Putting Unique Talents to Work

  • By Jonathan Hartley

Consulting projects are designed to bring students into the thick of solving real-time, pressing issues. But the task that was set before 17 students in LeBow’s online MBA program stands out both for its immediacy and potential to change lives.

The students were tasked with aiding a smooth implementation of software corporation SAP’s Autism at Work initiative. SAP set a goal of hiring more than 600 people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by 2020. The winter term class needed to produce recommendations and guidelines to help SAP achieve their goal, and it all had to happen before the first employees arrived a few months later.

The students in the online course quickly immersed themselves in data and personal anecdotes. By conducting interviews and using the wealth of resources available at the Drexel Autism Institute, students developed a nuanced and realistic picture of the challenges that SAP and its new employees were likely to face.

It became clear to the group that employing people with ASD would not only provide opportunity to an often-overlooked segment of society, but also offer value to SAP by giving it access to skilled and capable workers. They determined that with some help from co-workers, the challenges of entering the workplace could be overcome by new employees with ASD. To aid that process, they developed use-cases that described a hypothetical situation and offered recommendations for employees who might interact with a new colleague with ASD.

The students’ findings became a vital part of implementing SAP’s initiative. “The project was a big success!” says Drexel-SAP Ambassador Richard Blumberg. “While their deliverables were impressive, the greatest value is that they increased their own and many others’ awareness that adults with autism and a college education can indeed become valuable contributors to SAP, customers and partners who hire them.”

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