Q&A: (if interested) Autistic in PE

Hi guys:

I've been using this forum a lot and happy to give back. I'm austistic (diagnosed as an adult as "moderate") and have been working in finance / PE thus far. Happy to share any experience and answer any questions, especially for those who've wondered whether they are autistic/ are also diagnosed.

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Comments (23)

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
May 21, 2021 - 1:06pm

I don't have autism but I'd be interested in hearing about your experiences. Thanks a lot for sharing. All of the below is asked with best intentions so please pardon me if some of the phrasing isn't appropriate.

  • What are the central challenges you face due to your autism and how do you overcome them?
  • Do you think that having autism confers you any strengths that someone who is not on the spectrum may not have?
  • (If yes to the above) What are lessons that someone without autism may glean from your experience that would be helpful for us to know?
  • Do you think that, inherently because of your autism, you enjoy this job more or less than others that are not on the spectrum?
  • What questions were you expecting people to ask in this thread, and how would you answer them? What questions would be the most insightful for us to be asking you?

Thanks again for doing this.

Most Helpful
May 21, 2021 - 1:23pm

What are the best things a manager can do to help create a better working environment for someone with autism to thrive? 

  • 6
  • Assist. VP in PE - LBOs
May 21, 2021 - 6:51pm
  • What are the best things a manager can do to help create a better working environment for someone with autism to thrive? 

ah, what a great question. I think to know them and utilize their strength, but also allow them some space to develop their weakness. It would look something like this - know that you can lean on them for their amazing mental power, analytical ability, ability to think differently, and utilize that - because that's how they will feel great in the job too. But also allow them space to grow their weaknesses - generally, a reasonably aware autistic person know they are not good at certain things but if the career path requires that to succeed, then don't put them in that situation all the time but rather do so selectively. Like I wouldn't ask them to organize company Zoom social but I will give them opportunities to manage people, navigate some political situations, with some guardrail. Hopefully that makes sense!

May 28, 2021 - 12:19pm

Yes it does! Your first point there is really the same as managing anyone! 

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  • Assist. VP in PE - LBOs
May 21, 2021 - 6:47pm

Thanks for the interest, here are some of my answers

  • What are the central challenges you face due to your autism and how do you overcome them?

During my younger years (teen + first few years of working), I had trouble with politics and getting around certain difficult senior people. While this is probably a very common challenge, it was harder for me to navigate esp. around the hidden rules of hierachy. Ironically, it has gotten better as I got older as I now just analyze it like a scientific environment and navigate it that way, instead of the more organic and intuitive way my peers use.

  • Do you think that having autism confers you any strengths that someone who is not on the spectrum may not have?

Yes, I think it ironically allows me to be a better investor but it makes it harder for me to advance (see points on politics) untill I actively managed it. Investing is filled with people who have no ability to hold their own thought and are just there to execute / repeat what important people say. To be good at investing in terms of how you think is not the same as being able to advance though, given how mature the industry is today.

  • (If yes to the above) What are lessons that someone without autism may glean from your experience that would be helpful for us to know?

Manage your situation actively. Accept what you are. Left unmanaged, your challenges will occur over and over again, but if you approach it proactively, you can turn it intto an advantage

  • Do you think that, inherently because of your autism, you enjoy this job more or less than others that are not on the spectrum?

I think it depends. I enjoy it less than my peers who are naturally very good at politics (blood thirsty about it even), as it's hard for people who can't see emotions clearly to navigate these waters. I enjoy it more than my peers who are naive - at least for me I never think of people as good or bad, just how they are incentivized, so I have less issue with negative people than some of my peers who react strongly to assholes

  • What questions were you expecting people to ask in this thread, and how would you answer them? What questions would be the most insightful for us to be asking you?

I wanted to put it out there, see if there are others in similar situation, as I think people with autism (esp. after they realize they have it) often question whether they can "make it" in relationship-driven jobs such as PE. I'm not at a place where I know the answer myself, but I think if managed proactively, and after you start to analyze people/relationship like science, it will get better at least for your own experience

  • Intern in IB-M&A
May 21, 2021 - 8:25pm

Props to you for making this thread - so many people can learn from your openness. 
 

I think it's absolutely fascinating that you were diagnosed with autism as an adult.
- How do you think it went undiagnosed for so long?

- What tipped you off to being autistic (in other words, was there an experience where you said to yourself, "I should go get this checked out")?

- What's your favorite thing about working in PE?

- Do you think you'll ever pursue another career (even something else within finance), or is your long-term goal to stay in PE?

  • Assist. VP in PE - LBOs
May 21, 2021 - 8:32pm

- How do you think it went undiagnosed for so long?

I'm very good at deducing things logically and actually just used logical rules in lieu of actual emotional reaction for a long time....I'm also high functioning in the sense that school was not a problem, so no one noticed 

- What tipped you off to being autistic (in other words, was there an experience where you said to yourself, "I should go get this checked out")?

I keep feeling like I'm color-blind to certain things, I read a diagnostic test and almost all the boxes checked out (there were some other ones about lack of physical coordination which is also true in my case)

- What's your favorite thing about working in PE?

Chess-board nature of the work

- Do you think you'll ever pursue another career (even something else within finance), or is your long-term goal to stay in PE?

Unclear, not sure if with a handicap (unless I can turn it into an advantage) it's a viable path

May 21, 2021 - 10:24pm

Doesn't office politics bore you out? To my understanding, autists tend to be deeply technical and/or theoretical. Since dealing with social norms in general or in a corporate context are not exactly the most intellectual activities, I would guess someone on the spectrum would either leave to do something that better rewards intellect or be stuck on some mid-level operational role.

As a socially awkward neurotypical who craves intellectual stimulation, I left my job to do my own thing because I knew that I don't have the skills to thrive in a corporate setting and wasn't willing to acquire them. I always thought that if I were autistic things would be a lot worse. It's always interesting to see when an autist can use their condition in their own favor to succeed, even in a highly social environment like PE.

  • Assist. VP in PE - LBOs
May 21, 2021 - 10:28pm

it's interesting you bring this up, it actually doesn't bore me out but I find it painful, as I don't see emotions as well as most people do (in the normal range).  However, I think of people like complex machines with this thing called emotion that kind of operates in logical ways, although the logic is often invisible and there are no books that document how they actually work. So I actually use a combination of reading, observation + data gathering, thesis formation to get my own understanding of how people may react to things (since I can't do so naturally) and use what happens later as my "experiments" to verify my thesis. in that way, it's difficult, painful, but also interesting. hope that helps!

  • Assist. VP in PE - LBOs
May 23, 2021 - 8:38am

Compared to my peers who are very good at social graces (often kids whose parents have senior management / professional services positions), I'd say I'm quite behind in my career.

Compared to other people who are autistic, I think the difference is less about upbringing / anything i did myself, but rather things that are more biological - I'm rather sensitive to environment (which allows me to observe surrounding and learn how people react to things), and autism didn't affect my language / learning progression, which it often does in others. That being said, i still can't see emotions naturally, so that's something I have to work on myself.

  • PM in HF - Other
May 22, 2021 - 12:59pm

Congrats man, keep killing it. Shame you feel you need to deal with painful politics to keep pushing forward upwards.

Trading, has lots of autistic types who do fine. If you ever find too painful I would consider the switch, we stare at loads of data for hours on hours. We have one client, the "screen / exchange" and when things go annoying we make up theories to consider Darth Vader is on the other side then go back to look at loads of more of data to prove we right.

  • Analyst 1 in AM - Equities
May 22, 2021 - 1:20pm

Thank you so much for doing this! 

Some questions on your experience:

  • Did you follow a fairly traditional pathway into PE, for example, doing IB first and then moving into PE? How did you navigate any other workplace outside of IB?
  • Has there been there any particular work-related challenge where having Autism seemed to disadvantage you? 

I'd also appreciate some advice if you're willing to help out:

  • How could someone with Autism learn how to best navigate office politics? How can someone with Autism minimize mistakes that could arise while dealing with office politics?
  • I just graduated from college and wondering how to best make connections with people at work. Is there anything in particular that would make sense for bolstering my network as early as possible?
  • This is something that probably makes more sense to people with Autism: If this is something you experience, how do you deal with the "fatigue" of constantly meeting or interacting with people more generally? This is something that I have largely overcome in terms of the workplace, but I still get exhausted after talking to people for a few hours. 
  • Assist. VP in PE - LBOs
May 23, 2021 - 8:41am

1) yes, fairly traditional. target -> finance (tried a few different funds though)

2) aside from figuring out office relationships, most of things at work (technical aspects) were okay

3) i think it would differ from people to people, but i just try to break it down like a scientific problem and understand what people tend to do in different incentives/situations

4) try to understand what people want, not just what they tell you to do, and deliver accordingly

5) just have to tough it out, or else choose a different job. no perfect , free-lunch solution here. it's not a bad thing to build your endurance on

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
May 25, 2021 - 12:28pm

Thanks - really appreciate the AMA.

Can you give a concrete example of a situation in which you had to use reason and logic to navigate office politics? Not trying to fish for confidential information obviously but rather an anonymized example to understand what you mean by "how people may react to things".

May 23, 2021 - 7:15pm

I don't mean to piggy back off this great thread but what about dyslexia? I have been working in finance for 4 years and am waiting back the results to find out if I have it. Curious to see if others have dyslexia as well and how it's managed?

May 28, 2021 - 4:30am

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