The Bulletin

Wanted: autistic programmers and software testers

Posting in Education

German software giant SAP has partnered with Specialisterne to help it find, recruit and train people with autism to work as programmers, data quality assurance specialists and product testers.

SAP says it sees a potential competitive advantage to using the "unique talents of people with autism."

The company, which completed a pilot project with Specialtisterne in India and Ireland to hire people with autism, plans to expand the collaboration to a global level this year. Pilots in North America, including Montreal and Vancouver in Canada, Palo Alto in California and at SAP's worldwide headquarters in Waldorf, Germany are planned for 2013, the company announced this week.

Under the pilot programs, SAP Labs in India hired six people with autism as software testers for SAP Business Suite applications. SAP says the team has increased its productivity and cohesiveness as a direct result of the hires. The Ireland pilot is currently in the screening phase for five positions to be filled this year.

Danish company Specialisterne, which is owned by The Specialist People Foundation, aims to help people with autism find employment by marketing and matching their skill set to companies in the IT sector. Its arrangement with SAP is the first with a multinational company to help with its worldwide recruitment, reported Reuters.

As Specialisterne puts it:

The unique characteristics of autism and similar challenges mean that our consultants actually enjoy tasks that most employees find boring, repetitive or difficult due to the level of detail and concentration required.

In short, Specialisterne views the differences and character traits that traditionally have kept people with autism out of the long-term labor market as a valuable asset.

Specialisterne offer a five-month assessment program where candidates go through different exercises, tasks and work situations. Specialisterne Denmark also operates a three-year education program for young adults with autism and similar challenges, such as ADD, ADHD, OCD and Tourette's Syndrome.

Photo of Specialisterne training program via Specialisterne

— By on May 23, 2013, 3:05 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure