Siemens Case Study

Strength in diversity

Project Detail

Siemens is a technology company focused on industry, infrastructure, transport, and healthcare. From more resource-efficient factories, resilient supply chains, and smarter buildings and grids, to sustainable transportation as well as advanced healthcare, they create technology with purpose adding real value for customers.

ManagerBernd Bauer, Head of Protection and Consulting Services
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As we all know, whenever a mix of people work together, the differences between us tend to come into sharp focus. Each of us has our own unique character, background, preferences, capabilities, knowledge and attitude – and these differences can easily lead to difficulties and misunderstandings. Speaking openly with each other can help here, but what happens if a neurodivergent person joins the team? How does that affect communication and collaboration? And might more neurodiverse teams actually be more effective? April is World Autism month – the perfect occasion for a report on neurodiversity in cybersecurity.


Max Miller (not his real name) from auticon, has been working in the Siemens Cybersecurity team as an external IT Consultant since December. They assist other cybersecurity colleagues with project and risk management for ongoing cybersecurity projects. Max Miller is part of the project team tasked with producing an objective assessment of Zero Trust at Siemens, based on the international standards published by bodies including the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). His part in this process includes conducting and evaluating numerous interviews with various departments at Siemens AG. So far, so good and – at first glance at least – nothing the slightest bit out of the ordinary. Max though is autistic, which, according to Bernd Bauer from Siemens Cybersecurity makes him ideally suited to this particular task:


“Max’s autistic strengths enable him to find his feet with new subject matter very quickly and process the relevant information significantly faster than a neurotypical person would be able to. From my point of view that makes his current task of conducting and evaluating interviews a perfect fit for him. Generally, I believe autistic people have much to offer in IT and cybersecurity because of their ability to identify and understand complex interactions.”


The initial impetus behind the idea of working with an autistic IT consultant came from Natalia Oropeza, Global Chief Cybersecurity Officer and Chief Diversity Officer at Siemens, who soon realized she was pushing at an open door. The suggestion met with an enthusiastic response, an appropriate project (the Zero Trust evaluation) was quickly identified, and Max immediately stood out as the most suitable candidate. The necessary steps were implemented, the onboarding process was completed and soon enough he was cleared to begin.

“I started by finding out as much as I could about the subject of Zero Trust and then used what I had learned to develop the questionnaires for the interviews,” explains Max. “At the moment I am doing one or two interviews every day, compiling the results and then incorporating the information into the Zero Trust evaluation. This is a good task for me to take on because I can familiarize myself with unfamiliar topics very quickly compared to neurotypical people and grasp, structure and prepare large volumes of data and information. I am able to divide up my working time flexibly too to ensure I have the breaks I need with my family. These essential breaks give me the chance to process new situations and contacts with new people so that I am ready for work again when the time comes.”

Max feels comfortable at Siemens and with his highly motivated new team, which has welcomed him with open arms. He will admit though that he does still find the structures, processes and numerous abbreviations typical of such a large organization rather trying at times.

Client’s Feedback

All the positive feedback on the current collaboration notwithstanding, it is clear that success is not automatically guaranteed. A certain amount of learning about and adjusting to one another always has to be done whenever different people work together and this is even more important with autistic people. One adjustment made with Max in mind in the Zero Trust evaluation project is that there are no ad hoc meetings: All meetings are scheduled sufficiently far in advance that he can prepare for them properly. This of course gives everyone else more preparation time too, and being able to plan more reliably does nobody any harm!

Max’ employer, auticon, provides detailed coaching to assist both its consultants and its customers. “The enabling session we had with auticon at the start of the collaboration was extraordinary useful,” recalls Johannes Ixmeier. “Some members of the team had no prior experience of interacting with autistic people and were not sure how to conduct themselves. auticon explained what it means to be autistic and we discussed and reflected on strengths, weaknesses and behaviors together. We were able to speak openly about everything and ask whatever we wanted to ask without anyone having to feel uncomfortable.”

“The enabling session also included a briefing in which Max told us about who he is, how he operates and what he needs to work effectively,” adds Bernd Bauer. “It was almost like being presented with a set of ‘operating instructions’. From then on, we all knew exactly how we could best support him, what was likely to hold him back and how we should go about working with each other. Max explained it all very well and has always told us what he needs, as a result of which integrating him into our team has been perfectly straightforward.”


This one challenge aside things seem to be going very well: “The aim is quickly to produce an objective, fact-based assessment of Siemens’ relative standing at an international level in terms of Zero Trust,” explains project manager Johannes Ixmeier from Siemens Cybersecurity. “We always wanted to have someone from outside the company carry out the process to ensure maximum objectivity. Max oriented himself quickly and efficiently, is highly productive and is well received by the people he interviews, who appreciate the way he combines a friendly attitude with a focused and direct approach. We are very happy to have Max on our team: He has been a definite win for the project.” So well, in fact, has Max’ involvement gone that the cybersecurity function has recently brought in a second external IT consultant from auticon to work as a solution architect in another project. Bernd Bauer would now like to make the team permanently more neurodiverse and intends to appoint employees with autistic spectrum condition as part of this process.

Promoting collaboration with social enterprises in the IT sector

How does an organization like ours make contact with social enterprises like auticon and where can we find support with procurement and onboarding? The Siemens IT Procurement team has undertaken to make the procurement of IT services more sustainable and regularly attends events organized under the aegis of the Social Entrepreneurship Network at which social enterprises from various sectors are able to pitch their services.

“We recognized very quickly that what auticon was offering would be a good fit for Siemens,” remembers Stephanie Pfannenstein, who drives the topic of social suppliers within IT Procurement in the Category Development Team. “Once we had clarified with auticon that they had availability in principle and identified a suitable first project, our standard procurement process swung into action. The consultant himself was onboarded, including the necessary cybersecurity precautions, directly in the Cybersecurity team.”

Collaborations of the type described with social enterprises are suitable in principle for all IT teams and departments at Siemens. Therefore, the team from IT Procurement is constantly looking out for other suitable companies to add to the list. It also offers help with onboarding suppliers so that planned collaborations can begin as quickly as possible.

As Max makes clear, the effort is certainly worthwhile:

“It is not necessarily essential to go looking specifically for neurodivergent people straight away. After all, we already work in diverse teams with many different people who each have their own distinct characteristics and needs. I think recognizing this fact in the everyday working environment can only be a good thing for teams. And there are many small tweaks that can be made right now to make the working world easier for everyone, neurodivergent or not.”

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