Autistic people often are incredibly good at mathematics and other subjects rooted in logic and systems. They also tend to prefer repetition above variety. That is why an autistic person can be superb working in the IT sector.
Various tech companies around the world have started employing autistic staff for this reason, and the latest company to jump on the bandwagon is German software giant SAP, which is busy recruiting 650 autistic software testers, programmers and data quality assurance specialists.
Once that number has been achieved, exactly one per cent of SAP’s work force will consist of people in the autism spectrum. That is not a coincidental number; one per cent of the world population suffers from a form of autism, which is something SAP wishes to reflect in its workforce.
Autistic people might not be easily understood sometimes, because they can have trouble making eye contact, but they often can see patterns where they elude the rest of us; they are able think logically to extreme levels and also can have an eye for detail that is phenomenal. Problems that make ‘ordinary’ people throw their hands up in the air often are a breeze for these geniuses.
With some training, these gifts can be of immense value to a company like SAP, which has instructed Danish recruitment company Specialisterne to find people on the autism spectrum and promises them secure, meaningful employment.
Specialisterne kicked off the SAP project in Ireland and India, both of which already employ a number of autistic staffers. This is the recruitment agency’s first partnership with a multinational company to help with its worldwide recruitment, but the Danish company has already been instrumental in employing several hundred autistic people to find a job in several countries.
“Autists bring a special set of skills to the table that fits entirely in the SAP culture”, a SAP spokesman said in an interview with news agency Reuters.
Another example of a company going down the same road is AutonomyWorks, a tech company which works exclusively with autistic people. At AutonomyWorks, autistic job seekers who frequently do not make eye contact but who are extremely gifted, land perfect jobs, and good for them.
Steen Thygesen, the man heading up Specialisterne, says that aside from their gift at spotting patterns and logistic clarity, autistic people also can have unique abilities in terms of concentration, being able to focus intensively for extensive stretches of time on a task. That yields a rigour which is hard to keep up with.
Thygesen, a former manager with Microsoft and Nokia, himself has a teenager with Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism that the experts say Albert Einstein might also have suffered from.
Whereas regular companies will focus on soft skills in their interviews, it’s companies like AutonomyWorks and recruitment organisations like Specialisterne, that start from the premise that soft skills might not be optimal in a candidate but that their hard skills are what matters. No wonder their candidates far outmatch those of the regular competition. When recruiters ask whether a candidate can actually do the job, autistic people come into their own.