The value of meaningful employment for neurodiverse talent
When Robert graduated with a degree first in the culinary arts and then later in computer science, he secured work both times, but still struggled to find his stride. He realized that aspects of the workplace – not the work itself – were derailing him. The commute and in-person meetings, for example, were significant stressors that made work hard to sustain. Being in new environments or being social with people he didn’t know increased his anxiety. Still, he knew he could be a valuable team player if given the right opportunity.
Despite access to job coaches and family support, he struggled to find a job where he could utilize his talents. “It felt like these workplaces kept putting up barriers to my success,” says Robert. “I just could not seem to find an employer who would give me a chance at serious long-term employment. I was in the mindset that I would never find gainful employment. It was disheartening, and I thought about quitting looking for work altogether.”
Then, Robert found CAI Neurodiverse Solutions. Aside from preparing him for a career with an enterprise IT team, the program helped him find a position that matches his skills and provides ongoing workplace support. CAI's Talent Discovery Session invites neurodivergent individuals to showcase their talents in a supportive environment by replacing the traditional interview with an assessment and extensive evaluation. Then, upon successful completion – candidates can become eligible for an offer of employment. Once in the workplace, team members receive guidance, mentorship, coaching, on-the-job training, and continuous professional development from a neurodiversity-certified team lead.
"Working with CAI – everyone is open and approachable. They understand the way I think, how I’m processing a certain job. It’s a safety net that I didn’t realize I needed until I had it."
Today, Robert works full-time for a national leader in educational testing. His job responsibilities include auditing and monitoring application security compliance within the company’s AWS cloud services. By creating Jira tickets for various application teams, he helps solve security violations created in their day-to-day work. Robert’s work protects the client’s sensitive information from external sources.
“Robert is filling a critical role that previously did not have dedicated full-time support,” says his CAI Team Lead Karen Gibbs. “He has an uncommon blend of hard and soft skills that make him excel at his role. He is thorough with the technical part of the work and can communicate very effectively with peers and management, notifying the application teams about the violations and the need to fix them.”
Robert’s experience with Linux and Bash scripting, coupled with his talent for pattern recognition, make him an essential member of the team. “He can recognize a pattern and then figure out what to do to get better results. That makes him a valuable team player,” says Gibbs.
Since Robert has been in his role, the number of violations at the company have been trending downward from week to week for the areas he has been responsible. “To see the violation counts decrease from last week’s report to this week’s report – that is thrilling,” says Robert. “If I can’t find a tool to get the information I need in an efficient way, I work with other team members to write a script or define a process to get it. Then we write a ‘playbook’ together so that anyone can use it.”
The biggest challenge for Robert, according to him, is socialization. But he believes that shouldn’t get in the way of his employment. “It brings me a surprising amount of satisfaction to know I play a part in keeping sensitive information out of the wrong hands,” says Robert. “For so many years, I truly felt I would never gain a job much less a career opportunity that would allow me to become the person I am now. A lot of companies are missing out on employing people like me. People who normally can’t find employment but can do great things if they have the support they need.”