Conference 2023 Biographies

Michael Arhin-Acquaah

Michael is an autistic student studying for an undergraduate psychology degree at LSBU. They will reflect on the importance of reliable, empathic, anticipatory and logical systems (REAL), especially around transitions. Michael will consider how this approach could also be helpful in relation to the transition from university into work. They have recently participated in a project funded by the Office for Students which considered best practice to support black students who have mental health concerns. Michael is keen to point out that autism is NOT a mental health issue, but is rather an aspect of neurodiversity. However, mental health can be impacted in environments which are unreliable, therefore anxiety provoking; unempathic,  therefore stereotyping; reactive rather than anticipatory and illogical in respect of contradictory communications and systems which do not work effectively together.

James Cusack

James Cusack is the chief executive of Autistica (the UK’s leading autism research and campaigning charity). In his time at Autistica he has established autism and autism research as national priorities, supported research programmes that can address the shocking inequalities which autistic people face and most recently unveiled ambitious goals that aim to transform the future of autistic people by 2030. Before joining Autistica, James was based in Aberdeen where he had successful career working in autism research, worked directly with autistic people, and was diagnosed with autism as a child.

Olivia Guerini

Olivia Guerini is a Clinical Psychologist with a background in Neuroscience and Psychological Wellbeing at Work. Born in South Africa, Olivia embarked on a post-graduate program in trauma studies, which laid the foundation for her comprehensive understanding of psychological access needs.
With a strong commitment to promoting mental health in the workplace, Olivia assumed the role of running and managing an employee wellness center that prioritized addressing psychological well-being and access needs. This experience provided her with valuable insights into supporting individuals facing diverse challenges within the work environment.
During her master’s program, Olivia established a private practice where she specialized in working with individuals with acquired brain injuries and neurodiverse diagnoses. This work granted her a deep understanding of the unique needs and strengths of neurodiverse individuals, fostering her dedication to promoting inclusivity and providing tailored support.
In 2022, Olivia joined CareTrade, where she has continued to make a meaningful impact by supporting neurodiverse adults in their transition to meaningful and engaging workspaces. Her responsibilities encompass compiling training materials, working one-on-one with individuals, and supporting the wider community in understanding and embracing neurodiversity and reasonable adjustments.
With her profound comprehension of the challenges faced by neurodiverse individuals and a strong belief in the power of creating inclusive environments, Olivia is committed to empowering individuals to thrive and find purpose in their lives. Leveraging her expertise in clinical psychology, neuroscience, and psychological wellbeing at work, Olivia is making a significant difference in the lives of those she serves and the broader community

Marc Hommel

Marc Hommel is an experienced adviser to employers on their people strategies, culture and world-of-work.  In his 40 year career, he has also been a CEO of a financial services firm and worked in the UK and abroad with some of the world’s largest and most complex companies.  Marc has faced challenges and opportunities through his own autism and those of two of his four daughters.  He is a passionate advocate for inspiring employers to more effectively engage neuro-divergent people for the sake of improving outcomes both for businesses and all the people who work within them.

Ian Iceton

Ian has had a loong corporate career, mostly as a HR Director in four significant businesses (Volkswagen Group UK, Skanska UK, Network Rail and River and Mercantile plc).
Considerable People, D&I, Financial and Pension experience.
Doctorate researching Autism Employment at Cranfield University.
Now Employment Workstream Lead, at The Autism Centre of Excellence at Cambridge University.

Nicola Martin

Professor Nicola Martin. PhD  is  interim Co-Director of LSBU’s Research Centre for Social Justice and Global Responsibility and leads LSBU’s Critical Autism and Disability Studies Research Group. She was previously Director of Sheffield Hallam University Autism Centre and is a founder member of The Participatory Autism Research Collective. Nicola has taught in school and FE, as well as HE, and has held equalities focussed leadership roles in various universities including The LSE, University of Derby and Sheffield Hallam.  She is a National Teaching Fellow and holds several advisory roles, visiting fellowships and professorships  including with  Employment Autism, The National Association of Disability Practitioners and The Westminster Autism Commission.

Barbara Sandland

Barbara is a post-doctoral researcher currently exploring the use of reasonable adjustments for neurodivergent PhD students at the University of Birmingham. As a neurodivergent individual and mother to neurodiverse children she brings personal insight, alongside critical research, to her work. Barbara’s background is as a qualified secondary school teacher, with many years’ experience as a Special Educational Needs Coordinator.

Sharron Sturgess

Sharron started her career in teaching before moving to Loughborough University in 2004 to work as a Disability Officer. She progressed to managing the service and at the same time began to specialise in supporting autistic students. Sharron now works as the Autism Specialist Adviser at the University of Leicester. Part of this role involves supporting autistic students with the transition from school to university and then out of university and into work. She has worked on a number of projects with the University’s careers service including the development of a disclosure workshop that can be delivered to students, and on the Employ Autism scheme which ran across 17 universities in the summer of 2021; at Leicester they were able to place 10 autistic students into paid internships from which 3 were offered permanent positions.
Although not autistic herself Sharron has a visual impairment and so identifies with many of the issues autistic people face in the world of employment. She describes herself as an educational professional, an autism specialist, a disabled person and autism ally. She is currently undertaking an EdD at LSBU looking at autistic students use of social spaces on university campuses.

MacKenzie Taylor

MacKenzie Ohana Taylor works in the Ministry of Justice and joined in 2017. They got their Autism diagnosis 1 year after joining the MoJ at the age of 31 and had to do a lot self-reflection on what are the positives and negatives in their personality. Pre diagnosis they had issues within their work history and education and the transition from pre diagnosis to post diagnosis has been a rollercoaster ride. There have been some highs and lows but they are now 5-6 years later more understanding of themselves.

Craig Walker

Craig has been involved with the Employment Autism since 2008, supporting the former chairman and chief executives on strategy, fund raising, and latterly the imperative to improve employment outcomes for autistic people.
He currently has a portfolio of roles in Higher Education, including strategic posts for education at Imperial College, consulting roles with challenger universities supporting their development, and is an advisor to data sciences start up Huddlr Analytics.
Craig has a background in strategy and in transformational change in sectors covering property, retail and banking. He has worked previously for McKinsey & Co, BP; and also consulted for diverse private and public organisations including John Lewis Partnership, FCA, Carphone Warehouse and London Underground.

Piers Wilkinson

Information Awaited