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It’s been a rich and busy few months since we announced in May that SAP would partner with Specialisterne to employ people with autism. Since then, we have been working hard to respond to the inspirational outpouring of interest in our Autism at Work initiative, as well as establish our internal processes and move forward with the additional pilots that we are planning for this year.

SAP Labs India
SAP’s Michelle Isaac (top) mentors an autistic colleague at SAP Labs India.

And yet, despite this frenzied pace of activity, it has also been a reflective time. My team and I have been deeply moved by the many comments and the positive and motivational feedback we have received — not just by those outside SAP, but also from inside our SAP community . We have continually heard from our employees that our partnership with Specialisterne makes them proud to work for SAP, and they wholeheartedly support our efforts to create an inclusive culture. I would like to thank you all for this openness and trust.

All of this has got me thinking more and more about the concept of purposeful leadership and how grateful I am to be engaged in work that allows me to put this into practice. Purposeful leadership is about leading for a higher purpose, one that benefits others as well as yourself. It centers on giving more than taking. To me, this kind of leadership connects with a deep sense of meaning — and I believe it helps distinguish great companies from good ones. Our work with Specialisterne is giving me new insights about what creates purposeful leadership and how it can inspire those who experience it.

As we move forward, we are also experiencing the practical side of creating change. Specialisterne and our SAP teams are working as quickly as possible to welcome people with autism into SAP. We’re fortunate to have a partner that is playing such a key role. Specialisterne has been accepting applications for positions and is overseeing hiring. Over the next month or so, it will begin selecting participants for assessment and training to identify, develop and match their skill sets with the needs of SAP. Our goal is to launch five pilots in Germany, Canada and the U.S. in 2013. For more specific information on the hiring process, please consult Specialisterne’s Web site.

It is amazingly rewarding to me both on a professional and personal level to see an idea with so much potential get off the ground. This initiative is not just important to people with autism; it is also important to SAP. We have already gained valuable insights into what it means to create an inclusive culture, which we see as core to our ability to innovate.

We are honored that others see this link as well. Not only do our customers contact us to learn from our experience, SAP also won Honorable Mention in Diversity Journal’s 2013 Innovations in Diversity Awards for our Autism at Work pilot in India. While our efforts are still in the early stages, I expect that new insights will continue to flourish as we move even closer to realizing our vision.

We will continue to provide you with updates and insights, and I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you again for your support and for being part of our journey.

–Anka Wittenberg  (on behalf of the Diversity & Inclusion Team)

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