Mechanical and Engineering Manager at CityFibre, Stephen Moore, is also Co-chair of the Disability and Carers Network. CityFibre is the first business where Stephen has felt comfortable enough to openly talk about his dyslexia and the challenges and hidden strengths it brings. In this interview, Stephen shares his personal experience and how, for him, one of the biggest parts of coming to terms with dyslexia was being able to talk about it. He also explains why he found CityFibre was the right place to open up.
In your career, what has been the most difficult aspect of being dyslexic for you?
In the past, the most difficult conversation was with a manager or colleague who only ever saw dyslexia as a weakness. It meant that I felt uncomfortable talking about dyslexia and faced a dilemma about when to ‘go public’. I’d typically wait until I was faced with a tricky task before I’d have to clearly explain where my strengths and weaknesses lie. But openness and public awareness of dyslexia has really been the first step in helping people overcome this barrier in my view.
October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, what does an awareness month like this mean for you?
It’s just a great opportunity to get people talking. I didn’t know I had dyslexia until later in life. I had struggled a lot when I was younger without really knowing why and there came a point where I decided on a career change. I applied to study for a Masters in Screenwriting and during the application, I was asked if I wanted special dispensation, such as extra time during exams or modified exam papers, for my dyslexia. It was the first-time dyslexia was mentioned to me! The penny dropped and a lot of things then started to make sense.
I graduated with a Masters in Screenwriting and won some awards for my scripts and short films. When I then went back to my first career choice of Civil Engineering, I knew more clearly what I could achieve. Everybody has different learning styles and once you understand your own mindset, you naturally remove a lot of barriers. I think if more people are comfortable with their dyslexia, we can change the conversation to be about what we can achieve, not what we can’t.
What is the most common misconception about dyslexia?
The main misconception is that dyslexia is associated with weaknesses and has no upside. People focus too much on the negatives. We all learn and think in different ways, and we should be encouraging more people to share the hidden strengths of having dyslexia. I only found out a few years ago that people with dyslexia have a lot of superpowers, such as good problem-solving skills, creativity and three-dimensional thinking to name a few. If we focus on the positives, we can reduce the stigma and encourage those with dyslexia to speak up and share with their colleagues and peers. I wish there had been more public conversation around it when I was younger.
Do you feel that CityFibre understands your dyslexia?
My view is that CityFibre genuinely wants to make things better for employees. It’s the first time I’ve seen a company with that mindset – where we are encouraged to back each other. The approach towards the Network’s ambition was sincere enough for me to step forward, stick my hand up and talk about it. I don’t want to see other people struggling with it in the same way I used to. It’s one of the reasons I joined the Disability and Carers Network. In my view there is a risk of prejudice for anyone that ticks the “disability” box, and to be able to play my part in building trust and confidence is important to me.
What advice would you give to other people with dyslexia?
People who have dyslexia should be proud and own their individual strengths. In fact, employing someone with dyslexia brings far more advantages to an employer than negatives, so it’s time we start seeing this!
If you know you have dyslexia, reflect on what advantages this brings you, and consider asking yourself “am I in a job that will allow me to shine?”. Place yourself in an environment where you can gain experience whilst nurturing your strengths and working on your weaknesses. But most importantly, don’t be afraid to talk and set expectations because we all have limitations, and we all have to find ways to overcome them. Finding solutions is crucial.
A good example for me is presenting. With dyslexia, it’s easy to trip yourself up reading notes on a PowerPoint or on a document. I worked really hard to be less of a script-reader and more of a performer. Indirectly, having dyslexia has made me a much better public speaker and I actually relish the opportunity to present now. When I do talks, for example, in schools or colleges, I always make a point of mentioning my dyslexia. Why? Because it allows me to show that it hasn’t stopped me from achieving my goals and getting where I am today. And who knows, I might just inspire somebody else.
With the support of our Employee Networks, we're working hard to make sure that CityFibre is a place where people feel comfortable to let their superpowers shine and bring their best selves to work every day. To find out more about our culture, click here.