How I somehow managed to gracefully fall into an individual contributor career tailor-suited for my inattentive brain and thrive in the midst of a privileged but unstable work-life balance as a failed immigrant whose lifeline is a zigzag and career an furiously dotted line masquerading as a solid one.
In this talk I want to to be as honest as I can possibly be about the things we don’t really talk about when we discuss our careers. The many moments I thought about quitting, the huge bouts of luck that I really didn’t deserve, the times I’ve coasted because I couldn’t muster any more ambition, and the late discovery that my biggest weakness was also perhaps my most striking advantage: my executive dysfunction.
I think I’ll begin with the end: I won. I overcame. It seems clear as day now. Many of the people who supported me were adamant that I would eventually prevail but they couldn’t see when my own brain appeared to be plotting to defeat itself. They were only saying those nice things because I was nice to them, or because they liked me, or maybe because I had managed to fool them.
The middle is the land of setbacks. Of jolts of furious excitement reduced in ashes by immovable obstacles like immigration law, shifting business priorities, poor hiring practices, and the inexorable feeling that the best days of my career were fleeting, and forever behind me.
The beginning is still, somehow, the fuel that carries me to this day. The realization I had working at a Parisian electronics store in 2007 that all of my co-workers had dreams they either couldn’t or wouldn’t march toward. The simple truth that I had no excuse; that the fear of ruining a passion by turning it into a job wasn’t enough; it required exploration so that things that once seemed out of reach would suddenly appear achievable; and that letting people take the lead when my pride urged me to do otherwise would be the most rewarding part of that journey.
I know ADHD is fast reaching the level of trope in our industry. This is not going to be a talk about how to diagnose yourself, or even overcome attention issues. This is going to be a very personal discussion which I hope allows attendees to realize that a bunch of what they see in themselves as things to improve can be in fact the very things that set them apart from others.