April is Autism and Neurodiversity Acceptance Month. To celebrate and highlight the community, we had the opportunity to speak with neurodivergent founder Julia Armet, the Founder & CEO of Higher Playbook.
Higher Playbook is a people and culture consultancy on a mission to rehumanize work. With a professional trajectory that spans industries, including media, technology, coaching and leadership consulting, Julia believes meaningful professional relationships are the source of business sustainability. Her philosophical and innovative approach to learning and development is inspiring the next generation of visionary leaders, who are collectively driving the shift to purposeful work.
Your career has been very intentional around creating space for people whether it was in-house for a company or now on your own. Can you tell us how you got to where you are today?
For the past decade, I’ve been mastering the facilitation of space - especially virtual space. Working in the intersection of technology and relationship building really helped me deepen my own understanding of how personal development and professional development are intertwined. When I went to NYU, I studied identity and media looking at the way people represent themselves through technology. My career really unfolded as I dove deeper into my passion. Today, at Higher Playbook, I can go back to every job I’ve ever had – from the hospitality industry, through the relationship industry and into consulting – and realize that I’ve been following that passion for people and culture the whole time.
That’s interesting. Can you drill down on the relationship between personal and professional development?
I say that personal is professional because when you know who you are and you understand your unique qualities, that really informs what you do. Our professional lives really are where we focus so much of our time and energy. My identity as an autistic leader has shaped so much of how I show up professionally and my passion for people and culture. It’s really interesting knowing your connection between your who and your what. Unlocking your full potential and actualizing who you are comes from understanding these parts of yourself.
After you’ve identified who you are and what you're best at, how do you actually make that shift into self-actualization?
Giving yourself space and time is so key to uncovering the aspects of yourself that you want to step into. In that actualization, you need to create time and space, whether it’s on an individual level or with a bigger team. The way to self actualize is often through intention.
You’ve shifted from working for someone else to founding your own business and managing others, what have been your keys to success as a leader with autism?
The time I’ve spent in traditional work environments showed me so much about what I needed in my workplace. Being in higher purpose training grounds taught me I do well when I have open time blocks to create, when I’m able to have an outline before I go into any kind of facilitation and when I’m around people who are very open and non judgemental. Creating an understanding of my own success formula through trial and error helped me craft my own business model and mission. Every experience, both good and bad, brought me to that point.
What is one of the hardest challenges you’ve had to face an autistic founder?
Deciding to show up as an autistic leader and be that voice for representation is really difficult. I had to believe in myself to do that, especially as an autistic woman. I read a story in Forbes that said 85% of autistic people are unemployed, and that statistic in many ways demonstrates a collective challenge. Facts like this are why I decide to proudly disclose that I am autistic. I worked for a long time to be comfortable standing in this visibility. Bridging the gap between neurotypical and neurodivergent ways of being is a challenge I face everyday on a more micro level.
There’s a paradigm shift underway. When people hear words like dyslexia, ADHD, autism, there’s so many questions like what can we do to accommodate vs. how can you bring your gifts to the table for our organization. When you’re more visible, it disrupts perception and opens people up to this shift in mindset. There’s so much talent we can unlock if we’re willing to get through the uncomfortability that comes with visibility.
Given what you know, how do we create those spaces at a macro level?
Designing workplace experiences is a great place to begin. Inviting people to come together and celebrate each other's identities shifts the purpose of the workplace. It can be used to foster a sense of belonging which ultimately translates to people thriving and realizing their full potential.
With all the labels we place on ourselves and each other, how do we look beyond them and realize our diversity is an asset?
Using labels as points of awareness is a conscious step in the integration process. When everybody is invited to self identify it's empowering. Everyone feels welcome and celebrated. Embracing people through quality time and conversation is where the labels really begin to fade away and turn into assets. When there’s space and time to value each other the labels become invisible.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the work you’re doing with Higher Playbook?
Higher Playbook is a people and culture consultancy on a mission to rehumanize our workplace. We look at the workplace holistically because collectively we’re contributing to the future of the workspace. The workplace is a mirror to society. By opening spaces for socially innovative programs within companies and with entrepreneurs, people can integrate their identities within the work world and get a greater sense of purpose in their everyday life.
Given your experience, how do people show up authentically?
It’s a matter of asking the questions you haven’t asked yourself or anyone else. It starts with finding people whose authenticity you admire and digging deeper within yourself to figure out what it is about that person that really inspires you. Discovering authenticity is a process of exploration, and it feels different for everyone. It’s extremely personal, so I would say take the time to figure out what it means to you.
Do you have any final words of wisdom for us?
It’s important to recognize the power of visibility. Start asking the questions you might have that you might not have been able to explore. My hope is by being visible, I’ll inspire others.