SAP seeks programmers with autism; “We share a common belief that innovation comes from the edges”; “[People with autism] have strong attention to detail and an ability to identify mistakes.”

May 21, 2013 9:20 pm

SAP seeks programmers with autism

By Chris Bryant in Frankfurt

SAP, the German business software company, wants to tap into a new talent pool by hiring hundreds of people with autism to programme and test its ­products.

SAP announced on Tuesday that it hoped people with autism – a developmental condition that can impair a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others – would ultimately account for 1 per cent of its 64,000 strong workforce.

Some people with autism, which affects about 1 per cent of the general population, score very highly on intelligence tests and possess extraordinary ­powers of observation and ­concentration.But according to the National Autistic Society, a UK charity, they can find it difficult to interpret facial expressions, body language and sarcasm. As a result, they often struggle to perform well in job interviews or get along with colleagues.

“We share a common belief that innovation comes from the edges,” said Luisa Delgado, an SAP director who added that the company valued the ability of many autistic people to “think differently and spark innovation”.

SAP is not alone in targeting autistic people as potential employees. Auticon, a Berlin-based consultancy, exclusively hires people with the condition as software testers. Four of its consultants were recently employed by Vodafone for a project in Düsseldorf.

“[People with autism] have strong attention to detail and an ability to identify mistakes. If they look at a program code they are able to see very quickly if there’s a mistake,” Auticon said. “Our people like IT and programming. They have an unbelievable focus and motivation.”

SAP is partnering with Specialisterne, a Danish social enterprise that headhunts autistic people for work on data entry, software programming and testing projects. It aims to help 1m people with autism find a job, with a focus on technology-orientated roles.

SAP has already run a successful pilot scheme in Bangalore, India, where it employed autistic people as software testers, and will expand the programme to all of its labs worldwide.

“I would like to see more companies follow SAP’s lead,” said Steen Thygesen, chief executive of the foundation that oversees Specialisterne. “There’s nothing preventing others from taking this approach.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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