I have just discovered something about myself. Somebody had suggested it some years ago, but I ignored it. Today, after taking a couple of simple online tests, the results indicate that I may have Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of Autism.
If this is true, it would be an important discovery about myself, because it answers the question why I find it very difficult to be successful in team settings. (I am not trying to find an excuse for my shortcomings, but rather to recognize this problem, study it, and eventually fix it.) I am simply unable to read people’s non-verbal signals, and since I was a kid I have had difficulties communicating because I have an acute fear of verbal rejection. It had taken a lot of effort to change my habit of being quiet in meetings and social settings. I can turn off the world around me, and isolate myself in my thoughts, and until somebody screams at me I can be unaware of my surroundings. I remember in class, when I was in elementary school, I could be completely somewhere else and I would miss all of what the teacher talked about. I find it much easier to write than to talk.
Writing about it is part of the cure. I have to recognize it, and be able to define it. I don’t have to publish this, but that is also part of the cure. I want recruiters to know about it, and I can simply give them a link to this.
It has always been a challenge to me to perform well during interviews. To land a good assignment, I’ve had to go through several rejections, just because I don’t perform well during interviews. I may seem confident, but the way I phrase the explanation of ideas can sound out of whack. I often inject an uncommon viewpoint into common software ideas like programming to an interface, and some of those uncommon viewpoints can be taken to mean that I don’t understand what I am talking about. I become aware of this only after an interview and the damage has been done. It is very difficult for me to become aware of it DURING the interview.
Why has it taken me this long to recognize this about myself? I have always been brutally honest with myself, but I have always doubted the science of psychology, until, several years ago, I read a book about common psychological manifestations of inherited (genetic) traits. (I have been searching for that book, unfortunately even its title now has escaped me. The only thing I remember is that I picked it up from an airport bookstand, and read it during a long flight.)
Asperger’s Syndrome is not uncommon among software design engineers, according to a most wonderful recruiter I just talked to, who is with Robert Half Professional Staffing Solutions. He also said that there is a whole spectrum of Autism affliction, Asperger’s Syndrome being only a range in that spectrum.