Ashley Pajević and Working with ADHD
Interview with Isabelle Knight
Ashley Pajević is many things. A Product Manager at SwiftFox. A leader at SwiftFox. An artist. An avid supporter of The Wombats, user experience journals, and now BeReal. You will note that these photos are from Ashley’s BeReal. Ashley also has Attention deficit hyperactive disorder or ADHD and for ADHD Awareness Month, Ashley wanted to help raise awareness of what working with ADHD is like.
Firstly, thank you for talking about this.
Of course, I think it’s important.
What do you think the most common misconception of ADHD is?
People think of it as a 7 year old boy running around. And while 7-year-old boys can have ADHD and can be really hyperactive, it can also be an imaginative quiet girl, or adult.
ADHD is a spectrum and made up of several different traits like inattentiveness, impulsiveness, hyperactivity and others, different people can have some traits that are more exaggerated than others.
You were diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, how did that come about?
I was struggling with forgetting things often. I wasn’t sure I had it, I asked my doctor. As a note – you need to have the right doctor. They knew me, and they were pretty sure I had it. They wrote down a referral for a psychiatrist, but I lost the piece of paper – and couldn’t remember who they referred me to. I procrastinated for a 1 year and a half because I didn’t want to ask again. It was actually a general referral, anyway, and then I got diagnosed.
Was it hard to tell your employer?
I’m sure it is for a lot of people. And it’s obviously personal but John has always been really good about stuff, like if I had to go home for a reason, or something was going on. You obviously have to have faith in your employer that they’re not going to think differently of you when you tell them. And John (John McLindon CEO) was just like, “Okay how can I support you?” And I said, “I’ve just been diagnosed, I keep forgetting things, send me a message with a due date.”
What is the hardest part of having ADHD?
It can be really hard. Inattentiveness is hard. People can get frustrated with you because you don’t remember something, they can feel like it’s personal. Hyperfocus is the easy part, time just flies, I can get something done really quick.
You seem really organised at work – how do you manage to do a job like yours (please note – product managers are very busy) with ADHD?
I plan for forgetting. I create a system. I also do things straight away, as soon as I get them, then I won’t forget. I have other strategies too like:
- When someone asks me for something, I write everything down. I put in a calendar reminder for when they need it by. The dates are really helpful. If you don’t have an end date – it’s hard to remember it.
- Recognising in myself when I’m getting antsy and switching tasks. Like I say to myself, “I’ll get antsy if I continue to do this.” So, I’ll switch to something else. By starting a fresh task, it’s like it jolts my brain.
- I also do things straight away. as soon as I get them, then I won’t forget.
- Sometimes I listen to music and a podcast at once.
What would you say to employers who learn one of their team has ADHD?
- Don’t place an emphasis on 9-5. I don’t know when I’m going to be distracted. Allow people the freedom to be able to work at times where they work most productively.
- And really if your employee asks for a system, they’re helping your company – so there’s really no harm in accommodating them.
- Learn to accommodate.
- Focus on the end product, not the process.
- Don’t treat people differently.
Don’t place an emphasis on 9-5. Allow people the freedom to be able to work at times when they work most productively.Ashley Pajević
And, if you know one person with ADHD, you know one person with ADHD.
Exactly. Just like if someone is vegetarian, and someone can’t eat pork. You make adjustments. And you don’t assume that every vegetarian has the same reasons.
You are part of a larger neurodiverse team at SwiftFox, do you find it helps knowing that?
Yes, that’s a big help. We check in with each other. If someone is having a bad ADHD day we say, ‘How are you going?’ ‘Remind you in an hour…?’