Spotlight on... Kirk Cetinic
Autism@Work - Talent in Graphic Arts & UX Design
A smiling young man in a neat shirt and trousers meets me, absolutely bursting with enthusiasm as I tell him about possible upcoming work*. At times hesitant and then full of questions, he shows his portfolio - wow, considerable talent. With immediate forthrightness, Kirk exclaims his diagnosis: Autism. Then follows, "but it is a strength". I believe him.
Autism is defined as "a developmental disorder characterized by difficulty in social interaction and communication and by restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviour".
Kirk Cetinic is but one of the many talented autistic adults seeking meaningful jobs in Australia.
He agrees to answer a few questions about his lived experience of autism at work.
Do you think your Autism is strength in workplace?
"I believe my strengths are communicated through my unique approach to design. I am a visual thinker. I believe my Autism gives me strong attention to detail, such as aligning graphics and blending colours, as well as innovative design thinking. I also have excellent design problem solving skills — in every design project, there is an issue, or a pain point. My problem solving abilities allow me to find and solve those pain points."
disability — it could equal potential and advantage
Tell us about your diagnosis. What was it like for you?
"I was diagnosed when I was in Grade 3 at Primary School. I had an aid sit beside me in most classes providing one on one assistance. I also had a speech therapist. At first I thought it was normal and a more engaging way to learn. My diagnosis of Autism was revealed to me later in primary school, when I was given an activity book. As I read the book and completed the activities, it revealed information about Autism. After this, I understood why I was different from everyone else."
One of the criteria to be diagnosed with autism is to have 'restricted' or 'special' interests. Do you have such a "special interest"?
"My ultimate passion is graphic design and user experience design. I remember in primary and high school I was good at identifying visual symbols and logos. I also liked to draw comics and enjoyed visual art. I got into a Bachelor Degree without the aid of disability support [and studied Design]. My future ambitions are to study user experience and web design and to build a freelance design business."
Tell us about finding work. What has been especially difficult for you?
"The challenges I have encountered in finding work are the limited opportunities that match my skill set, as well as the competition in the job hunt. The design industry is fiercely competitive, and being on the spectrum makes it more challenging. It is difficult to remain resilient seeing rejection emails arriving in your inbox, or not hearing back from a prospective employer."
Keep trying and never give up, and don’t let anyone derail your ambitions
What would you say to a fellow neurodivergent or autistic person who is looking for a meaningful job?
"From my experience negotiating the workforce, I would say keep trying and never give up, and don’t let anyone derail your ambitions. Try to combat feelings of being isolated, extend your social network, become involved in groups which share your interests. Meetup.com, volunteering and university groups are great if you want to become a freelancer or perhaps land a job. If you are an artist or designer, let your intense focus and attention to detail guide you, but don’t strive for perfection, it’s like trying to scale a mountain with no summit — you will never reach it. This can be a metaphor for life, a disability does not equal impossibility — it could equal potential and advantage. After all, we are all different, not defective.
My Spectrospective 2019: Work film explains this more...."
"I have volunteered for many different organisations. In 2015 for SecondBite, a foodbank charity; in 2018 The Melbourne Arts Centre, Melbourne Fringe Festival, Red Cross and The Salvation Army. I also volunteered for CBM in 2018, a charity which provides aid relief to those with disabilities in third world countries.
I have done public speaking too, presenting a seminar about Autism for prospective students at Swinburne University in 2017. I also created a video which featured in the Spectrospective: Work 2019, a campaign run by Amaze Inc, where I spoke about my work experience, Autism and employment. These roles have enabled me to grow personally and help those who are marginalised. I enjoy being an activist for Autism awareness".
Residing in the inner city, Kirk revels in Melbourne's wild and consuming art scene; he visits galleries and is always seeking out the next artistic and cultural event. With his second solo exhibition, "Different Not Defective", Kirk showcases his lived autistic experience through art & design. You can see these works this June at Toot Art Gallery, 17-19 Irwell Street, in St. Kilda.
How to find Kirk!
Portfolio website: https://kirkuxdesign.com/
*Thanks Kirk for catching up with Aspies@Work. You certainly have a lot to offer! Yes, to everyone there; we did hire Kirk for a few contract gigs, but he's still seeking a more stable full-time option.