After several years and many unsuccessful job interviews, Matt Thompson decided to list his disability on his CV.
Thompson, who was diagnosed with autism in 1995 when he was four years old, had been landing job interviews for work in the tech sector with ease, but was struggling to make it past the job interview phase.
Four years ago, he decided to put his autism on his resume when applying for jobs, in an effort to help his potential employer understand certain aspects of his behaviour due to his disability, such as his “lower-than-average eye contact”.
Thompson persevered and eventually started working as an IT support officer at a high school in Perth, and he has worked in the tech sector ever since, now working as an analyst and tester for the Western Australian government.
“For a while I was disillusioned, especially after being rejected by the likes of McDonalds, but I kept sending out my CV to schools, and that’s how I found work late that year, and I have never been out of work since then,” Thompson told Information Age.
“Working and my autism has never been an issue for me personally - the main issue was getting the work in the first place.
“Once I’m part of a workplace, whether it be my current job or my previous work, in particular in the schools, my work is very highly appreciated, from within my team and by clients and other teams, and I have made great impressions everywhere I’ve worked.”
Thompson has worked at the Western Australian Department of Transport as a business analyst and tester since 2017, where he executes scenarios undertaken by the frontline department staff working in licencing centres, driving assessors and elsewhere to ensure the state’s transport needs are met as quickly and efficiently as possible.
He also tests new features on the state government’s web-based app DOTDirect, which facilitates the easy renewal of driver licences and other documents.
“I love my job, the team I work with, and will be happy there for many years to come,” Thompson said.
For as long as Thompson can remember, he’s had an interest in computers and knew he wanted to work in IT.
Before joining the public service, he completed a computer science and computer security degree at university, before undertaking work experience at a local computer shop and then his old high school.
He then found work as an IT support officer at two different high schools, where he learned skills he is applying in his current job.
“Working in a high school with over 1,000 students and staff meant resolving IT problems as soon as possible to ensure education services could be provided to their highest quality,” he said.
After finishing at the high school, Thompson landed a short contract for a private company. It was after the end of that contract that he applied for a scholarship with the Department of Transport, which he received.
The scholarship ran for six months, with Thompson receiving an International Software Testing Qualifications Board certification upon its completion. He then began his role where he is serving currently.
Thompson is a member of ACS (Australian Computer Society), and said this has helped him find friends and connections in the tech sector.
“I have made some really good friends as a result of joining, and cannot stress the importance of networking and making connections, both professionally and socially,” he said.
He’s also made mentors through the ACS, including Jan Kornweibel and Brett Killen. Thompson also lists Curtin University’s Professor Tele Tan as a mentor, who he met through the university’s Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance.
Thompson now gives back and volunteers at the association, taking part in hackathons, mentoring as part of their CoderDojo program and administering its Facebook page.
Thompson has put a lot of time and effort into his social skills, within the workplace and outside of it.
“While a lot of people who meet me nowadays wouldn’t know at first, it’s taken a lot of hard work on my part to get to where I am today,” he said.
“To this day, I still find it hard to make new friends and relationships, but once I get to know people it doesn’t take me long to feel right at home.”