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ND@IBM the goal is to have a neurodiverse hiring process fully integrated few years after 2020

Author: Andrew Williams Editor: Nat Lyckowski, Lisa Daffy (7 minute read)

In my neurodivergent recruitment journey in IBM, which has spanned five years now, many people reach out to me and ask the following:

I'm neurodivergent. What is the IBM approach to neurodiversity in the workplace? How does IBM recruit? Where do I find IBM jobs - and how do I apply? What type of jobs are on offer? Why IBM? ...and any career advice? Can you recommend me?

This is a short article which will provide some career guidance for a neurodivergent to become an IBMer. I believe it will grow with time as I add more thoughts on the topic. It is not supposed to be a complete guide. But I hope it helps those in need.

Legal Notice: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IBM.

Does IBM want someone who is neurodivergent in their workplace?

Well actually... yes!

IBM has more than 100 years of work on diversity, inclusion and equality in the workplace. That legacy, and our continued commitment to advance equity in a global society, has made us leaders in diversity and inclusion. Guided by our values and beliefs, we’re proud to foster an environment where every IBMer is able to thrive because of their differences, not in spite of them.

Within our Policy Letter 117 it states we will "continue to engage in activities such as hiring, promotion and compensation of employees, without regard to race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, pregnancy, disability, age and other characteristics. IBM makes reasonable accommodations available where the company believes they are appropriate to enable employees with disabilities and others to effectively perform their jobs."

As a result we have strong #ActuallyAutistic and #ActuallyNeurodivergent communities pushing the ND@IBM program. They provide direction and leadership, develop training, provide mentoring and support, and help align the neurotypical parts of IBM to a more ND point of view — in very constructive ways.

When it comes to neurodivergent individuals our commitment is exactly the same. We include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity, dyscalculia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, Tourette syndrome, and many other neurological differences. We are dedicated to hiring, supporting, educating and embracing people of all abilities. This article outlines our approach to diverse individuals with stories about current ND employees and why this is important to IBM.

Within IBM we do embrace difference and truly believe "we can't be what we can't see". In essence, we do not believe we can successfully engage our client base from a business perspective unless we have individuals within the company who reflect the true diversity of the human condition.

So you will see, within the IBM job application process, opportunities to highlight your diversity and also opportunities to connect during ND recruitment drives for specific sites. This approach is not limited just to individuals who are neurodivergent, but is also for individuals with other diverse abilities — but this article will focus purely on the neurodivergent individual. More on this later...

Where do I find IBM jobs - and how do I apply for them?

If you are neurodivergent, I recommend one of two core approaches to applying for jobs - keeping in mind that the maturity of ND engagement within IBM will vary from country to country (and we are still growing in some areas):

1. Via the IBM Career website

When applying for jobs within IBM you can leverage the regular career website at this link

  • Once you are in this area - you can be more specific - and search by location or by technology.

  • Once you have identified a job that interests you, click and provide the required information.

  • Within the application form you may come across a section for identifying your status — this is optional — but I recommend you provide it. This will assist IBM in ensuring you have the correct level of support during the interview process. In the case of Voluntary Self-Identification (within the form), if you need a reasonable accommodation to perform the essential functions of the job for which you are applying, and you have a medically related condition, you should contact your recruiter to discuss this request.

  • It is important you ALSO contact your IBM recruiter as soon as possible in regard to ND identification. Especially in regard to providing suitable accommodations during the interview process.

  • Note: This guidance will vary from one IBM country to due to the varying level of legal representation, which will also vary by country.

2. Via the ND@IBM recruitment program

Depending on the country and the time of year, we do have ND@IBM recruitment programs which have focused hiring for individuals who are neurodivergent.

We have completed this type of ND@IBM program in Ottawa in Canada; Lansing in Michigan, USA; Ballarat in Australia; and Sao Paulo in Brazil. This type of recruitment program is described more fully here.

Here are a few questions answered regarding this ND@IBM hiring program:

  • How is the ND@IBM hiring program different than the normal interview process? We provide a structured process that enables you to showcase your skills and experience to the hiring team. We work with you every step of the way to make this an exciting new path for both you and your new hires!

  • Do you provide ND training to managers? Neurodiversity training will be provided to all managers, mentors and team members to increase awareness, understanding and acceptance to help ensure your success.

  • Do you have mentorship and coaching for neurodivergents? As part of the experience, new hires/you have access to a dedicated mentor who helps them learn about IBM. Mentors also serve as the "culture coach" by helping them navigate the team, the IBM site, and company culture.

  • How will I know if there is an upcoming pilot in an IBM country? I suggest the best approach is to connect with me via Linkedin here and indicate this purpose during the connection. I will post any new ND@IBM programs within my Linkedin profile. Note: But I will not forward your resume (unless I have worked with you).

  • What if I cannot wait? I strongly suggest you keep an eye on the recruitment page for organizations as provided by #Specialisterne below. While this may not be aligned to an IBM job role you will be introduced to current job opportunities in other enterprises.

Which other companies have neurodivergent hiring programs?

I am happy to report that IBM is not alone.

While the number of companies hiring NDers are relatively small... the number is growing. Apart from IBM, other companies who are engaged in ND hiring include SAP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Microsoft, Willis Towers Watson, Feddie Mac, Google, Ford, and EY. Many others, including Caterpillar, Dell Technologies, Deloitte, JPMorgan Chase, and UBS. Reach out to them as well. In Australia with DXC, Westpac, ANZ Bank and Australian government agencies. Actually... the list is a lot larger then I remember it.

On a positive note, supporting organizations like Specialisterne are also gaining influence.

What type of careers can I apply for?

Like any company, we are looking for the best candidate who will meet and exceed the job requirements and bring any additional special talents to the job. Our ND@IBM leaders are also clear that we do not wish to limit the individual by the job description. We want you to excel in any career you wish to pursue — whether it is technical, sales, admin, consulting or other. It's up to you!

Any tips for a neurodivergent walking into a job interview.

Here is a guide which I found of use and provides useful tips.

Why is IBM a good option for you as a neurodivergent?

That is a very interesting question. A job in within IBM is an entry to a larger global organization with many opportunities, and combined with our inclusive approach to all diversities, you have a strong organization to grow within. There are many formal reasons to consider IBM - but I will list my top five:

  1. Engaged neurodivergents — We have a growing ND@IBM Community, comprised of over 1,400 neurodivergent employees and allies, as well as an #ActuallyAutistic and #ActuallyNeurodivergent groups. These ND groups provide direction and leadership, develop training, provide mentoring and support, and help align neurotypical to a more ND point of view.

  2. We are AI — I believe the testing of AI systems is one of the most exciting areas in our industry right now, and IBM is a central leader in this space.

  3. Innovative IBM treasures individuals who are innovative and constantly re-inventing themselves.

  4. Training and career? Yes! We have career paths for you and test-specific training to help you in your selected career. The start of your career in an IBM testing role is just one step in a journey which can stretch you beyond delivery, and on into consulting and also sales. It's your choice.

  5. The people — Imagine a place where you can collaborate with other individuals on the spectrum, IBM Research Fellows, experienced delivery executives and distinguished engineers. Once you get beyond the day-to-day team there is a much larger IBM available for you to connect with. You can also create strong mentor/mentoree relationships which will help you.


  • For more information about IBM's ND@IBM program Link

  • Recent articles on ND@IBM Link

  • Recent videos about ND@IBM Link


About the Author: Andrew Williams is a thought leader in the ND@IBM community and after 32 years in IBM as a consultant, leader, technician and executive - still finds everything fascinating and loves to find new opportunities to connect with people.

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