The #1 ADHD podcast

on iTunes, hosted by

The #1 ADHD podcast on iTunes, hosted by

ADD Biotech Director Shawn Malloy on Managing Neurodiverse Employees

by Faster Than Normal

A few fun facts about our guest today, Shawn Malloy:

48yr old Father of 2, a little trouble being ‘present’ sometimes. Married 17yrs to a very tolerant and patient wife Meghan. Undergraduate degree in Biochemistry (after starting as a music major) from California State University, Long Beach (study abroad semester in Nottingham, England). 21 years at current employer, Biogen, 12 roles in 8 groups over 21 years. Hobbies: parkour (6 stitches), rock climbing (sprained knee), mountain biking (sprained ankle, lots of scars), and trail running, Yoga, meditation, swimming, racing midlife crisis Camaro, guitar building from scratch. “Poor student” all the way from kindergarten through high school – a few flashes of brilliance caught by the odd teacher throughout. Dangerous teenager and mid-20s kid. 25 jobs by the age of 27 and only fired once. Still struggles with honing in on 1 passion. In his own words:  “I’ve always preferred breadth to depth but I know that if I gave my full attention to one of my passions, I’d conquer the world. As with most ADD folks, I tend to be my own worst enemy in that regard. But anytime I’ve given something full attention I’ve had wild success – the guitar is one of my favorite examples. I had a desire to build a guitar for a while, a passion for artistic endeavors, creating things, and woodworking, and a goal of finishing it before Christmas as a gift for my dad. The end result was a beautiful piece of functional art, and it was the first time I ever saw my father cry”.  Today we’re talking mostly about Neurodiversity in the workplace, enjoy! 

In this episode Peter and Shawn discuss:  

00:40 – Thank you so much for listening and for subscribing!

01:01 – Intro and welcome Shawn Malloy

03:36 – You had 25 jobs by the age of 27. Let’s talk about how you’re not bored now, finally.

04:25 – “An ADD brain is like having a Ferrari engine with bicycle brakes”

04:55 – ADD can really be a blessing if you’re in the right environment or you’ve put yourself in the right environment

05:55 – Growing at work under good, or ideal managing

06:55 – What happens when you get a dud for a manager at work?

08:05 – About Human Resources

09:40 – About recognizing talent and knowing how to utilize it in it’s best possible ways

10:22 – Trust = Commitment

10:54 – On Managers and management

13:19 – On how purposeful planning is so important

15:00 – What do you tell the up and coming manager about how to manage folks with neurodiverse brains?

15:47 – “You don’t manage to the role. You manage to the person”.

17:47 – On the power of diversity

18:42 – What is the one thing you’ve learned about your brain, that you wish you would’ve learned earlier in life?

19:12 – This bit right HERE on Imposter Syndrome and permitting your neurodiversity to work

20:00 – How can people find more about you? LinkedIN profile page is here:

20:22 – Guys, as always thanks so much for subscribing! Do you have a cool friend with a great story? We’d love to hear. I’m and you can reach out anytime via email at [email protected] or @petershankman on all of the socials. You can also find us at @FasterNormal on all of the socials. It really helps when you drop us a review on iTunes and of course, subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already! As you know, the more reviews we get, the more people we can reach. Help us to show the world that ADHD is a gift, not a curse! 

Faster Than Normal Podcast info & credits 

TRANSCRIPT via Descript and then corrected.. somewhat: 

[00:00:37] Peter: Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Faster Than Normal my name is Peter Shankman. I am thrilled to have you here today. It’s great to be here. Its a gorgeous day outside its approaching the end of August as we’re recording this. Couple more weeks to labor day, I am about to get outta here and take my daughter out for a week to Tenerife. If you don’t know where that is, all need to know it’s off the coast of Spain and it is the largest has the largest water park in the world. So you could make the argument I’m going to the largest water park in the world and taking my daughter with me. So it doesn’t seem weird. Anyway, thrilled to have you for another episode!

We have a guy named Shawn Malloy on the podcast. Shawn is different than some of our guests, but also very much the same as all of our guests. 48 year old father to 12 year old boy Killion, 10 year old girl, Anna. He loves his kids to death has trouble being present sometimes .Sounds familiar, born and raised settled north of Boston, Massachusetts married 17 years to a lovely tolerant and patient wife named Megan. Here’s the cool part undergraduate degree biochem okay, so abroad in England, 21 years, the past 21 years, he has worked at a company called Biogen, which is how I met him when I gave a keynote to Biogen about a month or so ago, 12 roles in eight groups over 21 years, loves adrenaline sports .Sounds, familiar, parkour, rock climbing, mountain biking. I love that he puts all this stuff in his bio and includes the number of stitches and injuries he got with each one, which I think is just so ADHD for all of us. He races a car. He has a midlife crisis Camaro on track. He built a guitar from scratch. Don’t we all with that? Anyway, his story is like all of ours. He was a poor student. He was a dangerous teen, he, hit his stride stride in college. Let’s talk to Shawn and figure out what turned him into what he’s doing today. Shawn, welcome to Faster Than Normal man. 

[00:02:37] Shawn: Thank you very much, Peter. Um, your talk at Biogen was definitely it hit home. Um, I was an adult diagnosed #ADHD or #ADD um, survivor, I guess you could say. Uh, and my teen years is definitely a survival story to some extent, um, But, yeah. Thanks for, thanks for having me on this is, uh, I’m looking forward to a fun conversation.

[00:03:00] Peter: At the end of the day, we make it through, we survive it. Somehow we move on, you know, we become adults. I joke that, um, you know, I turned 50 a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t really hit me until yesterday. When I had a wall unit delivered. I now own a wall unit in my living room, which is. What kind of bullshit is that right? That’s how, you know, you’re getting all that, a goddamn wall unit. You know, I used to just hang my TV on the wall, right? No, not I have a wall unit cause you know, I need storage. What is that? Right. Welcome to middle age. 

[00:03:30] Shawn: Adulting. Um, it’s horrible.

[00:03:32] Peter: Yeah. So let’s talk about ADHD. You had 25 jobs by the age of 27. You were only fired once you got bored, super fast, right? Biogen, you found a place that never let you get bored. Yes. Um, okay, so let’s talk about that. Cause not everyone has the fortune to not always, you know, not everyone has a job where they don’t always get bored.

[00:03:56] Shawn: It it’s been, honestly, it’s been pretty amazing. Um, I think Biogen’s been a place that. If you’re performing reasonably well, you don’t even have to be a top performer, but you’re performing reasonably well. They’ll let you try different stuff out. And I’ve moved from jobs that were somewhat adjacencies to jobs where I, I didn’t know what I was doing. Um, And much to my surprise, each time I would be at 80% of my peers within a couple of months. And I attribute that to that ADD brain. Right. You’ve got this #Ferrari engine with bicycle brakes. Um, I. I was always able to assimilate information really quickly, put the pieces together, learn really fast, and it started to be intrinsically rewarded, rewarding. You talk about that dopamine hit, but the success profile that Biogen let me build over the years, just continued to add confidence to me as a person. Um, but also to the power of ADD. Like once I found out that I had ADD it started to click that this really can be a blessing if you’re in the right environment or you’ve put yourself in the right environment.

[00:05:02] Peter: Well, and that’s sort of one of the, sort of the unexpected gifts of, or ADHD that we, we figure out, right? No one can tell you that, right? No one can say, oh, trust me. It’s gonna be, you know, you don’t believe it. It has to happen. And it has to show up naturally, but once it does. It’s sort of that way of call, like, wow, I’m in a position. I, I, I have this job where I have ability to not only do my job great, but then I can create things within my job that give me that dopamine hit that, let me work harder and let work more and let do better. So it’s almost like selfing, prophecy. 

[00:05:33] Shawn: Yeah. Yeah. And in my time here, right, I’ve had 21 years. You can imagine I’ve had a lot of managers in that time. I’ve really only had two duds. And those were the times where there was such rigidity placed on me. And what I was allowed to do that I really did actually flounder. I, I was not good at the job, or I just couldn’t get engaged with the job. And those were really hard and it got me to a point. You know, rather than looking for the ideal job, I look for the ideal manager and just make sure that the work’s gonna be interesting.

[00:06:04] Peter: That’s an interesting point. Instead of finding the, the, looking for the ideal job, you look for the ideal manager. And I think a lot of that actually resonates because I remember, you know, the few jobs I’ve had, right? I, I, I, I worked for America online, back in the nineties. That was the last job I ever had. The only job I ever had. And I had a great manager who let me, who understood, like do your job, you know, do it whichever way works for you, but get it done. And, and that. I think for me, you know, for my first job, having that as a first job was a bit of a, a problem because, uh, I just assumed every job was like that right. I went to my second job and, and, and it totally was not. And, you know, there were 8:00 AM meetings. There were check-ins and like, you know, I quit in two weeks. So having that ability to find that, or to have a boss or to have a, a manager. Who understands how you work and let you, lets you go the way you want I think it’s key. You sort of honed in on that and you said it, you only had two sort of duds. What happens when you get a dud though? How do you, how do you sort of handle yourself? Because it’s not, you know, if you can’t be yourself, if you’re not allowed to do the things you want, be the way you want. It’s difficult.

[00:07:06] Shawn: It’s very difficult and it, the problem that was just, it continued to get worse is I didn’t stop being myself. I don’t think that that’s in the, a add profile is the ability to not be impulsive and not be yourself. Right. Um, that’s so one of the things that defines us, so the relationship just deteriorated from not good to really bad. But what I did have was this long history of performance with a lot of people, I had a big network, so I was able to work through my network to find the next opportunity. Um, and really that was the only way out. I was not working my way out of this, this problem with the manager that was the dud or the managers that were duds, it just wasn’t gonna work. Uh, one of the managers was removed, so they were a dud for everybody, not just me. The other one was the manager who was highly regarded and really was a brilliant man, but it was not a good personality match between how I needed to be functioning and how he wanted me to be functioning. And that one, the one where I network. 

[00:08:04] Peter: That’s interesting point. That’s interesting point because you know, it’s not all the time that, you know, remember there are a lot of times where you you’re sitting there and you’re going okay. It’s not that the, the boss, isn’t a good boss. He’s not a good boss for me. Yes. Right. And how do you, how do you sort of explain that, you know, to, to the powers that be when they don’t understand what he, not a good boss for you, he’s a boss, you know, you deal with it. Well, it doesn’t work that way all the time.

[00:08:31] Shawn: No, it really doesn’t. And you’re very right. HR is almost always gonna side with the boss and they did, um, they didn’t fully get it, but I wasn’t in a unique position. This was, you know, maybe 15 years deep into my career here. I had built this legacy of everywhere I went, I did excellent. So it wasn’t like, they just thought all of a sudden I’m not doing my job, but it was not a pleasant experience trying to, to escape if you will. I, there were a lot of things up against me, but I don’t, I think there are gonna be a lot of people that don’t have that benefit. 

[00:09:00] Peter: Well, that’s the thing that brings up a really interesting point is that, is that every, you know, for as long as you’re in a job, whether it’s 15 years or 15 days, you know, your goal is to create a, a sort of, uh, security blanket around yourself where people look at you and go, yeah, he’s a really good worker, or he’s a really, you know, smart employee or whatever and so if something’s not working. Right. Let’s not be that quick to blame him. Let’s see what the issue and, and that doesn’t necessarily happen all the time because companies aren’t trained to think that way. 

[00:09:35] Shawn: Not very often. No, I’ve what I got to know when I became a supervisor, is that there are very few people who don’t want to do a good job. I would say it’s bordering on none. Nobody wants to come in and be known as the crappy employee. Um, there’s usually a barrier in their way, and it’s whether it’s a barrier in how the job is functioning or the training, or in my case, if you having a person with a ADD or some other, um, I don’t wanna call it a disability, a different ability, a different brain, right. Um, you’ve gotta find ways to get them to be their best, cuz if you can find that for them; man, will they run through brick walls? Like if you’re the person who discovers what that person’s talent is after they’ve been, um, pushed down their whole life, what a connection seriously. Um, and had many of those over my career.

[00:10:22] Peter: That’s really a key point also, because if you are a manager and you’re able to bring that out, Your in your employee. Right. And, and, you know, not only bring that out, but, but appreciate it as opposed to try and push it back down, you know, these employees will go to the end of the Earth for you. And I don’t think enough managers- don’ts that, that. They don’t realize the level of commitment that someone with a different brain will give you. If you give them that level of trust. 

[00:10:54] Shawn: Oh, you I’ve seen it too many times to not believe it’s true. Peter. You’re, you’re dead right. And. The not only that, right? The work side of things, but that personal connection that you get that personal, just watching somebody light up because they’ve been discovered for what they bring to the table. The, the trouble with managers is very few of them receive good formal training. It’s kinda like when you’re parenting, right. You become a parent. And then all of a sudden you’ve gotta figure out how to raise a human being. Um, when you’re a manager, most of them are thrown to the, the, the job because they were good at a job, but not necessarily good at managing right. The good ones over time, come to realize that you manage the individual, you don’t manage to manage your role. You manage to the people that you have in front of you. And, and that does get to you’re managing to every individual difference. You’re bringing out the bright spots and trying to minimize the deficits and it’s not easy. It really isn’t. So I don’t, I don’t fault always the managers who aren’t good at it because it, it does take a, a really dedicated person to be able to do that. And you also have to have the bandwidth to do it. A lot of managers are given a day job as well as a manager role. So there’s gotta be some patience for the manager as well. 

[00:12:04] Peter: Isn’t that, um, what you said earlier that, that, you know, most managers aren’t born into, into the concept of managing they’re they’re they’re become, they become managers cause they were given a job which isn’t necessarily a manager job. Isn’t that the Peter principle, the Peter principle is, is the object that basically states that every worker will rise to his or her highest level of incompetence. Yes right in that, in that you, you, you, you hire someone and they’re good at their job, so you promote them and they’re good at the next job, so you promote them again and they’re good at the following job. So you promote them again. Then they’re not good. If finally reach a point where they’re not good. Well, you don’t demote. But you don’t promote them again. Right. So they sit there. Right. And they, it that’s how bureaucracy happens. 

[00:12:43] Shawn: yes. Yeah. It, it plays itself out over and over again in corporate America. For sure. I, I don’t really have a good solution for it. Right. But I, I think, I don’t know if there is one there really, 

[00:12:55] Peter: I think we can make a lot, you and I can make a lot of money, but you figure one out. 

[00:12:58] Shawn: No question. Yeah. I would agree. Um, I took a few notes as I was thinking about this podcast and, and the things I wanted to be able to convey. And we’ve talked about a, a great one, right? I think understanding how to navigate your career with ADD is important. But one of the things that I’ve I’ve learned throughout the years is, um, purposeful planning. As a person with ADD and activation energy. And I think they do relate to how I’ve navigated my career over time at Biogen. It wasn’t just that I bounced around from job to job because I’m a ADD; I did all along have plans. Um, and for me, it’s similar to the guitar that I built. Right. I had a, I finally had something that I could leverage my artistic capability, my engineering capability. I had a goal around it. Timing. And step by step of how to approach it. And I’ve, I’ve approached my career much the same way. And when I first started supervising people, I was in the manufacturing element of Biogen, very small little world. Okay. Very small little world. Right. But you feel like it’s all there is because you’re in the science, you’re actually making the drug. But as I was developing people, all, I really knew how to develop them for were manufacturing roles. So I wanted to get out and see the broader thing that is biotech. I wanted to hop into some individual contributor roles, learn what different roles did so that as I came back to a management role, I’d understand how to develop people. Like when I saw somebody’s passion to speak to what we were getting to before, when I noticed somebody’s niche, I didn’t necessarily know what to do with it other than maybe a small part in manufacturing, but now that I’ve come full circle with all this knowledge of all these roles, when I see somebody who’s got a particular passion, I know where that fits in the organization. I know how to put them in a role that’s gonna get them into that flow state. And that’s good for people with a ADD that’s good for people in life in general, but it all came because I had a plan that as a manager, I wanted to be able to develop people better, to be able to do that. I had to understand 

[00:14:53] Peter: that brings up a great point. What do you tell, you know, if you had to. Sort of hammer that down in 10 words. What do you tell the up and coming manager about, I mean, managing in general, but obviously managing people with neuro diverse brains, right. Because you know, , you certainly do not learn this in school. 

[00:15:11] Shawn: No, I think it’s the first question I ask my people, um, when I meet them is- what is your passion? Where does time disappear for you? And then I’m gonna do my best to find the aspects of the current role that you’re in and whatever future roles you wanna point yourself towards where that passion can come to bear as often as possible. Every job is gonna have crap you don’t wanna do, sorry. It’s work. Yeah. But the more that you can leverage those points of passion. The more you’re gonna enjoy your work. The more you’re gonna succeed. And the more you’re just gonna really shine. And that’s, that’s what I would tell managers is you don’t manage to the role you manage to the person.

[00:15:51] Peter: Ooh, I like that. 

[00:15:52] Shawn: If you wanna get the most out of the people that are around you, find out what drives them. Where does time disappear for them? You’ll be surprised, right? You may hate analytics. You may hate looking at data, but I’ve had people under me who that is their passion. Mm-hmm they love working in a spreadsheet. They love seeing the story that comes out. When you start looking at the data and the numbers. If you have somebody who hates that, don’t put them in a role that that’s their main function. Find the person that that is their passion and oh, you’re. Get such better work outta them, and you’re gonna get better dedication, better loyalty. And you’ll have people coming to you for jobs because they wanna work for you because you get it. You get how to place them in success.

[00:16:35] Peter: You bring an interesting point because I think a lot of people, whether you’re manager or not, you know, we tend to gravitate towards the stuff that we’re good at the stuff we like. Right. I mean, you know, let’s. As we’re as we’re growing up and we’re in school when we’re undiagnosed with a neurodiverse brain, um, it’s no surprise that we gravitate towards the stuff we’re really good at, right. For me it was, it was English or it was, you know, it was social studies or whatever it wasn’t math. Right. And so math would be horrible. So I would avoid math as much as possible. I think as adults, when we’re in job roles, we sort of keep that uh, in the back of our heads and we don’t really let that go away. So that, so that, that, you know, we tend to gravitate sorts of stuff we like to do and try to avoid the stuff we don’t. And so, because of that, I think, you know, we look at our, our, our sort of employees when we’re in a managerial role and we put them in the same boat, but what we have to sort of understand is that, that we might have employees who love the very stuff that we hate, like love. Yes. The very stuff that we hate. And we have to sort of, I guess, embrace that. For them. Right. And let them under, you know, Hey, you, you have that math kick. Great. Go do math. you know, I, I, I look at along lines of, I, my assistant is awesome at the stuff I’m terrible at. She doesn’t let me schedule stuff in my calendar because I screw it up, but she’s great at it. She loves that stuff. And so it’s that, it’s that giving over that ability for her to do that.

[00:18:08] Shawn: It’s the power of diversity, right? We’re talking about neurodiverse brain, but the power of diversity is everywhere in life. It’s everywhere in work. And if you can work with people who are different than you, you’re gonna be so much better off because everybody can bring a different strength to bear. Yeah. The hard part is a hundred percent. Different personalities that are there. Cause that can be a little weird. We are humans at the end of the day and sometimes we get a little quirky on the personality side. 

[00:18:32] Peter: I think. We could do nine and a half hours on managing personalities. So I’m not even gonna start with that. but I will, I will end it with this. I’ll ask you this. What is the one thing you’ve learned about your brain, whether it’s, you know, in a professional setting or personal setting with your wife or your kids that you wish learned earlier? 

[00:18:54] Shawn: That is a great question. I think you had mentioned it it’s that the imposter syndrome, um, that it’s very real, that it exists, but it really isn’t true 90% of the time. The ADD brain, you are so good at so many things, and you can see the big picture better than so many other people. You’re gonna be your own harshest critic. Yeah, that does not mean that you are not still better than 80 or 90% of the people who are doing the same thing. It means you’re not 80 to 90% as good as you wanna be, or, you know, you could be, but stretching that extra mile may not be worth the effort. Your, your good enough is gonna be better than most people’s best. So don’t let imposter syndrome beat you down. 

[00:19:46] Peter: I love that.

[00:19:46] Shawn: Don’t fall prey to it. Have faith that what you’re doing is probably better than the majority of the people around you.

[00:19:53] Peter: That’s that’s a phenomenal, uh, a phenomenal line. That’s that’s awesome. I love that. I love that. Awesome. Well, listen, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time, Shawn really appreciate it. I’m so glad we connected, uh, at the Biogen talk.

Guys, Shawn Malloy , uh, how can people find you? How can they, how can they, uh, learn more about you?  LinkedIN profile page is here:

[00:20:11] Shawn: Uh, LinkedIN I am on LinkedIn. It’s Shawn S H a w N M a L L O Y. Uh, and you’ll find me as employed by Biogen. That’s probably the cleanest and simplest way to find me. 

[00:20:22] Peter: Awesome guys. We’ve been visiting with Shawn Malloy and you’ve been listening to Faster Than Normal. My name is Peter Shankman as always. We love that you’re here. And if you had a second right now, go and leave us a review. I cannot tell you how those reviews help our uh, podcast growth, the more reviews the more it helps the website and the podcast is seen. It is really incredible, and we’re able to help more and more people understand that ADHD is a gift, ADD is a gift, Any form of neurodiversity is a gift, not a curse! We will see you again next week with a brand new interview and a brand new episode. We appreciate you listening, and we appreciate all our guests, including Shawn, thank you so much Shawn for taking the time. Guys, thank you for listening. We will see you next week. My name is Peter Shankman. And remember the ADHD and all forms of neurodiversity is probably the best thing that ever happened to you. We will see you next week. Stay safe. Talk to you soon.

Credits: You’ve been listening to the Faster Than Normal podcast. We’re available on iTunes, Stitcher and Google play and of course at I’m your host, Peter Shankman and you can find me at and @petershankman on all of the socials. If you like what you’ve heard, why not head over to your favorite podcast platform of choice and leave us a review, come more people who leave positive reviews, the more the podcast has shown, and the more people we can help understand that ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Opening and closing themes were composed and produced by Steven Byrom who also produces this podcast, and the opening introduction was recorded by Bernie Wagenblast. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you next week!


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