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building neurodiverse talent pools

I love a good story of how our real life experiences can shape our career and how we serve the HR and workplace communities. To set the stage for our podcast guest and the topic, I wanted to share information from CDC earlier this year First Estimates of the Number of Adults Living with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the United States to be over 2% of the population. In today’s interview we will be discussing autism as well as neurodiversity. You might have heard these terms used often interchangeably. My guest will share her expertise and give us insights into the similarities and differences along with the work she is doing to help train, develop, and find employment for those who identify as neurodiverse.

Jhillika Kumar is a 21 year old social impact entrepreneur, Diversity & Inclusion community builder, and Grace Hopper Celebration keynote speaker as an advocate for disability empowerment. She is an Assistant Vice President focusing on Accessibility at Bank of America and the CEO & Founder of Mentra, a startup focused on enabling individuals on the autism spectrum to find meaningful careers by activating their talents.

What is Neurodiverse?

Jhillika says neurodiversity is the range of differences that an individual brain function can have. And it’s oftentimes regarded as part of the normal variation in the human population, basically to say that everyone’s brain is different and might have different ways of interpreting the world, whether that’s different sensory perception or different ways of communicating and that’s especially this includes autism, ADHD, dyslexia.

Many of the different conditions of the human kind can sort of fall into neurodiversity. And oftentimes individuals who are neurodiverse really have challenges with certain types of social skills or being in certain environments around other people. Everyone is completely different and not to generalize and all, but just to say that there are so many different requirements and needs of each individual that it oftentimes becomes difficult to find places where they can really thrive and environments and teams to work around that really energize them rather than drain them.

Underemployment and How It Impacts the Neurodiverse and Autism Community

One statistic that really struck me from Jhillika was that by 2025, there will be over 500,000 people in the United States who will age out of government support programs, who will leave colleges and who will enter the workforce. And because one of the biggest problems right now is the underemployment. So someone who might be really, really naturally gifted at data and understanding data science or even marketing and understanding people and how to connect the dots, they are oftentimes, you know, working at grocery stores, working at jobs that they really just don’t feel fulfilled by. This is one of the many reasons that Jhillika founded her company, Mentra.

Using Artificial Intelligence in Human Resources and Job Matching Technology

I’ve written and talked in great detail about artificial intelligence talking and sharing with HR leaders and employers educating them on the basics of AI. Jhillika talks about Mentra’s work in this area while also sharing how Mentra’s AI technology is helping neurodiverse and those who are underemployed be matched, skills built, and connected with prospective employers.

But first, Mentra works with employers who are looking to hire. Their team partners with the employer to obtain a very clean and crisp understanding of what information the employer needs. Mentra also partners with the job seekers designed to create a match that mutually benefits both parties. This startup is working with a number of companies in very conservative industries and is seeing success. This is exciting for everyone!

I love hearing Jhillika’s story. I’m so inspired by her and love how she is diving into head first into her work that will literally change the world. I really can’t wait to see how Mentra’s work grows and involves. If you are an employer who is interested in learning more about Mentra and their programs, I urge you to reach out. Their work I believe will fundamentally change how we understand and hire not just in neurodiversity but with all areas of D&I. Their application of artificial intelligence is truly innovative. I’ve also embedded a recent Ted Talk that Jhillika gave giving you an opportunity to learn more about her story and the why behind the creation of Mentra.

Connect with Jhillika Kumar.


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