Autodesk’s first employee resource group was formed in 2011. Since then, we’ve grown a vibrant network of ERGs to help create a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone feels a sense of belonging. We’ll be launching two new ERGs in 2023, one of which is Autodesk MIND Network – representing topics and communities pertaining to Mental Inclusion, Neurodivergence, and Disability. I’m excited to serve as the first Global Lead for MIND Network, and I can’t wait to get started!
Autodesk MIND Network began over a year ago as an informal group of Autodeskers who were motivated to create a safe community for mental inclusion, neurodivergence, and disability. We started asking around to see if anyone was interested in joining the effort to build a formal employee resource group to support this community, and I was personally blown away by the support we received!
Together, we aligned on a shared mission: to serve employees with neurodivergence, disabilities of all kinds, and mental health struggles by providing resources, support, and advocacy, while also educating those outside of the community. Our goal is to make the invisible visible so that everyone can feel understood, embraced, and empowered to show up as their authentic selves.
A personal connection to this work
I grew up alongside my Aunt Debbie, who had Down syndrome and lived with us because my mom was her primary caregiver. I saw day-to-day how living with a disability impacted so many areas of her life – from bullying and public harassment to not being able to participate in things my siblings and I could; the world was simply not built with my Aunt Debbie in mind. From a young age, it really made me aware of the reality that the systems around us were not equitably built.
I’ve noticed these inequities in my own experience, as I am neurodivergent and have struggled with mental health my entire life. I’ve had to be my own biggest advocate, and at times I’ve felt really lost and alone on my journey. When I was young, societal norms and negative relationships conditioned me to believe that I did not have what it takes to be “successful” because I was different. Today, I believe I am successful BECAUSE I am different.
Preventing others from feeling the way I did during my lowest moments is what drives me most. If leading the MIND Network with vulnerability and sharing my story can help even one person, I will be happy.
Increasing advocacy for the community
Some of the biggest challenges people with neurodivergence or disabilities face are the stigmas and biases that exist at a conscious and unconscious level. This can cause people who are neurodivergent or have a disability to avoid requesting accommodations at work, feel like they need to “mask” their authentic self to fit in, or even avoid seeking help when they need it.
From my perspective, one of the biggest opportunities is how the innovative minds within this group will advocate for an even more equitable and accessible experience for all of Autodesk. There is a saying within the disability community, “Nothing About Us Without Us,” which means decisions made about and for people within our community need to be made with people in our community at the table.
My hope is that MIND Network will help by providing a network of support for employees with neurodivergence, disabilities, or mental health struggles. Connecting with others who can relate to your experiences and support you along the way can make all the difference in your sense of belonging, psychological safety, and ability to show up as your authentic self.
I also hope that MIND Network can be a safe space to educate those who do not identify as part of this community on how they can better support and understand the people in their lives who do. Hearing the perspective of someone different than us is how we can become aware of biases we hold – which is essential to challenging them and creating positive change.
I like to say that you either work with someone, love someone, or are someone who struggles with mental health, is neurodivergent, or has a disability, whether you’re aware of it or not. A lot of what our community advocates for, like improving accessibility, can make everyone’s experiences better — both in and outside of Autodesk.