Lessons from Temple Grandin

I recently had the privilege to hear a keynote speech and Q&A with the highly successful Autistic Professor Temple Grandin Phd. She did not only develop a career teaching people about Autistism. Her work with cattle revolutionised an industry. She is an academic professor in this area. And remember she was born in the 40s. So she worked in a male-dominated (at times discriminatory) environment. By the way, Clare Danes acted in a movie about her. And Temple Grandin was in Epping to discuss the entire Autism Spectrum.

So if you had a world renowned speaker right in front of you, what would you do? Did I sit quietly and listen? Yes, that. But I also asked questions. It could be daunting. I felt star-struck. But if I didn't reach out to this guru, I would regret it. Some of her lessons are applicable for anyone.

I asked with microphone in hand, "I'd like you to please help me choose a career." This was a serious life question. The relevance to her is that I have Asperger's Syndrome. Here is what I learned from this leader:

Rule 1: Find a niche. 
I told her I studied marketing at university. Temple used her wise knowledge  to see this: marketing is really general. Step one was to find a niche. Her niche was designing things that made cattle feel better. But in that conversation, she was helping find my niche. The medium would be blogging. The focus would be on something within marketing such as consumer behaviour or advertising. Then I would blog about it. So my blog Market Marvels will take off more now.

Rule 2: Asperger's is secondary. A career is primary. 
Temple Grandin said some young people get caught up in the Asperger's. They get fixated on it. She did not recommend I make a career out of only Asperger's. Temple's Autism career is on-the-side. Her primary first career is in something else - and she urged me to do the same. Life needs to be balanced. Toastmasters and Asperger's need to be on the side for me. A niche within marketing will be my focus.

Rule 3: Get work experience early. 
One thing Temple Grandin emphasised was this: get work experience anywhere. She worked from her early teens, and recommended others do the same. Teens and early twenty-somethings can either get roles in their chosen fields, or in any job. I worked full time before university. It was in an unrelated field. But the basic admin skills have been transferred to recent jobs. Temple inspires me to continue the professional journey. The work place presents a whole new set of un-written rules for an Aspie to learn. Some work problems happen for neuro-typicals too. That's how the issues end up in Cosmo. The earlier we learn these work skills, the better.

The talk with Temple Grandin was truly inspiring. She reminded us Aspies that we can be successful too.


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