An interview with Richard Pugh: “If you’re passionate about something – it’s easy.”

We were delighted to catch up with our latest New Voice of Innovation Richard Pugh, Founder & Managing Director of Partners with Industry Community Interest Company, about his work, what inspires him, and his words of wisdom for young people looking to break into the world of innovation. This was a truly insightful and inspiring discussion, and well worth a read! 

Hi Richard – tell us a bit about you and your company… 

“Partners with Industry is a community interest company that champions neurodiversity (such as ADHD, autism and dyslexia) by using innovation and technical development as a vehicle to promote change, raise awareness and educate people.

From a technical development perspective, it’s all about reducing waste, saving money, helping the environment and making a company’s machinery and processes more efficient. But one of the big frustrations is that to solve the problems with the environment we need clever minds, yet I can’t understand why industry creates barriers to neurodiverse people from solving these problems!

We have a massive talent pool out there, and yet we seem to have a shortage of skilled programmers, for example in the area of Programmable Logic Controllers. We have a large number of neurodiverse people able to programme but they are prevented from doing so due to factors such as social mobility and disability – so that’s where I come in. 

Currently, only 22% of autistic people are in work. I want people to understand that Autism isn’t a weakness – it’s a strength.” 

How can your business help to close this gap? 

“The community side to our business involves helping people who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to get into those industries. 

We’re working with Ambitious about Autism to help train and support employers to take on neurodiverse employees for these roles. Ambitious about Autism are going to support the employee and train the company, and we’re going to be providing the employees with technical training and supporting them technically while they’re in that company. We don’t just drop people off and leave them there – we want to develop a support network for companies to work with us in. 

What drives you to do what you do? 

“I’m driven by inequalities in society. I’ve been thinking about creating a business for several years, and I was made redundant just before Christmas. But, having dyslexia myself, as I started doing the job search, it suddenly struck me just how hard it is for a neurodiverse individual. It got me thinking – what is it like for someone who doesn’t like to talk on the phone? How are they going to get a job? From my experience, there are people with absolutely amazing skills who just wouldn’t be able to get these roles – not because of talent, but social barriers. 

The business was created as a Community Interest Company because it’s always better to set up something that’s going to satisfy yourself personally. For me, it’s more important to be personally rewarded by doing something. For me, this job is personally fulfilling.” 

Based on your own experiences, what would you say to a neurodiverse person facing similar challenges with access to employment?

“Go and find something you’re passionate about. Listen to advice, but decide whether or not the advice is appropriate for you. 

You’ve got to learn to adapt. You’ve got to acknowledge your weaknesses and then work to overcome them – but always make sure you work to your strengths.  

The biggest thing I would say to anyone is don’t give up. You’re going to take the knocks, it’s going to be difficult, sometimes you’re going to wake up and think ‘why am I doing this?’ but don’t give up. Take your successes and your failures together.” 

What would your message to an employer be to encourage hiring of people with neurodiversity?

“There’s so much training out there for employers provided by organisations like Ambitious about Autism. There are so many organisations that can support and help you to train neurodiverse individuals. Look broad and listen. Think about different ways of doing things, such as working hours and working locations. Training offered by for exampleAmbitious about Autism will actually improve your organisation – you’ll have a more diverse workforce and your procedures will be better. You’ll be better as a company!”

And finally – what is your proudest moment? 

“Definitely when I had my first CV for my Summer Intern position. I always wondered – will I get any applications? Will people actually be interested? Turns out – yes. And they were a joy to read!”

Thank you for your time, Richard!