Aphant/SDAM/ASD – Career Suggestions?

I am new to this community and I am very happy to meet a group of like-minded individuals. I have been looking for this for a long time.

I am seeking suggestions for a career path. I am a Systems Design Engineer and have worked as a software developer for 30 years.

I have heard people say that these disabilities do not affect ones ability to live and work. That has not been my experience.

I have had difficulty in my profession because a) I am autistic and b) I think differently from most people. I have always had a very poor memory. I believe that most people in the profession have very good memories.

I fell in love with software development 30 years ago when I discovered the paradigm called OOMD (Object Oriented Modelling and Design) or OOP (.. Programing). I found this approach was a perfect fit for the way my mind worked. I discovered that I was very good at modelling complex problem spaces and I was very good at simplifying them. I am not good at thinking in patterns.

Unfortunately, OOMD fell out of favour. I have been struggling to maintain a career using the newer paradigms. Unfortunately, the combination of being autistic, and not being able to do OOP has left me looking like an amateur.

I would be very curious if anybody has had a similar experience. I hope that the thinking skills that I have developed due to my disabilities might be put to better use in other areas (i.e. Data Analysis, AI, …). I think that I am a good thinker.

I appreciate any insights or suggestions. Thank you.

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Hey Patrick, you are not alone. I love programming but struggling all the time. I am not even able to remember the commands -> sometimes commands that I have used more than thousand times. Cause I know this command exist and I am able to describe it, I use Google to remember it.
Object orientated programming is less a problem for me, because it’s logical for me. But remembering all the method names and attributes is a mess – scheme’s of the objects on a paper help me.
A great thing is, if have solve a problem and after a day I’m trying to solve it again, I will create a entire new solution.

Hi Patrick. Wow, seeing “OOP” was a blast from the past, LOL! I worked as an HVAC control systems engineer from 2006-2012, using OOP to program building automation systems (BAS) for institutional buildings. I have aphantasia and what people used to call “Asperger’s Syndrome,” but technically do not have ASD, as my daily life is not affected severely enough to qualify as having a “disorder.”

I did some internet digging, and found that Johnson Controls, a prominent company in the BAS industry, now uses what they call graphical programming language (GPL), which utilizes a graphical interface within which OOP is performed. The beauty of a career in this industry, for you, would be the fact that maintenance staff must be able to interface with the BAS once the building is completed and the programmer has left, in order to adjust schedules & temperature setpoints for rooms & zones within the building, etc…… so these types of controllers are basically prohibited from ever “evolving” into using text-based programming (unless the human race evolves to the point where fluency in a text-based programming language is very widespread, which shouldn’t occur within your lifetime, LOL!).

There are things about this career that might be challenging for you due to having ASD. Of course, individual jobs within this field will vary, and there has undoubtedly been some “evolution” in the decade since I had this job, but some things I encountered that might be challenging for a person with ASD were:

– The programming itself was done on the construction site, where the front-end computer was located, and it could sometimes be a noisy environment (the development of the programming was done in an office environment, and then I brought the binders of flow charts I had created to the construction site)
– I had to work closely with the installers who ran the wiring from the individual field components to the PLC, both in designing the BAS architecture and on the construction site, where we communicated via walkie-talkie to test that the signals sent from the front-end computer were reaching the components in the field
– I had to work with a couple different people in the process of commissioning the buildings, which required communicating with each via walkie-talkie and in-person for the duration of my workday, for 2-3 days in a row

This job definitely required working with people more frequently than what I believe the typical “programmer” job would, but these were people who were also very technical thinkers, and needed me to interface with the system to initiate the various BAS processes that would yield specific physical results in the field. These involved a completely different type of interaction than meeting a client to discuss their “vision” for the software would.

I have an Environmental Resources Engineering degree, so did not have a background/education in HVAC, but my degree gave me enough background in flow dynamics that I had an affinity for HVAC systems design, and was able to learn that aspect of the job easily. How I got the job was a fluke, and I definitely did not fulfill the requirements typically associated with a control systems/BAS engineering job. I believe it’s very likely that, if you wanted to pursue this as a career, you would need to obtain additional education in the mechanical/HVAC aspect to qualify for most job openings.

In my internet digging I came across a GPL programmer’s manual for Johnson Controls, here is the link… https://cgproducts.johnsoncontrols.com/MET_PDF/631010.PDF

Industrial/manufacturing automation processes also utilize PLC’s, which makes them less likely to use text-based programming, so this is another area you could look into.

Best of luck! Please feel free to respond if you have any questions 🙂