“Mark has Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD” explained employment coordinator Billy. “My first impression of Mark was he was very chatty on the outside but occasionally very shy.”
“We are both interested in IT, so when we first met, instead of going straight to ‘What you want to do for work?’, we got talking about IT and gaming in general, and we touched a little bit on the reality of working in IT as a game designer. That instantly caught his interest because it was something he was really interested in.”
I've been interested in gaming and IT since I was a lad.
"Technology is something in the blood of my family. All of us are gamers. I mostly learned game mechanics from a young age, having played every single console ever made thanks to my family's love of retro consoles. Having played so many games I can easily spot bugs and issues in a game, which I report to a developer.”
“As for IT, my knowledge mostly came from fiddling around with computers since I was about 5 years old. My big brother was the one who taught me the basics of software and hardware. And from then on I taught myself the ways of IT with little to no lessons on it.
I went to secondary school and I was the most IT savvy student there, all the way to college.
But it was at college that my teacher taught me how to put my love for gaming and my skill of IT together. And thus, I was complete.”
“Because of his skills he was very employable. But the Asperger’s was something of a barrier. There were some things he would need to tweak. For example, he would keep talking without knowing how or where to pause. Or he might stray from one topic to another completely different, which is fine in a social environment, but it’s not great in a work environment. So that was one of the things that I worked with him on.
“Excitingly, not long after Mark joined the Employ Me scheme, Currys PC World created some work experience opportunities, with the potential for a work trial too. It was the first time they had taken someone from Mencap. We thought this would be perfect for Mark, so we put him forward.”
“Mencap has helped by bridging the gap between me and the employer. I am quite nervous and sometimes run away from opportunities.
Mencap helped me through my insecurities, helped me overcome them, allowing me to be more confident.
I prepared for the work trial by looking at what Currys PC World sold, and how they did their computer sales, making sure that I know how they work and what they expect of me.”
“When he was in Currys PC World doing the work trial we talked to the store about Mark’s strengths.
He can do customers service but it’s not his forte. From my IT background I know that when you buy a PC they usually have a behind-the-scenes IT expert department that configure the PC for you. So when I met with the store manager I specifically recommended that Mark would be very good in this department.”
My first day was at first nerve wrecking, but very quickly I grew joy and excitement and loved the jobs they gave me.
“I supported Mark on his first day. Because of his enthusiasm, concentration, and his ability to do things in a structured order, in that 6 hour shift he actually managed to set up about 45 machines. That was really impressive to see. They actually compared him to other people doing the same task and other people in that time would be doing 30. They were impressed with him on his first work experience day, so they turned it into a work trial, and then offered him a job the next day.”
“When I was offered a Job, I was at first thrilled, then I got a little over myself and told myself that ‘It's all because of my IT skills’.”
“When he started, his primary role was configuring machines, so he didn’t need any in work support as such. But we held weekly reviews, then slowly moved to quarterly reviews. We put a lot of emphasis on the store manager being at the review as well, so we could explore the possibility of Mark not just doing one role, but actually working more on his core interest which was gaming.”
“When we did one review Mark told me Currys PC World had given him the responsibility for co-running the gaming section in the store. Gaming is one of the highest profit centre within PC World stores now. So it is like a promotion basically. He is now looking after anything gaming related, giving customers advice on gaming machines, and working with others to arrange the stock. Mark is still 20.”
“The best thing about my job? I man the gaming section when I'm not doing laptops. I get to hang around in my dream section, selling gaming components and accessories to other gamers and Youtubers."
It's the best thing ever! The gaming section is my baby.
“It was a part time job to begin with. That’s was what he wanted. He started off doing two days. Then after a few weeks he increased to three. In January he plans to increase his hours again. So, probably by the end of next year he’ll be doing full time.”
“My colleagues and managers are easy to get with, very gentle, understanding of me, and easy to work with.”
I feel that I can take on the world, run at any IT job and say with confidence that I can take that job and head-butt it with skill.
“I was actually surprised that he got the job so quickly. It was great. The thing he said to me was ‘I knew you were somebody who knew what I’m talking about. You shared the same interests. That’s how you kept my attention’. He said if it was someone else, who didn’t know much about IT, he would have struggled to open up with them.”
What do I spend my left over wages on? Computer equipment!
On Fridays I attend groups where we play ‘Dungeons 'n' Dragons’. I am the Dungeon Master. I create the maps and stories that the groupies role play to. So now, I'm an indie game developer who works in Currys PC World. The Future? There's a saying, ‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the ‘present’.’ Master Oogway, Kung Fu Panda.”
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