tiffany payton jameson

Chapman Alumna Champions Neurodiversity in the Workplace This Autism Awareness Month, Tiffany (Payton) Jameson ’96 shares how her personal journey led her to a career cultivating inclusivity for the neurodivergent. 

After graduating from Chapman with a BS in computer information systems, Tiffany (Payton) Jameson ’96 launched a promising career at a dot-com-era start-up. As a product manager at a tech company, she was responsible for the full lifecycle of a software product, working with engineers, marketing departments, training, quality assurance and directly with customers. But sometimes life doesn’t lead where you think it will. 

“As with most things, my path was chosen for me,” says Jameson. “As I embraced motherhood and the opportunity to stay home and raise my children, it drastically changed when my son was diagnosed autistic at 2 years of age.”

Life became full of therapies and fighting for the services he needed to reach his full potential. Her daughter, born during her son’s diagnosis, showed no signs of autism but was eventually diagnosed with ADHD Impulsivity sub-type in elementary school. 

“I have watched my children and many of their peers struggle in a world that does not embrace thinking differently and all that has to offer to the world,” she says. 

The exact moment everything took a turn was when Jameson learned that, among those diagnosed with autism, there is an 85% unemployment rate, and an even higher rate for those without college degrees.

“The unemployment rate was unbelievable,” says Jameson. “I would not accept that fate for my children and so many others like them.”

Jameson returned to school and received an MBA from Brandman University with emphases in accounting, finance and e-business strategy. She followed that with a Ph.D. in psychology with a focus on organizational psychology. During this time, she founded the boutique consultancy firm grit & flow, which guides organizations in making inclusive practices to create environments for all but especially those who are neurodivergent (autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, learning differences) and disabled. 

She is also one of the founders of the NDGiFTS Movement, an organization that supports and celebrates neurodiversity in the workplace. 

“Learn more about making your environment what we call ‘neuro-inclusive,’” encourages Jameson. “As a fellow alum, I look forward to sharing the vision with you!”

 “By the way,” she adds, “my son is a proud Chapman Panther!” Jacob will graduate with the class of 2023. 

Jameson’s Chapman experience took her from basement computer labs to leading Gamma Phi Beta sorority. Keep reading to learn more about her time at Chapman.

Who was the most influential person for you at Chapman? Why?

Michael Fahy was the most influential person for me during my time at Chapman. He helped me from Day 1, getting me through some placement tests before school started, throwing books at me in classes when I wasn’t paying attention, and helping me graduate by helping me beg my biology teacher to give me a passing grade (I promise to never work in that field!). We have kept in contact since my days at Chapman, and he continues to be a mentor.

If you could go back in time and experience one moment again from your time at Chapman, what would it be? Is there anything that you would do differently?

I loved my time in the programming lab. Working with other CIS/CS majors through programming problems was some of my absolute favorite times at Chapman.

If I could do anything differently, I would not graduate in 3½ years. I would have slowed down a bit and not been so serious. I also would not have taken up an internship instead of the intersession class that built Chapman’s first Internet site! 

What do you wish you knew at the time of your graduation that you know now? What advice can you give to the students and/or recent graduates of today?

I wish I knew more about balancing my life. I was a workaholic right out of school. During the ’90s, there was still a lot of pressure for women to do it all. Work, family, you name it. Conversations about mental health weren’t present, and I wish I knew the importance of having balance in my life as I embarked on my career. My advice is to keep yourself healthy by building appropriate boundaries around yourself as you progress in your career. When you first join the workforce, it’s all in. But as you progress and your life becomes enriched with a partner and kids, you need to know how to embrace the balance. It isn’t as easy as it sounds!

How did Chapman prepare you for your career?  For life?  How did your experience prepare you for the real world?

Ironically, I fell into the two majors that led perfectly into my dream job as a software product manager. Originally, I went in as a computer science major, but the math and assembly language courses were becoming less appealing as I advanced in the major. Dr. Fahy introduced me to Computer Information Systems. I learned to program, the software development process and the business skills to work in almost any environment. It was absolutely perfect.

My two internships greatly prepared me for real life, but the most significant thing I did in college to prepare for the real world was as president of Gamma Phi Beta sorority. Learning to work with people is a skill you must have to work with diverse groups of people. Leading my sorority was one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had, and I gained so much from the experience.

Read more about what Chapman University Alumni are up to on our Class Notes page — and submit your own life updates for a chance to be featured!

Staci Dumoski

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