Software testing firm only hires workers with autism

Photo: Michael Himbeault/Flickr
Photo: Michael Himbeault/Flickr

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While most companies will only accept the talent that’s the best fit for their business, this policy can occasionally be exclusive of workers with the right skills but personalities or histories that can leave a negative impression on employers. We recently wrote about the Tihar Food Court, which recruits local prisoners to prepare them for reintegration into society. Now ULTRA Testing, a debugging company out of MIT, has introduced a policy that gives those on the autism spectrum a chance to apply their talent.

There are around 1.5 million Americans with autism, and many of them have degrees and even heightened, specialist skills but still can’t find work that matches their abilities. This is because they may not fit into the company’s social structure, or have trouble dealing with colleagues who aren’t equipped to communicate with those on the spectrum. Founded by MIT graduates Rajesh Anandan and Art Shectman, ULTRA Testing provides software testing and quality assurance services and currently has a team which is made up of workers with varying degrees of autism. They go through a special interview process, often through Skype, that aims to determine their tech skills without making them feel uncomfortable with a formal setting or difficult, personal questions. The company matches its highly-skilled testers with neurotypical (non-spectrum) managers who deal with the aspects of client work that those with autism find difficult. This business model enables the company to deliver a quick and efficient service while making use of the skills of those with autism.

Considering that autistic people often display an increased ability to focus on repetitive tasks and problem solving, the condition actually makes for great candidates in the field of software testing. The company hopes to grow its workforce to between 250 and 300 testers over the next 3 years. Are there other ways to integrate disabled people with in-demand skills into the workforce?