When Ryan graduated from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, he immediately began looking for a job. However, days passed without any luck. He knew job interviews weren’t his strong suit, but he felt sure someone would recognize his willingness to work hard.
When things didn’t pan out, Ryan began working as a cashier at a local grocery store, but he knew he wanted to do something more. He wanted a job where he could be part of a team and be connected to something bigger. He knew he had a great work ethic to offer.
Ryan was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of 3. His mom worked to find the right resources for him in his local school system, tapping into public services and teachers who she felt understood both Ryan’s talents and challenges. Though he was a good student, Ryan’s grades didn’t always reflect it, and what confidence he had built as a young child slowly dwindled. “I have struggled at times to find an identity,” Ryan says. “To figure out who I am and how to be myself, especially when interacting with other people.”
So, when Ryan attended a rally for the Eagles Autism Challenge during his senior year in college, he was encouraged by the Kinney Center at St. Joseph’s University to learn more about CAI Neurodiverse Solutions. The program’s professional IT training and support to prepare for a corporate job were things he knew he wanted to take advantage of.
In fact, Ryan was so determined to attend CAI’s Talent Discovery Session (TDS), a 5-day workforce development training and competency evaluation–despite the fact that it was 1.5 hours from home–that he convinced his mother and grandmother to travel with him from New Jersey to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where the training took place.
“I had something to prove,” Ryan says. “It didn’t matter if I had to travel from out of town. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity in the most positive way possible. I wanted to show them who I was and what kind of employee I could be.”
At the TDS, Ryan quickly became known as “the mayor,” building camaraderie and positive energy among the group. His intellectual curiosity and ability to pick up new concepts were apparent almost immediately. Executive Director of CAI Neurodiverse Solutions Wayne McRae saw Ryan had potential from the beginning. “Ryan has tenacity. He wants to learn,” Wayne says. “He wants to know how he can contribute in a meaningful way–and that’s what we look for at the TDS.”
Taking place over 5 days, the TDS gives candidates the opportunity to explore their individual learning styles, the benefits of collaboration, different roles in IT, and various software platforms. “We had to build a robot during my TDS,” says Ryan. “We had to interpret the instructions and assemble the parts with a partner. That’s when I started to get to know and appreciate my colleagues. But the highlight of the TDS was the toast exercise.”
The toast exercise teaches candidates how to create a test case–in this scenario, writing detailed instructions for every step involved in making toast so someone unfamiliar with the process could follow them and be successful.
After completing the TDS, CAI offered Ryan a job as a quality assurance (QA) analyst working to deploy SAP S/4HANA for a major pharmaceutical company. The company and CAI began partnering in 2018 with the goal to implement a neurodiversity employment program, tailored to the company’s culture and business needs. The pharmaceutical company knew CAI Neurodiverse Solutions would establish the right processes for recruiting, training, and integrating neurodivergent individuals into its workplace and making it easy to match qualified candidates for specific roles. And because neurodivergent individuals typically have certain strengths–including attention to detail, a preference for repetitive work, a high level of concentration, and superior problem-solving and pattern recognition abilities–the new CAI Neurodiverse Solutions candidates not only fill a void in the company’s diversity program, but they also increase productivity for the IT team to which they are assigned.
“I’m happy knowing I have a place here and that I have stability and security here.”
“The CAI Neurodiverse Solutions team is an integral part of our SAP S/4HANA program delivery initiative,” says the pharmaceutical company’s Digital Capability Manager of Enterprise SAP. “We strongly believe in providing opportunities to individuals with different abilities. We are happy this job has helped give Ryan an identity. We look forward to having Ryan and others on the team for the long term.”
The company understands that creating opportunities for neurodivergent individuals can change lives and enhance business results. “Without forward-minded organizations like this, we would not have the opportunity to provide long-term careers for these underemployed but talented candidates,” says Wayne.
As for Ryan? He knew it was a good fit. “I pay very close attention to detail, and my work here is very detail oriented. With my work ethic and motivation, I knew I could really help the team deliver S/4HANA,” Ryan says. “I’m happy knowing I have a place here and that I have stability and security here.”
Ryan’s CAI team lead, Vipul Patel, works with him every day. “Ryan is great at taking initiative,” says Vipul. “He is persistent and curious to learn, which really helps him in his testing role. He has grown a lot in the short time that he’s been here. He is a more valuable team member every day.”
Ryan is quick to acknowledge the role of his coworkers and his gratitude for the opportunity to bring his talents to the world. “I like the structure of CAI Neurodiverse Solutions. It makes me feel satisfied to know I am giving my best effort every day. It builds up my confidence. I always believed in others. Sometimes I didn’t believe in myself–but that’s becoming less and less true all the time.”