Xceptional is a technology platform that recognises, celebrates and harnesses the unique strengths of people with autism, and then channels those skills into business technology positions.
Founded by Mike Tozer after witnessing his sister struggle to find employment due to her perceived differences. Xceptional aims to place 1,000 people with autism in meaningful roles over the next three years.
According to Xceptional, people on the autism spectrum are the biggest untapped resource pool in Australia. Provided with the right work environments, people with autism can be absolutely central to the success of up and coming tech start-ups.
Aron Mercer, Chief Growth Officer said, “The challenges associated with people with autism absolutely need to be demystified. Attention to detail, focus and loyalty are all things that employers typically look for in their workforce.”
Based at Fishburners, Australia’s biggest start-up community, Xceptional offers a unique solution for the skilled talent shortage faced by so many tech startups.
Mercer said, “Put simply, our participants are brilliant. One of the candidates in our recent assessment program won a competition at age 13 for NASA. He came up with an idea so complex and feasible that NASA contacted him and requested further information. We also recently received feedback from an employment partner that said ‘the recruit has shown 99% percentile on our cognitive testing and scored better than many senior developers in our coding test, even though he was using python for only the second time.”
“Unfortunately, it is typically during the recruitment process, when candidates are asked to articulate, not demonstrate their skills, people with autism fail to progress.”
Instead of leaning heavily on the descriptive and inherently ‘self-promoting’ format of resumes, Xceptional use specialised aptitude tests and develop ‘job profiles’ for all their applicants. These tests assess natural talents, technical skills and also recommended work environments and adjustments.
Aron said, “The bias that we face is that hiring managers believe that employing anyone with a disability, but particular with autism, will require more adaptation and requirements than it really does. Often it is as simple as a quiet space or headphones.”
While there is currently an enormous under-employment rate for people with autism (80% unemployment or underemployment rate), companies like JP Morgan Chase are starting to prove that this bias is a huge missed opportunity, not only to be diverse and inclusive, but also to strengthen workforces with unique skills. In July 2015 JP Morgan Chase started an ‘Autism at Work’ program with 4 people and 3 years later had grown to 85 people in 20+ roles across six countries.
Xceptional now works with over half a dozen companies in Australia. Along with testing processes with Companies in Hong Kong & the US. Xceptional in Sydney is currently running an assessment workshop , which consists of 20 tests for 13 participants and includes interactions with the hiring managers of Microsoft and the NSW State Government.