From CPA To Autism Advocate – How It Happened by Thomas Iland
“My first permanent job. I had been waiting for this my whole career only to have it thrown back in my face because I had a disability.”
Tom Iland: Five years ago I was working in temporary accounting jobs. It was a life I didn’t necessarily like or want, but I needed to do it to survive and make money to make ends meet.
I was (and still am) a CPA. And there was a little inkling in me, something inside me that told myself “There must be something better than the life I’m currently living.” And slowly but surely I began to see what that meant because I’ve been giving speeches about autism and how it affects me to educate people on the side of my accounting work. Only recently (2 and a half years ago to be exact. No make that 1 and a half years) did I decide to leave accounting behind and make it my full-time thing to speak about autism to audiences all around the country and even the world.
Coming up on five years ago…(it’s in October 2012) I got my very first permanent position with benefits. I’d had internships and temporary jobs and volunteer work up until that point. In October 2012 I finally got my very first job with benefits. However, I quickly learned that my workload and what the company expected of me was in excess of what I could handle. In addition, the element of disclosing to the employer was not very optimistic. Because I had disclosed to some employers up to that point mainly after I got the job, not during the interview. But I had accommodations in mind or I knew how autism affected me and asked the employer to me half way so to speak. I wasn’t asking them to move mountains. But I asked them if they could maybe give me my directions in writing. Or if you can bear with me, I’m going to ask the same question possibly multiple times, but it will eventually stick.
This manager at my first permanent job with benefits said to me when I disclosed “You tricked me! You withheld that information during the interview. I don’t have to help you and I’m not going to.”
My first permanent job. I was waiting for this my whole career only to have it thrown back in my face because I had a disability. And of course his response was illegal and HR was called in. And I had a job coach from the Tierra del Sol Foundation in Sunland, CA going to bat for me. Unfortunately my manager would not budge and I resigned from that position after 4 months.
So I think that was probably the beginning of the end of my career in accounting. When I saw that corporate environments are not the way to go. Whether you have a disability or not, you’re going to get stuck working at a desk all day. Ultimately you’re a number to them and they could let you go without reason. So I realized I had to start making the changes I wanted to see in my life. I had to create my own happiness. And sitting at a desk all day was not going to do it.
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Question for Readers: How often do you think about leaving your day job?