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Autism: Awareness, acceptance and integration

  • Posted on April 28, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

In 2018, Avanade established a partnership with the Autism Resource Centre (ARC) Singapore to train adults on the autism spectrum with digital skills and subsequently offer them full-time technical roles at the company. The variety of roles include backend developers, automation testers, and CRM developers – all of which contribute to large-scale digital transformation projects at public and private organizations in Singapore.

Our unique program has been successful in more ways than one. The size of the program has tripled in the last three years. It allows us to live our purpose of making a genuine human impact, foster a culture of inclusion and diversity, as well as enabled adults with autism to pursue their aspirations and build rewarding careers.

How does the program work? We share open roles with ARC and they connect us with interested candidates who are on the spectrum. After an initial round of assessment, we accept the candidates as participants who will undergo a tailored learning and development program that vary in duration – ranging from five weeks to 6 months – depending on the technical role they applied for.

Throughout the program, our participants will be provided with simulated real-world experiences, coaching and mentoring, and training courses delivered either virtually or in-person. The program is designed to prepare them for their respective roles, learn communication and technical skills, and help them grow by overcoming their respective interpersonal challenges. Upon completion of the program, successful participants will be offered a full-time role and employment at Avanade.

Mentors: Helping at hand 

Turning challenges into opportunities are our mentors who walk the extra mile to help our colleagues on the spectrum navigate the ins and outs of the corporate world.

Each colleague who joins us through the program is assigned an Avanade mentor to ease them into their respective roles by introducing structure and routine tailored to their individual needs. For instance - they have daily huddles to exchange updates, celebrate achievements that illustrate growth and progress, and have practical discussions on how to overcome specific problems.

The mentors also benefit from the opportunities to expand their thinking and empower every voice. Mentors have coaches from the ARC who guide them on how to support the needs of our colleagues who have autism.

Paige Alexii Villablanca, who has mentored four participants with autism during their 6-month internship program, shared: “They are no different from anyone and everyone. While they need some advice on communication skills and routine check-ins are essential to support their wellbeing, we have seen how when given time to learn, they can thrive beautifully.”

Another mentor Ayesha Tehseen who is currently a Career Adviser to three colleagues with autism, said: “ To facilitate team communication,  awareness  of the autism spectrum is key. Team members need to be aware and adapt an approach depending on the individual they interact with. For example, some people with autism might have challenges communicating in difficult scenarios; my advice is to communicate whatever they can; if it is hard to communicate in person, drop a note or share the situation with your mentor or the ARC coach.

From awareness to acceptance

To promote inclusive behaviours and raise awareness about neurodiversity, we also organize regular autism training sessions led by ARC for all Avanade employees in Southeast Asia.

Maria Lee, a person with autism currently in a client-facing role at Avanade, expressed: “Avanade is ahead of the curve in integrating people with neurodiversity as a part of their workforce and truly practising autism acceptance, as opposed to simply advocating for autism awareness.”

The opportunity to work with colleagues who are neurodiverse have allowed us to understand them better. Hiring individuals on the spectrum is not just inclusive but also makes business sense when you assess their unique talents and match them with suitable careers.

 

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