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During the second quarter of the year, The SAP Autism at Work program reached many milestones and participated in a significant number of events. Allow me to share some of these great moments.


The month of April is one of the most important times of the year for us in the SAP Autism at Work Program as it is Autism Awareness month. While it was an incredibly busy time for us, what we collectively achieved with colleagues, partners and friends, put new wind behind our sails and a renewed source of inspiration and optimism in the future of neurodiversity in the workplace.

On March 23, in anticipation of the Autism Awareness Month 2016, we kicked off the first SAP Autism at Work Summit in Newtown Square. This summit, the first of its kind, was launched in cooperation with Specialisterne, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE), The Copenhagen Business School, The Yang-Tan Institute for Disability Employment at Cornell University and the Olitsky Family Foundation. The objective of this event was to promote the merits of neurodiversity in the workplace and to expand existing cooperation between private and public sectors, academia, and NGOs to provide opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum.  It was a real privilege to listen to amazing speakers, including Steve Silberman, John Elder Robison, and Dr. Stephen Shore, as well as our friends from La Trobe University, Simon Fraser University, Cornell University, Drexel University, Rutgers University, Temple University, The College of William & Mary and the University of Wisconsin. My colleagues from the Autism at Work Program produced this video  for the event, which features many of the individuals who make the program possible.


We traveled to New York to participate in the United Nations Autism Awareness day on April 1 where Steve Silberman delivered a wonderful keynote and where SAP, HPE, and Specialisterne joined a panel discussion announcing a collaboration agreement to improve practices to hire and retain people in the autism spectrum. A key theme that resonated with the audience and throughout the entire Autism Awareness Month was the need to continue to promote acceptance, drive awareness, and ultimately act to provide opportunities for people in the autism spectrum.


During April, we had the privilege of delivering the keynote address at the Autism Awareness Day event at Duke University. During the event, five Fuqua School of Business MBA students presented their findings of a four-month research project they had worked on together with the SAP Autism at Work Program. During the event, the students’ dedication was recognized and honored.

MBA students from Duke University being recognized for their contributions to the Autism at Work Program


SAP also held internal Autism at Work events around the globe. We held such events in Canada, Brazil, India and the Czech Republic


"Colors of Autism" held at SAP in Bangalore, India.

At some of these events, our colleagues in the autism spectrum shared their perspectives with other employees in lively conversations. These were true milestones in many ways, both for our Autism at Work team and our neurotypical employees. We are very grateful that many of our new colleagues were willing to share their experiences.

Colleagues from the Autism at Work Program share their perspectives with SAP employees in Newtown Square


We also had the opportunity to share our program in Philadelphia with more than 180 educators in the State of Pennsylvania. The event is part of a series organized by our partner, the Arc of Philadelphia at the request of the Philadelphia Department of Education.

     Educators from the State of Philadelphia learn about SAP’s Autism at Work Program


On June the 7th I had the opportunity to participate with Steve Silberman and Michael Bernick as a speaker at the "Neurodiversity in the High Tech Industry" event sponsored by Stu Shader from Microsoft. A big thanks to Stu for his leadership..


For those of you not familiar with the SAP Autism at Work program, allow me to share some basic information. The program was launched in partnership with our global partner Specialisterne in May 2013. The long-term objective we established at the time of the announcement was to have 1 percent of our workforce represented by colleagues in the Autism Spectrum (around 650 employees at the time of the announcement)

More than two years into our journey, we are proud to share that we have provided opportunities to more than 100 individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in 18 different roles in seven countries. I feel that our new colleagues have allowed us to confirm that it is because of our differences and not in spite of them that we can innovate and create a better workplace for everyone. With an estimated 85 percent unemployment rate in the US autism community, our colleagues, who faced enormous challenges in finding a job in the past, have also reminded us about the value and dignity that comes with going to work every day.


I’m often asked why we at SAP hire people with autism. The answer continues to evolve as we learn about all the facets of autism and the local conditions in the various countries. Having said this, the simplest answer I have to this question is: Because WE can. Our hiring managers and team buddies have stated “we can hire people who need a different path to success”. Mentors (volunteers) stated “we can support our new colleagues by providing them with fellowship and networking opportunities”. Our community services partners have told us “we can support the employees inside and outside of the office”. And last, but in no way least, our colleagues on the autism spectrum have told us “we can, if we are given an opportunity”.

Here are additional facts from a business perspective.

  1. Everybody wins: People with autism represent an untapped talent pool of committed individuals with formal education and, in some cases, industry experience  who work in multiple areas of our business. These areas range from graphic design to human resources to marketing to software development. Our colleagues, most of whom were unemployed or underemployed prior to joining SAP, also win for reasons that need no further elaboration. Society as a whole wins because those colleagues who were unemployed (some whom may have been in government assistance programs) have become contributors in many ways..

  1. We find and retain great talent:  IT industry experts tell us that the replacement cost of a productive employee leaving a company can be 40 to 100 percent of the salary of a person departing a company. As such, replacement costs on unexpected and undesired departures are a real issue. With close to zero unexpected and undesired departures since the Autism at Work program started, and 96 percent of our new colleagues receiving a successful performance evaluation, the benefits of the program after almost three years are starting to emerge. We at SAP feel that if we provide a comfortable working environment for everyone, including people with autism, we will be able to retain the best talent in our industry..

  1. We gain new perspectives, which helps us innovate: Alan Kay who created the first fully object oriented programming and operating system and the now ubiquitous overlapping window paradigm we enjoy in most operating systems, once said that “a different perspective is worth 80 IQ Points”. This view holds true for SAP because to innovate and create richer and more rewarding solutions for our customers, we must reflect the diversity of perspectives that our customer ecosystem (more than 300,000 in 190 countries) and our prospects represent. The only way to achieve this is by having diverse perspectives represented by our own employees in the creative process, including the autistic perspective. Let’s all continue this fruitful program that adds so much value to our professional and personal lives.

Thank you for visiting our blog and stand by for Q3 summary.