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How dyslexia helps me think outside the box as a project manager

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Through my younger years, I struggled with mild dyslexia that wasn’t diagnosed until my second year of secondary school.

My teachers and parents could not understand how my grades had dropped from my previous SATS results, which showed I was in the top five per cent in Hampshire, to very poor grades.

Once diagnosed, I understood what I would struggle with academically. I had to learn techniques to be able to complete some reading and writing tasks that most other children would find easier in order to keep up with education and try to finish school with some sort of grades.

At this point in my school life, dyslexia was not well known or understood. Teachers were still not trained on how best to teach people with dyslexia, so unfortunately I struggled through the rest of my school years. This had an impact on my behaviour; at one point, I was expelled, but was let back into school to finish my GCSEs, managing to get C and D grades.

How I learn

My problem was that the classes in certain subjects were mainly taught using textbook learning, and I learn best by doing mixed practical and listening learning.

I was always very good at design and technology, PE and art, and I was very sporty, playing for top local football, ice hockey, swimming and tennis clubs and always being one of the main team members, or taking a lead role, at each club.

My practical and project management skills

Having a practical mind meant my understanding was useful in most construction scenarios for any problems that needed resolving. My practical thinking and problem-solving skills were very strong in comparison to many others, especially those from an academic background. I can resolve most practical problems instantly, where other academic managers would struggle.

I also understood that, because my dyslexic brain was wired up differently, my way of thinking would normally be very different to the rest of the team members. My thoughts and ideas would be considered great contributions because I think out of the box, which gave me strong project management skills.

My drive to succeed

I have worked my way up from the bottom, determined to keep progressing my career. I started working on the tools as a bricklayer, then progressed onto site manager, project manager, contracts manager, construction director for both national house builders and main contractors working on very large volume housing and government projects, as well as one-off high-end prestigious prime/super-prime housing projects. Then, more recently, at the start of the year, I started up my own company again, Future Homes Design and Build, which is what I had always wanted to do.

Even though I did not enjoy academics, I drove myself through training and courses, so I could be the best at what I do. I have recently completed a Level 8 in Global Strategic Management and Leadership, which is equivalent to a doctorate, and I plan to complete a thesis top-up to gain the full DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration) as well as further APM training/accreditations, such as Chartered Project Professional (ChPP), and an IPMA Certification.

If I had asked my 18-year-old self whether I would be doing a DBA and getting addicted to training and qualifications, I would laugh and say, “No way!”

My goal to bring awareness to the project profession

I am trying to bring awareness about dyslexia to APM members, as I think it is a subject that has not really been touched on and has a lot of potential for positive promotion.

It would be great to let others know that it is OK to be dyslexic. You can be proud of your dyslexia and the positive aspects it can bring. Do not give up. We are greatly needed and desired because of what we can offer.

I realised it is gift and can be used to my advantage and in a positive way.

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