A presentation from Arthur Shectman of Ultra Testing.
The following transcript has been lightly edited and condensed for ease of reading.
Speaker: Arthur Shectman, Ultra Testing
(Transcription by RA Fisher Ink)
Shectman: Hello, I’m Art Shectman, I’m co-founder of a company called Ultra Testing. We have a very simple mission at Ultra, we’re working to prove that neurodiversity, including autism, can be a competitive advantage in business. Neurodiversity, for those of you that aren’t aware of the term, it’s a term used to describe the differences in neural processing models that all human beings have. Instead of looking at it as a disability, it just frames the differences in human neural processing as statistical deviation and it’s a difference between all of us that we embrace.
In the US, there’s a population of four million people diagnosed on the autism spectrum, every year 50,000 students graduate high school and enter the workforce who have a diagnosis of somewhere on the autism spectrum. It is a spectrum, at one end it can be very severe, at another end if you’re a genius, you’re in Silicon Valley and you’re the CEO of unnamed tech startups.
But in this population, there’s an 85% under and unemployment rate. Why is that? Why do we think that is? Because if you’re on the spectrum you may actually have challenges with unscripted social interactions, interpretation of non-verbal communication. And in an interview, what do you have to do? You have to interpret non-verbal communication, you have to have unscripted social interactions, and you have to tell the recruiter why you’re great. What we found is that when you look at different attributes in the modern recruiting process, years of work experience, reference checks, unstructured interviews which are typically what you find in a modern recruiting process, they actually have extremely low correlation to job effectiveness. We took a look at our particular challenge in employing folks on the spectrum and we threw away all the nonsense and we said let’s start over. Let’s actually use data and math and process that we can author from scratch and be intentionally inclusive. What we found is if you have a structured interview, if you have quantitative testing for cognitive abilities, and you actually do simulated work with the people that you’re going to wind up working with, it’s an amazing predictor of job performance. It looks nothing like a traditional interview. What we’ve done at Ultra is we reframed neurodiversity which has been categorized historically as a disorder or a disability and we reframe it as a different set of abilities. What types of abilities? We’re talking about sustained focus, unbelievable sensitivity to pattern differences, off the charts logical reasoning and perseverance. And when we have the opportunity to benchmark ourselves against neurotypical only testing firms, we find that we’re 56% better than people such as IBM and really any software quality testing or data quality testing firm that employs just neurotypical people, they can’t compete. Neurodiversity is a true asset for us when we go to market with our service offering.
We’ve tested for folks like the Webby Awards, who are sort of like the Oscars of web property building. We’ve had a lot of fun with the folks over at Slack, we test ADA requirements in disability and inclusiveness for them. We’ve tested for folks, I don’t know if our insurance friends are in the room, but AIG, they’re an online underwriting kind of subsidiary blackboard. We’ve helped them debug the underwriting process and the algorithms that underpin their insurance underwriting and decisioning. We’ve tested for Google, we’ve done a whole bunch of media testing. We’ve actually helped debug a lot of the states that you live in, the health care systems and the analytics that determine what is the basis of outcome-based care and which providers are better than others.
What we’re working to do is to shift employer’s perspectives and shift the media’s perspectives, shift your coworker’s perspective to think that, “Oh, I need to be inclusive and it’s going to tax me and it’s a challenge,” to something that’s more of an asset and a competitive advantage and by collaborating with your neuro-diverse coworkers, you can actually achieve a competitive advantage in business.
We’ve developed a whole set of process and tools to be inclusive, deliberately inclusive culture and deliberately inclusive tech, communication processes, performance monitoring, and all kinds of different things that you take for granted in a modern business. I’m going to share a few of those but what we’re hoping to do ultimately is take our learnings about neurodiversity and employment and actually opensource what we’ve learned and challenge the rest of the world to create millions of jobs.
One of our testers at one point said, “I’m having a really hard time working with one of my co-workers, I really wish they had a user manual.” So we invented something called the BioDex and wouldn’t this be great for all of us—“Oh, that guy in accounting, I really don’t get him. I just can’t see eye to eye with that guy.” Wouldn’t it be great if you actually had—there was rule book that told you how to interact with him? So that’s what the BioDex does for all of our testers and all of our managers, neuro-diverse, neuro-typical, or neuro-divergent, it doesn’t matter, everyone has a user manual.
I’m about to run out of time but I will say while 75% of our staff is on the autism spectrum, 100% of our staff believe that our differences make us better. And we have created this culture where we monitor for well-being, we monitor for communication, and we take the innate talents and attributes of everybody on our staff and align them to their core business functions. Thank you.