Unearthing autistic talent with auticon

    “At first, I was skeptical about bringing in autistic consultants – I didn’t know if they would have the skills we needed.

    “But then I learned about auticon, a consultancy that exclusively hires autistic consultants in a presentation from our Head of Human Resources, Uwe Schoepe.”

    “By the end I remember thinking, ‘this could be great if auticon has the right person.’

    “It turns out they did.”

    From wish-list to reality

    Meet Stefan Kübitz, a Project Manager with Zurich Gruppe Deutschland (Zurich) who, since 2021, has been leading the transition of their Microsoft Dynamics Client Relationship Management (CRM) system to the cloud.

    “Our agents, partners and employees – about 3,300 people – use the CRM,” explains Stefan. “They all have specific needs, and we write code to enhance the CRM and meet those needs.

    “We’ve been moving the CRM to the cloud for about three years and needed someone with very specific skills to user-test all the code to make sure it worked, and document how it was created so others could work with it in the future.

    “Finding the right person wasn’t easy,” reveals Stefan. “A senior developer, fluent in the C Sharp programming language, who pays attention to detail, recognizes patterns and conducts logical analysis. They also needed high concentration levels, a superb memory and great error detection skills – and we needed them to work quickly and independently.”

    A tall order that auticon felt they could fulfill. As an IT and data consultancy employing autistic people, auticon’s consultants have strengths and talents in business analytics, test automation and software development, making them ideal for workplace digitalization projects.

    Love what you do and do what you love

    “Coding isn’t a job for me, it’s my passion!” says Jürgen Schuch, who became an auticon consultant in 2018 shortly after being diagnosed with autism. “Since January, I’ve been helping Zurich test, catalog and rewrite code for the CRM. It’s exactly the type of work I love to do.

    “I always tell people, ‘Code is right when it becomes beautiful.’ If I look at code and sense a problem, I’ll read it and think about it while I do something else, like go for a walk or play with my cats. All the time, I’m working out the answer in the back of my head and when I’ve got it, I’ll go back to my computer and create the solution in a way that’s clean, self-explanatory, and well…beautiful.”

    The pandemic has seen Jürgen work remotely from his home near Munich, Germany. “It suits me as I can work in the way I like to,” he shares. “Don’t get me wrong, I also like interacting with people. For example, it’s always great to meet with customers to discuss problems and properly advise them of the best solution. But generally, I prefer to work from home as I get a lot done.”

    While he’s not been with Zurich for long, Jürgen’s enjoying working here. “The people are great: dedicated, hard-working, and a lot of fun. Plus, they provide everyone from auticon with so much support. I couldn’t ask for more.”

    Better than hoped for

    “I’ve been very impressed with Jürgen,” says Stefan. “He works quickly, confidently, and produces high-quality results. I mean, he’s tested and documented thousands of lines of code in about four months – if we’d asked developers to do this on top of their roles, it may have taken 12-18 months. We’re very pleased.”

    When asked how working with auticon differs from what he initially thought it might be like, Stefan is unequivocal in his response. “It’s completely different. I thought we may need to give guidance or adapt ways of working. I even wondered if Jürgen would try to upsell me services which often happens with suppliers.”

    “In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Jürgen’s great at working independently, does a great job, and only ever talks about work, which to be honest, makes him even more trustworthy.”

    Jürgen’s approach to problem solving really sticks out for Stefan. “I’ve seen examples where something within 10 pages of code doesn’t work properly. So, Jürgen reads it, commits it to memory, goes for a walk and restructures it in his head. Then he comes back, puts it all into the computer and carries on. Definitely a ‘wow’ moment!”

    Creating a brighter future together

    The auticon experience has been so good, Stefan’s hired two additional consultants. “We moved to the cloud and are now rolling out features, so we hired two junior consultants to work with Jürgen,” says Stefan. “Julian Knuth joined in April and another consultant arrives in September.”

    “Julian’s a young, committed, talented guy – much better than he thinks actually!” laughs Stefan. “He has a passion for learning: if he doesn’t know something, you don’t hear from him for a couple of days because he goes and reads six books on it and becomes an expert – unbelievable!”

    As Stefan looks to the future, he’s mulling over a new approach suggested by Jürgen. “We had a conversation about test-driven development,” says Stefan. “Usually, we have problems, develop solutions and implement them. With test-driven development, you think about the result you want, write code to create it and test it as soon as you have it.

    “It’s a faster, more agile approach and a great example of how Jürgen isn’t just here to do a job: he’s a valued and innovative part of the team who we enjoy working with.”

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