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IBM: When Neurodiversity Works

“When Neurodiversity Works” is a documentary that follows four individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in their journey to find meaningful work and independence. They became part of IBM’s pilot program to hire and train individuals with ASD in IBM’s application testing and quality offering. This film demonstrates the importance of neurodiversity in the workplace, and the benefits it has not only on business, but on all of us. Learn more:


Unknown Speaker 0:05

I was kind of a bit naive to how I was different from everyone else by didn't really quite have a concept of it. One day I was taken into special ed and I was given this book about what is this autism thing? And what does it mean? It's like, Okay, I guess that's the thing now, I only really realized what it meant later

Unknown Speaker 0:41

was around the time that I was seven, that I knew that there was something I don't want to say wrong, but that there was something different.

Unknown Speaker 0:50

I used to hardly talk. And I had to learn how to do anything on my own. I didn't really do.

Unknown Speaker 1:03

It seemed as if there was an instruction manual that everyone else kind of had for communicating and reading other people that I did not have. I don't know how I would be handling this, like, a year and a half ago when I wasn't working. All those skills, I kind of compiled into me being able to sit here and look and look you in the eye.

Unknown Speaker 1:39

Close to 80% of folks in the autism spectrum are underemployed. Many of them have master's degrees, and some of them have even done PhDs and all of them are so passionate. However, they have not found any jobs.

Unknown Speaker 1:58

neuro diversity in the workplace for me is that we give everybody an opportunity. The IBM ignite ASD program is where we have developed a pilot program where we have brought candidates that are on the autism spectrum, we see if we can place them within IBM in different capacities.

Unknown Speaker 2:36

Hello, are it's been a hobby of mine for about as long as I can remember. It's definitely a way of expressing myself. Through that, and like pastels when I was a kid, I do lots of anime and manga style of comics. Oh my gosh, this is one of the many representations of sort of a personal avatar that is called sorry, all the heroes and characters you see in stories are often quite unusual. There's something about them that is just off from the rest of other people. I am definitely heavily sensitive to stuff like noise and smell and sounds and my environment. Having to manage that is something that I definitely find difficult.

Unknown Speaker 3:29

neurodiversity is really a unique approach to thought. And our daughter Ingrid has a different thought process than maybe a neurotypical person might have. Sometimes that neurodiversity is a gift. And it allows some creative problem solving, it can also be a challenge, because there's some need to have a lot of consistency in things like schedule, a lot of sensitivities to the environment. She graduated with honors in informatics and had all the right technical skills, and yet she faced a lot of challenges in the interview process.

Unknown Speaker 4:13

I was searching a lot for work in the time after college, and I guess I kind of was in a pessimistic state of mind because it's like the past 10 interviews have failed. It's

Unknown Speaker 4:25

not necessarily because the candidates don't have the skills, it's really due to not supplying the right accommodations for individuals that may need to look at entering the workforce and a little bit different way. Having interviews can be really stressful to everyone. But imagine being in the shoes of an individual with autism. So we took a different approach for interviewing for this team. The first few days was a general meeting where we had the candidates come in kind of get a better feel for what you should expect in an office and also for them to have the ability to practice interviewing.

Unknown Speaker 5:03

It's like, You're kidding me, I'm actually going to have a job was a mix of nervous and excited. I was just like, Okay, I'm actually going to be a proper adult, I'm not exactly sure how to handle this.

Unknown Speaker 5:24

Growing up, I was very into creating, I took apart foam darts, shooting guns, and made them fire hard enough to give people well, it's not much I discovered by accident, it was not my intent. I would learn programming languages at about eight, I deconstructed things tried to figure out how they work. I had a drive to learn to create and design. And that's what kind of led me to this path. What I bring is someone who can look at things a little different than the average person, I find I'm able to focus on and complete faster than what the average would be.

Unknown Speaker 6:05

We have improved our quality, because they see so many different things that we won't see. And that's just because of how they look at anomalies just a little differently.

Unknown Speaker 6:19

We're taking into account the great diversity that people bring, and that in itself is going to add value to our clients. It has definitely given people a broader look. I think they've learned to appreciate differences that people bring to the table,

Unknown Speaker 6:34

I have been educating myself quite extensively about a certain emerging technology. This is blockchain, the coding revolution. What exactly is it? Well, it's a decentralized digital ledger. It has applications and a whole ton of different places. Any place where you are trading things, blockchain and make it more efficient, as it's a relatively new technology, I can imagine that there are not a lot of people that know how to actually do that, though IBM certainly has a lot of good stuff in that regard. And you guys to check it out.

Unknown Speaker 7:11

I think there is a need for awareness, I wanted to show everybody how unique these individuals are and how capable these individuals are. We should be grateful that we found them. And they're. And that's why we have to do a lot of work.

Unknown Speaker 7:39

I've always liked numbers. I went to Western Michigan, you're enrolled as a statistics major.

Unknown Speaker 7:52

I've applied over three times and I think well over a dozen years for different companies nothing really yielding. No, I did work as a cashier for over a year. Yeah, the following is the centrix poro option for accessing the rd CMS domain environment. I have been working for about three months now. It's really given me the opportunity foreign depends what three

Unknown Speaker 8:40

on a personal level at working at IBM is not the same thing as working a job in retail or like a fast food place. It's just not. It's a career. It's given me tremendous confidence. And it's given me a kind of a structure of something that I can actually mentally expand myself and I'm a fan of languages, specifically German. IBM has some offices in Germany, it would be kind of cool to actually become fluent and kind of expand my skills and then move there experiencing the world in another language. I think that's just so freakin cool. When you get an opportunity like this and you grow into it, you feel well I'm like an actual, like person with a job and a career now, I'm independently making decisions. And that's, that's a good feeling. Looks like these four should be grouped together. But this is also has range negative values. And I'm not 100% sure what simple encounter has to do with one another

Unknown Speaker 9:42

three of them have to do with this combination of attributes. So possibilities for the 60 co workers that I work with are endless. They started out as testing some of them have moved into development. They can go into coding, they can go into Mark Getting the kid go into creating things

Unknown Speaker 10:03

really helps now that I actually have all I'm Dr. faff have I get a different one, it should be much easier from here on out.

Unknown Speaker 10:14

I would say that they've definitely given me a leg up that I was desperately looking for. And I think just overall like the hope that hey, yeah, I can actually make it and do this whole adulthood thing.

Unknown Speaker 10:30

IBM pushed me beyond my comfort zone in a good way, putting me out in the world traveling, working with clients, multiple different parties to get projects done. This is all maturity and experience gained from working.

Unknown Speaker 11:01

Little bit like riding a bike, just kind of like okay, that shot went a little bit too far to the right, so I'll over corrected by the correct advice. Anyway, more towards the left.

Unknown Speaker 11:24

neurodiversity is important because if there were no differences in the way people thought, new ideas would not be created. Everything new stems from someone thinking a little differently.

Unknown Speaker 11:40

We didn't used to know what to do if we had a deaf employee or employee in a wheelchair. Now we've learned how to adapt to those things. We can learn how to adapt to neuro diversity. I want the next generation of parents to not have to feel like they won the lottery. If their kid found some good employment.

Unknown Speaker 12:00

Hey, these people have something to offer. And while they may be different than expected, you're in for a blessing in disguise that is going to give you an entirely new perspective. They'll notice a lot of things that you didn't really give a lot of consideration to because they'll have a different thought process you bring to the table, something new, something unexpected. We call that sort of thing, a disruptor in the tech world, then it's the disruptors that make people's lives better.

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