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!

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.


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.





‘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.


From Kenneth’s fundraising page:


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.


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.


Is it important to have a great candidate experience in the interview process?

It goes without saying that the hiring/interview process for most tech companies is demanding and time consuming for people applying for a software engineering position. The majority of the time these tech companies are interviewing thousand of other individuals for the same current position being offered. The process of selecting a candidate for the job that is the right culture fit and has the technical skills to perform well for companies is extremely difficult. This makes tech companies’ recruiters and hiring managers with no choice but looking for a way to reject candidates, which is problematic. Not all of the recruiters and hiring managers are going to keep all of these candidates’ experiences positive. However, this could be a solution or opportunity to tech companies attracting top talented individuals for building their engineering dream team by conducting a positive interview candidate experience for software engineers.

GetVoip conducted a study with Glassdoor’s candidate’s interview experience. They wanted to learn how the job hiring processes were piloted for major tech companies. They looked at hundreds reviews on Glassdoor from software engineers who applied to thirteen popular tech companies. Here is what they found:



The candidates interview experience overall was very positive, but for some of those tech companies like Twitter, Linkedin, Apple, and Uber their percentages of negative experiences are higher than 20% is disturbing. Does that negative percentage impact the organization also in a negative way? Every individual applying on their own and those receiving an employee referral is required to go through the interview/hiring process there is no short cuts for hiring. I say it does have an impact because it shows the actually culture of the company and how they treat their employees through the actual interview process without the company even realizing they did.

Candidate feedback from their experiences with the interview/hiring process for tech companies could provide answers in strengthening the process overall, and marketing their culture the right way to individuals. Although giving tech companies benefit of the doubt that there is always a reason for rejecting candidates, and those rejected individuals becoming bias with their opinions on the company with how unpleasant their experience was. However, there is an opportunity for tech companies to learn and improve the difficult hiring/interviewing process by increasing that percentage of positive candidate experience. Stop wasting good people’s time by giving them a horrible interview experience. They took time out of their lives to see what that company has to offer. (Kind of don’t know how to end)

Even a Top 20 employer can improve the recruiting process

According a Glassdoor Survey, AirBnB is the #1 employer in America. AirBnB also has the highest percentage of negative interview experiences from candidate ratings. Imagine how well they will do if they improve their candidate experience.

It is important to note that improving the interview experience does not mean making the interview easier. There is an opportunity for every company to improve, regardless of interview difficulty

GlassDoor’s Top 20: Negative interview experiences vs. the difficulty of the interview




AirBnB is ranked #1, however their negative interview experience ratings are in a class of their own. Their negative interview rating is 7 percentage points worse than any other top 20 employer. From a sample of the 25 candidate reviews on Glassdoor, it is true that those that did not receive an offer had a poor interview experience. However, even some of those that received an offer also rated the interview experience negatively. Here are some candidate quotes explaining the negative experience of the coding challenge:

I explained my thought process and my approach but got no feedback from the interviewer. I went ahead and wrote the code, fixed all errors and ran it. I checked with the interviewer if he saw the output and asked him if he wanted me to walk him through it. I believe I solved it correctly but got no feedback. He just copied my code and said he’ll check the output later. A day later I got the email that they don’t think my background and qualifications match with the position and they have not decided to go ahead with the interview process.

The interviewer was on mute the whole time, so it was difficult to get any feedback on the direction I was taking. I suggested one solution to the problem, and was told that it was not acceptable – because they wanted me to solve it a different way.

Let’s take a look at the companies that do well on candidate experience. Three of the top 20 employers that do very well in candidate interview experience are Bain & Company, Boston Consulting, and Eastman. Bain & Company is the #2 employer after AirBnB. They have the highest interview difficulty and a low negative interview experience rating. From 25 sample review for Bain’s interview experience 9 candidates received offers, 16 candidates did not and all of the 25 had a positive interview experience. Here are a few candidate reviews on these 3 companies’ interview experience:

“Throughout the process, everyone was very friendly – in the end, I was told I didn’t make the cut because I was too nervous, and they told my other friend she asked too many questions that made her seem cautious”.

“The formal onsite interview was set up well with quite a lot of attention to the details… Overall a great attention to candidate care!”

“Lots of feedback and guidance, including 2 mock interviews with consultants.”

In summary, there is an opportunity for every company to improve their interview process. This does not mean making the process easier or more difficult. Companies who want to improve their candidate experience are focused on giving candidates the feedback they deserve. They also show care for their candidates in the pipeline regardless of whether or not they will get an job offer. In the end, a good interview experience gives the company a better brand image to attract top talent.


Hiring Decision

One hiring mistake is one too many. Bringing someone onto the team that doesn’t perform impacts morale and productivity. The individual’s time is also wasted as they could have been a great performer in a different role, department or company and instead they are in a job where they are not happy and their employer is not happy.

While conservative when it comes to hiring, my track record is not error free. Making a hiring decision on a few hours of interviews when candidates are prepped and on their best behavior is a recipe for imperfection.

Making the hiring process as objective as possible is critical. The hiring process needs to have an objective view of the candidate’s skills, fit in the department, and mutual expectations of performance. To make the process as objective as possible, candidates must be interviewed by multiple people. How this group of people makes a decision is where it gets tricky.

Some companies use a consensus approach to hiring decisions. In these situations, everyone must say “yes” to a candidate and if one person says “no” the candidate doesn’t receive an offer. This way of making decisions ensures that everyone buys into who is hired and the chance of a bringing on a poor performer is low. However, companies with high hiring targets may find it hard to fill their roles. Also, candidates who could challenge the status quo in a productive way may be turned down.

Another approach is to use a scoring system (say 1 to 5) and candidates who have an acceptable average rating (say 4 or above) are extended an offer. This approach works quite well with entry-level positions, such as, campus recruiting, where multiple people are hired and have not yet been assigned to a hiring manager. For this to be successful, it is even more important that the interviews be structured and consistent and the interviewers be well trained on exactly what is expected of them. For mid-level and senior hires, the roles are too few and the consequences of making a mistake is too high to leave a decision left to a formula.

Commonly, the hiring manager makes the final decision. The hiring manager listens to all of the feedback from other people who have interviewed the candidate. In the end, the hiring manager makes the decision as only they can weigh the risk of a hiring mistake versus leaving the role open longer. Feedback from other people helps provide different perspectives on the same candidate. Good feedback is evidenced based citing examples and verbatim quotes. As with all approaches there are flaws and here the hiring manager may ignore important feedback.

So while getting clear and consistent criteria of your hiring needs is important, being clear on how you make the hiring decision is just as important. Be objective as possible, knowing that it won’t be perfect and the approach you choose needs to be appropriate to the situation. Once set, don’t change the process to accommodate “the exception”.


3 Steps to Improve Your Interviews

In this hyper-competitive tech market, providing a good interview experience is critical. And yet, no one organization seems to have perfected it. Fortunately, creating a truly awesome experience can be relatively simple. To resolve the problem, interviewers need to take three basic steps:

  1. Make the interview experience consistent whether you like the candidate or not.
  2. Provide clear and constructive feedback to candidates.
  3. Listen to what candidates say about you hiring process.

If your organization can achieve these simple tasks, your candidates’ experience will be better than those offered by Glassdoor’s Top 20 Employers.

A few weeks ago, we ran a post on improving Candidate Experience. We found that everyone can improve– even Glassdoor’s Top 20 Employers fell prey to very common interviewing mistakes.

The study showed that candidates’ concerns were not particularly varied– ultimately, there were 3 key problems that plagued candidates across the board:

  1. Inconsistent Experience
  2. Interview Questions are not Clear
  3. Lack of Feedback

Though circumstances differed on a case-by-case basis, basically every negative review mentioned one or more of these central issues.

I went ahead and wrote the code, fixed all errors and ran it… I believe I solved it correctly but got no feedback. He just copied my code and said he’ll check the output later. A day later I got the email that they don’t think my background and qualifications match with the position and they have not decided to go ahead with the interview process.

Following this post, we sent out a survey (thanks very much to our participants!) on interviewing and the candidate experience. This survey served to illuminate where and how interviewers are causing the issues candidates highlighted above.

All survey participants were themselves interviewers and all considered candidate experience to be of importance:

  • 50% of participants identified themselves as working to “improve the hiring process”
  • 84% claimed that candidate experience was “Important” or “Very Important.”

For the most part, survey participants acknowledged the problems that candidates highlighted from the earlier blog post.

  • 0% considered the interview experience to be anywhere near entirely consistent
  • 34% thought the experience differed widely on a case-by-case basis.

Fortunately, creating a consistently solid process is not difficult. The following guide should set you well on the path towards the ideal experience.

  • Interviewers must make the experience consistent for candidates. They can achieve this by implementing a well-designed interview structure. By asking questions from a script or outline and make decisions against a predefined rubric, one can ensure interviews are well-structured and that hiring criteria are uniform in both concept and execution.
  • Providing feedback is imperative. Unfortunately, all feedback is not created equal– in order to provide the right kind of feedback. Tell your candidate what you were looking for in your questions and explain the gap between the answer you wanted and the one they gave. Additionally, provide a recommendation for what the candidate should work on going forward.
  • Capture candidate feedback at the end of the process. In this way, you can stay abreast of candidates’ ongoing concerns and pain points throughout the process. Candidates, like all of us, appreciate being listened to. By simply giving them space to voice their reaction and listening appropriately, you can provide a much more welcoming and receptive environment.

Implementing these actions can be a quick and painless process, and will improve candidates’ interview experience enormously.