Transcript for Diem Mooney



Kelly Bron Johnson [00:00:08]  Welcome to season two, episode two of the Intersections on the Spectrum podcast, The Intersections on the Spectrum podcast is the brainchild of Doug Blecher and Kelly Bron Johnson created to discuss intersectional issues within the autistic community and give visibility to commonly marginalized, repressed, underrepresented or racist identities and issues. We aim to introduce you to the people and stories you didn't know about, but needed to hear and hope that by seeing yourself represented in the community allows you to feel seen. 

Doug Blecher [00:00:42] Today's guest is Diem Mooney, D.M. Welcome to intersections on the spectrum. Thanks so much for joining us. 

Diem Mooney [00:00:51] Of course. No problem. 

Doug Blecher [00:00:53] We always like to start off and learn where about people's identities. So what are some of the identities that you  with that are important to you in your life? 

Diem Mooney [00:01:07] Well, I'm non-binary, masculine presenting. I am Afro-Latino, so I'm first generation  American and my father is Mexican. My mother is African-American. See, I am autistic, so I suppose I identify as autistic.  I am a parent and a spouse, those  are very important identities for me as well. Professionally, I define myself as a human experience psychologist. It's a pretty broad term to encompass all the work that I do that revolves around trying to understand people's experiences, their experiences, their challenges, their viewpoints and perspectives to help with my own development and building my own empathy and understanding of the world around me, as well as helping others to grow. So those are probably my identities. 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:02:11] Very cool, and I think that's also partly an autistic trait to some extent, when we try to look at other people, try to understand what is going on in their minds so that we can understand it and try to make sense of the world. So that's I relate to that a lot. So you have a lot of cool tattoos. I have 10. I don't know how many you have, but what's so what's the importance of tattoos in your life or when you start on that tattooing journey? 

Diem Mooney [00:02:38] Sure. I think of some funny stories. Your the first. I do a lot of these interviews, and no one's ever really asking about my tattoos, so very interesting question. And I think that once people realize that I am autistic and I don't do well with physical contact and people touch me actually cause a lot of rage and agitation. So then  friends are like, well, how do you have that many tattoos? That's very close and personal experience. Its funny   because the first time or the longest version of time that I can actually have someone touching me constantly was a tattoo until it became so therapeutic, in which the only time in which I was able to engage physically with someone was during the time of it, having a tattoo. So I guess for me, I mean, I have a lot of them. I lost track a long time ago. It's really hard to count because when they're large, especially if you count them based off the image or like sessions and things like that. But for me, I feel like it was again like the therapeutic time in my life.  And I did not have a direct relationship with anyone before. I didn't touch you and have close contact with my family. So it was the first time in which I had this time where I was. I drew out specifically what I wanted, and they still felt exactly what it was, and I had a bit of control over the physical contact in a way that I was not used to. And they told me it would take this much time and it did, and they told me I was going to feel like this, and it did so with some way. It was very controlled. They allowed me a sense of normalcy to be able to engage with someone at that level. So that's what tattoos kind of mean for me. 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:04:12] Wow, yeah, that's it, because it is a super intimate experience, I don't think people really get that. You know, and there's this bodily fluid exchange like if we want to get drastic.

Diem Mooney [00:04:25] They  kind of like nudged me some times and I kind of like tense up a little bit. But then now I've gotten so used to that and give it like that. It feels more natural for me that I just don't know what's going to happen, you know? So it's very challenging for me because sensory challenges are my biggest one.  I have to wear headphones 24-7 around because the slightest noise can cause agitation and touch is a really big one for me. So tattoos kind of help me transition as an adult into understanding the normalcy and the agitation around physical contact in certain situations. So it really helps me. 

Doug Blecher [00:04:59] I identified what you said about physical contact because I am not a big fan of that. So, so I did realize that I have no tattoos. So so maybe if I get some tattoos, maybe that'll help with some of those things. 

Diem Mooney [00:05:14] I wouldn't say necessarily. So don't quote me on that. 

Doug Blecher [00:05:21] Now on social media recently, you talked about the idea of privilege and how it's developed a negative connotation. But  you also talked about how we all have privilege in one way or another. What do you what do you see as some of your privileges? 

Diem Mooney [00:05:43] Well, I listed several of them on the actual post that you're referring to, but I would say that a privilege of mine more recently than other than, you know, my past that even saved my, my financial situation. You know, having access to health care, you know, being someone not concerned about living paycheck or really too much concerned about unemployment in general is a very big privilege is simply having access to things that you need to survive, to live comfortably, to develop, to grow, you know, things that you know,  my child and my wife, and when I don't have to think about too much. So definitely a very big privilege that helps me  in advocating spaces with ease. Even as someone with autism, you know, having access to a behavioral therapist and to, you know, another mental health professional and also a primary care provider and being able to pay out of pocket whenever I want to see an additional session with them, having them be able to come into my home and do sessions with me as an adult is not covered anymore for as many, you know. So those are definitely a very big privilege, especially in this space that was new to me because I wasn't worried about having. So I know what it feels like to not have access to resources you need versus having as is a very big privilege that I think a lot of people overlook because they think that wealthy may  be a millionaire or billionaire when in reality, most people especially in the United States, live well, way  more comfortably in a well way more, have more money, then say people in of other countries, too. So it's a privilege that a lot of us, especially in America, overlook another privilege that I feel that I have is that in addition, I am autistic but I am also a savant.  I have the ability to process information exponentially and  it resonates in ways that other people see as value. So another thing is, you know, with people , you know, we have our niches in our interests. My happens translate very well for businesses. So it makes them a lot of money and its a privilege that my skillset and my passion and the things that I have focus on are things that other people see as valuable, because then that turns into products and it turns into sales. And that's why, you know people hire me, they're like hey come to hear what my wife calls a thinky thing where you come in and look at things and figure out how it all pieces together. And a company will say, Do this for me and I'll call you strategist, and I'll pay, you know, and I'll do it and kind of led that company very easy for me. Basically, it's a privilege that I've learned over the years. It's helped me help me get out of situations as far as coming from nothing and being able to use my brain alone to excel and be given a lot of opportunity and bypass lost things because they see me as valuable as a valuable tool to them. So it's definitely very big privilege I've learned over the years that, yes, I am autistic and it comes with a lot of challenges with sensory limitations and social limitations. But it does have its perks and the fact that I see the world alot differently that enables them to monetize my my skill set, essentially. So those are probably two biggest ones that my day to day basis that I kind of live with. And you know. So those are those are probably two i'll stop there. 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:08:56] But it's an important point that you bring up is the fact that, you know, many, many, many people will have skills. But are those skills considered valuable to the society that they are in? And that's what's really key. You know, there's there's a certain amount of luck and there's also perhaps a way of thinking that you have  managed to adapt so that it works for you. And I think ideally, I mean, I hope everybody who has certain talents, whatever are able to do that to kind of that that extra step of transforming it and adapting it in a way that makes sense for  the greater good. 

Diem Mooney [00:09:32] I talk about that a lot, actually with my coaches or my clients in which it starts with self-awareness, right? You know, if you understand your senses and say your skill sets, you have to really, truly, you know where you're good at. How does  that look in this current society or how does it  lookin at your current environment, right? And a lot of people go straight to development, though they want to go straight to managing their skills and adapting it. But you truly have to sit and take time to introspect and reflect on who you are as a person and then identify where you want to be. And then you can develop your skills to align with where you're trying to get to. So it's not based off of social expectations or other people's perspective, but aligning and adapting to where you want to get to because my goals and the things that I've wanted in my life seem crazy or, you know, like farfetched or outlandish to other people. But to me, it makes sense in my brain. So I adapted my skills to address these problems or the issues that I wanted to address in society. The changes I want to see in society. There basically wasn't a role. The role that I do now did not exist of when I first started. That's not even anything. Like, you're using your skill set to do what with technology and you care about employees. Like, what are you talking about? This isn't a thing. So I adapted my skills and figured out a way to solve a problem, more so than simply sell myself as a sum product , this is a problem that got to me. And I use my skills to help address this problem in this way. And then I put my skills accordingly. This is just a little bit of a different way of thinking about it. So that what you're passionate about and you're not just adapting to make people happy is it's not going to make you happy anyway, right? 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:11:07] Exactly. So  some would say that earning a Ph.D. and for r degrees by the age of twenty six is a privilege. However, from my understanding, your preferred method of learning has been through online platforms. So what is it about online learning that has been so helpful for you? 

Diem Mooney [00:11:25] Sure. So for me, it would be because I learned better. So when I was a kid, I was diagnosed with learning disabilities as well because they had me sitting in a classroom and I wasn't able to retain what they say. So they were teaching me how to spell word. They would tell me, this is how to spell it and then say a test they would say tell me what I said. I would be unable to regurgitate anything that they told me.  Like at all. So they thought at first, like, Well, you clearly, you know, like, you're not learning, you can't think of anything when in reality I learned more unconsciously a lot of times where how I learned is like, if I'm listening to it, I need to do other things, I can't only focus on the learning, I need to also be, you know,  cleaning the room or  or other things to keep me engage. Plus the social aspect of learning the teaching, the physically being my face, I'm looking at me and having mee raise my hand those things because the anxiety caused me and the social normalcy that were involved in those interactions, you know, hard for me to pick up on, understand it caused me to be unable to focus on actually want to talk about the social aspect of it. And I think auditory expectations and things like that made it near impossible for learning. So they actually were taking me out of the classroom and putting me a special education program where basically I had I a behavioral therapist or a teacher and they gave me tests. They're like, OK, well, well, exposure to some things will have to play in the background. So they had a kind of playing of videos and they had all across the walls and things like that help absorbing it as I was doing other things so I had to do blocks so I'm doing blocks I'm hearing it in the background I've seeing on the walls and the posters and I would pass like I literally ending up graduating early because I was absorbing it from other and indirectly. So I realized, though, that when the college, there's no official program, there's no special education programs out there. So I got into a lot of big, very big colleges, and I came out to the Naval Academy and Georgia Tech. So I got into these really big college because I did very well in my act score. I did, you know, perfect scores  in high school. But when I got pulled back into the same environment that I did not do well with before then, before the special education program, I realize it still wasn't for me. It wasn't just age, you'll grow out of it. You're intelligent. You know you're making, but kept trying. So I actually dropped out of college three times. I am a college serial college dropout. I try and fail, and had so much anxiety. I ended up switching to online colleges actually because I was in the military at  time and because of where I was stationed. I kept having to transfer, so it was impossible for me to stay at a college anyway because I kept moving. So it's like, OK, I tried online college. I only heard bad things about, you know, they were like, Oh, it's not real, and you know, it's not going to get you anywhere and blah blah. But I'm going to try it because I don't really care about people anyway. I vibes with my goals and what I'm doing with my life. So I found a program that I was going to do, and I tried it out and how I was structured. It literally like, These are your readings. This is, you know, the core curriculum. This is the test you were taking. I'm like, perfect. I have that first week taking all of my tests for the entire semester right there because there was a portal and it allowed you to do it much easier for you to understand that that was for the whole semester, right? Not just not just this week. Like, yeah, thanks  let me know what I did. And from yeah, from that moment, like it was like, you got an A  like you that you've already got everything like, you know, it's like you have to kind of, you know, you know, put comments on people's things and a bore, but other than that you've already passed. I was like, Perfect, this is gonna work for me because if all I had to do this is going to work, I can work. I can, you know, focus on I'm at the time I had a baby like my son. And this is work. And from there from I was 22 years old. From that moment, I was like, This is what I'm gonna do. And that's a back to back earn my bachelor's degree the next year, next year and my bachelor next year and my master's degree. Following year I the master's degree. I just had to figure out what works for m. And being able to just get all of my grades and all the information I need right there for me and just just tell me what to do and I will prove to you, I can do it. That worked way way better for me than having someone teach me and the social implications and the interactions and the nuances. You know, I don't care about trying to be a teachers pet. All those things are like, I don't care about any of it. I don't need extra credit. I need you to tell me what I need to pass this class. Allow me to do it. And that's kind of why I switch over to online. You know why I've always advocated for people learning  figuring out what works best for them and forgetting about reputation, forgetting about name brand of schools and all of that. It doesn't really matter. At the end of days you're going to get out of education was put into it. No matter what brand is behind you and focusing on your goals and your skill set and thats really all that matters. So that's kind of my take of  online schools. 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:16:09] That's great, and, you know, that's like my experience right now, I'm back at at school and I'm at law school online only. But the first class teacher went and he opened up the first module and then somebody went ahead and he closed  them down. Oh, there's nobody to go. I was like, man. And then the second professor I had, she left it all open, and I prefer that because I can, I could plan ahead. And if I want to be ahead, I can do it right rather than waiting for them to open up the module. 

Diem Mooney [00:16:38] And even if you don't do it, my thing is because I'm actually a professor now, so I taught my very first semester just ended last week is a very big hurdle for me because I've been told my whole life that I couldn't learn. I'm just going to actually be in the position to teach just like, you know, it's kind of crazy for me and full circle, but I actually feel the same way. So on my own that I teach too. I teach every Wednesday and Thursday. When I leave  I create my entire syllabus that keep it open, not because I'm telling my students they have to do assignment early. I don't think that you're special or better because you do them early. I tell them I don't think I was better than anyone because assignments really, I did in a way that made more sense for me. What you do for it because those who may want or need accommodations to understand what's happening before. In order for us to write out for me to feel comfortable with situations, I need to know what's going to happen. I need don't know what to expect. So even if your  keeping the syllabus open or keeping the course open means that you can work and understand what's happening. You know,  the questions are going to be asked the topics that will be discussed. And you can be prepared for that social engagement because, as you know, for us, it can be very debilitating for us and not know what's going to happen. And that's what your engagement and we aren't going to gain anything  we're not going to learn really not paying attention we are going to be agitated likely to be stressed and burnt out from that course because we don't know what's happening. So I leave it open, not because I'm telling them or even advocate to do whats above and beyond  and spend all their time getting ahead. I tell them, like, it's open that way. You know what to expect? Because in case you need accommodations like I do, I was going to ask for, you don't need to ask for these accommodations. I'm going to try to provide these. I can't afford to be comfortable, but you don't know me. You just met your professor. And I'm already in a position of power, so I don't want you obligated to ask me for everything. But I know some accommodations for you in advance. So that's kind of why I do it. I know, I know all teachers don't  think that way. This is actually why I got into teaching because there are not very many people of color, let alone people with disabilities in these spaces. And I'm trying to change the dynamic with the teacher and the students. 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:18:33] Well, I left feedback for that professor, the fact that the closed down  

Diem Mooney [00:18:37] As you should

Doug Blecher [00:18:40] Diem  you just mentioned, you know, professors and position of power. Can you talk a little bit about that experience of, you know, dealing, dealing with professors? How often did you feel that dynamic? 

Diem Mooney [00:18:55] Um, well, as a student, I would say it was. It was more so when I was going to brick and mortar schools. I actually never had a positive experience for a number of different reasons, whether it be because of my age, I was significantly younger than everyone. Everyone, you know, when I graduated high school, I was only 15. Therefore, when I transitioned initially to college, I was extremely young and most would assume,  Oh, you're going to be treated well. You're a prodigy and you know, everything's going to be handed to  you because your a savant, I think that when people think that they think of movies they've seen and honestly those are usually  all the time depicted as young white males, right? That's who they think of when they think of prodigies. And I did not fit that bill I didn't look the part. So I was not treated as such either. They're like, You know, who is this kid? They actually call me like, you know, like affirmative action hiring. And you know, this issues like you clearly got in because of your color and this is like a race thing or whatever you get it from, right? So I often with other guys like, you're not exceptional, you just slip through the cracks because of affirmative action. So I never got the benefits. of a brick and mortar school of saying like, Oh, you're so young, you know, you're exceptional. No, like, you simply fit that one spot for the university. So I know I always didn't never like bing different, you know, attracting attention of myself, which I'll need to socialize and people will ask me questions. And I'm like I want put my headphones on and ignored. So I could learn. And so that was kind of the issue. And with professors that kind of with, I felt that too. They felt I was a distraction. You know, a lot of times like there's like literally a child in my room and it's striking because everyone wants to ask this child questions, basically. That was my first round before I dropped out. And then the second time was actually at the Naval Academy and. It just wasn't I would think my professors there, it was just it wasn't a good fit because it just the culture in general. I wasn't navy, but the culture is just a lot different. It's very hierarchical. You mentioned military is like a frat, like a. But everyone is in it. You are automatically in it without voluntarily wanting to be. And it was not a culture that was for I saw the hazing and all of that. It just wasn't for me. So I was actually like, in that instance, the professors facilitated a culture that I would see as very toxic, and a lot of people are now moving well away from in our generation. And then the last I would say it was when I was in grad school. I was significantly younger, like, well, younger than anyone who was in the PHD program, and I was I would try to figure out more school again. And I get so way younger again and only person of color. And again, being non-binary and being gender ambiguous did not help my case whatsoever at the time. And basically, they were just like, I don't know really what to do with you and what you're going for here, your trying  to be a psychologist and we're not sure of your aligned with our research department and things like that. So it's really hard to find a place in an environment where everyone is 50s and 60s in academia for 40 years. Type of deal and look a lot different for me was actually what was my post to everyone talks about a which is what the psychologists look like, because that was my experience, my entire career being in the position. I was so young and looking so differently, having tattoos since I was 17 years old, growing dreadlocks . So I got two small ones and I just add wore a very informal clothing and I did not want to put on an act. I've never been one to conform to the level that people expect you to. And I know that a lot of us will we masking  but I've never really gone, I guess far enough for them. Like, you're not doing enough to mask what we're doing. I've always stood out. And so that's kind of why I never really fit in too well with my professors or students, either in those kind of settings. 

Doug Blecher [00:22:59] Now you yourself, you mentioned earlier that you're a professor now teaching and you teach graduate level courses for a human centered design program.  Do you see being autistic in this position or other positions in the past that have helped? Do you see that being an advantage for you? 

Diem Mooney [00:23:20] Oh, that's interesting. I suppose it depends on how we're measuring advantage. It has to be depending on our goal that I have, which is not something I necessarily look. I would say that it would be an advantage to my goal, which is to make sure everyone feels included. So specifically, the university I chose because I meet once, you know, once I got my PHD  and people know who I am and my story and there are again aware of me, I did attract quite a bit of attention for universities to want to have me, you know, teach. But I thought was very important for me that I selected a school that I felt I would be able to bring the most value to especially a representation standpoint. So my thought was that if I were to start teaching at a university like Georgetown, right, that they have access and the resources to garnish the best professors and best talent, all of the world to come there to them, right? But a small university, that's predominately people of color or those maybe, you know, who do have people, you know, who have more disabilities. Those colleges don't have access to, say, the Diems of the world  to come work for them because, you know, they don't pay as much. You know, that reputation behind them. So my biggest thing was like, Well, I would be, I'm in a position where I look like these students and I even have some of the same challenges that these students have, you know, cognitively speaking. So I wanted to make sure that I was upfront about that and talked about it. So make me more personable. And so they felt more empowered and what they could do in their future. And they, you know, they see because universities are important. So I feel like in that in that sense, it did help. My autism helped me to better represent a community of people who are dont have a voice or who often don't  succeed in the way they're defined by society to succeed. Therefore, their challenges are like whatever who cares? We don't, we don't care. But I do know that people will listen or respect, say me, because of some of the other like, Well,  you have money and you have a fancy title, a PHD. So from that instance I would say that it helps me to resonate with those people and give to those individuals who don't have that level of representation or level of access to to individuals who look like me. Um. I guess maybe the organization as well, I mean, of course, I'm able to then like I was able to design courses pretty quickly and then I started and I was immediately designing these very innovative courses that I know that a lot of my students have said were very different approaches to teaching that they'd never heard before. So in that aspect, too, I was able to come in and change the way these classes were taught in a way that they said was very engaging and practical. And. So, I mean, I guess it's fun, too, but I just I learned that last week, so I wasn't aware of that one until  last week when the course is basically ending. But I do get feedback from even now that the chair of that particular department that was saying I was a very innovative way of going about it, that they had never really thought about it. So I guess that's another approach that I'm just now realizing. I just decided that was  logical I didn't rather than anything different. 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:26:44] So that's because most of the world is not logical exactly. 

Diem Mooney [00:26:49] Yet, like the most efficient way,  we haven't seen that before. I was like, OK, cool. 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:26:58] But something you also said, struck me when you know how representation matters, but I'm going to take it from a different way of looking at it. You know, when people come and they have these ideas about what an autistic  person is supposed to be, let's just forget. Let's forget, you know, let's forget race and everything else. Not that its not important. And people have this idea about what an autistic person is supposed to be able to do and what they can accomplish and what they're supposed to look like and all that. And you know, you going in and being open to the students is going to be life changing. You're right, because any idea that they had, if they were a really close minded in the first place. I just had a whole semester. I, you know, so that to me is better than a movie is better than the media. It's real. And it's, you know, that's why people need to see. 

Diem Mooney [00:27:54] So I totally agree actually, I had a post about that too recently, just when I sort of look like and I thought was interesting because when I tell people I'm very open, I have that. I believe that these are provisions that so to be able to be open enough to say, Oh yes, I have autism, I need accommodations, or I won't be doing things for you. You know, that's not something that everyone can say. I need accommodations because I have limitations, right? But my openness about this, a lot of times people for me will go, Oh, you don't count as autistic. Right? And those  they think in their brain are like, you are better than that, right? But it also it shows a level like ignorance and a misunderstanding of, you know, what we're going through because basically it's like, Oh, well, you mastered very well or you're stimulating enough for us or you know what? You're intelligent, like you say in a way that's good for us. So you must not have an issue and you can socialize at least enough for us. And that's basically all I'm hearing is that, you know, or it doesn't. That isn't not that doesn't seem like compliment to me, though. It just shows me that like, you know, a lot of times like, well, you have this assumption about what we're supposed to be like and what we're supposed to act and what level of intelligence we are supposed to have what we're able to do. And you're telling me that I happen to fit within that box does not show me that you're willing to learn more about what we actually go through and they show me that you're willing to maybe accommodate for those that fall inside of your box. What they show me that you know, that you care about me if I don't fall within your box because the problem here is that a lot of people with me is that, yes, I'm able to mask or assimilate, maybe for short bit of time, but it takes one person to me to touch my shoulder and I can go nonverbal or I can lash out, and now I fall outside of your box. So now you're telling me, I know, I don't look like what you thought I look like, and I'm not going to receive the accommodations I need. I mean, we're not going to think less of me because now I don't fall within your scope. So that's kind of what I hear. People talk about if I look autistic or don't versus asking me what is my autism like to you. And that's what I look for, and I actually ask for that too. Like, what does ADHD look like to you? My wife has ADHD, What is it look like to you? A conversation we have all time. I think the better way of talking about it versus you're trying to give me a compliment you don't look autistic,  you know instead. Reframe it to what does it look like to you? You know, what are some things that you do. How can I accommodate you? I think it's definitely more appropriate way of going back. 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:30:22] Yeah, absolutely. And that also just reminds me too of where you're you're kind of accepted until you're not. Yeah, until you. Yeah, exactly. You know, and I've had that. I've had that experience as well where it's like they forget that they have a diagnosis or something. And the minute that you mess up, there's no there's no grace given. There's nothing. It's like  You know, they can't. They can't parse these two things. I think it's a very, very difficult, especially when when you have high intelligence. So then when you're socially inept or you make a social gaffe of some sort, they can't they can't put those together in the same person. It doesn't make sense to them because they're like, Well, how can you be this intelligent that can make such a big mistake? It's like, Well. This is me, right? 

Diem Mooney [00:31:14] For me, I feel like it becomes exactly described as perfectly like, you're so intelligent being like you just came through and developed this whole process and you gave all the answers and strategies. But then I asked you, How are you doing? And you can't formulate be socially acceptable Response. Questions like that are vague, are very hard for me, especially if I'm in the zone of trying to look at something analytically. You're essentially asking me to switch over very quickly, something that's more subjective and socially based.  You should have a program med answer? You know, like, I'm fine with it right away and in that sense, I'm like, Oh, how I measure, how I measure today if it was effective or reach my goal or was it  appropriate or did it go as  expected? So I'm actually trying to calculate how my day actually went. Based off of parameters, the fact that my brain and processes is all in the five second that you expect me to say fine. And I'm, you know, I'm saying like, I'm hyperdrive trying to answer this question as I'm frozen in non-verbal and trying to run through things. And you know Okay, they are like, what are you doing? You know, like, Or they'll  introduce me to someone who was like, fancy and, you know, prestigious or whatever right? So I'm doing that in front of them and they're like, really? That they don't want to say, like, Oh, you know, Dr. Mooney, our our prize software expert, can't answer your one question. It becomes harder for me to figure out what to do next. And I think that's exactly what you're saying is harder to explain. Someone who just so this display of intelligence and credentials  also that there's been a spectrum can even socially interact like us normal people can. So that's a lot time actually with employers and clients. 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:32:55] And so I disturbed Doug almost every time we get on a call because I say, How are you? And the 

Doug Blecher [00:33:05] the worst question in  the English language 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:33:07] I do it all time.

Doug Blecher [00:33:10] I do it to other people Kelly as well and I hate when I do have it, 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:33:14] Its my habit  Hey, how's it going? And he goes, Ohhhhhh

Diem Mooney [00:33:20] Its so funny to hear you say that, because I talked to my wife about to like the like. She's like my buffer times for social interaction. But we talked about that time like how funny it is because I make the simplest things will knock me off my rocker. I can't understand how to respond. But then again, something happens, something complex and, you know, random, nonsensical, you know, facts about something. And I'm like, Oh, I can talk to you about that. So, yeah, 

Doug Blecher [00:33:50] I mean, how am I doing? You ask me, How do I even contemplate that the entire day? I don't know.

Diem Mooney [00:33:55] I've actually told someone that before I was like, this something that maybe you give me some metric  right now. So next time, next time you ask me, I'll be able to assess it correctly based off of what you perceive to be good and bad. Because who's to say who was saying what fine is versus not fine? It's a broad concept, and I would like you to tell me how I can measure it consistently. Therefore, I give it an answer every single time, reliably and with a high level of validity. That's how I I really like I said before someone during a party like a social gathering.

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:34:37] Yes. Yes. Okay, derailed by the how are you? So in addition to being a professor, you also work at Peraton as a experience officer in the defence sector. So what are your responsibilities in that position? 

Diem Mooney [00:34:59] Sure. So it's an interesting role. Um, I feel like first of all,  in general is such a broad field and industry, so I could look at different things and CFO are a very new role, UX is new? But CFO w at that level of seniority f is actually very, very new. So I kind of explain to people what I'm doing is a very different than maybe other CFO roles. So in my case, I came in to develop the framework or strategy in which UX will be deployed across the military or Air Force specific physical contact, right? So it's a higher level model of like a team is work. I'm not a people manager in this role. I I don't necessary do well again for the social interaction piece of it. I am a more thought leader and a strategist to say, OK, these are their problems. Like I told you, I come in and  give me all your problems. You know, now my plan or strategy, which you can continuously address them and also innovate. So in my role, that's what I do. I listen to problems, I listen to objectives, I listen to the resources that are available and say, OK, when that's the case, this is how I approach would be taken to reach your end goal. I do a lot of analysis usually right there in the meeting and say, and I listen to them again, I usually kind of say to you the entire time, I just listen to what people are saying and then I create a framework or model for that. And then lots of now, once I've done, I also write white papers. So like, I describe them in writing, you know, kind of in a way that's easy to consume by others. I talk a lot about that, too. It's like using big words and complex sentences and also people think it makes this sound so smart. I have learned, just like if you can't really explain it in a simple way that resonates with the people you're trying to reach, then it really is useless. So I turn all of the engineering or technical jargon and IT all that I make it in a way that's easier to understand. So that's kind of how I'm like a translator of that type of information. And then I also attend like conferences and appearances right now, virtually mostly. But where I can then train or advocate for users and say this is quite important for you to care about your end users and why you should invest and put money into, you know, technologies that are more accessible, more usable and  consider your end users or employees more. It's more of a strategic thought leadership type of role rather than moreso of  people manager, which is different because again,  There are some that are involved with product side. It just depends. But that's my. 

Doug Blecher [00:37:38] And it sure seems like you've accomplished a lot, and, you know, when talking about your accomplishments, I saw where you said, you know, in the past that all you did was not listen to what others said, I couldn't or shouldn't do. Do you have advice for others on how to best pursue things that truly matter to them? 

Diem Mooney [00:38:00] Sure. I touched on it a little bit earlier, but there is a, I guess, a framework. Like I said, I'm a very process oriented person and which I always kind of walk through with my coaches or my clients, which would be to start with self-awareness. And so again, it's you identifying kind of break them up into like five different segments, but it's, you know, once you identify kind of your limitations, I was kind of obviously limitations versus weaknesses, limitations, our different weaknesses in which witnesses imply that eventually, after working hard, you can overcome a limitation refers more to like actual things in which you need accommodations to help you be successful. So there are we all have our maximum in which we need assistance from others or from technology, whatever to help us. So it's important that you identify your limitations version weaknesses because you can work yourself to death and realize that simply an accommodation would have helped you achieve a lot faster. So basically, once you identify your strengths or interest desires and your goals and your limitations, then I kind of break it up to, you know, so what do you want to do? You know, what do I do? Could mean more? But it also could mean, you know, just how you see your day every day. You know, it could be volunteering. It could be whatever, right? And then I think from there it's like, okay, who you want to impact on. And it's a very important question because that kind of tells you what industry to  work in and have a role which, you know you will best in who when you in your day, do you want to say I brought joy to life. I think it's very, very critical when trying to figure out, you know, how to make a plan for anything and who is in your life. So who's in life is both personal and professional. So whose in your life could be do you work with the team every day? Do you have a family, you know that could help you prioritize and assign and  really understand your goals. Next one is where you want to live, because that's the be state you could be. You're living in a country. If you want to live in the city, you live in the suburbs. Where do you feel the most comfortable and where you would be able to say, I am content with where I am? That impacts, of course, value requirement.  Maybe what jobs you can take are a lot of who they are because all of these connected. This is why I was going to walk through these five. And lastly, what's your financial situation? Financial situation  is not, people say, i want to be a millionaire. I hear that so much, when I talk to the entrepreneurs who are starting up a new business. I just want to be rich right now. I'm like, financial situation is not necessarily about how much money is in your bank account. Financial situation is how stable are you? You know, as in do you have to live paycheck to paycheck? Would you be able to make it six months without any income? What will make you comfortable will make you make you feel like every day you are living comfortably and happily based on your financial situation and describe it, it actually looks like and that takes a lot of work a lot time, it's probably takes the most amount of work from there, though you're able to basically define your to be state. So you're saying this if you are doing what you do every day, if you're living where you want to live have people in your life, you want to have, you're making an impact who you want to  make an impact on. You're defining what your goals are and a lot of ways, professionally and personally, you're really walking through and understanding what that is. From there, you can go back and say now compared to where you want to be, where are you right now, right? That's where you're really getting the most impact for your self awareness ever. Do a gap analysis saying that if this is where I am right now, this is where I want to be. You're able to really easily say either because they can help me to get there in these specific areas, but you're compartmentalize them into five sections and say, Right now I want to prioritize where I wanna live. So this is not far from where I want to be. Now let me figure out how to come up with an appropriate plan that we get there. What do I do? The same thing? I'm going to do my career right now. Help me get there. If you have this astronomical life goal where it's so big, it's going to be hard to actually attain, it can help you measure because successful or not, you're not going to achieve it. But if you break them up with those five and then half steps to help you get there for each of those, five is a really a lot easier for you to tackle and to actually realistically get a measure if you reach them into modify and stay agile if they change and then be able to say when you wake in the morning, if you say where you want to  live and you say this is what it was, you can say yes or no, i achieved it. That's my recommendation in a very watered down version of when I get 5 minutes to explain that something that I have to go through about four or five sessions with my clients to get through. 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:42:15] So but I think what you're doing is you're having them define success for themselves in the way that aligns with their values, right? 

Diem Mooney [00:42:25] Yep, exactly. As you define success for yourself, if you had to put it, one sentence is exactly what I'm doing, not for any one else, but success them. 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:42:33] And that's what's so important, when I had my first business, I had other people who were trying to define my success for me. So, you know, I was I was proud of myself. I said, Oh, you know, I accomplished this, this this, and I was like, Well, this is like, you know, the early 2000s is like, Well, can you can you afford a flat screen TV? I don't. I don't want a flat screen TV. I don't watch TV. I'm working on my business I don't want a flatscreen TV. So that's not what success is to me, but it's really important that you don't get caught up in. And I think again, autistic people a lot of us are really good at staying away from peer pressure, you know, and if we focus exactly on what we want to do, we're going to do it. 

Diem Mooney [00:43:13] But as long as you can define it first, that's right. Is that, as you know, like the logic on uses like people have, you know, like I want to go out of travel somewhere, I want to go to California, right? So it's like, OK, well, you got to California, right? And you go out and buy a car. I'm going to buy the fastest, best car that can get in California. But then the question is, I have like, Well, but you can't really know if you're taking the right or left turn, if you're correct and you're moving properly or getting it fast enough if you don't have the exact location, as in, what address are you going to in California? And because once you know what address you're going to, then you can develop a map. You can say, OK, this is the perfect thing, and it took me two days to get to California. And then you have to assess every day and say, You know what? I'm happy with my progress because I planned out. I'm going to travel 50 miles a day for three days and now get me to where I want to get to this address. So that's defining success. You are going to be content and happy with your progress as long as you define for yourself, and then you're able to make realistic  steps to help you get there. And it won't matter because someone may get it out for you in one day you like. I don't care. I can get there in 3 days. I took breaks. You know, I enjoy my life. I took the scenic route and I got to where I want to get when I want to get there. That helps you with that level of content, because it's not going to compare yourself to the people driving by you to pay yourself to people on your phone telling you you should be doing this and this. And so that's really important piece that I think is going to redefine because that's where contentment comes from. 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:44:40] Exactly. This is such a motivating this is motivating the podcast. So moving forward, you know, it's been great to have you, but moving forward, we want to highlight more people, more voices amplify more voices. Who is somebody Or what type of person would you like to have this interview this year as the season goes on? 

Diem Mooney [00:45:03] Hmm. Interesting question. Oh, I'm. I would think an interesting person to interview with, probably someone in the D&! Space. I think the reason why I would say it is because it will be interesting to hear their perspective on especially like autism and cognitive disorders and where that plays a role in their focus on D&I. Because oftentimes, as you may imagine, it's not a high priority. So I would like to hear their feedback as far as what their perception of, you know, these kind of cognitive disorders would actually work to them and then how they then empathize with it and how they develop a policy around addressing some of these challenges, especially if they don't have them themselves. Well, how do you build empathy or how do you understand something that you don't actually face yourself because you have the impression this is included? And at times, of course, accommodations it's only about race and gender. But D&I is much more than that. I think that a lot of times it does get scratched. So I would say, if anything, I would recommend maybe talking with a D&I professional. And because that's where a lot of times they're there, they have the funding and the resources to make change. So speaking with these individuals who have this, this amount of power, you know, how are they actually how they see this and how they actually make a change? 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:46:20] So I mean, I guess I could talk to myself now, but that's why I don't call myself a D&I practitioner. I say idea. So I add the accessibility at the end. So sometimes diversity, equity and accessibility because I just love it. But I'm very much also a proponent of the fact that people need to stay in their lane. So if they don't have an experience with with neurodiversity,  I don't feel that they should be doing DEI in that area. I think call me. But you know, I don't I don't do like I do intersectionality, but  I don't really focus on anti-Black racism because I don't like having to have those conversations with people because I know that I'm going to be hired because I'm light-skinned. And so I'm the safe black person. But I'm less interested in arguing with people about my values and my work. So I stay out of that, so I make sure that 

Diem Mooney [00:47:22]  my wife, who she's light-skinned as well. We actually have the same discussions of what is different and how would she advocate is a little bit different. So that this is actually having specialists in the DEI realm. In my experience that I work as I because I work with DEI professionals a lot and like employees, we have activities. And actually, it's very rare that you see that they actually say, I specialize in the area at all times. They are supposed to generalists, they end up just focus on one area. So other programs are not really getting the attention they need because of that, that they're not saying, I'm a I'm a specialist in one area instead of, Hey, you know, I'm a generalist. I care about everyone. But then you only see all their attention and programs around one thing. And I think that's where a lot comes from. I think that points in every other body. And I saw this. I don't pretend to care about every single thing related workplace improvement I think I specialize in. And it's OK to say that. I think DEI that should be something that's more open as well. But you know, it's very well. You specialize in this very well and that's what your area is. 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:48:18] So I just I just don't want to get into arguments with people, because I'm just like somebody like if I say the wrong thing, I'm just going to fight them. I can't I can't have a business like that. 

Diem Mooney [00:48:27] So I think that's really interesting, though, to talk with a DEI person who maybe does not see that way like, Oh, I'm a generalist, and so I care about everything and they kind of see their, you know what they put their thoughts on, especially now, maybe on maybe on the podcast, but just back on and how do they think that they bringing value to everyone across many different diverse categories, considering that they're not that they're affected with doing so? That would be interesting. I guess if I think it's kind of, 

Doug Blecher [00:48:54] well Diem, you've brought a lot of value to this podcast, so we really appreciate you. Thanks for making the time to talk with us. 

Kelly Bron Johnson [00:49:02] Thank you.