Be open, you'll get further that way

An unprecedented talent Watch the video

“My name is Arjuno de Vos. I'm 40 years old and have been enjoying my job as a communications adviser at ABN AMRO's Zuidas office since January 2016. If you'd asked me five years ago if I ever saw myself working for a bank, I'd probably have thought you were joking. Not just because I had a fairly one-sided view of the financial sector back then, but also because I thought a big corporate wouldn't want to employ someone with autism.”

Autism within the bank

“Although ABN AMRO is open to discussing autism, many people here still have a rather stereotypical view of us as disconnected individuals with poor social skills who are highly gifted in one specific area. So when they come across someone who's autistic but doesn't conform to that view, it can disconcert them. Either they're too embarrassed to ask you more about it or they simply think you can't be autistic after all.” 

“So if I see an uncomfortable situation arising, I encourage them to talk about it. I frequently find that my co-workers know very little about autism, and what they do know is often defined by ‘extremes' from literature or the media. In 2009 I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, but that doesn't mean someone else with the same condition will behave in the same way as I do. Obviously there will be similarities. But the differences between us will often be greater. Just like the differences between non-autistic people!”

Working at the bank

“Why do I enjoy working at ABN AMRO so much? I'm constantly learning new things, both professionally and as an individual, through open discussions with my colleagues. If you want to talk over something here, you can do so any time. Another thing I like is that we're actively working towards more sustainable business operations and products: as one of the biggest banks in the Netherlands, we have the volume, the position and the responsibility to make a difference.” 

“I see ABN AMRO as an organisation where making mistakes isn't a crime. Not that anyone would deliberately do so; what I mean is that you're given the scope to try out new ideas. If they work – great! And if they don't, it's a pity, but at least you tried. And learned from your mistakes – both you as a professional and the bank in a wider sense.”

“What's more, within my team and beyond it, I've noticed that as well as helping each other when we need it, we also give each other plenty of room to develop. If you've proved yourself in a particular area, for instance, there's a good chance you'll be asked to become more involved in it.”

Workload

“Each fortnight I have a progress update with a member of my team. Together, we look at my task allocation and workload. If we think I've got too much on my plate, we'll see if I can perhaps temporarily hand something over to one of my colleagues. But if I find I'm not coping between updates, I'll take responsibility and alert someone myself.” 

“Something that helps me stay in shape at work is climbing the 13 flights to my office after lunch in the staff canteen. It's good for my digestion and for my general fitness!”

Smart working

“Because of my Asperger's, I have to be careful about keeping my energy levels up. I do this in various ways. To begin with, I have an employment contract for 32 hours a week. It means I'm never working for more than two consecutive days together, which gives me time to mentally recover. I need this because my job in communications involves a lot of ad hoc work in a constantly changing environment.” 

“My condition makes me over-sensitive to stimuli, which in my case means that noise affects me more acutely than it does other people. Fortunately, there's a room here I can use as a quiet space, where I can concentrate and work undisturbed. You're not allowed to talk loudly or make phone calls there. Brief whispered conversations are OK, but most people tend to leave the room if they want to discuss something. And on days when I don't have meetings at the office, I try to work from home as much as I can. I can then start and end my working day in good time in my own peaceful surroundings.”

Openness helps

“At the bank, you don't have to be anything other than who you are. Some advice I'd like to pass on, and not just for someone applying to work for ABN AMRO, is: always be open right from the start. Not just about the things you're good at, but also about things you find more difficult due to your autism or whatever other condition you may have. Tell people what specific assistance you need to do your work well. It often doesn't need to be anything major or complicated; it may be nothing more than simply having a quiet room to work in or the opportunity to work from home. But above all, be open: in my experience, you'll get further that way.”