Autism Awareness Month: Meet Some of Our Neurodiverse Team Members

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My son, Ben, is fifteen years old. He’s bright, confident and will be a great businessman one day. He can tell you all about our products and solutions, including detailed specifications and their related benefits and capabilities. However, when it comes time for him to enter the workforce in just a few short years, statistics show he will face challenges on his journey to employment.

Nearly half of 25-year-olds on the autism spectrum have never held a paying job. With odds like these, I’m proud to work at a company offering opportunities and additional resources for those with autism.

Three years ago, Dell Technologies in partnership with True Ability, the company’s employee resource group for team members impacted by disabilities and/or special needs, launched the Autism Hiring Program in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. After proving successful, the program expanded to our Round Rock, Texas headquarters last year. In partnership with HMEA, the Arc of the Capital Area and Neurodiversity in the Workplace along with collaboration and guidance from companies including SAP, Microsoft and EY, this initiative rethinks the traditional interview process by providing training and pathways to full-time career opportunities for individuals on the spectrum.

Recognizing that many people with autism struggle with social interaction during a traditional job interview, Dell Technologies’ Autism Hiring Program takes an alternate approach. Applicants are invited to showcase their skills in action by working on a team project over a two-week period. Qualified candidates from the cohort are then offered a 12-week internship with potential for full-time employment. Throughout the internship, participants benefit from job coaching and mentorship provided by our community partners and True Ability members.

These resources do not end when the extended interview process is over. True Ability “buddies” and staff from HMEA and The Arc of the Capital Area who specialize in working with those on the spectrum are available to support throughout a cohort member’s time at Dell. For example, additional support is being provided in this trying time as each of us works through the “new normal” of working from home and self-isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic. This uncertainty can be particularly trying for those on the spectrum and our community partners are helping our team members navigate.

I am grateful for the incredible program team that I get to work with who bring tremendous passion and resiliency to make this program possible. Most of the team are True Ability members who help on a volunteer basis! I am also thankful for the amazing, inclusive and caring managers we have supporting the program; I love to hear the stories they share about their team members from the cohort. One individual completed all assigned deliverables in two weeks – even though they had 12 weeks to do them. Another learned Power BI, a powerful data analytics tool, in one week to improve decision-making capabilities in the supply chain. This tool can take months to learn.  We have also seen some highly valued work completed in areas spanning: engineering, cybersecurity, supply chain, auditing, automation, and data analytics…all with just our first 15 hires.

Dell Technologies realizes that tapping into diverse perspectives and minds is key to pushing the bounds of innovation and questioning what’s possible. The Autism Hiring Program not only opens doors to gainful employment for those with autism, but also propels our company and society forward to think more inclusively.

Today, in honor of Autism Awareness Day, meet some of our current team members who joined Dell Technologies through this program and hear about their first year at the company:

About the Author: Patrick Poljan

Patrick Poljan is the SVP of Global Audit and Transformation. In addition to providing independent audit assurance, his team is responsible for testing internal controls over financial reporting (SOX), enterprise risk management (ERM), finance functional learning and development, and driving a company wide effort to deliver structurally cost advantaged and efficient P&L's leveraging digital transformation. Patrick is also the Exec Sponsor for Dell’s True Ability Employee Resource Group focused on supporting team members impacted by special needs/disabilities. Major pillars include employee engagement, hiring programs, and assistive technology. As part of this role Patrick actively sponsors Dell’s Neuro-Diversity Program. In prior roles, Patrick has served as the VP of Supply Chain Integration responsible for supply chain integration planning for the Dell/EMC combination. Before leading the integration work, Patrick was VP for Global Supply Chain Operations responsible for supply chain planning, inventory management, manufacturing, engineering and quality. Patrick also served as Dell’s Productivity Leader; and VP Finance for Client Solutions Group and Global Operations Finance. Before joining Dell in July 2009, Patrick was the Chief Procurement Officer for SABIC Innovative Plastics in Pittsfield, MA. Prior to the acquisition by SABIC, Patrick spent 16 years with GE in a variety of financial and GM leadership roles. During his career with the company, he served as the CFO of GE’s Plastics Resins Business; CFO of GE’s Energy’s Optimization & Control Business, and spent several years traveling on GE’s Corporate Audit Staff.
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