5 years and over 300 applications: For those with autism, landing a tech job 'like winning the lottery'

Nara Schoenberg, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

Autism is a complicated and widely varying condition that comes with strengths, disabilities and differences. Employees in the neurodiversity program described challenges, with Nancarrow saying that at times it can be difficult to form words or represent himself in a way that's understandable to others. But at the same time, Nancarrow said, he's capable of a laserlike focus that can be very helpful when it comes to mastering a new skill.

"I wouldn't call it a superpower, but it is an advantage in its own way," he said.

Because people with autism often bring a different way of thinking to a problem, they can find solutions that others miss, Shukla said. For example, in month three of the pilot program in Philadelphia, a trainer was teaching the employees a very complex form of technology used in the financial services sector. Halfway through the training, the employees with autism suggested another approach to learning the material -- one that cut training time in half for the entire firm.

"We realized that we're on to something here," Shukla said. "Their ability to consume and apply (new information) was faster than we'd ever seen before."

Easton said he is pleased that EY provides him with all the resources he needs to do high-quality work in cybersecurity. Pierce's current duties include spot-checking computer code, looking for errors. When the code is wrong, he somehow intuitively knows, he said: "The best way I can describe it is I can see concepts linked together like you see constellations in the sky: how three or four ideas connect to form a pattern."

Nancarrow is working on a computer program that compiles data and presents it visually.


"Each and every day, there's a new skill to pick up, there's a new person to meet, there's a new challenge to take on," he said. "It's thrilling. I get to be here and gain skills, gain all of these aspects of myself that I never really had an opportunity to pursue: meeting, talking, being verbal, communicating."

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