I am Romane, 29 years old, Swiss by mum, French by dad and Londoner by heart. I work as an Associate Director at Ipsos MORI UK, a leading market research company.
I’ve experienced many challenges as an ADHDer and have done so since a very young age; I’d been diagnosed early due to being a troubled child in school, have gone through IQ tests due to being bored so easily yet so engaged in class, and have been forced to think about what I felt and experienced since I’ve been 7 due to being on medication from such a young age, all of which meaning I’ve had self-awareness many don’t have at that age.
My life has always been dichotomic; clearly passionate and vocal about a lot of different things yet never really feeling like I was fitting in. Understanding things so well yet struggling to have good grades, being overly enthusiastic and empathic yet struggling to socialise well with other kids, a high potential to focus and get my head down in some tasks yet lose interest extremely quickly in others, understanding math really well yet achieving the highest grades in literature and communication subjects, being able to be extremely organised yet always late and forgetful.
After spending years trying to figure out what helped and didn’t help manage my symptoms, hours in therapy or under medication, I learned tricks that helped with my cognitive issues as well as my emotional struggles. I also realised that sport was the most helpful in both letting my emotions and energy out but also feeling gratified and valued by doing something that fit the way my neuro-system worked.
After years of swimming (and a couple of silver medals in national championships), I managed to get off medication, and found a balance that enabled me to focus in class, be happier in life and showed me I could fit in with others.
I studied advertising and absolutely loved it. It was suited to my natural abilities, didn’t require me to spend hours learning anything which I clearly wasn’t made for, and one I thought fascinating because of how many different yet complementary subtopics it covered (art, psychology, sociology, economics, business).
I started working in advertising, hoping to become a strategist as I was passionate about understanding and targeting different audiences, but quickly started to realise the intellectual challenge was lacking, and by that I mean the real hardcore geekiness.
One day I saw a job advert for an insight and market research role and thought this was a perfect way to combine more psychology, more geekiness yet do so in a creative way. I applied, got the job, and have worked in underpinning people’s opinions, attitudes, deeper truths and why they think or behave the way they do for 7 years.
No day is the same, no project similar, I can go from running projects about understanding why Brazilians consume dark chocolate as much as how CBD helps British users sleep better, can spend hours on some tricky analysis sessions such as understanding what tech companies need to say to convince opinion leaders about their sustainability credentials as well as work on very tactical briefs about how to optimise words in a laundry advert.
And this is, in my eyes, is the direct consequence of this ability to adapt, this ability to be interested about a lot of different things, to have the energy and will to put my head down in the biggest yet also smallest tasks, thanks to my enthusiasm for so many different things but also thinking outside the box; for example that time I wrote a report for a big tech company about how their messages on the creative economy were doing and I decided to map in axes what the ideal communication should say and at which level to ensure it elevated the brand appropriately way. I used this framework to map and rank all the messages we tested. At first, both the client and my colleagues didn’t understand what this slide meant and why this was added as it wasn’t requested but I didn’t give up and explained my thinking which resulted in helping frame the report story in a different and more effective way.
I would also say that spending most of my life not fitting in or having a way of thinking that wasn’t made for most school systems brought me two invaluable skills; first an ability to work hard to fit companies’ ways of doing things, to adapt to different markets, different cultures, and be extremely willing to constantly improve making me a quick and humble learner such as when I managed to fit in and work efficiently with a team almost solely made of Russel Group Brits when clearly I was none of these two things, and I ended this experience with the team head saying I was ‘one of the smartest people they had ever worked with’ following analysis sessions we did together, showing me I could adapt and impress.
The second skill it brought is limitless empathy, especially for those that fit in less which is fundamental for a researcher but also something that made me an inclusivity and diversity champion in different teams I’ve worked in.
I am proud to say that this ADHD journey is starting to bring me closer to feeling it is ok to be me and to be different, I don’t need to be apologetic about my impulsivity or my lack of attention to detail, because ultimately those mean I can act with a cool head in almost any situation, act fast, solve problems efficiently and quickly, multitask in a way a neurotypical person might not be able to. As an example of this, the time I was brought into a project for a big tech company, for which I was asked to fly to Berlin the next day, knew nothing about the project until I was briefed at the airport which was just a few hours before being in focus groups and where I handled some high profile public affair statements stimulus. I even ended up realising a colleague had made a mistake as they were running the groups and I ran in the room to amend the statements they were showing as a result of this. From beginning to end, I did it all with excitement and enthusiasm and by keeping a cool head, an episode that actually lead to the managing director telling me I was ‘the kind of person you’d want by your side during a crisis’.
I now see that a company can’t be glad to have me manage crises, handle stressful or surprising situations well yet also expect me to be consistent and detail orientated. It’s just not pick and mix and it’s not me.
The older I get, the more I see that this is my added value; it comes with flaws, it comes with struggles, but this is my USP and the right company and manager will see this, and if they don’t then, like in dating, it’s just not a match.
This is particularly front of mind to me as a woman; I’ve seen how apologetic I can be compared to men and how much I try to please others when my male counterparts seem to have no issues with being themselves and not caring about what impact they might have on others. So this journey is still very much ongoing and still constant progress but I’ve come a long way.
I have encountered issues in past jobs with managers or team heads that wouldn’t understand I couldn’t write in a concise way on slides, nor that I couldn’t be consistent in my emotions and would make others feel uncomfortable by sometimes shutting down, points I’ve taken into account and tried to solve but ultimately ended up being realistic; I just wasn’t the right person for the job and shouldn’t need to work 10 times harder than someone neurotypical to reach KPIs that weren’t suited to how my brain works, so I ended up leaving for places that would see my value and understand better how my brain works.
I am now proud to say I feel valued in my unique skillset at the company I work for, that my initiatives and combination of creativity and analysis lead brain is valued and that I love the work I do. I successfully lead big scale projects managing up to 5 team members or suppliers on those, ensuring all key milestones are met and everybody delivers but also thrives in what they do, have at times presented for 4 hours to several very senior clients, conducted interviews with global leaders all around the world or former MPs as well as senior stakeholders in global Think Tanks, ran numerous focus groups in both French and English, added cultural lenses to global projects whether it was in India, Indonesia, Brazil, Italy or the UK to only quote a few.
But what I am most proud of is co-chairing the neurodiversity network in my company, running workshops and presentations for different teams to raise awareness about spikey profiles (sometimes running sessions with up to 40 people), but also how to include different working or thinking styles and the value this brings. I’ve also been part of a panel to talk about mental health and disability in the workplace for a Russel Group University.
I am happy to be able to be part of a group that supports some that might have gone through a similar or different journey and to show all those that need to hear it that there are unique skills and mindsets we can utilise and champion as neurodiverse individuals.
After all, it’s all about how we frame it, we can say ‘Attention Deficit and Hyperactive Disorder’ or we can think of it as ‘the Edison Gene’.
How has being Neurodivergent shaped the direction of your career?
My struggles shaped my strength; having to constantly adapt in a neurotypical world made me able to blend in any situation, connect with a lot of different people, understand a lot of different briefs and all of this with struggles but also drive and passion.
What advice would you give to another Neurodivergent woman navigating their way through life?
Always think about what your neurodiversity brings you as an added value, not just as struggles. Turn your struggles into experiences that will make you stand out, be aware of what you bring that no one else does and don't be apologetic about needing something or being different.