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The How Do I? Blog

The How Do I? Blog

#TakeFiveWith Amanda Kirby

Take Five With Amanda Kirby - pictured is closeup shot of Amanda smiling into the camera

Take Five With Amanda Kirby - pictured is closeup shot of Amanda smiling into the camera

Could you tell us about yourself and your job role? And one hobby/fun fact?

I am the CEO of Do-IT Solutions and the founder of the company with my colleague Dr. Ian Smythe.

I have three fun facts: I like dancing, cooking and enjoy making food for other people. I also have most fun when playing with my grandchildren because then I can be a child too.

 

What is a typical day like for you?

There isn’t a typical day, I think every single day is wonderfully different. It’s incredibly long, but really interesting. My day often starts at about 5:30 or 6:00 AM and I often do some reading, writing and thinking at that time. Then I will often work until 08:00 or 09:00 PM in the evening.

I might be meeting people, delivering lectures, going into prisons, meeting up with my team, talking to somebody in government, talking to someone who is neurodiverse, answering calls, tweeting, writing, designing, talking to someone about issues around exclusion and homelessness. I might also be lecturing to a school, college or university, meeting with health professionals and travelling around the country.

Every day is incredibly different. I love meeting people, I like hearing their stories and sharing ideas and collaborating because we can always learn from each other all the time. That makes my day and the job that I do incredibly interesting. I am very fortunate to have such variety in my role and to be able to learn from people, and to be able to work with interesting people.

 

Could you tell us how you got into your role?

So, I am one of the founders of the company Do-IT Solutions and I got involved in starting it because I changed careers many years ago. My second son was born and diagnosed with dyspraxia, then dyslexia and then ADHD. As a GP I changed careers and set up an interdisciplinary centre for health and educational professionals to better their understanding of neurodiversity and have a one-stop shop for parents to support their children and provide practical guidance.    

During that time I developed training resources and then started doing research, and I reversed my discovery centre into the university. Then I started growing my academic career and became a professor with a PHD. During that time I realised all the time that people are individuals and that labels are just proxy markers to describe an individual, but don’t support and describe that person in the context of their lives.

I started this work with my colleague Dr. Ian Smythe, who is a dyslexia and multi-lingualism expert. We started to develop computer systems that could consider how to deliver a social model and help us understand the person and the social context of their lives. We started building the system slowly and growing it, and made the company what it is today.  

We’re all different and there isn’t a single answer. What I’ve found a lot of the time is that people have been describing ‘This is what you do for X condition’, but actually it depends so much on the context. Guidance and support may be different for someone in college, someone in university, someone who is in prison, for someone who is a police officer to someone who works in an office. But they might all be called ‘dyslexic!’ The practical strategies they might require need to be nuanced for that setting. They also might be tall, short, they might like cooking or something else, they may be very anxious or dyspraxic as well. So the sum of the parts of who you are and the context of where you needs to be truly person centered.

 

What motivates you to do a good job?

My motivation for doing a good job is that I’m the parent and grandparent of neurodiverse children, we have neurodiversity in both sides of my family. I have very personal reasons for doing a good job. My children and grandchildren are very fortunate that we’re able to be articulate about their needs and ask for help and get the help most of the time, but it’s still quite difficult at times.

I recognise that there are thousands of families, tens of thousands of families who may not be so fortunate. There are children, young people and adults moving through the system -  education and employment and in the justice system that don’t have their needs identified and don’t have the support.

My motivation is personal and I feel I have a duty to do this work and make a difference.

How do you learn at work?

I listen to audio books when I’m in the car, I watch videos when I am on my computer, I read books when I’m on the train, I go to conferences. I often learn more in the coffee bar chatting with others than I do in the lecture theatre! I have really interesting discussions with people and we develop research projects and discuss things. Online I have constant discussions on LinkedIn and other social media sites.  

I use all opportunities to learn because you can learn everywhere, all the time. I use those opportunities in the car, on the train, early in the morning to advance my learning as much as I can.

I was still a medical student when I married and had my first child, so I had to learn to sneak in time to do work whenever I possibly could because I had a young family, so I learned that with 10 minutes here and there you can actually learn quite a lot. That time adds up and it’s surprising what you can fit in!

 

What are your aims for the next year? For example, if you work in accessibility do you have any plans to help make workplaces more inclusive? If you work in Learning and Development how are you going to promote workplace learning?

I plan to stay well, stay happy, stay connected to family and friends and ensure that Do-IT profiler reaches more people and hopefully helps more people in workplaces. I am also encouraging organisations to become Disability Confident so they consider what they need to do to ensure they are accessible for all, and not miss out on talent.


YOU CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT DO-IT SOLUTIONS UK ON THE FOLLOWING PLATFORMS:

Do-It Solutions website: www.doitprofiler.com

Do-It Solutions Twitter Account: @DoITProfiler

TAKE PART IN #TAKEFIVEWITH

Would you like to share your story or raise awareness about the work you’re doing? Do you know someone in the tech, design, accessibility, inclusion or learning and development sector who would like to tell their story in the #TakeFiveWith series? Contact Zeinab at zeinab@wearehowdoi.com