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Asperger's and IT: Why my prejudices are great for your business

But don't expect me to remember little Johnny's name

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Column Recently, Trevor Pott posted an article discussing prejudices in IT. I’ve been thinking hard about this exact problem for several months now. As a consultant to the SME market, every single prejudice I have directly affects my clients' IT infrastructure, potentially for 10 years.

Like Trevor, I have a disability. I live every day with Asperger's Syndrome.

The problem with Asperger’s is that those with it display (to quote Wikipedia) "intense preoccupation with a narrow subject, one-sided verbosity, restricted prosody, and physical clumsiness … as well as a lack of functional empathy”.

To explain, I’m a living breathing walking encyclopedia on a few, narrow and extremely limited topics. If I care about something, I care about it to the point of minutiae. If I don’t care, then as far as I'm concerned it may as well not even exist.

On a professional level this might seem to be a massive boon, but as a result of my lack of functional empathy it is like juggling chainsaws over a pit filled with crocodiles while it rains acid. Every day I force myself into situations that I’m not cut out to deal with socially.

One of the reasons that I am so damned good at what I do in IT is that computers don’t talk. They don’t expect me to know that they have three kids, two in high school and one in primary, or to remember to ask about them during my weekly, fortnightly or monthly site visit.

They don’t ask me how my day is going and expect me to realise that it's not an invitation for an in-depth discussion on what I learnt about Nutanix.

So how does this relate to my prejudices and why should this matter to my clients? Frankly, my prejudices matter because what I recommend to my clients must be the absolute best solution for their needs. Point blank, no excuses, period.

If it's not, then it can drive their business into the ground. They matter because clients often don’t have the skills to decide whether the solution I offer them is the best solution possible. My clients have to trust my word.

I’m painfully aware of my shortcomings. My Asperger’s means that sometimes I will get bogged down over the slightest detail. It means that I will agonise, long after it’s implemented and running like a well-oiled machine, over parts of your solution design.

It also means that I have systems in place to deal with the prejudices that I have developed during my years in IT. Know this: regardless of my prejudices, I will always, ALWAYS, do what is best for you and your business. I know my shortcomings, and if you’ve made it this far, now you do too.

I will design for you, and assist you in implementing, the best IT infrastructure that I can. This is what you pay me to do. Just please don’t be too upset if I forget little Johnny’s name. ®

Aaron Milne supplies IT system architecture, R&D, sysadmin and contract evaluation services to SMEs. He lives in Brisbane, Australia.

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