Sydney Neurodiversity Symposium 2019 Presentation Summary: Amanda Turnill
As part of Thriving Now's Sydney Neurodiversity Symposium 2019, held at Fishburners Sydney and hosted by Thriving Now director Jay Hobbs, Amanda Turnill, managing director of auticon Australia, talks about the emergence of auticon Australia to help address the low unemployment rate among those on the autism spectrum.
Takeaway: Employing neurodivergent people directly is not the only way for businesses to benefit from their unique talents and abilities. auticon directly employs autistic IT consultants where they are then farmed out to companies on contracts.
Pictured: Amanda Turnill, managing director of auticon Australia, in green dress with a microphone talking about her presentation.
The Origins of auticon Australia
auticon is an award-winning social enterprise that employs Autistic adults as IT consultants in quality assurance and testing, software engineering, analytics, cybersecurity and compliance and reporting.
They count global brands such as Disney, Virgin and KPMG among its clients.
auticon's investors include Richard Branson and the Porsche family. From the company's origins in Germany, auticon has now expanded into eight countries and employs 250 people, 170 of whom are on the autism spectrum.
In 2019, auticon opened its Australian office and has plans for an official launch in 2020. Amanda Turnill, a former corporate lawyer working in the medical device sector, came out of retirement to be the managing director of auticon Australia. Amanda has two autistic children and she recognised that, without more support, her children faced a lifelong struggle to find employment.
They are looking to recruit more IT consultants with the following skills: pattern recognition, attention to detail, sustained concentration, logical analysis, long term memory and error detection.
A Different Interview and Hiring Process
auticon’s recruitment and support processes are tailored to those on the autism spectrum. The company replaces the traditional interview process with information sessions and preparation workshops and training. Once employed, auticon provides job coaches to create a comfortable working environment for the consultant and the client. They provide project managers to lead the IT projects and guide the consultants in their professional development. These measures address autism-specific challenges, such as anxiety, difficulty with social interactions, interpreting non-verbal signs and increased sensitivity to sensory input.
Next Steps for auticon Australia
One person asked whether affirmative action was needed to ensure the employment of equal numbers of women on the autism spectrum in IT . Amanda admits that this is a ‘work in progress’ and auticon is "restrained" by the type of people who apply for IT consultant roles. However, she noted that there is no limit on the number of people the company can employ.
auticon are currently speaking to banks, insurers, retail and pharmaceutical companies, and hope to employ 16 people on the spectrum in Australia by early 2020. They are also exploring options for employees to work remotely across Australia.
auticon Australia would like to speak to local companies who can take on five or more consultants.
Check out the sketchnote below for a visual summary of Amanda's talk.