This is the story of Matt, a talented but but struggling web developer diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (now classed as Autism Spectrum Disorder) at a late age who eventually found success with a fast growing tech startup CommissionCrowd due to their adoption of new and innovative communication technologies.
It’s a sad fact that only 16% of adults with Asperger’s hold full-time jobs. There are around 68 million of us globally. It’s a major problem, a drain on the economy, and a huge waste of talent and resources.” - Matt Skillings, CDO of CommissionCrowd
Matt Skillings wasn’t diagnosed with autism until he was 33 years old. Up until that point, he never understood what made him different from other people. Social interactions came as a challenge to him. And despite performing well in school, he’d often find it difficult relating to his peers. Receiving his diagnosis was like a light bulb being turned on inside his head. Suddenly, he understood why he struggled with some situations and excelled in others.
According to the National Autistic Society only 16% of adults with autism are employed in full-time positions. When Matt sought to enter the professional world, he was met with grim prospects. He was well aware of employers’ tendencies to see the “disabled” label on a resume and assume a person was unfit for a position. That left him with few options that allowed for little social interaction and the freedom to work independently. And while he knew these jobs were fine career choices for someone else, his real passion was in web development.
A recent study by the Center for Disease Control found that 44% of children with autism display higher than average intellectual ability. So why is it that so few adults are able to find full-time employment? For Matt, one-on-one interviews and the prospect of working in a busy office environment were just two of the deterring factors he found in his job search. His solution was to start his own company and work on a freelance basis. He knew he possessed formidable skills and experience in web development, but his social skills still presented a problem with making sales. That’s where CommissionCrowd came in...
CommissionCrowd are an online networking and collaboration service driving innovation in the independent sales industry. Their platform connects experienced self-employed sales agents who work on a commission-only basis with companies looking to increase their sales throughout the world.
One of the things that attracted Matt to CommissionCrowd initially was the way their collaborative functionality also allows companies to easily manage their remote working relationships with their newly-found sales agents. Matt approached the company in the hope of finding sales agents who could sell his services. Instead, what he found was the opportunity to become the lead web developer for that very company.
The prospect of having Matt on board was a huge opportunity for us, but also presented a unique challenge. Our organisation was hedging a great deal of success on someone with a condition we knew little about, and whom we couldn’t speak to in person or over the phone. But it didn’t take long to recognise Matt’s talent, and we knew we could find a way for us to work together that was comfortable and effective for both parties.” - Ryan Mattock, CommissionCrowd, Co-Founder
When Matt joined the team in March 2015, CommissionCrowd was still a startup that were grappling with creating a website alongside their web application (app) with only one developer. They knew that Matt could help however, his condition presented a unique set of challenges to both parties.
CommissionCrowd’s vision and scope of work involved would normally call for daily meetings and constant communication with multiple departments which I’m not comfortable with. However, their use of new and innovative communication technologies like Slack and DaPulse have eliminated the need for that constant interpersonal, face-to-face communication. It’s super intuitive and has allowed me to work from home in a way that’s comfortable for me while feeling as though i’m right there in the office with them - Matt Skillings, CommissionCrowd, CDO
CommissionCrowd use an application called Slack as their primary communication tool for collaboration with their remote working team. Slack is a simple yet intuitive app that focuses on team communication chat. It enables teams to communicate via realtime in-app messaging which eliminates the need to constantly speak on the phone or sit in a meeting room. It’s the use of this tool that bridged the gap and made it possible to work in a way that suited both parties.
The company also use an application called DaPulse which gives them the ability to easily manage and track complex projects and assign specific tasks to individual team members. These two technologies combined have eliminated the need for daily in-house meetings and have enabled them to work more freely with talented people who may not be naturally comfortable working in that kind of environment.
We truly believe that new and innovative communication technologies like Slack and DaPulse are giving companies the opportunity to tap into a large community of highly intelligent and talented individuals in a way that simply wasn’t possible before - Ryan Mattock, Co-Founder CommissionCrowd
Matt's inclusion in the team proved to be such a boon to the company that he has now been given an equity stake in the business and promoted to CDO (Chief Development Officer)
We've now been working with Matt for close to two years. He's one of our biggest assets and his work helped our company win a major award at the 2016 Sales Innovation Expo. We’re growing at a rate that would not have been possible without his incredible work ethic, dedication, and unique skillset. He's now been promoted to CDO (Chief Development Officer) and we've still never met in person or spoken over the phone. It’s harrowing to think there are millions of people with stories similar to Matt’s who have never been given the chance to utilise their skills - Laura McGregor, CEO CommissionCrowd
Now CommissionCrowd is aiming to raise awareness for talented individuals with Asperger’s in the workplace. They plan to launch their Asperger’s foundation in the near future with the help of Matt and reach out to people who are struggling to enter the workplace like he once was.
Name: Matthew Skillings
Job Title: CommissionCrowd, CDO
Attitude Statement: I still don't consider having Asperger’s syndrome a good or a bad thing but it's part of who I am.
1. What has been your biggest difficulty coping with Asperger’s syndrome?
Matt: I've always found the world a bit confusing. I performed well enough in school, but had difficulty making friends. My biggest frustration came from 'neurotypicals' (informally defined by the autism community as people not on the spectrum) not understanding my condition. I’d encounter employers who would look at the “disabled” label on a CV and automatically assume the applicant was unsuitable for the job.
Asperger's syndrome is a hidden disability. Walking past me on the street, you would never know I had it. It’s when I have to fit into a neurotypical world that the problems start. Neurotypicals are born with the skills to communicate and interact in any number of public and social situations. I was not.
2. When were you diagnosed with Asperger's?
Matt: I was diagnosed at the age of 33. While I was growing up in the 80's and 90's, not much was known about autism. I always knew that I was different. But after I was diagnosed everything made sense. I suddenly realised why I'd found some things difficult when they came so naturally to everybody else.
3. What are the characteristics of your Asperger’s syndrome (autism), and how do they affect you?
Matt: My symptoms are primarily related to social interactions. I also get very distracted by noises around me, so I tend to play music from wireless headphones when I need to focus. But there’s another aspect to my autism. I've realised there are things that come easily to me that other people find difficult. For example, I've found that I can understand complex ideas and identify patterns or trends much quicker than the average neurotypical.
4. What was life like before you were diagnosed?
Matt: Before my diagnosis I assumed I was normal and everyone else was weird or different.
5. What career options were available to you?
Matt: While I was an extremely capable web developer, my career choices were limited to jobs that don’t involve considerable social interaction. Essentially, it came down to becoming a van driver, postman, or milkman; all of which gave me the freedom to work alone. These were all perfectly fine career choices, but my passion was still in web development and prior to meeting CommissionCrowd I was stuck in a cycle of working in jobs that simply couldn’t fulfill my ambitions.
6. How did you first come in contact with CommissionCrowd?
Matt: I came to the realisation that neglecting my passion was ultimately leaving me unfulfilled in life, so I decided to start my own company and work on a freelance basis. But even though I possessed formidable skills and experience in web development, I encountered difficulties making sales. I was trapped so long as I couldn’t contact, meet with, and sell to prospective clients.
I initially approached CommissionCrowd because their service connects companies with independent sales agents and I hoped to build an outsourced sales team to sell my services. But even more appealing was the fact that their platform provided everything needed to easily manage remote working relationships with sales agents with very little human interaction.
7. What circumstances led to you start work with CommissionCrowd?
Matt: I applied to see if my business would be appropriate for CommissionCrowd and the sales agents that worked within their platform. Soon afterwards I was approached by the CEO of the company, Laura McGregor, who asked if I would be interested in working for the company on a freelance basis. I jumped at the chance and haven’t looked back since.
8. What do you enjoy most about working with CommissionCrowd?
Matt: CommissionCrowd’s vision and scope of work involved would normally call for daily meetings and constant communication with multiple departments which I’m not comfortable with. However, their use of new and innovative communication technologies like Slack and DaPulse have eliminated the need for that constant interpersonal, face-to-face communication. It’s super intuitive and has allowed me to work from home in a way that’s comfortable for me while feeling as though i’m right there in the office with them.
I’ve never had an opportunity like this before. Ryan, Laura and Alistair - The founders of the business - welcomed me into the team wholeheartedly from day one and are constantly seeking out new and innovative technologies that make our working relationship that much easier.
9. How has life changed for you since finding a job that allows to take advantage of your skills?
Matt: It's great! I’m living my life the way it was always meant to be. I now get to do everything I love most: act creatively, take full advantage of my talents and passion while being able to achieve a form of normality and routine for a company I believe in and love! It’s a sad fact that only 16% of autistic adults in the UK find full-time employment, and only 32% are paid for their work. (source: www.autism.org.uk) Companies like CommissionCrowd give us the opportunity to show the world what we’re capable of.
10. What advice would you give to professionals who suffer from Asperger’s when seeking work?
Matt: I’d remind them that they are now living in a very different world, with all sorts of new opportunities being adopted by forward thinking companies. You no longer need to limit yourself to jobs or a life where you aren’t able to use your full set of talents.
For more information on this story please contact:
Ryan Mattock (CommissionCrowd, CMO)
Tel: +44 131 208 2562