More than 4,500 employees have joined an internal company Yammer group to celebrate authenticity and each person’s ability to contribute uniquely to their team, P&G, and society at large. When we found this story – and many other stories – we couldn’t wait to share with employees and our blog readers.
#SomeoneLikeMe is a campaign—initiated by our Global Business Services organization—to encourage employees to share their individual experiences – highlighting programs that make a difference, mentors who helped them run when they were learning to walk, and personal moments of self-discovery.
This story is the human manifestation of our new Equality & Inclusion strategy and a celebration of expanding our recruitment guidelines to welcome and support employees that may have otherwise slipped through the cracks. Danny’s words are a gift to us all.
I want to share how it feels to be included.
By Danny Lakes, P&G Manager - Global Business Services
I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome when I was 16 years old, just before my senior year of high school. During this year, I was also taking some college classes through Ohio's Post-Secondary Education Opportunity program. I had done online schooling since the 6th grade because of bullying problems that I encountered that caused my grades to start slipping. My public education environment wasn't a safe one, and while I can't say why those people bullied me, I heavily suspect it was because I was different in a way I wasn't aware of at the time.
Because I was away from public education for so long, I didn't have a ton of opportunities to socialize in person. I had plenty of friends I spoke to online, and I made really strong connections with them, but I was a bit lost on how to socialize with people that were physically in front of me. This is when I asked my parents if they could help me find a counselor before I started my senior year of high school.
Throughout my entire life up until that point, I knew I was different in a lot of ways; I just didn't understand why. When my counselor diagnosed me with autism and started naming off common symptoms, it all made sense to me. I finally had an answer as to why I was how I was. Throughout that year I spent in counseling, I studied how to socialize with others, and my counselor encouraged me to attend social events around the Cincinnati area. I reluctantly attended some of the ones she suggested, and every experience taught me something new.
By the time I left counseling, I felt confident and ready to take on the world of college. But, I was still acutely aware of my differences compared to others, and how I had to kind of "mask" myself in order to make friends at first. Slowly, I was able to open up to others and show them the true side of myself, but some people didn't quite understand me. And that's what I had been used to my entire life.
People would try to understand me for a while, but eventually, they gave up trying and I got pushed to the side. This is just how life seemed to go for me living with autism. It's hard to understand someone with a different type of mind than you, and not everyone is willing to put in that effort.
Because of this, after college, I struggled to find a job that would stick. No job I worked for before P&G had any sort of knowledge of autism or neurodiversity, or the ways to accommodate someone who is neurodiverse. I fully expected that I'd be bouncing between jobs for the rest of my life because I didn't think any employer would actually take that much of an interest in me to learn about what it meant for me to be neurodiverse.
And then my cousin told me about the opportunity of a lifetime.
I began my journey at P&G last year near the end of summer. I was one of 10 people that were accepted into the GO's 5-week neurodiversity program. I was incredibly nervous going into it. All I had was an Associate's degree in Computer Science. I hadn't had the money to pay for a Bachelor's, and I was really nervous that I wouldn't know as much as others because of it, despite all the nights I stayed up doing personal coding projects and learning more beyond college.
During the second week of the program, we had to split into groups, and each group chose someone that would coordinate the work the team would do. This person would serve as the leader of the group, while also working on tasks themselves. I asked my group who they thought would be the best leader. They all looked confused when I asked this, and one person spoke up. "We thought you were going to do it. You clearly know what you're doing." I was stunned. Not a single peer in my entire 26 years on this planet at that time had recognized my skills in such a way. That was when I started realizing that I might just be cut out for this.
Throughout that entire program, P&G demonstrated its commitment to neurodiverse individuals, granting us accommodations to help us succeed. They taught us about technical skills, social skills, mindful meditation, all kinds of things that really brought out the best in everyone.
Ultimately, only four people were hired, and I was one of the very fortunate people chosen. Ever since I was hired with P&G, I have felt entirely accepted and embraced for who I am as a neurodiverse individual. I've never been able to just let myself open up the way I have in my current position. People see my neurodiversity as a benefit, a new perspective. I don't have to hide myself, or be apologetic for being a little "quirky" with how I communicate. In a technical role, my unique way of thinking helps bring new ideas to the table, and I've been able to collaborate with others to bring about ideas that help create a more efficient way of doing things.
I've never felt so included as part of a team. I remember a night I came home from work during my first month of working, and I broke down crying tears of joy because I was just so happy to have a job where they truly understood what being autistic meant. It wasn't just my direct team, either. The whole community of P&G has been willing to learn about neurodiversity and accept who I am. I've been able to work faster and more efficiently because I feel so happy to be working in this accepting environment.
P&G truly has been the first time in my life that I've felt like #someonelikemecan be included for all I am, rather than just parts of me. Thank you to all P&G'ers that make an effort every day to create an inclusive environment!