By Sam Farmer, The Hill
When a leading technology company and a leading institution of higher learning partner with each other to make things better for an unfairly marginalized segment of society, there is cause for celebration. Particularly if you are a neurodiverse individual (autistic, for example) aspiring to a career in technology. The cloud industry is growing rapidly and Goggle is a key player with their Google Cloud services. To their credit, they have chosen to proceed in a way that is mindful of inclusivity and of the talents that people with autism bring to the table, and they have wisely decided not to go it alone in meeting the challenge.
As such, Google recently announced the launch of the Google Cloud Autism Career Program. The program’s purpose is not merely to hire but also to support more autistic talent in the Google workforce. To that end, they are collaborating with experts from the Stanford Neurodiversity Project which advises employers on opportunities and success metrics for neurodivergent individuals in the workplace. Stanford will also coach applicants and provide support not only for them but for their colleagues and managers as well, once they join the Google Cloud team.
The Stanford Neurodiversity Project works toward the establishment of a culture that values the capabilities of neurodiverse people and empowers them to develop their identity and daily living skills. It trains talented individuals for successful inclusion in the workforce and seeks to disseminate its methodology on a global scale. The end goal, which is also that of the Neurodiversity Movement in general, is to reveal the strengths of neurodivergent individuals and leverage these strengths to increase society’s capacity for innovation and productivity.
The Google/Stanford partnership makes perfect sense, considering that products that are intended for use by everybody everywhere, including the Google Cloud services, are best designed and built by as wide a diversity of people as possible. The Google Cloud team is therefore optimized when neurodiverse and neurotypical people work side by side. Ideally, the team would reflect diversity in other respects as well (race, ethnicity, nationality, gender identity, etc.).
Rob Enslin is the President of Global Customer Operations for Google Cloud. In the company’s formal announcement of the Google Cloud Autism Career Program, Enslin speaks of Google’s intent to train and empower as many as 500 Google Cloud managers and others involved in hiring processes “to work effectively and empathetically with autistic candidates and ensure Google’s onboarding processes are accessible and equitable.” He added that the Autism Career Program also aims to “break down the barriers that autistic candidates most often face,” citing the traditional job interview as a common impediment to an autistic candidate’s efforts at getting his foot in the door, because of the lack of accommodations which would enable the candidate to showcase his strengths. For example, allowing for more time for the interviewee to respond to a question or permitting him to answer the questions in writing. No unfair advantage in this case. Rather, the elimination of an unfair disadvantage.
As an autistic individual, I can attest. Back in my high school days when I took the SAT’s, my verbal score took a beating as a result of time running out well before I could finish. Many reading comprehension questions toward the end of the verbal portion went unanswered. In retrospect, it was foolish of me to decline the offer to take the test untimed, choosing instead to be evaluated on the same terms as my classmates. Had I chosen the untimed option, I would not have been granted an unfair advantage. I rejected a necessary accommodation and paid the price on a high stakes exam.
Conversely, I had a music history professor in college who, out of the kindness of her heart, remained in the classroom with me until I completed her exams, sometimes long after time had expired and everybody else had left, no matter how long I took. As a result, I was able to prove the true extent of my knowledge of the topics the exam questions raised. Her flexibility and understanding meant the world to me, knowing that I worked significantly slower than most and that she could have enforced the same expectations equally for everybody in her classes but instead chose to exempt me. I felt understood and valued at a time in my life when I often felt misunderstood and marginalized.
Click here to read the full article on The Hill.