“CAI Neurodiverse Solutions is an excellent program and helpful to begin or transition to a new career in the field of IT.”
After working for more than 10 years in behavioral health rehabilitation, Josh became ready for something new. For seven of those years, he spent working 1-on-1 with children, helping them and their families cope with the daily struggles of life at school and home that come with certain mental health challenges. For Josh’s patients, even the most minor changes in routine could cause debilitating anxiety or frustration.
Some of the children Josh worked with were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and Josh couldn’t help but feel a certain kinship to them–to their struggles with social interaction, difficulty reading social cues, or trouble communicating easily. After all, his own struggles growing up were what spurred him toward a career in mental health in the first place. While working in the mental health industry, Josh decided to get tested and was officially diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.
“A lot of people questioned why I wanted to be tested. I’ve always suspected that I was different than other people, and I wanted to understand it better.”
When Josh decided to leave the mental health field to look for a new career, he entered the word “autism” into an online job search engine, thinking of the ASD population in which one he was qualified to work with. “I have a professional perspective and a personal perspective on ASD,” says Josh. “That’s a strength of mine I want to put to use.” But instead of finding work with individuals diagnosed with ASD, he found CAI Neurodiverse Solutions. CAI Neurodiverse Solutions was recruiting neurodivergent individuals for job opportunities in the area, piquing Josh’s interest immediately. Shortly after reaching out, he was invited to attend an upcoming Talent Discovery Session (TDS).
Until that point, Josh avoided job interviews with people he didn’t know because it was too nerve-wracking. He also typically limited his job search based on his interpretation of the qualifications, sometimes taking them too literally. If he didn’t meet all the qualifications in the job description to a T, he wouldn’t even apply.
Growing up, Josh thrived in activities that were well-defined with clear rules, like academics and baseball. He always had a special talent for focusing and knowing how to prioritize tasks. But social interactions were a struggle. As he experienced high school, where he felt social interaction was just for interaction’s sake, understanding norms and managing expectations became increasingly difficult. “Many people didn’t understand why I couldn’t maintain eye contact, for example, interpreting it as a lack of manners,” says Josh. “I had a lot of stomach aches during those years.”
As Josh continued his search, a CAI Neurodiverse Solutions job posting for a Quality Assurance (QA) testing position caught his eye, especially since he studied computer science in college. “The TDS was valuable for me. It allowed me to ask questions and interact with management prior to employment. It also helped me understand how things are done in office environments that are different than the field mental health work I was doing. Understanding expectations is very helpful for me.”
After completing the TDS, Josh was offered a job as part of a team performing QA testing for a large pharmaceutical firm. The team automates test scripts, so the company’s enterprise resource planning application and ancillary systems are more efficient. The scripts allow company employees to make a sales document or run a report for a different country without having to run it manually and without errors.
The CAI Neurodiverse Solutions team Josh works with has 2 team leads who both think highly of him. “Josh’s demeanor is reassuring and calm, even when the pressure is on,” says his CAI Team Lead Rory O’Brien. “He’s able to keep focus on the task at hand while effectively communicating to those around him–and he’s a real grounding force for the team, always happy to work on whatever the priority may be and switch gears when needed.”
“Josh has a very practical approach to work,” says Jim Esbensen, CAI Team Lead. “You can give Josh an assignment and let him go and it will get done. I appreciate the focus, dedication, and loyalty he brings, but perhaps Josh’s biggest strength is how flexible and adaptable he is.”
For Josh, the support structure of CAI Neurodiverse Solutions is an important part of his success. “CAI Neurodiverse Solutions made it easy for me to transition to a new career in the field of IT,” says Josh. “I have a team who helps me understand clear expectations for the week, which is important to me. When my team leads check in about my stress level, I tell them nothing compares to working in behavioral health rehabilitation every day. For me, that is the best part. The work strikes a perfect balance between being intellectually challenging without being stressful.”