What Silicon Valley Taught the White House about Diversity

I often say that I may be the only person to move to Silicon Valley specifically for its lack of diversity. I also say that I have made it my mission to make sure that I am the last. I came here following eight years of service in the Obama Administration where our team was tasked by the President to come up with innovative solutions to solve for national challenges. My colleagues and I began routinely visiting Silicon Valley in 2009. Over eight years, the tech sector taught us models which we used to cut red tape, improve services, and save billions of dollars. However, as wondrous as that collaboration with Silicon Valley was, something about the conversations we shared immediately started to seem a bit off.


Practices which Silicon Valley taught our White House team allowed us to save billions of dollars and solve for national challenges. Yet, I grew frustrated as to why Silicon Valley wasn’t using these practices and knowledge base to solve for a diverse workforce themselves.

“Oh, I notice that you have an interesting gap where the women in your workforce aren’t being promoted to management as quickly as their colleagues,” I’d say to company founders and high-level executives. “What are you doing to solve for that?” Each time I asked a variation of this question I’d be met with looks of bewilderment. I’d get that same look whenever I’d point out broken pipelines and practices which were falsely creating diversity gaps. Each time a look of bewilderment. Each time a sense of confusion. Hey, I’m autistic and often have trouble reading facial expressions. However, even I could clearly pick up on that.

The Kapor Center for Social Impact picked up on that early as well. In fact, Freada Kapor Klein (who founded the center along with Mitch Kapor, her husband and business partner) picked up on that decades before. Her 2007 book Giving Notice on the subject of workplace culture is one that I studied when the White House first asked me to serve. Three years ago, Kapor and a small group of advocates eager to see greater change in tech started Diversity Advocates, an informal and effective network of individuals working in Silicon Valley dedicated to helping their companies strategically think and act on issues of diversity. This week, the Kapor Center for Social Impact hosted a third birthday party for the group.

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Courtesy of Diversity Advocates

“It’s essential that we all share knowledge and support each other’s efforts,” said Jessie Wusthoff of Diversity Advocates. “No one can successfully do this work in a silo. The solutions people have tried in the past have not created the change needed. Members of Diversity Advocates aim to work together, share ideas, and help each other move tech companies to a place where equity, inclusion, and diversity are the daily experience.”

Three months ago, I began working with Autism Advantage in order to develop quality career positions for autistic people in the IT sector and beyond. However, helping solve for autistic underemployment is just my operational lane. While I’m tremendously passionate about that, it’s just a function of a larger passion in helping to solve for the talent diversity gap in tech.


Autism Advantage members attended a strategy session at LinkedIn this may that focused on maximizing networks in the employment process.

As I’m someone who came from the federal government, you may understand my amazement at how fast this sector moves. Autism Advantage is new, however our program has already started to do amazing things. Thankfully, I’m fortunate to have colleagues who recognized at the program’s beginning that solving for autistic underemployment will not be possible if we simply try to solve for it alone. So, when our work opens a pipeline to the autistic talent we train, we ensure it stays open for others. For every one person in tech who connects their professional network to ours, we connect them to the work of at least two others as well.

When people think of autism, they often think of its challenges. I’m not denying that. However, there are incredibly wonderful things about being autistic. Apart from the individual traits I get to experience, one of those things I cherish most is the diversity of the autistic community itself.  All communities have autistic people, and the autistic community is composed of people from all communities. As such, our collaborative work often positions us in a way where we can piece together the connecting patterns between disparate employment barriers experienced by individual communities. My colleagues know if I suddenly shout “Remind me to map access to healthcare for black families in upstate New York!” I could very well be mentally connecting its impact, through multiple networks, on employment barriers experienced by autistic Latino individuals in Southern California.

Community needs regarding barriers to representational employment are often unique. Yet, if we look at the patterns we can see that all unique barriers always seem to intersect. Solving for the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley takes coordination. None of us are in this effort alone. It takes addressing both community-specific challenges as well as shared barriers. It takes supporting communities other than yours and it takes sharing knowledge so it’s not just your own. It takes leverage. That’s what Diversity Advocates believe. That’s what keeps me working towards the day that, despite moving here specifically for the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley, I may be one of the last people who choose to move here for that.


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!

Autism and Social Media

Thank you to AASCEND for hosting me this week on their Life on the Autism Spectrum television show. I had a great time with the crew. We talked about how autistic adults can utilize social media to make connections, find resources, and seek employment. We also talked about how social media is allowing autistic individuals to build autistic culture. The list of the resources which I mention on-air can be found here.


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!

Autistic Social Media Resources

We heavily emphasize networking in Autism Advantage, but we do so from an autistic frame. The more connections that an individual makes through networks, the more opportunities for success there will be. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone needs to network the same way.

There’s a misconception that autistic people aren’t good at networking. If that were true, most of the internet would collapse. People just network differently. Online networking can be essential to creating connections, friendships, securing resources and information, and developing careers. Below is a thumbnail guide of autistic interactions on social media that we have found helpful. We’d love additional input as well from you so that this list can be even more informed. That’s sort of the point of networking, right?



Autistic Self Advocacy Network – TwitterFacebookYouTube
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a nonprofit organization run by and for autistic people. It has local chapters all across the country. ASAN was created to serve as a national grassroots disability rights organization for the autistic community run by and for autistic Americans, advocating for systems change and ensuring that the voices of autistic people are heard in policy debates and the halls of power.

Autism Women’s Network
 – FacebookTwitter

The Autism Women’s Network is an excellent way for autistic women to connect. The goal of the network is to dispel stereotypes and misinformation which perpetuate unnecessary fears surrounding an autism diagnosis. The Autistic Women’s Network seeks to share information which works to build acceptance and understanding of disability.

Jazz Hands for Autism – FacebookYouTube
A Los Angeles based organization working to support the education and employment of autistic musicians.


Publications & Communities

The first Minecraft server specifically for autistic people and their families.

Autistic Not Weird – TwitterFacebook YouTube Instagram
Articles and advice about autism from an autistic former primary school teacher.

The Autism Wars

Mrs. Kerima Çevik is curently a blogger for disabilty rights, autistic inclusion, accommodation, communication rights, and representation. A parent activist, editor and contributing writer who consults on Autism and Ethnicity, she blogs on topics of critical race, intersectionality, autism and social justice.

The Black AutistTwitter
The Black Autist is a blog where posts are focused on autism acceptance and issues & news surrounding autistic people of color.

NOS Magazine – Twitter Facebook
NOS Magazine is a news and commentary source for thought and analysis about neurodiversity culture and representation. Expect long form journalism, reviews of pop culture, and more. NOS stands for ‘Not Otherwise Specified,’ a tongue-in-cheek reference to when a condition does not strictly fit the diagnostic criteria, or is in some way out of the ordinary.

Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism – TwitterFacebook
A website and community where autistic people, their family members, and friends communicate. It provides clear information on autism and connections to resources. It features the contributions of many autistic individuals.

Wrong Planet – YouTube
Wrong Planet is the largest online community of autistic adults. Wrong Planet provides a discussion forum, where members communicate with each other, an article section, with exclusive articles and how-to guides, a blogging feature, and more.


Autistic Figures on Social Media

Dan Aykroyd – Facebook Twitter
Akyroyd’s specialized interest in the career of an obscure German ghost hunter eventually led him to create Ghostbusters. Aykroyd is well known for various movies and his work on Saturday Night Live. Aykroyd’s specialized interest in law enforcement led him to become a volunteer law enforcement officer as an adult, which he continues to serve as today.

Daryl Hannah
Daryl Hannah – FacebookTwitter Instagram
Daryl Hannah is one of the most successful actresses of the past several decades. Hannah notes that when she was young, doctors recommended that she be institutionalized due to her being autistic. Hannah’s mother fought for her independence and created a space where Hannah’s specialized interest in classic films eventually led her to a career in Hollywood.

John Howard
John Howard – Facebook
Howard is a successful mixed martial arts (MMA) athlete who received an autism diagnosis in the middle of his career.

Ladyhawke – FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube
The New Zealand rock star Ladyhawke has become popular in both Europe and the United States as well. Now living in California, Ladyhawke continues to be celebrated for her musical ability.

Clay Marzo
Clay Marzo – FacebookTwitter InstagramYouTube
Clay Marzo is a professional surfer known for his trick moves and connection with water. Marzo has noted that his autism allows him to “feel the water” in ways that competitors often cannot.


Facebook Groups

Autistico is a group where autistic people can share advice and opinions, chat, debate and get to know each other. This means that this group is exclusively for autistic people. It is a closed Facebook group. Autistic individuals may request to join.

Autistix is a group for autistic people to share information. It is open only to autistic individuals. It is a closed Facebook group. Autistic individuals may request to join.


Websites & Blogs

Autistic Hoya – Twitter Facebook YouTube
Lydia X. Z. Brown is a writer, educator, organizer, and speaker. Since 2011, I have blogged on autism, disability activism, and social justice at Autistic Hoya

Deciphering Morgan – FacebookInstagram
Writer Jessi Cash blogs about being an autistic mother, her life, and her family.

Real Social Skills – TwitterFacebook
Blogging with a disability-informed perspective on treating ourselves and others well.

With a Smooth Round Stone
The writings of an award-winning autistic author.


YouTube Channels

Always Lauren Toy Collector Vlogs with Autism
A young autistic woman blogs about her hobby of toy collection.

The Antique Autistic
A self described “autistic senior citizen” vlogs to give advice to younger autistic people. Vlogs also include descriptions of her life as well as her participation in an effort to establish an autistic homesteading community.

Ask An Autistic – Facebook – Twitter – Blog
Amythest Schaber makes videos on what it is like to be autistic. Her series is a wonderful resource of descriptions of autistic experiences and traits.

Aspergers from the Inside
An autistic Australian man vlogs about his experiences with autism.

Autistic Adam – FacebookTwitter
A young, autistic British man produces vlogs about product reviews, his life in school, and humorous topics.

Autistic Asexual Fangirl Adventures – Facebook – Twitter
A woman vlogs about everyday musings and her life.

The Artistic Autistic – Facebook
Micah is an autistic teen who likes to use his artwork and videos to help spread the message of autism awareness.

Autistic Biscuit
James is young, autistic British man who talks about his life, his experiences including dating and family, and things which interest him.

Autistic Gamer
A young autistic man vlogs about video games.

Autistic Genius – Twitter – Facebook
A video blog from a young British autistic man on various aspects of autism including reviews of fidget tools, workplace navigation, and daily life. Note: As of this summer, Autistic Genius has moved most videos to Facebook. Videos are occasionally cross-posted on the YouTube platform.

Autism Live – FacebookTwitter
Autism Live is a free resource for the Autism community and the world at large. With live broadcasts on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays and free podcasts on YouTube, iTunes and Roku, Autism Live provides information, resources, hope and inspiration to help autistic individuals achieve progress in areas that are important to them.

Autistic Nation
An autistic writer and poet shares creative works and discusses life.

Autistic Queen
An autistic woman named Marliegh vlogs about her life and her love of anime.

The Autistic Tourist
A young autistic man vlogs about his travels.

Autistic Werewolf
A vlog of an autistic man who has had more than 50 years of experience living life as autistic. He notes “Life on the autism spectrum has both joys and challenges. My videos attempt to help us maximize the joys so autistic people can better manage their life challenges.”

Becoming Autistic – Facebook
A young, autistic British woman discusses topics related to autism, including the diagnostic process and navigation of services.

Frankie MacDonald – FacebookTwitterInstagram
A young, autistic Canadian man in Nova Scotia presents weather reports, comedy videos, and other thoughts.

Matthew the Autism Guy – Twitter FacebookInstagram
A young autistic man reviews video games and produces comedy videos.

Matt Glumac: The Autistic Golfer
An autistic golfer vlogs about golf.

Speechless with Carly FleischmannFacebookTwitter
Autistic writer Carly Fleishmann interviews some of her favorite celebrities through this YouTube channel series.

Spolar Effect
A young man vlogs about life as autistic.

Remrov’s World of Autism – Facebook Art Portfolio
Remrov is an autistic photorealistic pencil artists who vlogs to raise awareness about artism and to promote art.


Twitter Hashtags & Handles

#AutisticsInAcademia – A twitter hashtag for autistic individuals in academia.
#AutChat – A Twitter hashtag for particular autistic twitter chats.
#ActuallyAutistic – A hashtag often used on Twitter by autistic individuals.
#Neurodiversity – A Twitter hashtag often used to discuss autism.

An effective approach to training and developing quality career positions for autistic people in the IT industry & beyond. 


The Twitter accound of AASCEND in San Francisco.

Global traveler. Former @POTUS44 appointee. @AutismAdvantage advisor. I think about innovation/talent/diversity/systems. Contributor to @NOSEditorial & @BYT.

Public policy student . He/they. LGBTQ & disability advocate. Autistic, black, queer. Arty & nerdy. Blocks Trumpkins. Blocked by Jill Stei


Stage manager of new plays and semi-professional coffee shop lurker.


Writer & advocate for disability justice, #LGBTQ rights, racial justice, education. Disability studies academic.


Professional account of Ph.D student @ , studying . LEND Fellow, writer, photographer & autistic self-advocate. Creator of .

Disability rights, public policy and Judaism. Directs  and past President of . I spent five years on . Proud Zionist.

Founder: , the leading autism & Asperger site. Autistic activist, filmmaker, photog & producer. Consulted, acted on FX’s The Bridge.


Founder and President of . Member, PPSA . Former  intern. Former  staff.


Neurocritic. Person. Unschool grad. Disability, autism, fiction, research, homeschooling. Clarion West 2016.


Autistic Mom of autistic teen. Fangirl of Good Science, Revival of Democracy & ‘s . Editor . Kickbutt speaker.

Reporting . insufferable alum. Semi-Retired garage band guitarist. Trying to be in the swamp not of it.


Vice-President of the Autism Women’s Network; views are my own, , ADHD, Disability Studies, artist, writer.


Stunt typist. socially inert. articles on autism, depression.


Equipping, engaging, guiding Autistic individuals – preparing them for successful careers and lives.


Founder of . TEDx Speaker – Dad – Nice Guy.


Disabled disability advocate, edits . Loves comics.


Senior Editor, Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism. +1 = maps + cephalopods.


Autistic activist. Non-compliant. Non-normative. Non-conforming. Disabled and proud.


Writers, bloggers, Public Speakers. Emma’s a patient teacher to a Mom who’s a slow learner.


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!


A Key to Success: Self Advocacy

When autistic people hear the term “self awareness” it’s often in being reprimanded for not mirroring neurotypical behavior. In Autism Advantage, we emphasize the actual meaning of the term: understanding who you are and how you operate in this world. If the X-Men has taught us anything, it is that unique traits are needed and necessary. Accepting and understanding who you are as an autistic person allows you to find ways to leverage your autistic traits as an advantage throughout your career.

Understanding who you are as an autistic person also equips you to confidently operate as a self advocate. If you aren’t familiar with the term, self advocacy means that all humans hold the right to speak, and make decisions, for themselves.  Organizations like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and The Autistic Women’s Network, and publications like NOS Magazine and The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism offer connections to great resources in which you can learn more about self advoacy.

sa1   sa2

This week, our Autism Advantage data analytics class welcomed Jessie Wusthoff who helped our participants understand the term more deeply. As a leading thinker in Silicon Valley on workforce planning, organizational development, and disability advocacy, Wusthoff was able to share best practices on how to effectively utilize self advocacy in the workplace.

During her time with our Autism Advantage class, Wusthoff detailed how self advocacy could be applied to secure workplace accommodations that would allow the employee and their employer to succeed. Asking for workplace accommodations can often be difficult for individuals, as the uncertainty of how their request will impact their position in the workplace can produce anxiety. Wusthoff shared that such requests can be anxious for managers as well due to knowledge gaps or inexperience with accommodation requests. By showing our students how accommodations help all parties, and how accommodation requests can be effectively framed, Wusthoff helped prepared our students to be the best employees that can be.

When it comes to accommodations, the truth is that all humans utilize them. It’s just that our society has gotten pretty good at providing them for certain groups of people and not others. Those our society does not consider disabled often don’t realize how society accommodates them over others in their everyday lives. Providing them accommodations (even if unknown) is great. All humans should have the accommodations they need to succeed.  If society has failed to build accommodations for you, it is your right to speak up. We can’t expect others to speak for us. We must speak for ourselves. Be self aware of who you are, including your talents and accommodation needs. Then advocate for them. Self advocacy will only help you and your employer succeed.

Autism Advantage on Twitter:

Additional Self Advoacy Experts on Twitter:


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!

Building Autistic Culture with User Experience (UX)

Much of my early work was in laying the groundwork for the mass adoption of the modern understanding of User Experience (UX) beyond the industries it was traditionally associated with. Specifically, I co-led an effort to adopt UX within the Federal Government in order to save taxpayer money and to solve for issues of national importance. It was as wonky as it sounds and also incredibly fun.

Effectively using user experience feedback is something I’ve deeply thought about in my recent work with Autism Advantage. It was on my mind as well this past Saturday when Jack Hogan and I were invited to talk about the program at the AASCEND Job Club in San Francisco.  We were there to share how we’ve worked with the autistic community to build an effective approach to training and developing quality career positions for autistic people in the IT industry & beyond. The session also allowed us to feature two of our current Autism Advantage data analysis training participants – Carp and Jennifer (who is also an AASCEND Board Member) who shared their experiences with the program.


As an autistic person, I’ve sat through numerous trainings which didn’t quite get the autistic experience (“Simply asking us about our needs would save thousands of hours of unintentionally misguided research,” I often say). That’s one reason why Autism Advantage strategically structures participant feedback within our program. It’s also why Jack and I never accept a meeting or speaking engagement without using it as an opportunity to solicit feedback on Autism Advantage. Soliciting input from those whom our program will interact has been crucial to our success.

When I moved to San Francisco, I noted to friends that I needed help understanding how to construct a LinkedIn profile. They understandably laughed as I had previously been to LinkedIn’s headquarters twice on behalf of the White House where I even met with the company’s founder and senior leadership team. Yet, when I attended an AASCEND Job Club in April as a member and shared that same need, the group listened and immediately recognized that – as an autistic person – I’m able to master many things if shown templates and examples from which I can navigate. I now have a great LinkedIn profile and I’ve come to coach others on how to build effective profiles themselves. That wouldn’t have happened without AASCEND, who took the initiative to listen to and examine my needs.


Autism Advantage Co-Founder Jack Hogan looks out on part of the AASCEND audience at the beginning of a break at the AASCEND Job Club on Saturday.

Anyone can operate a training program. Autism Advantage is different. We use training programs as a tool to solve for industry talent gaps as well as for autistic underemployment. To do that, we constantly solicit the feedback of those most closely tied to the outcomes of our efforts – most notably the business and autistic communities. User experience feedback allows us to build upon our success.

In the coming years, there will be increased demands and funding pressures to create robust services for autistic adults. As most of those programs don’t yet exist, anyone entering this space would do well to incorporate the autistic community and user experience from their inception. If you want to build an effective program for autistic adults, build a program with autistic adults. That’s what we’ve done with Autism Advantage. If you want to better serve your customer, let them tell you how. Doing that will not only successfully build up your own program, but it will help build success for your clients and will help build autistic culture as well.

@AutismAdvantage on Twitter.


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!

CA Technologies Enables Autistic Students to ‘Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before’

My second favorite part about taking our Autism Advantage data analyst class to CA Technologies yesterday was the resume review. However, my absolute favorite part was the Klingons.

This is the second time that CA Technologies has partnered in teaching a class in one of our six-week cohorts. For the better part of the day, our students spent time at CA’s offices in Santa Clara learning about the rapidly changing tech workplace landscape from a human resources perspective.

“It used to be that you could stick an engineer alone in front of a computer for 10 hours a day for years and they would excel,” said Sinead Borgersen, Senior Principal People Partner at CA while leading our students in a session. “That’s not the case anymore. The emphasis on agile software development and increased customer expectations now requires collaboration.”

Star Trek 4

We enjoy working with Borgersen because of her industry knowledge and incredible humor (“I never expected to change my name when I got married, but – as a Star Trek fan – when I met my husband I suddenly realized that I get to be a Borg if I did!” she told our class, referencing the fictional alien group as well as the first part of her last name.). However, what we love about Borgersen is that she interacts and instructs our students as the adults that they are. For many autistic adults, this treatment is not always the case.

Over several hours, Borgersen and CA Technologies shared tips on navigating the hiring process in Silicon Valley – including understanding how positions are filled, how to match skills to fill talent gaps, how pressures on company recruiters impact reviews of an applicant’s resume, what the emerging new practices of hiring managers in the interview process now are, and how networking can be leveraged effectively (“I expect all of you to connect with me on LinkedIn immediately after this class,” Bogersen told our visiting group).

Star Trek 3.jpg

One of the most enjoyable parts was with Borgersen presented a fictionally altered version of her own resume so that she could teach our Autism Advantage students how to critically examine it as hiring manager. As students began to point out subtle red flags  in her resume that would keep them from hiring Borgersen, she used those moments to pivot our class to consider how they could think like a hiring manager as they worked on their own resumes as applicants in order to find success.

Star Trek 5

After peaking the interest of the class, CA Technologies Senior Principal People Partner Sinead Borgesen brought our Autism Advantage participants up to her office to check out her ‘Star Trek’ memorabilia which she has collected (with some great bonus items from ‘Lord of the Rings’ and various comic universes).

Learning how to think like a hiring manager in order succeed as an applicant is an innovative use of user experience most never consider. That’s a valuable lesson – and that may have been the highlight of the day had Borgesen not mentioned her substantial Star Trek collection. Clearly peaking the interest of the group, Borgeson invited the class up to her office at the end of the day to view and discuss her collection of Star Trek memorabilia. It might seem corny to say that our Autism Advantage class is “boldly going where no man has gone before” but, in reality, that is true. It’s people like Sinead Borgersen and the people at CA Technologies who are helping move our participants and their careers light speed ahead.


We could certainly appreciate CA Technologies’ promotion of a robust and healthy Worf/Life balance.


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!