In April of 2020, I was among the countless other Americans who lost their job when the coronavirus put the global economy into a virtual standstill. Unfortunately, this loss was for me another in a series of career disappointments that left me feeling so unsure of myself that I didn't know which way to turn. The job had not been going well for months and unlike many others who were caught off guard by the disappearance of their jobs, my termination was not exactly unexpected.
I have dyslexia and ADHD and have been working in roles where communication and attention to detail are of the utmost importance. To get the ideas in my mind down into words is a challenge, to say the least. Then why would I choose this path, you ask? Because my dual interests in technology and public engagement led me down a path where I discovered that Developer Relations is my career passion. And I'm good at it. I love finding new ways to connect with people.
But building the repertoire of adjustment tools to make my experience with dyslexia and ADHD a strength rather than a weakness to my performance has been a long and painful road. Part of what has made this so painful is that the companies and managers that I've worked for have been less than understanding. Reprimands for slower replies in Slack and demeaning email messages regarding typos were par for the course.
The job that ended in April was the most despair-inducing of them all. What made a terrible experience even worse was that when I took the job I was hired by someone who believed in my strengths and understood my working style. We meshed as visionaries for a methodology of Developer Relations that focused on making technology relevant to the widest audience possible. Unfortunately, as often goes in life, the ground was shifted beneath me and that manager who so greatly supported me was let go from the company and new management took over with a different way of leading and a different version of how I would serve the company. This new approach exacerbated my difficulties and removed the ability for me to express my strengths. In other words, my dream job turned into my living work nightmare.
Out of a commitment to the company and to my family, I tried to make the best of it. I turned into a "yes person", worked extra hours, met my deadlines, and learned the art of taking insults from superiors without verbally fighting back. And still, two weeks before my termination I was put on a good old, menacing Performance Improvement Plan, or PIP for short. Initially, I knew it was a strong signal that the end had come. Two difficult weeks later, I found myself once again searching for the company that could see me for the potential that I hold.
This year has brought a confluence of mental and emotional trials. I found myself without a job in the middle of a pandemic. I'm a neural divergent person in an atmosphere where few people are familiar with the scope of what that even means. I live in America as a Black man in the turbulent climate of racial divide and police brutality. I felt like a burden and an outcast every time I listened to the news, checked my email, scrolled through Twitter, or looked in the mirror. Suicidal thoughts crept into my mind and became an extended resident. It felt like there wasn't a place where I fit in with this world, and subsequently, I figured maybe I shouldn't be in it.
Without the loving and caring support system of my friends and family, I may not be sitting here writing this blog post. Somehow, despite the pandemic, I managed to connect with those who were able to offer me encouragement and unrelenting hope. Sadly, not everyone who experiences this type of alienation is so lucky. They gave me the energy to keep going and the courage that propelled me to keep working on myself. That work didn't focus on me changing who I am, but accepting all of me, including the parts of me that I felt shame about.
The silver lining is the fact that life throws us unexpected things is that sometimes, just sometimes, what gets thrown your way is a surprising gift, a blessing rather than a challenge. Today I'm a Developer Advocate at Daily. I know we have all accepted that there's no perfect company out there, but before I started working here I had no idea that this close to perfect existed. They are even more emphatic about the customer experience than I am. They care, I mean truly care about how people are treated regardless of who you are or what you do. Since Daily enables video experiences on both websites and applications they really understand the human connection and that shows in every aspect of what they do. I now feel empowered and encouraged to speak about tech and my story, to an audience that still finds passion in learning new things. I know it's my job to speak about Daily, but I'm not sure you could pay me to shut up about them.
My story is not unique. I know there are many out there, especially now, who are struggling to find their new path amidst loss and despair. I hope that this story finds readers who relate and who are lost in thinking that it's the end of their journey. As the oft-quoted wisdom by C.S. Lewis goes, "There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." There is hope for you and a place for you. Changing what you know about yourself can inform the path you need to take to get where you're meant to be. I need you to believe that not everyone has given up on you because I never will. My DMs are open on Twitter if you need to reach out.
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