Facebook’s Steve Hatch on dyslexia and diversity of thought

Facebook’s vice president for Northern Europe discusses his personal experience of being diagnosed with dyslexia when he was at school, and why he’s a vocal advocate for neurodiversity in the workplace

We’ve come a long way since the term dyslexia was coined over 130 years ago by Rudolf Berlin, a German ophthalmologist and professor who observed some of the difficulties his patients had with reading despite having no problems with their vision.

Today, the NHS estimates that at least one in 10 of us have dyslexia. It is defined as a genetic difference that affects an individual’s ability to learn and process information, meaning they typically struggle with tasks such as reading and spelling but excel when it comes to problem solving and communication. Yet despite much progress in our understanding of the condition there is still stigma attached to it, with many people failing to be diagnosed at school or feeling unable to discuss it in the workplace.

Growing up in Hampshire in the 80s, Steve Hatch was one of the fortunate people whose dyslexia was diagnosed pretty early on, but it didn’t mean that things were plain sailing for him during his school days. “Like with many things, if there’s not a corrective step early on the small gaps over time can become really quite wide gaps,” he says. “While my reading capability was always pretty strong, my written capability was not and over time that created quite a barrier that, if I’m honest, I really don’t think I faced into, and that meant that I found school a struggle.”

Recognising that his strengths lay in creativity and communication, Hatch pursued a career in advertising after leaving school. He started out as a trainee account executive at a regional agency in 1988, before eventually working his way up to be CEO of MEC (which has since merged with Maxus to form Wavemaker). He was appointed as the UK and Ireland regional director of Facebook in 2013, before being promoted to his current role as vice president of Northern Europe in 2016.

I’m extremely proud of being dyslexic – I would say in the right context it’s a real superpower