With almost two decades of experience in the Welsh Government, an officer of the Welsh Disability Awareness And Support Network and founder of the Welsh ASD Support Group, and award winner of the Valuing Diversity Award, Tassja Wiseman is driven by the desire to make positive change for others in her community - and has been guided by Networkology to do this.
Tassja wanted to be in the civil service since she was six years old because she was “interested in improving the lives of people.” It’s clear Tassja has done this, including through her work as a Bursary Holder. Describing her role as a Bursary Holder, she said “I wanted to learn as much as possible to be a great leader to others. It was great timing; it felt like what I was meant to be doing.” The Bursary Scheme supports disability networks/resource group leaders to make cross-governmental change.
Tassja’s workplace - the Welsh Government - leads with an “overarching commitment” in building disability confidence, which has been particularly evident over the past couple of years. Tassja describes how the social model of disability is evident in all aspects of the Welsh Government’s work. “This model tells us that individuals may have an impairment or difference, but it is society that disables them by the obstacles we put in their way.” The Welsh Government puts this model into action by using it as it’s basis for how they develop policy and deliver services, but also what they do as employers, managers, and colleagues of disabled people as well as helping and supporting staff members with the creation of award-winning staff networks.
Tassja has made a difference to hundreds of people thanks to the support of the Welsh Government. Tassja wrote a blog piece for the workplace intranet about a day in her life as a neurodiverse person, which was very daunting. “It was like stripping off in front of everyone - I’d spent my life hiding that I was autistic, and it was laid out bare for everyone to see.” But the overwhelming positive response made the experience worthwhile. “I received 100s of emails, people thanking me for opening a window to the world of their autistic children, individuals saying how alone and isolated they had felt and managers who felt like they could do better but didn’t know where to start.” This initially scary prospect of giving her colleagues an insight into the life of an autistic person led to the creation of the Welsh ASD Support Group, which is consulted on internal and external policies. “It was clear that this group was needed. We have a real voice. People knowing that they’re being heard is giving them more confidence - autistic staff in the Welsh Government are going from strength to strength. I’m so chuffed.”
As well as having the brilliant backing of the Welsh Government, Tassja also commends Networkology for helping her to make a difference in the various strands of her work. In her work in the Bursary Holders Scheme, Tassja proclaimed “Networkology helped drive change with cross-governmental work. It helped me to think “Why aren’t we doing this right across the civil service?”
Through meeting Lucy at a Networkology event, Tassja was able to significantly enhance the interview process in the Welsh Government for autistic candidates by providing guidance that showed the impact of allowing autistic people to have notes in an interview. The guidance was changed within seven working days. “This helped level the playing field for people like myself.” Had Tassja not attended Networkology and gained insight from the day on what could be done to help an organisation build disability confidence, this change may not have happened. This change was personal to Tassja because of her own experience with lack of reasonable adjustments in an interview. “It really knocked my confidence. I didn’t want it to be the same for others coming in - I wanted it to be different.”
Tassja completed both parts of Networkology in 2019. “As a network leader, it can feel like a lonely journey. I wasn’t confident that I was getting things right or being a good leader. But after Networkology, I felt inspired. It helped to broaden the way I thought about things. It just felt like a real force for good - everyone was trying to achieve the same thing.”
We know the drastic global situation has made this a hard time for the country and many of our members. But Tassja echoed the importance of staying connected during this hard time and had a piece of advice for our readers. “One of the biggest things we need to do in any situation is to stay connected to each other. It’s our connections that drive us. With people working from home, there’s a greater chance of people becoming isolated. If we stay connected, we’re all going to want to help each other. Continue to use all the tools possible - like PurpleSpace. Being around like-minded people drives change further. Right now, we can’t forget about the hard work we’ve put in. We don’t want to slip backward. We’ve got to make sure the disability agenda doesn’t fall.”
At PurpleSpace, Tassja’s journey is a source of motivation for us. Networkology has allowed Tassja’s dedication to making a difference to the community to flourish, and we’re extremely excited for our Networkology digital workshops this month. Tassja’s words of wisdom about not slipping backward is extremely important to us - which is why we’re holding a complimentary webinar on the 8th April for disabled employees with tips for working remotely during these trying times.
Welsh Government Fact Box:
- Established in 1999
- 5000 staff members
- Four staff diversity networks and four informal peer group networks
- Achieved Disability Confident Level 3 (Leader) accreditation
- Awarded the National Autism Society Autism Friendly Award
- Took part in Purple Light Up
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