Future Employee Profile: Shaun
Shaun is the creator of this website, a disability studies scholar, a public speaker/presenter, and he generally enjoys helping people–especially empowering disabled people. He has two master’s degrees and graduated summa cum laude with an undergraduate degree in Sociology in 2013.
Shaun prides himself on being a critical, analytical thinker and problem-solver–he has often solved issues that other have said were un-resolvable or had not been resolved without him. He has been praised as an administrator, program manager, technical writer, supervisor, trainer, and mentor to other employees and students. A gifted communicator and public speaker, he Shaun has presented to large, educated audiences and received rave reviews.
Like most Autistic people, Shaun is a pattern thinker. Although he’s been trained in HTML, CSS, Photoshope, Framemaker, Pagemaker, Word, Excel, and Access, Shaun doesn’t consider himself a coder or designer, but as an administrator, policy writer/editor, and technical communicator. Shaun seeks an employer that will let him be himself and access all of his strengths and abilities; he’ll value you as much as you value him!
You can learn more about his story, qualifications, and see examples of his work below and contact him at shaun@employABILITYAustin.org if you want to talk to him about career opportunities. His LinkedIn profile can be found by clicking here. You can find his resume by clicking here.
Hi! I’m Shaun. I created this site and organization for two purposes: 1) to change the narrative surrounding productivity and disabled people, especially here in my home city of Austin, TX (because disability is not synonymous with inability); and 2) to showcase the amazing, wonderful abilities of disabled career-seekers, like myself.
I’d had trouble finding work for most of my life. Although I’d been through the trials–what I call the neuro-psychological evaluations I suffered through as a kid–I wasn’t properly diagnosed as Autistic until I was 28-years-old. I was poor, broke, and nearly homeless when I returned to live with my parents, who took me to community service agencies who mostly just turned me away until finally someone referred me to the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS). DARS assisted me in being diagnosed, and I started back to finish my university degree in 2008.
I blossomed with this new support, and began making straight-A’s. I went from a 0.043 GPA to graduate with a 3.94, summa cum laude in 2013. I had a wide range of interests in school, from sociological theory to statistics and demographics to philosophy and ethics. I received my B.A. in Sociology with minors in English and Honors Studies–I completed 17 honors courses with a 4.0. I also completed an honors thesis. In addition to my other honors and awards received during my undergraduate career, I am especially proud of receiving the Stephen R. Gregg Presidential Endowed Scholarship in 2011 and the Megan Curran Advocacy Award in 2012 for my advocacy in support of the LGBTQIA+ community.
My interest in communication, writing, and policy and procedural writing and editing led me to enter the M.A. program in Rhetoric and Composition (M.A.R.C.) in 2013. In the summer of 2014, I would go with a study abroad group to study Irish literature and travel writing in Ireland. My cognates included Advanced English Studies and Disability Studies. And I was awarded the Celebrity Classic Scholarship (a highly prized award, guaranteeing $2,000 toward every year of graduate study)–I was the first M.A.R.C student to be awarded this scholarship.
After graduating from the M.A.R.C. program in 2015 with a 4.0 GPA, I decided to begin a second M.A. in Applied Philosophy and Ethics (M.A.A.P.E.). To my delight, I was re-awarded the Celebrity Classic Scholarship for the second time for my studies in the M.A.A.P.E. program–I would also be the first student in this program ever awarded this scholarship. My cognates in this program were Women’s and Gender Studies and Professional Ethics, and I would complete professional certifications in Professional Ethics and Mediation. I graduated with a second M.A. in Philosophy and Ethics in 2017.
Currently, after returning for a short stint of living in Indiana, I have returned to Texas to be closer to friends and family. Despite my qualifications and abilities, I have found finding employment with a disability more than a little daunting; however, as you can see, I am devoted to showing potential employers my moxie, ingenuity, communicative capabilities, and passion for helping others. I am currently searching for an exciting career that makes use of my skills and abilities, including those present within my Autistic nature, that will allow me to advance and be valued as a part of the community and the team.
Technical and Procedural Editing:
Throughout my work, people have commented most on my keen eye for detail, especially when it comes to reading, interpreting, enforcing, writing, and editing policy. When I worked for a state contractor in Texas, the agency had been asking for standard operating policies and procedures (SOPs) for over a year, and none of the contractors had turned in acceptable documents to the agency for approval.
When I arrived and started writing SOPs for my area, the technical writers noticed my ability immediately and asked for my assistance on the entire project–I ended up writing the SOPs for nearly 90% of the entire project to be edited by two professional technical writers. This particular project included not only writing skills, but critical thinking skills; for example, while one person stated that front-line, money-handling reps could quickly offer refunds to customers if given the ability, I had to object to this practice. If front-line reps took money and waited for the customer to leave, then they initiated a refund in the system, they could then pocket the cash without a paper trail to catch the discrepancy. When I left, it took two people to fulfill my one position, and as I understand, both were let go soon after they took the positions as several employees were caught stealing under their watch.
Later, when I was working on my first graduate degree, I was chosen to be promoted from writing tutor to become the Writing Center Coordinator. I would be asked to remain in this position for an extra semester by the new Writing Center Director; it was I who suggested we write SOPs, and I undertook writing the templates for the policies and procedures.
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving:
Throughout my career, both private and academic, I’ve prided myself on the ability to solve issues by approaching them calmly and rationally. Sometimes problems go unsolved, not because they are too complicated, but because others are looking in the wrong place for the answer. For example, at one of my old workplaces, we sold equipment in bulk, like our popular digital voice recorders (DVRs). One client had purchased hundreds of DVRs, but was never able to get her personal DVR to work. She had been working with the manufacturer and with our technical support programmers for over a year without results. When I first spoke with her, I was shocked to learn it had taken so long and still there was no solution. Knowing that the DVRs used USB technology, for a lark and not thinking that there would be any result, I asked her if she’d ever tried a new USB cable. The programmers thought that it was a software or driver error, but I’ve had cables go bad before. She changed the cable, but still couldn’t get the DVR to work. Then, something else came to mind: the USB port on my computer could easily get too dusty, clogged, turned off, or just stop working… what if this were the same problem? So, I asked the customer if she’d ever used a different DVR port. She hadn’t tried another port before, but she was willing to try. Sure enough, as soon as she changed ports, it worked. She’d spent over a year unable able to use her personal DVR, but we had the problem fixed in a matter of ten minutes.
I have, as I hope you can tell, a history of solving issues that others say are unsolvable. Another example involves a toll calculator I created for my employer to pass along to the Texas toll agency. The company and its IT staff had told our bosses with the state agency that a toll calculator was impossible for over a year. When I came to work for the agency through my employer, my boss asked if it might be possible to create a toll calculator through Excel. I didn’t see why not, so I researched the issue. I though that if I could create a table of all possible entrance and exit points along the tollway, then I could place the fees for exiting and visualized the product as a graph with an X and Y axis, then a function could be used in excel to locate the cell at the intersections of the corresponding axis, like a graph. Thus, if I wanted to get on at Example Street (X-axis) and exit on Departure Boulevard (Y-axis), then a function could be programmed to tell me the contents of the cell where each axis would meet and deliver that. Therein, people that told our mutual state employer that it was impossible to create a toll calculator and made 100-times my salary had to admit that it was possible, as I delivered the first toll calculator in about two weeks. Also, I chose two shades of two colors to represent the agency (a light, but vibrant sky blue) and the cost (a light shade of green–I wanted it friendly, not the aggressive dark green associated with money directly), and I would learn that the agency also loved my color choices so much that they use the exact shades in their current marketing representation.
In fact, were it not for my critical thinking and engagement with policies, I might not have gotten back into school. When I was reapplying for school, I used the Texas Fresh Start policy, as I originally went to college without proper diagnosis and support. Although I might get into college without a problem, I soon would be in danger of not meeting GPA standards because of courses I’d taken nearly a decade ago. However, according to the Fresh Start law, courses taken over ten years ago can be removed from consideration of the GPA calculation. This happens, according to the written policy, at exactly ten years from the time the classes were taken. But the admissions personnel believed the policy was that it should be ten years and a semester. I produced the actual law in writing to prove that it was, indeed, ten years since the beginning of a semester and not the end.
Research and Information Processing:
During my time at Texas State University, I had the pleasure of being asked to work with the world-renown Dr. Don Olson on a project involving historical astrology in connection with literature in discovering the inspiration for an E. A. Poe short story “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion” and the comet that destroys the world in the story. During our research, Dr. Olson complemented me on my research skills, stating that while he could become an expert on a particular story or painting, I impressed him by becoming quite a Poe expert in a little less than a month and completely capable of recalling exact details with little prompting. This should be of little surprise to those familiar with the Autistic mind, as Autistic people tend to be voracious readers and have above-average memory skills. I am also quite good at finding what it is that I am looking for. I spent my time on the project searching, reading, and processing historical archives. We published our research in Sky and Telescope on December 2016 under the title “Haunted Eyes to the Cosmos: The Comets of Edgar Allan Poe.”
I also enjoyed utilizing the qualitative and quantitative research skills required for completion of my undergraduate degree in sociology. In order to graduate, candidates must complete 12 hours of research-related classes that include qualitative research analysis, quantitative research analysis, applied data analysis, and social statistics. I completed these courses with a perfect 4.0. Furthermore, the project that I completed for my quantitative class was praised by the instructor for unique findings with sociological value in an unlikely place–the social affluence index as related to the reported sexuality of the subject-group and the age at which the differences occur. This study proved that while it is true that non-heterosexual men score at the top of this wealth index, this only occurs once the subject reaches 40 and beyond. Before the subject reaches 40 years old, the index parallels all other subject groups. Additionally, I discovered some interesting sociological data, including sexism affecting older non-heterosexual men (while they most likely to be the wealthiest of the groupings, they were also the most likely to be single) and the fact that people of historically lower socioeconomic groups may have less access to healthy LGB identity. I titled the study “The Socioeconomic Status of Homosexuals and Bisexuals versus Heterosexuals as Mitigated by Age of Respondent.” Three years later, my instructor would compliment my work further to another professor, telling her that I was a gifted researcher and a “particularly gifted writer.”