocacy and the person at work, what can they do while they are there? [Question slide: A blurry background of a group of people is shown with the question in the middle of the screen reading "What are some tips and techniques that employers can share to help facilitate advocacy in the workplace? What about the person themselves?" Below the question is a white banner across the bottom of the slide. Speaker, Renaud Jean-Philippe's headshot is at the far left of the banner with his name, title, and company written out as: Renaud Jean-Philippe, Service Delivery Lead at CAI. The CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo is in the bottom left-hand corner. To the far right, two speakers and a moderator are visible having a discussion.] 00:31:22 - 00:32:00 Renaud Yeah, in that sense, one of the things that I've found for advocacy is I would say that just being transparent in the work that they're ultimately doing, right? In that sense, I know when it comes to working remote, we're not all in the same room. So how is it that we find an ability to be transparent in our work? Because in that sense, in that transparency, that is where the advocacy ultimately presents itself. So one of the things that I had implemented, one of the client engagements that we had, because I recognize that a team member may walk into a new environment and there may be some levels or varying degrees of anxiety. 00:32:01 - 00:32:48 Renaud And that doesn't only [inaudible 00:32:03] for neurodiverse individuals, that's for neurotypical, right? There's new lingo, new people, different meetings, and the list goes on and on. So one of the things that I did, and that was scheduled permitting of course, is I found I'm allowing team members to have one-on-ones with key stakeholders within the organization that they may be a part of has allowed the ability to have a personal touch where we're talking about things outside of work and also within work as well. So one of the things that I did, I scheduled one-on-ones with all of my team members, at least this was within the first 2 to 3 months of the engagement. We had 2 sessions for each individual, and it just allowed the team member to have dialogue with that VP who we're all reporting into. The other thing that I'll say is that meeting allows for walls levels. 00:32:49 - 00:33:43 Renaud Again, familiarity allowed for the wall to come down, and we had very productive dialogue there as well. The other thing that I'll say is within in an organization, especially if we're pivoting to something new, once we take the ability to do proof of concepts, that's another way that we allow for advocacy there. Because there may be a new challenge that may present itself that we quite don't know how to do. We may not know how to solution it. So we may time box an interval of time that we're going to say, "Hey, we're going to allocate maybe 2 hours or 4 hours to try to come up with a solution that we can ultimately present to a stakeholder." I find that having an environment that allows for that, especially when we're looking to solve a problem that we may not have a solution for immediately, allows for advocacy too, because ultimately these are certain problems and may lead to certain standards that we ultimately implement. 00:33:44 - 00:34:33 Renaud I'll give you a story. There was a dashboard that we were building, or the team had been building for a while, and the filtering mechanism wasn't quite intuitive to our user community. And in essence what I did was I said, "Hey, team." I grabbed 2 of my team neurodiverse individuals who are on the team and just said, "Hey, I can tell that our clients, at least our user community doesn't quite like the way this works." Imagine having to have multiple filters for different things. It didn't make sense. So I said, "Hey, let's spend the next 2 hours trying to find a solution that would ultimately resolve this problem." And in essence, within a couple hours or so, I got back with the team and we found a solution that ultimately became the standard across all the dashboards that we eventually build. 00:34:34 - 00:35:09 Renaud So those are the moments of advocacy one where we say, "Okay, we find a problem, can we take that on and present it to our stakeholders to ultimately say that we're adding value to the organization?" And that's one. I think for the team members themselves, if there's an opportunity for us to get them to be comfortable with failing fast and learning and giving them the opportunity to step into these challenges, that is the biggest way that I find that not only will the client be happy, but there'll be a sense of appreciation by each team member as well that takes part in those challenges. 00:35:10 - 00:36:09 Anthony And I appreciate that. I think that all the things that we're talking about today, those pieces of the advocacy part, and I think more importantly, the things that the team is doing fosters their own advocacy, that tribe mentality. And I think Dr. Martinez, I'm going to flip to you on this one. So it's a personal decision advocacy and how that person wants to promote who they are. And we see that many times the individual steps back and just goes with the flow a little bit based on their previous life experiences. So psychological safety is paramount, but what can we do to encourage and safely that is? That advocacy can be beneficial to career progression? [Question slide: A blurry background of a woman with headphones on is shown with the question over it in the middle of the screen reading "What can we do to encourage advocacy and remove the stigma that it hinders career progression?" Below the question is a white banner along the bottom of the screen. To the far left is speaker, Alicia Martinez's headshot followed by her name, title, and company written as: Dr. Alicia Martinez, Dean of Student Experience and Belonging: Chief Student Affairs Officer at Mitchell College. The CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo is in the bottom left-hand corner. To the far right is two speakers and the moderator having a discussion on screen.] 00:36:10 - 00:37:05 Alicia Well, I think one of the first things is really looking at the fact that encouraging advocacy, whether it's in college or at the workplace, the main thing it requires is creating a supportive and inclusive environment. And part of that is helping people feel comfortable and feel safe to be able to be their authentic selves and to be able to really, truly address their concerns. So when I think about here at Mitchell College and the things that we do, the first thing is we, from orientation on, we talk about this feeling of belonging, acceptance and being part of a beloved community where we honor each person really as the unique individuals that they are. And when you think about the actions or activities that you can do to really help accomplish this, it again starts with exactly what you talked about, psychological safety. And you do this by providing avenues for individuals to safely express their opinion, share their ideas, and that's how you start to encourage it. 00:37:06 - 00:37:56 Alicia But an important piece of it at any, again, institution is really looking at how do you role model that behavior? Because the best way for students, learners, employees to learn how to self-advocate is that they see their leaders doing it and they see their leaders rewarding it and saying, "Wow, you just mentioned this and I think this is going to apply to so many other people." And I think what Renaud and Chris talked about when you talk about transparency, you really have to be very, very clear. So a lot of times when the students come forward and they advocate for something at the institution, a change, they give me the information, I make a change. And when I come back out to them, the very first thing I say is, "This is because of what you told me." I want you to see the impact of what your words are and show them that there's an appreciation for them speaking up and really advocating. 00:37:57 - 00:38:46 Alicia The other piece of it too is making sure that you're providing training and resources along the way. Because the one thing that you know with any person is if you don't practice or exercise something that you've learned, sometimes you forget it or it's a bit duller. So again, whether you're in college or you're at the workplace, there has to be this opportunity for you to be able to refresh. And especially when you talk about students who are identify as neurodivergent, there's a need for consistency. There needs to be that constant practice so that they're always able to bring that to the forefront because there are other challenges that these individuals are trying to work through. So the repetition helps to be able to sustain that. The other aspect of it is making sure that you have, again, avenues for feedback about whatever's happening, what's going on, but that those are all accessible. 00:38:47 - 00:39:38 Alicia Because a lot of times people are like, "Oh, I have an open door policy." Well, not everybody wants to come and knock on your door and have a conversation that's face to face. Do you have an alternate avenue for them to maybe send you an email? Is there a suggestion box? Is there an electronic version? Is there an audio version? There's a variety of different things that you need to consider because everyone the same way, everyone learns differently, everyone communicates differently, and everyone needs to be able to express themselves in the best way that they can effectively do that. And it does start really in college age and with parents. A lot of the conversations I have with parents sometimes is when you think about students who are neurodivergent parents have been fighting all of their lives to make sure that these students are getting the resources and the support that they need straight through high school, they continue to try to do that in college. 00:39:37 - 00:40:16 Alicia We don't necessarily want them to continue doing that while the student is employed after college. So a lot of the conversations I have to have is help parents to understand that they also need to switch off from being the facilitator of everything that the student does to being the coach. Just like we're trying to coach them so that they can learn that and be more empowered to be able to self-advocate for themselves. And then the last piece is mentorship and sponsorship. You want to have programs for mentoring and sponsoring that they can also, again, role model. And it goes back to those basic things. And that's some of the things that I think are really important in order to help students be able to learn how to advocate and be able to carry that forward into the workplace. 00:40:17 - 00:41:12 Anthony And I think that goes to our theme today though. We want people, students, employees just in general to be able to thrive and not just survive. So the high school to college, you're teaching the basic foundation of how that's going to look. And then Chris and Renaud, once they get there, we got to be able cultivate that and make sure that they have all the tools and the skillsets that an individual needs to be successful to maybe move on to a different position. They get into that one position, but we want to be able to expand to that position. And so Chris, what are some ways that employers can build an inclusive workforce that as the screen says, embraces neurodiversity? [Question slide: A blurry background of a group of people is shown with the question over the middle of the slide reading "What are some ways that employers can foster an inclusive workforce that embraces neurodiversity?" The bottom of the slide is a white banner across the slide. Speaker, Chris Sienko's headshot is at the far left of the banner with his name, title, and company written out as: Chris Sienko, Content Acquisitions Manager and host, Cyber Work with Infosec Podcast to the right of his headshot. The CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo is in the bottom left-hand corner, and to the far right of the slide, two speakers and the moderator are in frame having the discussion.] 00:41:13 - 00:41:52 Chris Yeah, so one of my mantras for cyber work and that I've just built up over course of years is the importance of understanding the difference between what I call statements meant to open conversation and statements meant to end conversation. Though the former are inquiry and the latter are truisms. So saying, "We don't have enough qualified candidates because HR is too busy looking for unicorn candidates," is often used not to open conversation, but to close it. You're basically saying, "Oh, well I guess there's no changing HR. I guess we're stuck." Well, but companies who lean on explanations, like we'd like to hire diverse candidates, but none ever apply, is something you hear a lot. 00:41:53 - 00:42:24 Chris And I don't think it's a statement meant to open the conversation, but to shut it down. I mean, the next question is, well, why don't they apply? Where are you looking? Do they know you exist? What is your current method of search? Is there something about the way you describe your office culture that makes Neurodiverse candidates or diverse candidates in general see your company as something that's full of red flags? Or are you just saying we can't find diverse candidates because you'd really just like me to change the subject? 00:42:25 - 00:43:30 Chris That's always worth asking. But advocacy for neurodiversity and cybersecurity means I think making the conscious decision to... A desire to attract and retain neurodivergent professionals into your organization's DNA as integral to your company as your company's statement of purpose. Because once you bring neurodiverse and other types of diverse professionals into your company, you have to take an active interest in evolving your company culture to one that is actively excited about welcoming employees with different skills, backgrounds, and lived experiences. And this goes back to what we were saying before, Anthony, about the gulf between, "Here's the tools for you to improve yourself, now go do it." Or, "Hey, you got it, congratulations. Now get back to work." And to your point, Dr. Martinez, I think there's just such a gulf between, "We have an open door policy," and, "Tell us what you need." I think that that's when you see someone, a friend of yours online and they're really struggling saying, "Let me know how I can help." 00:43:31 - 00:44:23 Chris That can be an almost impossible bridge. This person's already going through so much. And then you want them to tell you exactly what they need. You can change it to, "I would like to help you in this way. Let me know if that's all right." And I think that really leads to... All of these things that I'm suggesting for companies require a lot more work. It's not just throw money at a problem, it's not just set the intentionality. It's like you have to continue to evolve your company's culture to seek out and recruit and advance more diverse professionals into your company. So even if it's a team leader or someone high up at the org chart who has to make that first decision, we're going to do this, we're going to change this on a company-wide level. Diverse teams and diverse companies continue to evolve when the employees of the organization continue to amplify that work. 00:44:24 - 00:45:05 Chris Because cybersecurity as a practice strongly benefits from a variety of problem solving methods and perspectives and ability to see into blind spots with a security platform or strategy. Like a very dear friend of mine in the identity sector pointed out that verification systems in one case required her to hold her passport in one hand and her camera in the other and take a picture of both the passport and her face, and she said it was nearly impossible because of her arthritis. These are things that you don't necessarily think of when designing the system. If you don't have these other issues. People with neurodivergent ways of processing information can get stressed or frustrated with a poorly designed capture. 00:45:06 - 00:46:13 Chris People who don't like their computer screen locked at work every 5 minutes when they're going to get coffee. I've learned you can leave a PowerPoint slideshow running and the computer won't lock screen. That's a security problem, but it's a workaround that people are not always thinking of. And we've seen ample examples from security identity and privacy researchers about the deleterious effect of neutral AI functions and hiring practices, deprioritizing unconventional i.e. non-European or Caucasian names, facial recognition not being programmed in a way that responds to faces with a variety of skin colors. But within all of... We see these as problems that a diverse security team can solve better. So there's the actual work benefit but to make that happen requires just such a massive company-wide change. You can't just say, "Oh, we want to do it. Oh, it's not happening." So I think with all of these things, so much more intentional work on a day-to-day basis is required than I think people understand. 00:46:14 - 00:46:43 Anthony Absolutely. Absolutely. I appreciate that. And we're getting down on time here. We got about 14 or 13 minutes left. I want to go to mentorship real quick. So I'm going to go Dr. Martinez, we talked about mentorship, whether it's work, school, home. What's Mitchell College's mentorship path for students? How does it work? [Question slide: A blurry background of people in an office setting is shown with the question written over it in the middle of the screen reading "What is Mitchell College's mentorship path for their students? How does it operate and become successful?" Below the question is a white banner along the bottom of the screen. To the far left is speaker, Alicia Martinez's headshot followed by her name, title, and company written as: Dr. Alicia Martinez, Dean of Student Experience and Belonging: Chief Student Affairs Officer at Mitchell College. The CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo is in the bottom left-hand corner. To the far right is two speakers and the moderator having a discussion on screen.] 00:46:44 - 00:47:18 Alicia Absolutely. It pretty much starts from the onset that student comes onto campus. It's part of our orientation program and we started with orientation leaders serving as mentors on how to acclimate to college. That extends into the first year experience class where these same students remain in the class and they transition into journey mentors, guiding the students for the entire first year. Then there are a variety of different programs depending on what level the student needs mentorship in. So we have a leadership development program where there's mentorship that's tied into there with faculty and staff as well as peer mentors. 00:47:19 - 00:47:50 Alicia The Mystic Sales program has a mystic mentor that ties, again, pairs with the students more specifically. But I think one of the biggest pieces to keep in mind is Mitchell being such a small institution, we know our students really, really well. So we also are able to identify students who might need mentorship at different components in their transition or while they're journeying through. So then we also do some individualized mentorship for these students, ensuring that they have some role models and that they're encouraged to really and be empowered to make some decisions for themselves, but learning from others. 00:47:51 - 00:48:16 Anthony Oh, that's great. And I'm going to go rapid fire for the next 2 questions, and then I think we have a couple of questions at the end here from some audience members. So Chris, this one's to you. You talk to experts every week for your podcast. What have you learned about mentorship strategies? [Question slide: A blurry background of a group of people is shown with the question over it in the middle of the screen reading "What have you learned about mentorship strategies? What are some examples of successful programs that have been built and sustained?" The bottom of the slide is a white banner across the slide. Speaker, Chris Sienko's headshot is at the far left of the banner with his name, title, and company written out as: Chris Sienko, Content Acquisitions Manager and host, Cyber Work with Infosec Podcast to the right of his headshot. The CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo is in the bottom left-hand corner, and to the far right of the slide, two speakers and the moderator are in frame having the discussion.] 00:48:17 - 00:49:16 Chris Yeah, there's a lot of conversation actually going on right now around the concept of mentorship and the give and take of that. I was at Women Impact Tech in Chicago in 2023 last year, and I heard from several panelists at the Energy Corporation Exelon talk about some of the benefits, but also pitfalls of having mentor programs in which, for example, high level professionals who are women mentor younger women professionals only. And it's true that it's good to have the role model aspect and that there's these specific problems that can be solved in certain types of mentor-mentee relationships, but also by making it a women mentor, women minorities, mentor minorities, it goes beyond the work of DEI and into the realm of emotional labor. The other folks might not have to deal with all of this, and now you're putting in 20, 30 extra hours with your mentors. 00:49:17 - 00:50:10 Chris So this varies from company to company and based on who you have and who's available. But apart from that, I've also noticed that a lot more people, and this is even in the last year, have talked about how the mentor-mentee relationship is a lot more 2-way than people realize. Lots and lots of C-suite guests that we've had have said that they don't just want that. They need mentees just as much as the mentees need their insights. Upper management, as they said, can be a very lonely place and it can be very easy to forget the types of day-to-day struggles or questions that someone 30 years your junior might be experiencing unless you're doing as much listening as you're doing talking. But in short, I think mentors more listening in both directions and don't sweat too much exactly about doing it right. It's like big brothers, little big sisters, showing up is part of it and you'll figure it out in the conversation. 00:50:11 - 00:50:36 Anthony No, absolutely. I agree. And Renaud, almost the same question to you. Professional development's that key component to building somebody's career. What are you providing to associates when you're trying to build that mentorship part? [Question slide: A blurry background of two people working together is shown with the question over it in the middle reading "What are some of the key components that you teach when helping to build mentorship programs with clients?" Below the question is a white banner across the bottom of the slide. Speaker, Renaud Jean-Philippe's headshot is at the far left of the banner with his name, title, and company written out as: Renaud Jean-Philippe, Service Delivery Lead at CAI. The CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo is in the bottom left-hand corner. To the far right, two speakers and a moderator are visible having a discussion.] 00:50:37 - 00:51:35 Renaud And that's a really good question. Considering mentorship and development is definitely a key part of our program since many times we're ultimately employing individuals who may be earlier on in their career. So this may be their first role in IT, or they may have been underemployed for a bit. So career development is definitely the most rewarding part of my job because this is where I get an opportunity to see team members grow and transition and grow their skill sets. So within our organization, I know that we do have our learning management system in that sense where I'm looking to put roadmaps and plans in place such that we can say, "Okay, and so what are your career interests?" If that person knows. And that we can... Although they may have a current assignment, let's say for example, they're working in operations for now, we understand that their operations, this is their day-to-day role, but I think Chris had mentioned we want to leave room for that learning and development room within the workspace, within the work hours there. 00:51:36 - 00:52:11 Renaud So it's trying to find those opportunities such that I can put a plan together and say, okay, X amount of hours a week, let's have you continue your learning in the midst of work and just time-boxing that and making it so that they're progressing there. And typically what I find is if someone is chomping at the bit and saying that, "Hey," you're seeing that they're consuming the information that lets you know that number one, the learning plan or development plan that you've put in place is working. Or you may have other individuals where you come up and you realize that they might not know where they want to go. So one things or an approach that I may take at times is look at their career path and say, "Okay." 00:52:12 - 00:52:42 Renaud Typically, what I've seen in this career realm, this is the next path, and I guide them and lead them in the particular way, and we adjust as needed. So that is the approach that I find is most optimal, seeing if the person knows and that we adhere to what they would want to get into and put a path in place. But again, many times you ask someone an open-ended question, "Where do you see yourself in 2, 3 years?" They might not know. And that's where we come in and break things down and see if we can continue to help them progress in their career. 00:52:43 - 00:52:44 Anthony My least favorite question is where you see yourself in 5 to 7- 00:52:45 - 00:52:48 Renaud Jean-Philippe In 5 years. Yeah. 00:52:49 - 00:53:27 Anthony Right. I always say, "I don't even remember what I ate for dinner last night, but you're asking me to look into my crystal ball and see where I stand in 5 to 7 years." So definitely a tough question. And I think from a client's perspective, they appreciate that the building up of that mentorship makes a transition when that person goes full-time to that client a little bit easier. We already have a pathway, we already know the individuals that we're working with. There's a familiarity that builds upon itself over time that we're working with that client. 00:53:28 - 00:53:32 Renaud Correct. And they get to see it as well. Right. Another thing. 00:53:33 - 00:54:09 Anthony Right. Of course. Of course. So that's a good spot to end on because I think we have time for maybe one-ish question or 2. So we did have one question that came in that's very intriguing. Chris, I'm going to throw it to you on this one. But it goes along what we were talking with Dr. Martinez about psychological safety. So the question is, what's the number one thing you would guide an organization to implement to increase psychological safety? It's a very interesting question. [Audience Q&A slide: A blue slide is shown the words "Audience Q&A" in the middle of the screen. The CAI Neurodiverse Solutions logo is in the bottom left-hand corner. To the far right of the screen are two speakers and the moderator having a discussion on screen.] 00:54:10 - 00:55:19 Chris Yeah. That really is. I think in terms of psychological safety, you have to... The next question to ask is where is the psychological danger coming from? And so 2 things that come to mind are either the external resources that you'll be working with. Do you have challenging vendors? Do you work with the public who can go off the handle? Or I think from an internal perspective, I think it's worth figuring out a way to make the team that your neurodivergent professional is on understand and not just this person has other needs that we all need to step up and accommodate, which we should. But also let's all talk about what our working methods are, what time of day is best for you, what time of day absolutely does not work for you. 00:55:20 - 00:56:12 Chris When we think about the psychological danger of a job, it often comes down to I'm afraid to ask for this thing for myself that would make things slightly easier. And ultimately when it happens, it's like, "Well, you could have asked for that 10 years ago. We would've been perfectly happy to let you work 15 minutes later at the end of the day and come in 15 minutes," whatever. So I think number one is figure out where the perceived danger is coming from. And 2 is really making sure if you're working with a team, that the whole team understands the dynamics of everyone in the team and that everyone is being accommodated in a way that no one feels like they're the bumpy wheel that's causing everything to shake. 00:56:13 - 00:57:18 Anthony Yeah. And I think I'm just going to add a couple bits and pieces on here to follow up. I think education and training, right? So when you start a job, you always got to take those intro classes. I think a piece of that is about psychological safety. It's about explaining what the company is and who the company is and what kind of resources they do have up front so that you know. I think another big thing would be ERGs, employee resource groups, business resource groups that you can find your tribe in or just be able to have an open conversation with your management team. That is the biggest, right? I can go to my boss and pretty much tell him where I stand on a daily basis about my work and what I'm doing and what the challenges are. That openness and not everybody has that, but that openness allows me to not have a fear of pretty much anything. 00:57:19 - 00:58:06 Anthony And I lose that psychological, the warning signs that blink sometimes at me. So I think that's the largest piece to trying to solve that challenge. And listen, what a cool place to end on. I think we've tackled a lot of different topics today. It was very amazing to hear all of your different perspectives on the things that we talked about. Unfortunately, our time here today is over. But I'd like to thank Dr. Martinez, Chris and Renaud for joining us today and sharing their insight with us. It's been an absolute pleasure chatting with all of you. [Closing slide: An image of a group of 3 individuals in an office setting is shown as the background with the title of the webinar "Building an inclusive workplace for neurodivergent employees to thrive", is displayed over the image in the middle of the slide. Below the title reads "Thank you for attending! To learn more, visit: www.cai.io/neurodiverse-solutions.] 00:58:07 - 00:58:45 Anthony And I'd also like to thank the audience for your attention and participation over the last hour. And later, we're going to be sending everyone that attended a recording of this event to share with your colleagues or peers. So in the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about CAI Neurodiverse Solutions or know someone that is, please visit our website at cai.io, they'll have a contact form. And thank you all for joining us today, and please have a great rest of your day.


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