Chapman Alumna Champions Neurodiversity in the Workplace
After graduating from Chapman with a BS in Computer Information Systems, Tiffany (Payton) Jameson ’96 launched a promising career at a dot-com-era start-up. As a product manager at a technology company, she was responsible for the full lifecycle of a software product, working with engineers, marketing departments, training, quality assurance, and directly with customers. But sometimes life doesn’t lead where you think it will.
“As with most things, my path was chosen for me,” says Jameson. “While I was embracing motherhood and the ability to stay home and raise my children, that changed dramatically when my son was diagnosed with autism at age 2.”
Life became full of therapy and fighting for the services he needed to reach his full potential. Her daughter, born when her son was diagnosed, showed no signs of autism, but was eventually diagnosed with the ADHD impulsivity subtype in elementary school.
“I’ve seen my children and many of their peers struggle in a world that doesn’t accept different thinking and all that the world has to offer,” she says.
The exact moment that all changed was when Jameson learned that among those diagnosed with autism there was an 85% unemployment rate, and an even higher rate for those without a college degree.
“The unemployment rate was unbelievable,” says Jameson. “I would not accept this fate for my children and so many others like them.”
Jameson returned to school and earned an MBA from Brandman University with a major in accounting, finance, and e-business strategy. She followed that with a doctorate. in psychology with an emphasis on organizational psychology. During this time, she founded the boutique consulting firm grain and flowwhich guides organizations in implementing inclusive practices to create environments for all, but especially for those who are neurodivergent (autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, learning differences) and disabled.
She is also one of the founders of the NDGiFTS Movementan organization that supports and celebrates neurodiversity in the workplace.
“Learn more about how to make your environment what we call ‘neuro-inclusive’,” encourages Jameson. “As a former student, I look forward to sharing this vision with you! »
“By the way,” she adds, “my son is a proud Chapman Panther!” Jacob will graduate with the class of 2023.
Jameson’s Chapman experiment took her from basement computer labs to Gamma Phi Beta sorority. Keep reading to learn more about his time at Chapman.
Who was the most influential person for you at Chapman? Why?
Michel Fahy was the most influential person for me during my time at Chapman. He helped me from day one, gave me placement tests before school started, threw books at me in class when I wasn’t paying attention, and helped me get my degree by helping me beg my biology teacher to give me a passing grade (I promise never to work in that field!). We’ve stayed in touch since my days at Chapman, and he continues to be a mentor.
If you could go back in time and relive one moment from your time at Chapman, what would it be? Is there anything you would do differently?
I loved my time in the programming lab. Working with other CIS/CS majors through programming issues was one of my favorite moments at Chapman.
If I could do anything differently, I wouldn’t be graduating in 3.5 years. I would have slowed down a bit and I wouldn’t have been so serious. Nor would I have taken an internship instead of the intersessional class that built Chapman’s first website!
What do you wish you had known when you graduated that you know now? What advice can you give to today’s students and/or recent graduates?
I would like to know more about the balance of my life. I was a workaholic straight out of school. In the 90s, there was still a lot of pressure for women to do everything. Work, family, you name it. Conversations about mental health were not present, and I wish I had known the importance of having balance in my life at the start of my career. My advice is to stay healthy by setting appropriate boundaries around yourself as you progress through your career. When you first join the job market, everything is included. But as you progress and your life becomes richer with a partner and children, you need to know how to embrace balance. It’s not as easy as it seems!
How did Chapman prepare you for your career? For life? How has your experience prepared you for the real world?
Ironically, I fell into both paths which led me perfectly to my dream job as a software product manager. I originally went for a computer science major, but math and assembly language classes became less appealing as I progressed through the major. Dr. Fahy introduced me to computer information systems. I learned programming, the software development process, and business skills to work in almost any environment. It was absolutely perfect.
My two internships prepared me greatly for real life, but the most important thing I did in college to prepare for the real world was as president of Gamma Phi Beta sorority. Learning to work with people is a skill you need to have in order to work with diverse groups of people. Running my sorority has been one of the toughest jobs I’ve ever had, and I’ve learned a lot from that experience.
Learn more about what Chapman University alumni are doing on our Course notes pages — and submit your own life updates for a chance to be featured!