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All wearing blue, hundreds of SAP employees at the SAP BSCE in Prague took part in the “Light it Up Blue” initiative as part of World Autism Awareness Month each April. Blue represents the color of communication and self-expression, which are the main soft skills people with autism struggle with.

On Thursday, 28 April, the SAP BSCE in Prague, Czech Republic hosted a forum where some of our colleagues with autism, their managers and buddies shared their SAP “Autism at Work” stories and the learnings they gained over the past few month while participating in the program.

Our colleagues on the Autism spectrum shared some profoundly inspirational stories about the difficulties they had in their pasts living with the condition, how employment at SAP changed their lives, and what they love about working at SAP. Thanks to this hiring initiative, SAP is a pioneer; being a frontrunner among all major corporations. And with 80% of adults on the Autism spectrum unemployed, SAP is literally changing people’s lives.

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Part of the Diversity and Inclusion program, “Autism at Work” is geared at enabling people on the autism spectrum to find qualified jobs after a specially designed interview format, which best allows them to reveal their capabilities. Launched exactly one year ago in the Czech Republic, the program has been successfully running for nearly three years in SAP offices in Germany, Brazil, India, Ireland, Canada and the United States, and aspires to reach the same percentage of people with autism among its employees as there are in the general population, which is 1 percent.

Lenka Kaderová, Autism at Work Program Lead for SAP BSCE, led and facilitated the event on site in conjunction with the NAUTIS (formerly APLA). NAUTIS (National Institute of Autism) a civic association that provides complex support for people with autism, their families, as well as institutions and professionals as a part of the social care system in the Czech Republic.

“It’s great to be part of the 7 countries participating in the SAP Autism at Work program. If you know how many SAP locations there are around the world, we are really cool”, Lenka said.

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People with autism tend to excel in a multitude of different skillsets that companies find useful. Today, there are 6 employees on the Autism spectrum at the SAP BSCE in Prague (3 in HR and 3 in Finance) and over 100 employees globally in roles ranging from software developers to software testers, business analysts to IT tech consultants, procure-to-pay specialists to graphic designers, and even marketing specialists.

“A pilot program showed that excellent memory skill, exceptional logical thinking and attention to detail opens almost any position to these people,” said Andrea Hepnerová, Managing director, SAP BSCE.

A few highlights from Thursday’s program included speeches by:

  • Andrea Hepnerová, Managing Director of SAP BSCE & Global Head of Data Management HR, who shared her insights of the program and what we see as the biggest benefit since the launch last year.
  • Jana Sirotková, Head of Grants, Education, PR & Advocacy at NAUTIS, who shared the story of NAUTIS and their involvement in the “Autism at Work” initiative at the SAP BSCE in Prague.
  • Štěpán Hejzlar, Head of Social Rehabilitation and Supported Employment at NAUTIS, who talked about problems with flexibility in thought and behavior of people with Asperger syndrome (AS), and shared some tips and ideas how to address and approach these issues in the working place.
  • Roman Pešek, Head of Therapeutic and Social Rehabilitation Centre at NAUTIS, who talked about the main characteristic features of adults with Asperger syndrome, what their special needs are, and what we can learn from them.

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The program concluded with an interactive Q&A session, as well as a reception with appetizers and refreshments where we got to mingle with the panelists and our colleagues.

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SAP’s Autism at Work program is set to go live in Australia and South Korea this year.

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