#TakeFiveWith Leena Haque — pictured is Leena Haque smiling into the camera

#TakeFiveWith Leena Haque

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

I am a Senior User Experience Designer at the BBC and co-founder of @BBCCape, the BBC’s neurodiversity initiative. I am currently working on a new design research programme called Cognitive Design. In my spare time I produce digital art pieces, which can be found on my Instagram — lh_scribbles and my work is currently exhibited at ArtismUK gallery.

What is a typical day like for you?

A typical working day for me is not so typical because I have ADHD and I’m also on the Autism Spectrum which makes life interesting to say the least.☺ It kind of feels like being in a 1950’s B-grade science fiction movie, it can be weird and also very cool… The environment on a sensory level can be quite challenging but it motivates me to be more creative and think ‘out of the box’ which is super useful for problem-solving at work.

No two days are ever the same and I’m never sure how things are going to pan out. At times, it’s like the world is going to end, but then when you get that little bit of support you get this feeling of hope and that the possibilities are endless.

Could you tell us how you got into your role?

It’s been a bit of a roller coaster of a journey, but I was effectively headhunted by the BBC’s previous Chief Design Officer, the super-awesome Colin Burns who saw the creative benefits of hiring neurodivergent individuals in the Design world.

You could say it all started from a conversation about different communication styles. It is easy to assume that someone is comfortable with words, but as a visual thinker I prefer to express myself through pictures, images and any other artistic visual expression.

My role now is essentially about how we recognise and appreciate the different preferences people have to communicate; and not just communication but also areas such as learning and ways of working. If we can better understand and appreciate these preferences, we can help to create positive environments that enable everyone to reach their potential.

What motivates you to do a good job?

Basically, I just want to make the world a better place and I also want to pay forward the amazing support I have benefited from. One of my goals is to help create an inclusive working environment which will benefit everyone and to promote the skills that neurodivergent people can bring.

It often only takes minor adjustments or an understanding manager to help employees deliver outstanding results. The importance of designing an inclusive environment doesn’t mean focusing on physical differences alone; rather there has to be an equal emphasis on different cognitive styles of working and learning.

I also volunteer/support social good projects/charities for developing countries looking into improving health and education for children and young people under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. I am passionate about the work I do because it allows me to create, share & collaborate on ideas for new products and tools that can really make a difference to others.

How do you learn at work?

I have a couple of great mentors that I’ve met through work. They give me the benefits of their experience and we take time just to talk about anything, no matter how random. I also find a lot of information published online; scientific journals, work trends, mindfulness subjects, lots of varied content that I read and listen to. I prefer variety, taking a multitude of ideas and opinions and using them to help me learn, understand and to create and inform my own ideas.

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?

This is a really tough question for me, because I want to do everything; learn new skills, write a book, start-up my own business, create more and ultimately, as I mentioned before, I’d like to make the world a little bit better for others if I can.☺ That’s the beauty of being Neurodivergent, you’re not really restricted to any particular path or specialism. Just be yourself, focus on doing the things that you love and everything will work out okay.


BBC Cape Twitter Account: @BBCCape


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



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