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Future of Work

BRAIN TRUST Microsoft’s plan to bring people with autism into the workforce is a bold experiment in the power of neurodiversity By Vauhini Vara


Blake Adickman had gone through a run of unfulfilling IT jobs at small, noname companies when, this past April, Microsoft invited him to travel from his home in Florida to Redmond, Washington to interview for an engineering position. He’d heard about Microsoft’s gruelling application process and imagined sitting through exhausting conversations and technical tests. Instead, he found himself in a conference room, listening to classical music and working alongside 16 other candidates to build devices out of Lego. Over the course of two weeks, managers stopped by the room to chat. By the end, Adickman considered some of his competition to be friends. The whole process, he said, was “extremely relaxed”. This was, in fact, the point. Adickman,

26 years old, is autistic, which affects his communication and thought processes; he has some trouble maintaining eye contact, for instance, and he occasionally isn’t sure that he is catching social nuances in conversation. He was participating in a year-and-a-half-old programme developed by Microsoft to identify great autistic job candidates by putting them through an application process that is better suited to their communication styles. Gone are the back-to-back interviews, replaced with several days of informal observations and conversations, along with more traditional interviews. And it doesn’t end there: Upon being hired, autistic employees are assigned mentors to help with issues as mundane as figuring out which bus to

Profile for Fast Company SA

Fast Company SA - September 2016  

Fast Company SA - September 2016