Symantec Coaches Autism Advantage Class

One of the great things about our Autism Advantage program is the coaching and feedback provided to our students by leading companies across Silicon Valley.  This afternoon, Shu Zhang, Director of Database Engineering for Symantec, joined our current data analyst cohort to discuss the work of Symantec, provide coaching on technical skills, and tips on workplace navigation.

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This was Zhang’s second time participating in an Autism Advantage class. In May, Zhang came in to coach the members of our spring training program. Apart from her deep experience in database engineering and within the tech world, Zhang is also the mother of an autistic child.

This spring, Symantec provided Expandability (BuzzHero’s non-profit partner in Autism Advantage) with a $50,000 grant that enabled Expandability to create its first ever cohort focused on data science and data analysis. This contribution is yet another example of Symantec’s industry-leading commitment to developing a more innovative and inclusive workforce.

More information on the Autism Advantage program can be found here.

 

 

 

 

Four Things to Know Before Looking for Work

In Autism Advantage, our six-week training acts as a deep dive into developing the talents of autistic individuals from the autistic frame. We go over many things, but at the core of our trainings are four key components we’ve realized are applicable to anyone looking for work. We recently shared these things with the website WrongPlanet.net, the largest online community of autistic adults. Check them out.

Giving Them HOPE

You may have seen the news this week of three teenagers arrested for selling water along the National Mall in Washington, DC. It shocked locals who had noted that the entrepreneurial approach of the teens should be encouraged, not punished. It also motivated one man to do something about it. Within an hour of the news of the arrest, Ray Bell, founder of the HOPE Project was on social media searching for the three. Within the week, Bell had recruited them into a program to train young people from disadvantaged communities in the skills needed to land well-paying IT jobs.

Thanks to Accenture, members of our Autism Advantage staff spent last Monday with Bell in the Anacostia neighborhood of DC studying the best practices of the HOPE Project. There were many things we were impressed with. The one thing that stuck with us the most is how Bell has built a sense of community around the program rather than simply an in-and-out training model. The excellence of the program has swarmed what Bell calls “the Harvard of the Hood” with support from the local community. Alumni actively engage new students long after their own graduation (“Students may graduate, but they never finish,” Bell told our team). The HOPE Project is one of the many successful programs we are adopting best practices from as we scale Autism Advantage. Young people in Washington are fortunate to work with a visionary like Ray Bell. So are we.


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Hey! Our friend Kenneth is riding his bike this July for 100 miles from Washington, DC to the Atlantic Ocean. He decided to do this on his own to raise awareness and funds to train autistic adults through Autism Advantage. We think that’s awesome and hope you do to. You can support his effort by clicking here. Check it out!

‘My 108 Mile Bike Ride for Autistic Adults’

I nearly jumped from my seat when I clicked the headline. My friend Kenneth had posted a link on social media titled My 108 Mile Bike Ride for Autistic Adults. For the past few months I’ve served as an advisor and coach to the Autism Advantage program. We train and place autistic individuals in well-paying jobs. Now, my friend Kenneth will be riding his bike this month to raise funds for the program so that we can move even more autistic people into careers. Kenneth and I have had some amazing road trips over the years, but this may be the most amazing road trip he’s undertaken yet.

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From Kenneth’s fundraising page:

I’M RIDING MY BIKE FOR MY AUTISTIC FRIENDS

I’m riding my trusty road bike from DC to Delaware to raise awareness and support for a really cool program helping train and place autistic adults into high-paying, challenging and fulfilling careers. It needs your help to go nationwide, and it’s 100% tax deductible.

On a friend’s sage advice, your funds will help Expandability (a program of Goodwill of Silicon Valley) provide training, employment opportunities, and post-employment support for autistic adults.

AUTISM ADVANTAGE IS A REALLY GOOD IDEA

That friend of mine is working with Autism Advantage, two partners with a fresh approach to training and developing quality career positions in the IT industry for autistic people.  Expandability provides the soft-skills training and BuzzHero does the technical training and provides employer and employee support services once hired.   Autism Advantage is looking to grow across the country, and for now helping Expandability is the best way to make that happen.

Take a second to click-through and give $5, $10, $50, more to support Kenneth as he supports the training and employment of autistic adults. We’re building autistic culture and helping solve for autistic unemployment. A small donation today means that Kenneth gets some great cardio and an individual who has been unable to navigate the hiring process will get the support they need to build a meaningful career. Thank you to Kenneth, and to all who give to support his effort. Do so today.

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Autism Advantage at DC “Tech Week”

We’ve had an amazing series of meetings in Washington this week. Thanks to Accenture, key members of our Autism Advantage staff were able to collaborate with some of the nation’s leading Goodwill operations as we collectively work to build tech career incubators in underserved communities across the country

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Trish Dorsey (Expandability/Autism Advantage), Sheila Kates (Accenture representative and the mother of an autistic son), and John Marble (Expandability/Autism Advantage, who is autistic).

From the Goodwill blog:

What seems natural from each of these events is the partnership between government, business, and nonprofit organizations to solve our country’s challenges…the results are empowering for people, communities, economies and keep the country as a whole competitive in a cutting-edge realm

We were able to leverage this opportunity to demonstrate the results of our Autism Advantage training program with key business and social enterprise leaders. The week in DC also allowed our staff to strategize about scaling sustainable models of autistic employment training beyond our current training set. That’s great for Autism Advantage and great for companies seeking to fill talent gaps with qualified workers. We also found a benefit to having both autistic and non-autistic staff represent us in Washington as it allowed us to model how mainstreaming autistic talent into the workplace produces positive results. This week was certainly productive for us. Thank you to Accenture for ensuring our participation. We can’t wait to take the investment you made in our week in Washington and return it with quantifiable program results.

EY Hires Students from Expandability’s Autism Advantage Program

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The Directors of EY’s Center of Excellence explaining personal brand to the Autism Advantage Program

Our Autism Advantage Program not only aims to train autistic talent for the workplace, but to place them with leading companies upon graduation. We graduated our latest cohort in May and began placing participants with companies where their skills were particularly well-matched. Three of these graduates recently accepted positions with professional services firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young) where they will apply their analytical and professional skills as account support associates in EY’s Dallas office. In 2016, EY found success with a pilot autistic talent initiative pioneered in its Philadelphia office. Eager to scale that success, EY began working Autism Advantage.

“This is about recognizing the talent of autistic individuals and offering support that allows them to successfully integrate their skills within the workplace,” said Teresa Tatum, EY Assistant Director and Account Support Associate Manager, who is also based in Dallas.“Through our initial pilot, EY found that supported autistic employees contribute equally alongside co workers. Their experience allows them to offer their teams innovative solutions and creative insights that would have otherwise been left undiscovered. From a business perspective, it is a strategic measure that increases productivity and reduces operating costs. We are fortunate that  programs like Expandability’s Autism Advantage, allowed us to seamlessly hire qualified talent. Their advanced work skills, professionalism, and enthusiasm to work, are ideal employee attributes.”

Chris Morris is one of our three Autism Advantage Program graduates who will join EY in Dallas. He noted how executive coaching from companies like EY helped him develop his talents.

“There was a psychological benefit to the Autism Advantage program beyond the training,” said Morris. “It was in all the companies who came in to coach. Companies saw something in us and seeing that they were interested in recruiting from our class really brought my confidence level up.” Morris, who holds a computer science degree from Providence College and a teaching degree from Columbia University, had struggled to navigate the corporate hiring process before joining the Autism Advantage program, relying instead on a patchwork of jobs such as rental property maintenance.

“I remember the detailed feedback I received from Visa and CA Technologies on my data presentations and for the first time it felt as if my skills were validated,” said Morris.

The sentiment expressed by Morris was also found among other graduates, along with their families.

“I’m a parent who has been with my son through many disappointments, including ineffective autism programs,” said Joyce Fiaccone. “So, I wanted to express my appreciation for Expandabilty’s Autism Advantage program.” Fiaccone’s son, Daniel, will now join Morris and fellow graduate Ben McGahee in Dallas after all three accepted positions with EY.  “It was a valuable experience that translated into a huge opportunity for Daniel, as well as for Chris and Ben. I know EY is very invested in making their program a success. So, I’m assured that all three are now in great positions to develop meaningful careers”. Her son Daniel agreed.

“Trust issues have been an obstacle for me,” said Daniel. “I never had a real friend until middle school, so I learned to keep to myself. By your mid-30’s most people are more focused on their careers, so it can be even harder then to make connections. In the Autism Advantage program, we get a place where we can just be us. That gives us the space to relax and dig deeper into our personal strengths. I discovered that I’m actually a great presenter and I’m good at public speaking. I now know how to personally pitch myself.”

Autism Advantage provides training and post employment support to candidates like Fiaccone, McGahee, and Morris so that they can translate their skills into careers. We also provide connections between program members and hiring managers so that companies can seamlessly hire from this trained talent set. That model is proving a success for companies like EY and a rapidly growing number of companies seeking to follow that success.

Our next six-week cohort begins on June 19 and will center on those skilled in data analytics. Interested candidates can find information on Autism Advantage here. If you are an employer interested in observing our cohort training, becoming one of our visiting corporate speakers, or in hiring from our skilled cohort class, Jack@buzzhero.io or Katee@expandability.org.

 

 

Autism Advantage Cohort “Rock” Their LinkedIn Profiles

Reducing employment barriers which separate skilled candidates from hiring managers enables companies to more effectively hire top notch individuals. That’s what we did last week when we brought members of our Autism Advantage cohort to the offices of LinkedIn.

Many highly-skilled autistic candidates face difficulty navigating the professional networks and personal interactions that other candidates rely upon to connect them to job opportunities. To solve for this, we partnered with San Francisco’s AASCEND Job Club on a strategy session between our members and over 20 LinkedIn staff. The session centered on how to effectively maximize exposure on the professional networking site. LinkedIn staff worked with our members to polish profiles, to add specific elements to make LinkedIn profiles stand out among colleagues, and to strategize around how to effectively utilize online networking. LinkedIn staff also volunteered to take updated headshots for any participant who requested it.

LinkedIn staff and cohort graduates also strategized about how to effectively use the network beyond finding job leads, like using the platform to grow one’s professional stature among colleagues and within a field of expertise. That was particularly relevant to our initial Autism Advantage cohort, as we placed most members with companies even before their graduation in May (with projected 100% placement in 60 days).

Continued support is essential to growing a professional’s career no matter what their background. Just as LinkedIn staff helped us recognize how the site supports professionals in their careers after their initial hire, we continue to provide support to cohort graduates and their new employers well-after graduation.

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Our Autism Advantage cohort is one way we help skilled candidates scale cultural barriers in the hiring process. We operate our program with Expandability (501c), the organization which helped establish the Autism at Work initiative at SAP. Our next six-week Autism Advantage cohort begins on June 19 and will center on those skilled in data analytics. Interested candidates can find information here. If you are an employer interested in observing our training, becoming one of our corporate speakers, or in hiring from our students, please reach out to Jack Hogan at Jack@buzzhero.io .

At BuzzHero, we provide solutions to ease the work of the hiring manager. We partnered with Expandability to launch our Autism Advantage Program when we recognized these barriers were preventing many highly-skilled candidates from connecting with qualified positions. We’ve further scaled that success by learning from corporations like LinkedIn, with amazing community partners like AASCEND, and with autism and user experience experts like AASCEND Lead Facilitator David Platzer.

Reducing barriers separating hiring managers from talent is an essential component to growing the diversity, innovation, and productivity of Silicon Valley. Companies like LinkedIn recognize that fact. It’s what makes them innovative, and it’s what makes us want to learn from them.