Celebrating Phillip’s Success at Microsoft

In July 2018, some of the WorkFit team attended the World Down’s Syndrome Congress in Glasgow where Employment Development Manager, Alison Thwaite and WorkFit candidate Lynsey Dixon presented about the WorkFit programme.

They were delighted to meet some of the members of the audience after the presentation and in particular were pleased to meet Phillip Thelin and his parents JoAnne and Curtis. Phillip was at the Congress to give his own presentation entitled “My Life, My Choice” in which he talked about advocating for himself because people didn’t think he could be a musician or work as a chef.

He also talked about what independence means to him – “having the ability to choose my own path”. He highlighted the positive things in his life but also shared the challenges he faces every day, wanting others to see “we are all in this together and that we should not give up”. He also spoke about how much it means to him to work at Microsoft, and that he feels very lucky to have the job he trained so hard to get.  Phillip was delighted with his presentation – “I really felt people heard my message”

Phillip works Monday-Friday from 9:30am to 1:30pm as an Assistant Chef at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington USA and told us about his role and how proud he is of his job. He also told us about the supported employment programme operated by Microsoft and their partner organisations.

JoAnne kindly provided Alison with contact details for Microsoft. In November Alison visited Washington to see family, including her niece Olivia who has Down’s syndrome, and she arranged to meet with Brian Collins from Microsoft and Gillian Maguire from CBRE to find out more about their supported employment programme. The visit was very useful and provided an insight into the model used and the organisations partnering with Microsoft in their supported employment programme. Brian and Gillian are wonderful advocates of the programme and hugely supportive of their employees with learning disabilities. It is hoped that WorkFit will be able to explore opportunities to work with Microsoft in the UK at some point in the future.  You can find out more about Microsoft’s Supported Employment programme at: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/procurement/diversity-sep.aspx?activetab=pivot%3aprimaryr5

To see a video of Phillip at work please click on the video below


Following the meeting at Microsoft, Alison met with Phillip and JoAnne for coffee in Renton. It was great to hear more from Phillip about his job and how it makes him feel. Phillip works 5 days a week, is well established in his role and now only needs a job coach when changes occur in the workplace requiring short-term training and support. At the location where Phillip works in Eastgate there are 5 employees with learning disabilities. He often pauses to help colleagues at work – he’s a good listener with good instincts. Phillip has a lengthy journey to work as the traffic can add quite a lot of time to the 45-minute journey but he is very dedicated to his work and shows real commitment to his employer. Phillip is keen to access the clubs available at Microsoft.

He also told Alison about his work on an advisory committee for supported employment at Microsoft which convenes every 3 months. As part of his key role on the committee, Phillip talks about what support he needs at work and how decisions made by his employer impact on ways of working. He also advises about what is beneficial for employees with a learning disability by talking to colleagues and passing on their feedback as well as sharing his own lived experiences.

Phillip has also started his own business inspired by his Scottish heritage: Clan Ross Scottish Arts.  Still in its early stages, Phillip hopes to be up and running by late 2019 starting with screen printed merchandise using his own photographs taken while traveling in Scotland.  You can contact Phillip at bagpiperphillip@yahoo.com for further information.

Phillip is also a very talented musician, playing bagpipes and the clarinet. Through Clan Ross Scottish Arts, Phillip is available to pipe for special events and celebrations. He is a descendant of Clan Ross – his maternal grandfather, William Ross, was born in Durness, Scotland – and is very proud of his heritage.  Phillip had the experience of a lifetime while in Glasgow for the Congress when he joined with the Dundee City Pipe Band during at the civic reception and at the closing night gala.  It was a dream come true for Phillip to play as part of a band.  Since his return to Seattle, Phillip has stayed in touch with the band members.  This connection has become an important part of Phillip’s life.  Hopefully, he will have the opportunity to play with them again in the near future as he is a regular visitor to Scotland.  Closer to home, Phillip leads the annual Puget Sound Buddy Walk in Seattle, Washington playing the bagpipes, a role first taken on by his grandfather.  Phillip has also played the clarinet with the West Seattle Community Orchestra for 6 years.

In addition, he is also a Special Olympics swimmer and has been since the age of 8 (favourite stroke – Butterfly). If that were not enough Phillip also participates in Taekwondo, a Korean martial art, characterized by its emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks, and fast kicking techniques.

Finally Philip and his family were surprised to get a copy of Down Syndrome Australia’s December 2018 newsletter in the mail a few weeks ago and see Philip on the cover! The issue included several articles on the Glasgow congress and Phillip got a mention on the inside cover!

We are so glad to hear of Phillip’s success in his career and also his sporting activities, musical prowess and entrepreneurial flair. He is a hard-working and dedicated young man who is shaping his own destiny and is quite rightly very proud of all he has achieved so far. We wish him well with his ambitions for the future.

WorkFit supports people with Down’s syndrome to access meaningful work opportunities that can benefit the rest of their lives. For more information about WorkFit please contact the team on 0333 12 12 300 or email us on dsworkfit@downs-syndrome.org.uk

For more information visit the WorkFit website: www.dsworkfit.org.uk