DiversityNE is part-funded
by the European Social Fund and North of Tyne Combined Authority.

'Growing the power and potential of a neurodiverse workforce'

Michael Milson thought his dream of working in IT had disappeared after he suffered a rare brain tumour at the age of 31.

Michael, of Wallsend in North Tyneside, was left with double vision and mobility issues after several operations to treat the tumour the size of an orange near the stem of his brain. 

The married father-of-two spent seven years without work and at times used foodbanks to help support his young family. He lost confidence in his IT skills – even though he had a degree in computing – and didn’t dare apply for jobs.

That was until his wife Laura urged him to get in touch with our DiversityNE employability programme, which gave him his confidence back and helped him land a job.

Michael now works as a service desk analyst for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, providing technical IT support to NHS staff at all levels. “I felt comfortable there straight away and I’m loving the job,” the 39-year-old says.

“When I was out of work, I didn’t feel anywhere near confident enough to apply for an IT job. My experience was old, my degree was old, and IT had moved on so much. I thought I had no chance against IT literate 17-year-olds. So I didn’t try.”

That changed when he started meeting DiversityNE Employment Advisor Alex Hall once a week in Wallsend. Alex guided him through job listings and worked on applications with him.

“Alex was very friendly and I felt very comfortable with him,” Michael says. “He showed me I had nothing to lose by applying.

I made a mess of my first interview – it was my first proper interview in over 20 years and I wasn’t prepared enough. After that, Alex helped me by asking me questions and working with me on the answers, and I felt much more confident in the interview for my current job.

Michael had first been ill as a teenager, when a 16-feet fall from a skate ramp led to the discovery of a benign brain tumour, and a shunt was surgically placed in his brain to drain fluid to other parts of his body. 

He was determined not to let it stop him and went on to work as an IT technician at a school, get a computing degree from Sunderland University, and work for bookmakers William Hill.

He was managing a William Hill betting shop in Seaham in 2015 when he went to a dentist with toothache and migraine and found that his tumour had migrated, requiring a series of operations.

William Hill kept his job open for him but he wasn’t well enough to return. After seven years without work, he was ready to get a job again but wasn’t sure where to start until he joined the DiversityNE programme.

He says: “I thought I had no chance of a role like the one I’m doing. I’m glad Alex pushed me as I would never have applied for it myself.

Now I’m there, I realise that I do have a lot to offer, even though I’m older than everyone else including my line manager. I like to think I bring maturity, experience and knowledge. I have a different perspective.

The job also suits him in that he can work from home at times, he can sit – helping with his mobility problems – and his double vision makes it easier for him to look at a screen than at 3D objects.

Michael is thankful that he sought help from DiversityNE, which is run by North East Autism Society and Azure Charitable Enterprises with funding from the European Social Fund and North of Tyne Combined Authority.

“They helped me in many ways, not just to get a job. They helped me get my confidence back,” he says.

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