Pivotal Voices is a series where we talk about how and why people came to technology. This week we feature Matthew Kleiman, an engineer in our New York office.

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One learning disability that I have is dysgraphia, which is the inability to handwrite things. This was when I was younger, before I could type effectively. My mom would help me — I would dictate to her in order to write an essay… I look back, and it’s kind of a form of pair writing. I would work with her so it wasn’t just like she was writing just what I said. No, we were bouncing ideas off of each other. If I made a grammatical error, she would catch it as she was writing it. …


How sustainable pace supports people, teams, and products of all kinds

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I recently had the privilege to speak at the Ability in Tech Summit in Berkeley, CA, and took a short weekend trip out to SF. This included an early morning westward flight and a red eye return flight, direct to the Pivotal NY offices on Monday morning. Let me just sum things up by saying that Monday was not an ideal work day for me. Although I had an amazing time at the conference, the extra work I put in to prepare for my speaking engagement, along with the travel, definitely put a drain on me and impacted my work for several days. …


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Every moment of my day at Pivotal Labs

For programmers with ADD, metacognition helps us tap into our most productive selves, because through metacognitive reflection, or being aware of our own thought processes, we can identify gaps in our executive functioning. I think of executive function, which takes place in the frontal lobe of the brain, much like a personal CEO: analyzing and planning out tasks to be done, making decisions and carrying them out. Modern academic research in the fields of neurology and psychology points to executive functioning as a major struggle for those with ADD and other similar learning disabilities. My ADD mind is fully capable of performing each of these executive tasks, like making decisions or implementing them. However, the difficulties occur when I need to perform these steps together in order. …


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While researching for a talk that I will be giving at the Ability in Tech Summit in Berkeley, I have come across various strategies and tools that developers use to deal with ADD and other learning disabilities. I myself have tried many of them during my 8 years in the tech industry before I joined Pivotal Labs. For example, I have tried setting timers for myself to help stay focused and on-task. I would set a timer for 15 minutes, and when the timer ended, if I was off-task I would have to self-correct and restart the timer. The “timers & reminders” strategy, however, still has its downsides while programming. The timer itself is not part of the programming process and could potentially be the very distraction we are trying to prevent. There have been times when I was working smoothly and the timer would interrupt my flow. Another strategy is to schedule “distraction-free” time during which other people are discouraged from approaching the differently-abled programmer and also institute specific times when the ADD employee can be a “people person.” I think that setting arbitrary guidelines for one’s workday behavior without regard to the actual tasks at hand is counter productive. …

About

Matthew Kleiman

Transforming the way the world builds software as an engineer with ADD at Pivotal Labs

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