Eric Ahnell, administrator of our market development database, knows numbers. He can analyze spreadsheets and make connections between disparate data better and faster than anyone around him.
Autism enables Eric’s strong interest and ability with computers and numbers, and also makes him struggle with social interactions.
In his job he is constantly helping people and solving problems, so he must stretch beyond what’s comfortable and what makes sense to his way of thinking. While he has a remarkable memory, he has difficulty with social cognition: the ability to make good guesses about others’ thoughts, feelings, intentions, and motives.
“For me, there is no ‘gray’ in a conversation. The answer is black and white,” says Eric. “When people interact with me, I want them to state what they think might be obvious, and be clear and specific when providing instructions or asking questions. I will stop people and I’m not trying to be rude; I just need specific detail – and to avoid assumptions.”
Understanding how words could be perceived is a great practice not only when interacting with Eric, but with any colleague.
Great Place to Work
Eric’s role on the team is a reminder that behind every tool, process and system is a person trying to do the best possible job.
Someone like Eric.
“They wanted the best person for the job,” Eric said, “and that person was me. My team has found the best ways to help me carry out my job in a way that adds value and to show me how much they value my work. With this approach, we all succeed.”
“I like Rockwell Automation because it is an inclusive working environment and makes an effort to reach out to all types of employees and help them succeed at what they do,” Eric added. “My job provides a variety of tasks that stretch my core skills and help the company. I feel a strong need to do what I can to help the company do what it does well.”
Unique Job, Unique Person
Eric’s job requires him to manage complexities that requires someone with profound skills, comfortable connecting systems and data and turning that data into the most effective, most usable information possible.
“I appreciate the understanding of my skills and limitations, and I don’t want anyone to treat me differently because I am autistic,” said Eric. “I am an honest person and I am quite direct. I’ve always loved helping others and I’m good at relating technical knowledge to them as I’m able to visualize the problem in my head, then use that information to digest things into a simpler form, which I use to help solve problems.”
In addition to asking his peers to be clear with their requests and to avoid assumptions of understanding, Eric invites people to ask question about autism.
“Every chance I get, I offer to answer questions and make presentations through our company’s employee resource group, ROKability,” said Eric. “We all work better together when we understand our unique perspectives and special skills.”
Published October 7, 2020