Let’s See How Those Employees With Autism Worked Out at SAP

Back in 2013, we said SAP will be hiring “autistic software testers, programmers, and data-quality-assurance specialists” in North America and Europe. The employees — including one who’d bounced around for years, underemployed on part-time gigs before landing at SAP — started joining in 2014, so it has been a couple of years now that the program’s been going on in the U.S.

How’s that working out?

comment by Asperger's candidateApparently quite well. Jose Velasco is the U.S. lead on the program, and the co-leader globally of SAP’s Autism at Work. He says that autistic employees in general, at most companies, often don’t last a year (not to mention that the job-application process itself can frustrate applicants, as noted by one in a comment on an ERE post).

That’s not the case at SAP. The software giant has brought on 66 people globally, and Velasco tells me only two have left.

Some have met expectations, he says, and others have succeeded them. One hire recently published a successful product guide that was put online for SAP and generated a lot of traffic. Another was on a winning SAP hackathon team.

Velasco says that a lot of effort has gone into training and onboarding the autistic hires; companies that can’t or don’t take those extra measures may be the ones finding themselves with the high turnover mentioned above.

Most of the problems that’ve come up at SAP are small ones, often related to communication. “Pretty uneventful,” Velasco says.

Henry Albrecht, CEO of wellness/engagement company Limeade, isn’t surprised to hear SAP’s hires are working out better than other firms’. A company with its size and resources, he says, is likely “much better built for this” than many firms.

Albrecht notes that there are a lot of easily forgotten ancillary benefits of bringing autistic employees into the workforce. For one, getting a job, for some autistic job candidates, can be a huge plus for their general well being and happiness, something that goes well beyond just getting a paycheck, and can make them highly engaged in their work. Also, it can, depending on the situation (like in more significant cases), free up a lot of time for their parents to work, if they were spending their time assisting the autistic person.

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Velasco once said on his blog that he hopes “to have 1 percent of its workforce represented by employees in the autism spectrum by the year 2020.”

That’s not out of the question. But, “it’s a moving target,” he says. It may happen in 2019, and may happen in 2022. Either way, it won’t signal the end of the program, which he views as “sustainable.”

The new employes have been hired in India, Germany, Ireland, Canada, and the U.S. The Czech Republic and Brazil are next. Specialisterne typically helps kick it off as SAP expands autistic-employee hiring in new countries, and then local organizations get involved. By the end of this year, SAP will have hired 90 to 100 people on the autism spectrum, with about a quarter of them in the U.S.


image from Shutterstock


11 Comments on “Let’s See How Those Employees With Autism Worked Out at SAP

  1. Thanks, Todd. I am a board member of an ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) support organization called AASCEND (www.aascend.org). A couple of our members have been hired through the SAP Program, and another of our members is an active advisor to the program here in the Bay Area. I commend SAP’s efforts, and Jose Velasco’s championing of the program. I challenge other leading tech companies to match and raise SAP’s lead:
    Hire 1% of their NON-TECHNICAL workforce as ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) people. (It would be surprising to me if technical companies [particularly software firms], already don’t have much higher percentages of their technical workforce as ASDs.)

    Happy Friday,

    keithsrj@sbcglobal.net 415.672.7326 c

  2. Am I the only one that finds the title a little bit… off? How about “SAP Hires with autism?” I’ll defer to @keithdhalperin:disqus on this as he would be the expert in this matter but “Let’s See How those Aspergers hires at SAP worked out” in the URL and “Let’s see How those Autistic Hires at SAP worked out” does not sound professional or respectful in any way.

  3. Jared: good point. I’m happy to change it. I’ll also defer to Keith. I didn’t intend to be disrespectful.

    1. Didn’t mean to come off so harsh, my apologies. “Employees with autism” or “employees living with autism” is greatly preferred to “autistic employees.”

  4. My son attended the month long training given by Expendabilty in San Jose, Ca back in August under the supervision from SAP. We were hoping that he would be given a chance to obtain a job at SAP but still have not heard from them at all , not even an email. My son graduated from UCSB in 2014 with 2 degrees in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics and still unable to find a job in the software sector.
    So we are hoping to hear from them soon.

    1. Hi Tuck,
      Thank you for your comments! Expandability has been staying in contact and working
      with your son since he completed training in September with
      Expandability. After the training, Expandability invited your son to
      participate in a networking opportunity hosted by a local hi-tech company which
      has led to an interview, and we just recently setup an interview for him with
      another hi-tech company that we’ve been developing as a possible partner for
      placing our clients. We’re very excited for your son and what life-changing
      benefits could come from this!

      The training that he participated in is not an SAP
      sponsored training. We use this training to pipeline candidates for several
      technology companies who have an interest in the Autism at Work program, of
      which SAP has been a leader in hiring our candidate who complete the training.

      If you have any further questions or concerns, please do
      not hesitate to call me.

      Maria Nicolacoudis
      Executive Director of Expandability

      1. Thanks for all the help from Expandabilty especially to Priscilla, who did an excellent job in helping my son throughout the training session and after.
        Thanks again.

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