lundi 6 septembre 2021

An uplifting autist's journey in a software engineering project

I've been on the autism spectrum since I'm born and I've been working on a large number of computer science engineering or research projects since more than 20 years. To earn the indispensable money needed in our wonderful world where a real number represent so much. For fun. For ethical reasons. For the intellectual challenge.
I've recently worked in such a project for the money but with an unmet management type so far. The words that come to mind to describe it are bossy, immature, inflexible, unrespectful, egotistical, brutal, control freak and of course dysfunctional and finally unable to reach its primary goals: keep a software development team motivated and produce high quality software meeting customer expectations.

Now let's imagine you immerse an autistic person in a project managed in this way: a deeply logical mind with almost no ego inside a highly illogical process. Like a canary in a coal mine will warn on imminent air issue by its death, he will detect any illogical decision taken, any theoretical or practical engineering identified issue, any processes not matching the best current practices known in software engineering lifecycle.
The end results that such managements produce are varied but to make it short: software architecture and engineering issues, service outage, repeated major bugs or security flaws, discretionary censorship, unrespected team member work at the source code flow level, incorrect use of basic and well-known software engineering design patterns, etc. The total list is quite long but the idea is that things do not work correctly at various levels in a non anecdotal fashion.

Sharp minds will remark that the premises in the description are not enough to reach these results. And they're right, you need more ingredients in the recipe. You also need a non working feedback loop, no work real delegation, pass-through, decisional power concentration and missing engineering skills. And as you can imagine, his autistic mind will be highly titillated by such a surrounding work environment.

Do not think that he, as a concerned project team member, will be able to improve the situation with argued solutions, own initiatives, best practice results demonstrating, stating the truth, ... . All of them done according to the hierarchy within his disability communication traits. There's only one point of view, one way of doing things that will prevail and that will not be the one he might propose by slightly bypassing the inherent lack of feedbacks reception or collaboration processes (no codesign, no coarchitecture, no collegiality, no coanything): he has to realise that such a management is not able to listen nor learn from its mistakes: it doesn't even recognise them as such, is not able to build a fruitful engineering discussion without ending it by the most illogical argument type, the authority argument, in favor of the option coming from it, whatever is its validity to solve properly an engineering issue.
Just like Boeing had processes that allow to build planes that does not take off properly. Unfortunately, such processes might only be put on stake if a catastrophe happens. It's like building a house of cards on quicksand and being convinced it's rock solid.
And even more, he will be identified as a troublemaker by trying to do so and his disability targeted as the root cause in order to avoid the management to question itself. His purely human reaction to the management unrespect and brutality will be attributed to his communication disability, his legitimate request that the very same rules apply to all source code introduction with no pass-through as his inflexibility disability, his argued refusal to make or let go in without any rationale wrong or unoptimized source code changes as his authority recognition disability, and so on.
The unfamous structural discrimination that all people with a disability face is here pushed to its extreme: he will be asked to follow a specific coaching in order to change his behavior. Would you decently ask a people in a wheelchair to stand up to be able to work in his current workplace? And of course the management that have not trained itself on autism considers it acceptable and continues to order him to do work disregarding of his disability characteristics. As expected, the coaching have not given the delusional expected outcomes for the management, although he has scrupulously followed it and made the necessary extra-efforts to apply its directives: his disability traits are obviously still there and because of its intrinsic lack of participation to it despite having being asked to do so, the management is still dysfunctional, as well as his reactions to it totally unrelated to his disability, and still not able to cope sensibly with them. The deconstruction of the myths on autism and their impacts on working world integration that the coaching would have been able to provide have not happened for one side. Statu quo. It can even reach the dysfunction level of projecting on him its very own dysfunctional behaviors or mistakes as an avoidance psychological mechanism to truths he has expressed and use them as a delusional justification to put him on the shelf. Or how to make unfairness a project rule: the real responsibility for its malfunctions is unfairly transferred to people who have none.

In the end, all this has an impact on his mental health and he finally stops to have any motivation left at working in such a project: his creative logical mind and engineering skills are hindered by the worst management he has ever met in his life: it's the main brake of the project growth but unfortunately it's not smart enough to truly be aware of it.

The lesson to learn for people on the autism spectrum at working world integration: do not stay too long in a work environment that ask you to do tremendous effort everyday to cope with it if the effort is not blatantly shared with your work environment. If you identify after a while that conflicts arise with some dysfunctional coworker on a regular basis that go beyond acceptable and respectful communication in a workplace, stop trying to fix it if the effort is not blatantly shared. You have enough to do on a daily basis with your own disability and are not able to deal with dysfunctional people if they are not aware of it, consider their dysfunctional behavior acceptable and refuse to listen and apology. You will have then to find a smart way to leave sooner than later such a work environment to avoid any deeper impact on your mental health, especially if you have previous records of work environment integration without any issues or confirmation by external third parties following closely your current integration in the work environment that nor you nor your disability are the root cause. Do not forget that in the end the canary dies, and then you have to run away as fast as you can to save your life.

What is the point at staying in a work environment that is not able to cope sensibly with your disability traits, identify your strengths and use them but instead hinder them or even more discriminate indisputably them?

The main issue for people on the autistic spectrum is the detection of the interaction dysfunctions inside a work environment: their brain is not wired to fully understand social interactions even after years of experience. Identifying that a social interaction on a work environment is above the level that they should accept will remain a hard task for them. But they can have some watch points: are their propositions welcomed with a follow-up whatever the way they express them? is the reflexion effort they have to do to interact with their work environnement really higher than the regular one in other environment? do they feel more uncomfortable than usual on a regular basis after their day work? have the global tone used when people at work interact with them a negative impact on their mood on a regular basis? do they feel more tired than usual on a regular basis after their day work?
The first two questions answers are an indicator of the structural discrimination level in a work environment. While unfortunately it can't be avoided for the moment in most countries, it has to stay at an acceptable level: its impact can be handled by them without much efforts. The other questions are indicators of the impact of that discrimination on their well-being and a way to detect if its impact is above a threshold they can handle.
If the threshold is exceeded for a while, they first have to report it in details with proofs to the disability integration structure or service residing inside their workplace and expect some corrective actions to be taken. If no actions are taken or have no real impact on it, they only have one option left: leave that work environment. But they have to do it the smart way and avoid any understandable over-reaction to the structural unfairness generated by the structural discrimination. If their workplace have other teams, they first have to ask for a team switch to change the surrounding guilty work environment. If that's not possible for whatever reason, they then have to quit the company, hopefully not in a hurry: search for work with the help of associations dedicated at disabled people integration and follow-up to ensure the new one will fit. If it has to happen in a hurry, that would mean that the detection phase have failed and that the impacts of the structural discrimination are already so high that their health is already affected at various level: that's what sick leave is meant for. They can use it to rest and contact the aforementioned associations to look for a solution or a new work. They really have to keep in mind that in that case they need external help by trained people on disabilities, wherever they find it: recognized associations, medical, ... .

The structural discrimination cause and effect topic for disabled people is so large that a simple post on a blog can't describe it fully. The existence of that structural discrimination is a topic by itself but its roots rely on the same base: the difference understanding and acceptance in a society at large, as long as that difference respects ethics. Ignorance remains its main contributor, whoever are the people targeted by it. Its existing mechanisms are so deeply hidden inside the society structure that most people are not aware of being part of it. Education will remain the main vector of its reduction, even its eradication if people are cooperative enough. One of the strength of a civilisation that call itself 'advanced' should be: recognize its guilts and fix them.

jeudi 6 août 2020

Modelling multi-phased electrical system interconnexion

Since more than a year, I've started to work on a software made to administer electric vehicle charging infrastructure. One of the most important task when it comes to design that kind of software is to properly model the electrical components that will be handled by the core code. And there's two  […]

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dimanche 1 décembre 2019

The upside down war.

Once upon a time on a flat planet was living two peoples : one on a side and the other on the other side. One side was always in the dark and the other always under the light. The two people have never met and didn’t even know the existence of each other. The dark ones was short, without any hairs  […]

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samedi 12 octobre 2019

Long time, no write ...

Dear readers, that probably are now close to zero, I would like to apologize for the long silence but I've been busy finishing my engineer degree and finally moving to my brand new work at SAP Labs France. No one has complaint about the silence, so I'm pretty sure nobody care about my words :) In  […]

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mercredi 19 septembre 2018

Démocratie numérique (partie une)

Explorons les relations entre démocratie et numérique dans une série de billets :

Le développement du numérique transforme durablement nos sociétés dites modernes. L'exercice de la démocratie ne fait pas exception à la règle.

Une bonne vingtaine d'années après la mise en vente de l'ordinateur personnel et de l'accès internet pour le grand public, qu'est donc devenue la démocratie ?

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mardi 18 juillet 2017

Streaming web radio sur mobile

Heureux possesseur d'un smartphone et d'une connection en 4G, tu te dis que tu vas pouvoir streamer tranquille sur ton smartphone un peu tout ce que tu veux tout en marchant, courant, conduisant bref bougeant. Tu installes donc son lot d'applications permettant de streamer de la vidéo et de l'audio  […]

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lundi 22 mai 2017

Extrait condensé de sagesse littéraire

Au détour d'une page d'un roman de Murakami, dans la bouche d'un personnage : Les thèses déconnectées de la réalité, les termes vidés de leur sens, les idéaux usurpés, les systèmes rigides. Voilà ce qui me fait vraiment peur. Je crains toutes ces choses et je les exècre du fond du cœur. Je laisse le  […]

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HTTPS 4 da pipeule !

Je suis persuadé que vous avez remarqué que l'intégralité des sites sous le domaine est passée en HTTPS, vu votre appétit dans leur compulsion :-). Ce petit miracle sécuritaire a été possible grâce à la CA toute totomatique qui a, depuis quelques années maintenant, atteint la  […]

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