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My journey with dyslexia

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Ali Wallace, CEO & Founder of DNA Recruit 

Like many people of my generation, my dyslexia went undiagnosed for most of my childhood. School, for me, was pretty brutal. Teachers were impatient and didn’t understand what I was going through. I can still remember having to stand up and read house prayers in front of everyone, as we all did; it was excruciating. I can remember the exact feeling, to this day. I can’t really blame the teachers; they themselves didn’t understand. Most of them were ex-army colonels who didn’t have the training that teachers have today. Painstakingly copying the front page news from The Telegraph every day during the school holidays as one teacher prescribed, didn’t really help me; it made me feel worse. 

I was seen as a dunce and the farmer’s son who wasn’t going to do much with his life. That’s pretty tough to take when you’re a young kid. Thankfully, I was good at sport and this is where I really did excel; it gave me something to focus on.  

Luckily, when I was 13, I went to a new school and after just one lesson, my English teacher told me I was dyslexic.
I was a textbook case of mixing b’s and d’s and maths was a real challenge too. But, a plan was put in place to help me which also included extra time in exams. I was determined to prove everyone wrong. After being told I wouldn’t get any GCSEs, I got nine – all grade C and above. 

I went to university to study Marketing and got a 2:1 and then spent many years working in agencies. But it was the people side of it that I loved. I really enjoy getting to know people and understanding what makes them tick. I considered a new business role but decided to make a move into recruitment. I haven’t looked back since; it’s clearly what I was meant to do. After six years of successfully placing candidates for other people, I decided it was about time to do it for myself and set up DNA. 

The recruitment business has developed quickly; technology has changed things a lot. I’ve always spent a lot of time on the phone talking to people; that’s how you build relationships, understand people and match candidates to roles. But, now, thanks to video for example, it’s moved that relationship-building up a level. There’s no substitute for human interaction in this business and technology is helping to facilitate more if it.

Without a doubt, dyslexia has shaped the person I’ve become. It’s given me the ability to look at things differently, solve problems and given me an intense determination to succeed. I love the buzz of facilitating the match between clients and candidates. I firmly believe in getting the most out of life, so if I can help people find the roles that challenge them, excite them and make them want to jump out of bed in the morning; then I’m winning. It’s not all about work though; sport is still a big part of my life and you’ll regularly find me taking part in challenges (some say, crazy challenges!) like The Norfolk Superhero. And, then of course there’s my lovely family. My daughter is dyslexic too and I can already see that same glimmer of determination in her eyes. 

Has dyslexia affected my life? Definitely. Would I be doing what I’m doing today if I wasn’t dyslexic? Would I have my own business? Who knows. But what I do know, is that dyslexia is a big part of what makes me, me. It’s part of my DNA. And I’m pretty proud of what I’ve achieved so far… 

I’m pleased to see that things are very different now to when I was at school. So much is being done nowadays to help diagnose dyslexia at a young age, so that growing minds can be given the tools to help them develop and reach their full potential. It’s really encouraging to see. 

As you’ve probably realised by now, dyslexia is a topic very close to my heart. If you’ve got a story you’d like to share, we’d love to hear it. It might be similar to mine or perhaps you had a totally different experience. How has dyslexia influenced your life? Has it shaped you into the person you are today? 

Ali Wallace is CEO and Founder of DNA Recruit.

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month