National Physical Laboratory

Blog: Stephanie Kitchen, Strategy Lead for NPL's National Graphene Metrology Centre

I was diagnosed as dyslexic a very, very long time ago; in fact, so long ago that my assessment report was produced on a typewriter by a newly-qualified clinical psychologist from UCL – the (now) world-leading dyslexia expert Professor Maggie Snowling, President of St John's College, Oxford.


When I joined NPL in 2007, I was looking for a part-time job as an admin assistant, a role that would help me to develop my skills in project management, but one that wouldn't be too stressful and would keep me close to home, as I was the primary carer for my family.

Somehow, since joining NPL, and with a lot of hard work, my part-time job has turned into a career and I'm now Strategy Lead for NPL's National Graphene Metrology Centre.

I've also undertaken a lot of independent part-time study since joining NPL; first a foundation degree in Business and Marketing, then a BA in Business Administration at Kingston University, and now an MSc in International Marketing at King's College London.

During these years of study, I learnt that I needed to 'come out' as dyslexic to be able to put in place the support I needed to progress. We often talk about the gifts of dyslexia and neurodiversity and the ability to 'think differently'; an unexpected one for me has been the realisation that I can do all the things that I want to, like studying or developing a career at a different time in my life – when I am ready, not when society expects me to be.

When the opportunity arose in late 2016 to form a workplace group for people with dyslexia, I knew I wanted to be part of it – to help form a community that would support and celebrate each unique individual with dyslexia at NPL. The group was formed not only of people who have dyslexia, but also of supporters both from the organisation and people whose lives have been touched by dyslexia.

As a group, we developed our terms of reference which can be found on our website, and although we talk of our aims, one of the most important things for me is that when we meet once a month we can take a break from busy work lives and just 'be' – we don't have to 'do'!

I'm now a member of the Diversity Committee at NPL, alongside my colleague Peter Davis, representing the Dyslexia Group at NPL. The Dyslexia Group has organised and led the delivery of line manager training at NPL from the British Dyslexia Association, to raise awareness of gifts that people with dyslexia have, as well as the support that they may need. We have also worked in partnership with NPL's Health, Safety and Environment Team, supporting new and existing employees who have dyslexia.

Key to the success of the Dyslexia Group is the sponsorship we have received from NPL's Executive Team, as supporting diversity is integral to their personal values and to those of NPL as an organisation.

The British Dyslexia Association put director and producer, Richard Macer, in touch with us, for the filming of his BBC Four documentary, Farther and Sun , where Richard sets off on a road trip with his dyslexic son Arthur to find out if dyslexia could be a gift.

It was with some trepidation that NPL's Dyslexia Group agreed to be filmed for the documentary; being willing to be filmed in your workplace talking about what makes you different takes a lot of guts! But it turned out to be a brilliant experience, especially when we had the opportunity to show off the labs and see the look of wonder on the faces of Arthur and Harry (Richard's sons) when we showed them the Dolls of Confusion, the length labs and the antenna range.

Diversity in the workplace is vital, as my colleague Peter Davis, a Higher Research Scientist at NPL, says during the documentary: "Having a non-diverse workforce is not what science is about – you need diversity to come at a problem from multiple different angles. If everyone in my team was the same as me, we wouldn't solve the problems."

As Vizi Wenman, a Financial Accounting Technician here at NPL, said during the documentary when he spoke about dyslexic superpowers: "Seeing things that other people wouldn't have been able to because I think about it in a different way to what they would" opens up a whole new conversation about the benefits of employing people with dyslexia.

These benefits have recently been discussed in a paper, The Value of Dyslexia, which showcases in depth how neurodiversity will become increasingly valuable within the working world. The paper was published by the charity Made by Dyslexia, which is supported by Richard Branson and Orlando Bloom.

Although we still have a way to go, I'm happy that we have started the conversation at NPL around the benefits of dyslexia and neurodiversity in the workplace.

Find out more about diversity, equality and inclusion at NPL.

Last Updated: 29 Oct 2018
Created: 22 Oct 2018


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