Autism and the Tech Industry
By Taryn Oesch
Which companies are leading the charge when it comes to hiring individuals with autism? SAP, Microsoft, New Relic, IBM and HP are some of the companies that, knowing the benefits of having a diverse workforce that includes people on the spectrum, have created Autism at Work programs to hire and train employees with autism. All of these companies are tech companies. From Coding Autism, which trains people with autism to code, to the Cyber Neurodiversity Group, which works to educate employers on the benefits of neurodiverse employees, organizations are focusing especially on the tech industry as a sector with possibility for the many unemployed and underemployed people with autism.
Of course, as the saying goes, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” No two human beings are the same. However, there are certain characteristics that are more common in people with autism that can provide a great advantage to people in tech careers. “Technical teams need people with a unique capacity for logic, analysis, and focus – areas where those on the spectrum often excel,” writes Sarah Goff-Dupont, a principal writer for Atlassian, on the company’s blog.
Austin Weinhart, COO of Coding Autism, who is on the spectrum himself, says “the traits that are usually … associate[d] with people on the spectrum correlate really strongly with those of a successful coder,” including “pattern recognition, strong attention to detail” and a “very direct” communication style.
“Many young people on the spectrum have no interest in pursuing a technical career. And that’s fine,” writes Goff-Dupont. Still, the large demand for tech professionals, combined with the increasing awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion, has created a great opportunity for the large number of skilled, educated people with autism who have, until now, faced a lot of closed doors. Hopefully, the successes of the employers who are hiring individuals with autism – and those individuals themselves – will inspire other sectors to develop diverse hiring initiatives of their own.