Interview with Ferose V.R., SVP, Head of Globalization Services
In honor of April being Autism Awareness Month, we deemed it appropriate to share Ferose’s recent achievement from the 2017 Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) for All Gala where he was recognized for his efforts in supporting individuals with autism at work.
The AUCD for All Gala in Washington, D.C., is an event that celebrates and elevates leadership in expanding employment opportunities for Americans with disabilities. Ferose was recognized as a leader who demonstrates a commitment to improving policies and practices that link employers to workers with disabilities, creates the support necessary for retaining them, and establishes career paths as they gain skills and experience. We reached out to Ferose to hear more about the award. Here are some excerpts from the conversation:
Congratulations on your latest recognition, Ferose! Take us through your journey of driving employment for people with Autism:
The origins of Autism at Work program go back to while I was the Managing Director of SAP Labs India. A group of volunteers came together to build an app to help children on the autism spectrum to communicate better. We then started the first i-PAD center called Prayas along with Autism Society of India, where we started training people on the spectrum. Then we hired the first group of five employees in the Testing team in SAP Labs India. Following a series of events, many people came together to finally launch the SAP’s Autism at Work program in May 2013 where we made a bold commitment to hire 1% of our workforce in the Autism Spectrum. Our corporate goal, by 2020, is to employ 650 people on the autism spectrum. Currently, nearly 120 employees fill more than 20 different positions and the program is active in nine countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Ireland, South Korea, and the United States.
This initiative came to me after my son was diagnosed with autism. I remember going through a phase of denial, depression, and then acceptance. I had a compelling need to change the system for people with disabilities. Providing employment to the autistic people to make them independent was the only way autistic people would have a sense of dignity and their parents would have a sense of security. As they say, “Accept what you cannot change and change what you cannot accept.”
Tell us more about the AUCD for All Gala:
I was honored to receive the award by Senator Tom Harkin, who represented Iowa in the U.S. Congress for more than 40 years and whose legislative policy priorities have included civil rights for Americans with disabilities, childhood nutrition and food access, healthcare access and reform, labor issues, and access to and improvement of education. AUCD was an organization started by President John F. Kennedy (whose sister, Rosemary, was disabled) and has contributed significantly to the disability community. Tom’s brother was deaf and has been a champion for the cause for many years. Besides me, there was one other honoree: 21 And Able. The gala was an evening of inspiration and fun.
For more information on Autism at Work related resources, head on over to SAP Autism at Work.