January 24th, 2013
07:10 AM GMT
Editor’s Note: Members of the Young Global Leaders forum at the World Economic Forum in Davos share some of their ideas for innovative ways to boost the economy and unleash intellectual capital.
(CNN) – I met a very inspiring person couple of years back and he told me three things that have been a great lesson for me:
That helps explain why my we decided to hire individuals in the autism spectrum at SAP Labs India.
Autism is a highly variable neurodevelopment disorder and many are impacted by it. It is said that Autism impacts one in every 88 persons. Individuals with autism have limited or little language and social skills. Very few of them get employment or get absorbed into mainstream, as most of the autistic individuals lack communication skills and cannot be team players, two absolutely essential skills needed to land a job.
They however have a very good memory and the ability to focus on repetitive tasks for a long time without drudgery. Since we have a large workforce working on software testing, which involves remembering complex steps and performing repeated activities, we thought why not look at hiring autistics to perform this role. Beginning in a small way, we hired four autistics and trained them to take up software testing. Each individual was assigned a buddy. The buddies apart from being experienced testers were individuals who were passionate about doing something different. The biggest criterion for being a buddy was compassion. The buddies slowly became their partners not just at work, but much beyond that.
In six months, we found that these special individuals were not just able to remember complex testing sequences, but also execute without any errors. Apart from the very tangible business outcome, these special individuals had the ability to spread happiness amongst the rest of the team. Their loyalty and commitment to the company was never once at doubt and they were very motivated. Also, the feedback we got from their families was that their attitude and behavior changed rapidly and they became more independent and confident.
In an emerging country like India, this journey doesn't start and end with employability; the efforts have to begin much earlier with basic education, employability centric training, mentoring and coaching. We have made a start by initiating education modules with intense use of technology – which helps us scale and standardize tremendously. And, one day our hope is that 100,000 autistic individuals get gainfully employed in the organized sector in India.
The person who inspired me was the Danish entrepreneur Thorkil Sonne, the founder of Specialisterne. Together we have taken the mission to create a million jobs for autistics across the globe!
My ask to each one of you, is the next time you see a special person, look at what they are good at and not their weakness. Everyone deserves a chance, and ONLY we can create it.
-V.R. Ferose, Senior Vice-President, Globalization Services, SAP Labs, India
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