My Dyslexia Story - Ross Linnett CEO of Recite Me
Monday 25 September 2023
Recite Me CEO Ross Linnett shares his dyslexia story and what inspired him to start up his own company, Recite me – a website accessibility software to create inclusivity online.
“Having a CEO who leads with a different way of thinking can often energise people to also think more creatively and that’s what I’ve experienced from my team.”
Within just a few years of operation, Ross and his team have taken Recite Me from a small regional start-up into a multi-national organisation, providing support to millions of neurodiverse users in industries around the globe.
When I was younger, I sometimes struggled at school in subjects that required a large amount of reading or writing but I found that I excelled in subjects that didn’t include a lot of English.
I always suspected there was something different about the way my brain was working and learning.
At age 4, I was already written off into what was known at the time as a ‘special reading class’.
The thing that I struggled with the most was reading aloud. I dreaded it. I managed to keep my reading ability hidden for the most part, but you can’t hide when you have to read out loud. I was very confident and happy in school, but the thought of reading in front of the class used to scare the life out of me.
As I progressed through school, no one was really invested in finding out why I was struggling. Despite finding certain subjects challenging, I managed to get myself to university - to study engineering!
By third year, I was really searching for answers because, in the run-up to exams, I had been one of the students that was showing all the others how to answer questions in the mock exams. It was clear I had the same knowledge, if not more, than many of my course mates, yet in a final exam environment I never finished within the allotted time and other students were beating me by up to 20%. As I know now, taking much longer to finish exams is a classic sign of dyslexia.
It was only after university that I was finally officially diagnosed with dyslexia. I was giving a presentation and was writing some notes down on paper when a colleague commented that I was displaying all the signs of dyslexia. I finally did the assessment and low and behold, they were right!
Positives and Negatives
There are so many positives about having Dyslexia. People with dyslexia tend to be very creative; we’ve had a lifetime of coming up with solutions, problem solving and being adaptable. I’ve had to find ways to work around difficulties I’ve faced and it means I have a great imagination for new angles or fresh perspectives.
That feeling that my brain worked differently to other people, turned out to be right. But I haven’t found that ‘different’ is a negative for me. These ‘dyslexic traits’ have been great assets to me in business and I think they’ve actually served me well. Having a CEO who leads with a different way of thinking can often energise people to also think more creatively and that’s what I’ve experienced from my team.
Without Dyslexia, I truly don’t think I would have set up my own company
Obviously, there are struggles associated with Dyslexia too. I find reading online text particularly difficult. I often need to have bulks of text read aloud or adjust the colour of websites to suit my needs better. Thankfully there are tools for me to use to overcome most of those barriers now.
A limited attention span, also a common dyslexic trait, so at Recite Me we try to keep meeting lengths down as much as possible – which comes with the added advantage of making our meetings much more efficient and focused. Did you know that Winston Churchill was dyslexic? He would often refuse to have a meeting longer than 20 minutes, and if he can run an entire war operation this way, I’m confident that our business and any other company can also manage!
Although I’ve been very lucky with the support I've received over the years, I often found it was limited to the person/company/technology assisting me.
The problem was, there was a limit to what anyone could do to help me because the technology just didn’t exist. Sure, there was software that I could use on one dedicated computer in the office. But there were no portable or cloud-based solutions that could make online content accessible to me from anywhere, on any device.
That’s what led me to create my own assistive technology - I didn’t want anyone else to find themselves limited online.
Success against the odds
One particular achievement that stands out to me is when I met and shook hands with HRH Queen Elizabeth II and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, the now-King.
It was at the networking event ‘Tech at the Palace’ in 2014, that I was invited to join 350 fellow digital entrepreneurs at Buckingham Palace.
It was quite emotional for me that Recite Me was being recognised as a “top tech start-up” after all the hurdles I’d overcome to get it off the ground.
Look out for support and take it when you find it. There’s no shame in getting the help you need so that you can access things in the same way as everyone else.
It’s not just that we can’t spell, it doesn’t mean we're incapable. We can be hugely successful, with the way our minds work and how we look for solutions to problems with various outcomes and paths to get there.