A Bright Thread
Victoria shares of her story of living on the Autism Spectrum and finding a place to thrive at Northrop Grumman
By Victoria O’Rear

When I was a kid, I hated recess with a passion. 
It meant that I had to interact with other kids, and I would risk getting bullied and teased. Instead, I went to the library and shelved books. 
My parents noticed that I was struggling socially, and, when I was nine, they did formal testing. I was diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum as well as having generalized anxiety disorder. The Autism spectrum is such a wide spectrum, from non-verbal to very high functioning like me. Every case is unique and being on the spectrum can impact a person’s social skills, communication, relationships and self-regulation. 
I always get very nervous disclosing a disability to a new employer. It’s a double-edged sword: if you disclose, and it can feel like people think you’re weird or you get a label attached to you. If you don’t disclose, it can feel like people think you’re weird anyway. Once, when I disclosed my disability to a previous manager, he asked, “What are you doing to fix it?”
I tell people I feel like I hit the jackpot when I joined Northrop Grumman in July 2022. My husband is a Northrop Grumman engineer, and, seeing how happy he is at work, I thought, “I want in on that.” 
My manager happens to be the co-chair of The VOICE, an employee resource group for persons with disabilities and employees who are caregivers. When I disclosed my disability to my manager, he wasn’t fazed by it; he just asked what he could do to help.
Neurodiverse candidates are a diverse talent pool who often get ignored. But companies that aren’t hiring people with disabilities are missing out on a wide variety of perspectives, perspectives you may not get from a neurotypical person. 
In the time I’ve been with the company, I’ve seen how inclusive Northrop Grumman is, particularly when it comes to hiring people with disabilities. In fact, at a recent Disability:IN conference, Northrop Grumman extended the highest number of job offers of any company in attendance. I’ve shared my neurodiversity experience at work, helping to lead the expansion of Northrop Grumman’s neurodiversity internship program.  This year, I was nominated for and accepted into the Disability: IN Early Career Talent Accelerator program, a first-of-its-kind program to empower professionals with disabilities. I’m the first employee from my company to be accepted into the 12-week program’s inaugural cohort. 
One of my favorite quotes comes from psychologist and Autism educator Dr. Tony Attwood, who said he sees people with Autism as “a bright thread in the rich tapestry of life.” People on the spectrum have so many gifts, and I’d encourage everyone to celebrate those bright threads.
View Northrop Grumman’s Website