Meet the tech firm giving autistic developers a chance
There are around 700,000 people living with autism in the UK, but only 15% of them are in full-time paid employment, according to the National Autistic Society. Stigma and misunderstanding of the disability play a major role in these statistics and companies are struggling to put in the correct support systems so autistic employees can thrive.
German IT consultancy Auticon, which has just expanded to the UK, believes those on the autistic spectrum are an asset and is giving them a chance to shine as IT consultants and specialists.
Auticon was launched in 2011 by Dirk Müller-Remus, whose son was diagnosed with a form of autism called Asperger Syndrome. He was dismayed by the employment prospects on offer to some autistic adults and decided to do something about it.
Five years on and Auticon currently employs 103 members of staff across Germany, France and the UK – including 78 autistic IT consultants. The remainder – its administrative team – is mixed autistic and non-autistic.
As well as providing high-quality technological solutions, Auticon’s aim is to aid the understanding of autism in both public and work domains. “Our goal is to shift public perceptions of autism towards what people with autism can do well, rather than what many may find difficult,” Ray Coyle, Auticon’s UK CEO, tells me.
“Autistic adults often have extraordinary cognitive abilities.”
People diagnosed with the condition are known for having peculiar interests and talents, something Auticon capitalises on. In other contexts, autistic people may struggle to find jobs and fit in, but the whole enterprise has been built on their potential.
“To do this, we’ve built an enterprise that deals with autism confidently and realises the potential that people on the spectrum bring to the workplace,” Coyle says. “Autistic adults often have extraordinary cognitive abilities, yet many find it difficult to secure or maintain mainstream employment. At Auticon, we tap into this potential.
“Our consultants bring a unique skillset to clients’ IT projects, including pattern recognition, logic, precision, sustained concentration and an ability to intuitively spot errors, to name a few.
“From a business perspective, it also makes a lot of sense to work with autistic IT consultants, both for us and our clients. We’ve found that our consultants are not simply good, but outclass the competition to a measurable degree.”
A workplace to thrive in
To ensure their full talent is used, support is put in place for those who need it. “While many on the autism spectrum adapt well to the working environment, many others need support,” Coyle says.“Equally, many employers have the resources to devote to training and workplace adjustments, while others can benefit from the assistance that we provide.”
Not only do they benefit from support and understanding, but the employees are also working with some of the world’s biggest IT brands and organisations. They believe that Autistic people can bring a lot to the table.
“Our consultants are highly sought after, and work on a range of IT projects for clients at major blue chip firms, including Siemens, Allianz and Infineon, as well as smaller companies,” he explains.