02 Apr, 2024
Natalie Wood

Interview with Marc Roberts, Chartered Senior Engineer 

Marc was diagnosed with a learning difficulty at age 3, and ultimately Asperger’s Syndrome at age 9. In aid of Autism Awareness Day, Marc has spoken about his neurodiversity and the strengths and opportunities that it brings him working as an engineer at CGL.  

What does Autism Awareness Day mean to you?

I’ve never really thought too much about it. It was never something I made a fuss about growing up. In my mind, Autism is something people should be aware of all the time as opposed to just for a day. Marking the day does give a good platform for awareness, but it’s important not to neglect it on all the other days of the year. 

What are some common misconceptions about Autism that you would like to dispel?  


Autism being classed as a disability is frustrating because not all people with Autism are the same. It is difficult when only one experience of Autism is depicted, e.g. someone being nonverbal and struggling at school. I thrive well in life; I just work differently to other people.  There’s severe Autism, Asperger's (or High Functioning Autism as it’s known as these days), ADHD and more. It’s a wide spectrum and no two people are the same. I like the word ‘neurodiversity’ and I would like to see that phrase adopted more. At a previous job, I disclosed my Autism and explained to them what it was, and what I could do. Their reaction was “so long as it doesn’t bump up our insurance premiums”. That is absurd for all the reasons why I don’t see it as a disability.

I was also rejected from a work experience placement on the grounds of my Autism and the misconception that we cannot work as part of a team. Yes, I do have ideas and a set way of doing things but that doesn’t stop me from being able to work with other people. Then there’s the misconception that people with Autism don’t like change. It’s true that I struggle with changes, however, when I’m on site, I know to expect the unexpected and I am prepared to adapt to these things.

In what ways can workplaces become more inclusive and accommodating for individuals with Autism?  


Better communication of deadlines and when changes occur, being given as much warning as possible. I find it difficult when we need to be on site at short notice, as I tend to plan my agenda for the week ahead. That’s why, for the longer-term sites, it needs to be made clear how long I’m to stay there before I’m rotated off.  


Some workplaces have a lot of banterwhich I can find difficult to cope with, as I don’t always recognise it. I often get along well with women and I benefit from awareness around behaviours in the workplace and a wider drive to include more women in construction.

Are there any particular aspects of your job or workplace environment that you find particularly challenging or rewarding?

I love going out and about to different places and seeing different ground conditions at these sites. Similarly, when it comes to the reporting phase, I love putting together the findings of our investigation and interpreting it. This can also be challenging, as I can sometimes focus on the enjoyment of my work and projects, so have to be careful not to lose track of time. 

What are some strengths or unique perspectives that you bring to your job as a result of your experience with Asperger's Syndrome?

I have a set and methodical way of doing things. I may struggle to communicate how I organise the things on my desk, but I know where everything is and have a system, so to me it is "organised chaos". I also have a very good memory and can recite job numbers. This is useful when a "zombie project" comes up (that's my term for a project that unexpectedly comes back to life down the line. This is an example of unique phrases I make!)

How do you prefer to communicate and collaborate with colleagues?


I must admit that when I am stressed, I can struggle to communicate as there is a lot in my head and expressing it can be very tricky.

Being in a smaller office with a more informal environment works in my favour though. We all know each other and are very open, but at the same time we do have clear boundaries.


What has your experience of working at CGL been like?  


CGL is a company that whilst it is national, is small enough so that everyone knows each other. That community spirit was brought to light at my first company away day, where I really got to know the wider team. It’s nice is that I can work from other offices, and I have made an effort to do so throughout my time here.

Everyone at CGL really does look out for each other, and it’s so nice and reassuring being in a workplace with this sort of environment. Also, as mentioned previously, I find it easier talking to women, so having the high female presence that CGL has had in the time I’ve been here has worked in my favour too.