Saidata Sesay - She/Her
Journalist and Producer and Host at BBC News
Saidata Sesay is a creative producer, journalist and podcast host/creator. Saidata works as a Digital Content Producer at the BBC, currently in the BBC Africa Sports Team. She has a podcast coming out soon about Neurodiversity called “There’s something about you” and has recently been awarded an Audible ‘Content is Queen’ grant to make a podcast documentary. Saidata has also written about Neurodiversity for BBC News.
Please tell us about your career
I have been working at the BBC for seven years as a digital content producer, making anything from digital videos to podcasts. At the moment, I work for BBC Africa Sport, where I work as a digital content journalist. So that means I find interesting stories from the continent or people from the diaspora, make digital video shorts and put it out on social media. A few years ago I was a news reader - so if you switched on your Alexa or Google Home, you would hear my voice. That was a big deal for me to read the news - to go into a studio, with a very short amount of time and to read off a paper. It kind of was a nightmare, because I'd be having good dyslexic days and bad dyslexic days and then when you tell people that, okay, I'm actually quite fatigued from reading - they just kind of wouldn't understand that. Or if I would get words wrong, some people would not be very nice about it. While I am very proud of that part of my career, I am much happier now in my roles and I hope to build on this being an audio documentary maker or a chatty type of podcast host.
I have a podcast called “There’s something about you” where I interview neurodivergent people about how they navigate through life. I also mentor neurodivergent people. My nickname is 'Auntie' because I'm a really good listener and I try to help people find the best solutions for themselves. So for example, one of the topics could be running a business whilst having dyslexia or navigating through the world having ADHD. I'm really proud of it - it’s like my baby at the moment. It's not out just yet, but I've recorded quite a few episodes, so it will be out very soon.
I'm dyslexic, ADHD, and mildly dyspraxic so podcasts are a saving grace. Like a lot of ND people, if I want to know or do something - I put on a podcast. Reading a book or watching TV requires me to stay focused and watch that thing, whereas listening to a podcast, I can actually cook and listen at the same time. I actually prefer to do two things at once. I think that comes from the ADHD, it just means that I can do multiple things at the same time and absorb information. This is probably why I thought the podcast industry is amazing for me. On my podcast show, I'm very confessional as well. It's not hard because it's just me talking to other people about what it's like to be us. I felt like it's something I'll probably be doing for a very long time. My Mum said that she always knew I was going to talk for a living, and I always said to myself, I'd either be an actor or a therapist, and I feel like being a podcast host is the closest thing to that. Being a journalist requires a lot of listening, and a lot of just asking the right question.
I was recently awarded a ‘Content is Queen’ grant in collaboration with Audible. I was awarded this grant to make a podcast documentary, and I was chosen out of, apparently hundreds of applicants. The feedback from all the judges said the same thing, that they felt like my ideas stood out the most. I will be traveling to Rwanda next month to make this project. I definitely feel like this year is my year. I've just had a lot of things go right and I'm definitely, just riding on that wave at the moment. Navigating the world as a Black neurodivergent woman is not easy at all - but I feel like this is my time.
How has being Neurodivergent shaped the direction of your career?
I have been working for BBC News close to 8 years and it has only been in recent years that I've learnt to embrace who I am and tell people at work now. People have described my journalism like a therapy session. I have a lot of compassion when I speak to contributors and I always share a part of myself to make others feel at ease to share. Working from home has helped me tremendously. My office structure does not work well with my sensory overload so I prefer quieter places. I take 25 min breaks nearly every hour to aid my ADHD. I am a digital journalist and I struggle with writing. Last year I wrote my first written piece. That was one of the biggest achievements of my life. It was very difficult for me as I find it hard to concentrate and write. But I know if I have people around to hold me accountable I can achieve most goals.
Do you think your industry/job is a good fit for a neurodivergent woman?
Having an invisible disability/ ability can be really hard in the workplace. I already know people can be against you for being a woman and black and then being neurodivergent and I feel like a lot of the time, people look at me and just don't understand certain things about me. I'm not stupid. I definitely feel very intelligent a lot of the time! But some people can make me feel like I'm not, maybe because I haven't understood the task very quickly. But I do like being myself. I have a lot of people DM me actually wanting to be a journalist, which is funny as when I first started, I never wanted to be a journalist! I thought in order to be a journalist, you had to be able to write and writing is not my strong suit at all. But last year was the first time in my whole seven year career working at the BBC as a journalist - that I wrote my first piece. It was an article on being Neurodivergent. There is more than one way to be a journalist and the way I do it, I am still documenting the news.
I hope to work for and work with companies on how they can make a better environment for neurodivergent people. Seriously - I ride for neurodivergent people! I tell everyone at work what I need and how I need it and how they should treat me. I'm quite unapologetic now, but that's taken some time to get there.
What advice would you give to another Neurodivergent woman navigating their way through life?
1. Don't suffer in silence
2. The quicker you accept who you are the better
3. You will have bad days and it’s ok
4. You can't do this alone
5. There are lots of resources out there
6. Trust your gut, I assumed others knew better because I couldn't trust my own judgement.
7. I tell people how to help me
8. Get someone to hold you accountable like a coach
9. Therapy changed my life
10. Tell your work place to bring in a neurodivergent consultant. It is beneficial to everyone!