This IT Pro is Advocating for Users with ADHD

Mark Szili and son

As an IT pro, Mark Szili covers 35,000 desktops for the State Government of Victoria, Australia by providing help with various aspects of Windows 10. He’s also living with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and is passionate about advocating for better educational and tech tools through the group he co-founded, ADHD Melbourne.

“One of the biggest myths about ADHD is that it’s a deficit of attention,” Mark says. “It’s actually a deficit of the ability to regulate your attention. I have what’s known as combined ADHD, which means I can have symptoms of inattention, impulsive behavior, and hyperactivity — and the regulations of all these can swing from 0 to 15.”

For Mark, many of the challenging aspects of his job have been related to ADHD’s effect on working memory, or the processing and attention-related aspects of short-term memory. “It takes me a lot longer to learn things, just because my working memory isn’t there,” he reflects. “I have to do things repetitively — many, many more times than a lot of people would have to — in order to master a skill. I work a lot better when I have written, step-by-step instructions in front of me. But I’m quite passionate about overcoming the challenges that come with ADHD.”

In addition to receiving treatment for his ADHD, Mark has developed a set of practices and tech tools that support his work as an IT Pro. For example, he uses OneNote and Visio to meticulously document processes and workflows. “Documenting like this allows me to go back and reference that for myself, but quite often it will end up benefiting other people too, because I can publish that into our knowledge base at work,” Mark says.

Mark faces unique challenges when it comes to using technology. “Having a lot of tabs open on the taskbar, and things like that, can be overwhelming to someone with ADHD, because someone with ADHD quite often already has 50 to 100 tabs open inside their head,” Mark explains. To help with this challenge, Mark uses Windows 10’s Focus Assist Settings to reduce icons in the taskbar and personalize what notifications he receives.

Mark became a Windows Insider to provide direct feedback on how Windows can improve accessibility for users with ADHD. He would like to see even some of the older features from Windows 7 come back to help him focus his attention — “For example, in Windows 7, the windows would sort of flip like a deck of cards in a bit of a 3D aspect. I found this was actually quite good for me, to visualize my work as a flow. I’d like to see Microsoft bring that back.”

Two custom-built PC’s, two older laptops, and a Surface Pro 2, each running Windows 10 Preview Builds in different rings.
Image caption: Mark is a dedicated Windows Insider. Pictured here are his two custom-built PC’s, two older laptops, and a Surface Pro 2, each running Windows 10 Preview Builds in different rings.

Mark is also advocating for a shift in the way that educational tests and tech certification exams are designed for people with ADHD. “A lot of educational institutes throughout the world seem to remain focused on memory-based examinations, which are very difficult for us to overcome,” he explains. “However, with reference material in front of us, it’s just enough to help jog our memory.”

Mark has been inspired by Dona Sarkar’s book #DoTheThing to consider how telling his story could help others. He points out that by some estimates, “close to 8% of children around the world are affected by ADHD.” According to Mark, many adults remain unaware that they have ADHD, which can be accompanied by secondary conditions, like depression and anxiety. Through ADHD Melbourne and sharing his experience as an IT Pro living with ADHD, Mark is increasing awareness and encouraging community members to access treatment.  He believes strongly that people with ADHD can lead productive, fulfilling lives.

“I’ve met hundreds, if not thousands of people now, across the world, that have the same condition as me,” Mark says. “I’m just trying to get the message out there that ADHD is a real thing. And there is help.”

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