Welcome to our new Be. Lab Story series. We’re delighted to share with you stories from some of the outstanding individuals who have been matched with employment through our Be. Lab Talent Shop Programmes.
Mental health challenges are extremely common, with 1 in 6 New Zealanders diagnosed with mental health conditions at one point in their lives. We talked to Thomas Edwards about their mental health journey and how the Be. Lab Talent Shop supported them through self-discovery and empowering choices, ultimately leading to their dream job and a fulfilling new life in Christchurch.
From a young age, Thomas was fascinated by all things electronic, especially the intricacy of how computers work. They even built a computer from scratch in their spare time!
So, for Thomas, studying Information & Communications Technology and majoring in Computer Programming was an obvious choice following high school. A keen learner with a sharp, technical mind, Thomas completed their degree with top grades.
However, depression had been in the background throughout Thomas’ life. When they graduated, their mental health challenges came to the surface, impacting their daily life.
Attending a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) support group (a type of therapy that helps people understand the impact of their thoughts) was key to Thomas beginning to get their mental health back on track.
This deep internal work led Thomas to take another significant step on their road to recovery: the choice to go through a gender transformation and become Agender.
This wasn’t a decision they took lightly, as the process takes many years, but Thomas believes that being in denial of their true identity contributed towards their depression: “When I realised this was actually me, it was a huge relief.”
While proactively working on their mental health, Thomas gained valuable work experience through a range of part-time jobs, from IT support to data entry. When they felt ready to look for a full-time career in what they were truly passionate about – computer programming - they contacted Be. Lab.
It was through WINZ that Thomas discovered the Be. Lab Talent Shop. Our unique programme connects talented people, with health conditions or access needs, to meaningful employment in the career of their choice. Much more than a recruitment service, we also provide professional development and ongoing support, with the goal to boost confidence and draw out innate strengths.
“Be. Lab is amazing. They figure out how to find a place for you. With their support, I was able to discover my strengths. This gave me the confidence to believe in myself and all I have to offer.”
Through the Gallup Strengthsfinder workshop (a unique assessment tool we use) Thomas was thrilled to discover that their top strengths are being both a keen learner and a strategic big picture thinker. Thomas found the workshop extremely valuable and realised they would be a huge asset to any organisation: “My eyes were opened to things I didn’t know about myself.”
The Be. Lab team also worked with Thomas to fine tune their CV and interview skills, encouraging Thomas to keep applying for jobs in their area of interest. Thomas landed a computer programmer role with leading tech firm, Jade Software.
Working on a range of projects across different industries, Thomas’ top strengths have really come into play: “I often get complex projects thrown at me that I have to figure out on my own, I love the challenge!”
Not only is the role a perfect skill-set match for Thomas, but the culture is a great fit too. They were particularly impressed that Jade Software are LGBTQ+ friendly and have an inclusion council. Thomas enjoys contributing towards the company’s focus on inclusion and diversity by championing Rainbow Pride Week and helping Jade Software achieve a Rainbow Tick.
Thomas moved from Auckland to Christchurch to start their new job. This meant packing up their entire life and even leaving their partner behind: “I was blown away by the support Be. Lab gave me. They encouraged and supported me during my relocation and while I was settling into the role.”
Their unique journey and innate strengths mean that Thomas is not only thriving in their career, but they’ve added tremendous value to Jade Software’s team culture too. Thomas’s partner has now also joined them in Christchurch, where they have created a fulfilling and enjoyable life together.
Leaving the security of school and learning can be a vulnerable time for many young people. With the right support, graduates facing mental health challenges can transition into a meaningful career that utilises their strengths and passions.
Be. Lab's Talent Shop matches talented individuals with access needs or health conditions to meaningful roles with leading employers across New Zealand.