Week 2 Biographies

Hilary Fertig

Hilary is the Development Manager for Employment Autism. In parallel with a career in IT, Hilary has worked in a variety of roles within the field of autism and additional needs. These include as job coach to autistic adults, and in teaching roles with both adults and children with additional needs.
Hilary has an MA in Autism Studies from the Tizard Centre at Kent University. Her dissertation was based on the lived experience of autistic people in the workplace.

Shamima Akhtar

Shamima is a Policy Coordinator in the Assistive and Accessible Technology (ATech) team at Policy Connect. Shamima has a broad background in disability, as a neurodivergent and visually impaired person, and having been the Disabled Student’s Officer at her Student Union and on the NUS Disabled Student’s Committee.

She works on a range of policy areas in education, employment, social care, as well as the ATech Policy Lab.

Gemma Holtam

Gemma Holtam, is the founder of The Long Game, an employment charity that provides peer-led support for autistic HE students and graduates. The charity launched at the end of last year and since then has spoken to over 120 autistic students and graduates about their employability needs. The charity’s research revealed that autistic HE students and graduates believe the greatest barrier to their success is the stigma and prejudice they face. As a result of this, The Long Game are supporting autistic HE students to engage their neurotypical peers to help challenge stigma, break down barriers and develop new insights into the autistic experience.

Before Gemma established the charity she gained ten years experience of supporting autistic individuals in a variety of roles in further and higher education, including as an Assistive Technology Officer and Specialist Tutor.

Tom Ledgard

Tom is Head of Placements and Graduate Outcomes at the University of Leicester and is responsible for supporting students to secure experience during their degree and employment once they graduate. His experience in higher education includes student recruitment and outreach, academic delivery as an hourly paid lecture and dissertation supervisor, business development for executive education before moving into a careers and employability role working closely with employers to prepare and support students to transition into their next step after university. The case study of Employ Autism will share how the initiative supported students with autism to access work experience, develop professional skills and increase confidence for career planning.  

Dawn Makinson, Senior Engagement Manager, Brain in Hand

Dawn Makinson is the Senior Engagement Manager at Brain in Hand. She is an accomplished practitioner and highly qualified specialist education consultant in neurodiversity, particularly autism and learning differences and disabilities. Her work at Brain in Hand focuses on her passion for supporting people to find their own solutions, respecting them as individuals with their own strengths, needs, and aspirations.

Dorothy Muir, National Engagement Manager, Brain in Hand

Dorothy joined Brain in Hand in early 2021, after seeing the impact of its hybrid digit support, whilst working with joint local authority and health commissioning teams.

She leads on use of Brain in Hand in work settings, supported internships and transition to adulthood. With her colleagues she is increasing engagement with employers, recruiters, colleges, statutory bodies and a range of organisations working on inclusivity and equality. Her aim is to work collaboratively to get the right support to enable more people to enter and stay in work.

She utilises a wide skills based from 25 years working in the charitable, criminal justice, health, and employment regulatory sectors, together with consultancy for private companies.

Rachel Westwood


Rachel Westwood is a Careers and Employability Adviser at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU). Alongside her day-to-day role, Rachel also leads on the Mind Talk programme, which is a programme designed to provide careers and employability support to students with mental health difficulties. Rachel is also working closely with SHU’s Wellbeing team to offer collaborative careers and wellbeing support which forms part of the universities’ Class of 22 programme. Rachel is keen to work closely with both internal and external departments and colleagues to support disabled students on their careers and employability journey, ensuring wellbeing is consistently embedded throughout. Rachel has produced a presentation on what SHU are currently doing to support final years with their transition out of university and how her role within Mind Talk fits into this.