Does Asperger's make you a better software coder?

Summary:Aspiritech, a Chicago-area start-up, is embracing Asperger's Syndrome to take advantage of the perceived technical advantages many say the condition provides.

Aspiritech, a Chicago-area start-up, is embracing Asperger's Syndrome to take advantage of the perceived technical advantages many say the condition provides.

Aspiritech, a non-profit software testing firm hires people with Asperger's syndrome exclusively, then trains and employs them as software testers. Though a non-profit, Aspiritech performs for-profit work for Websites, software developers and application designers. The company performs compatibility testing, functional testing, regression testing and test-case & test-script development.

Aspritech founder Brenda Weitzberg, told ERE's Todd Raphael that employees with Asperger's syndrome are the perfect software testers.

The proof of concept came from Danish company and recent research from Harvard Business School and others showed that the strengths of people with Aspergers and high-functioning autism actually make them superior at software testing. They're ability to focus, good memory, their high intelligence, their strong technical skills, their ability to detect details and also to stay focused over lengthy periods, really makes them ideal for software testing work. People w/ Aspergers can become ideal software testers.

That's not news. Researchers have speculated that some of the qualities and behaviors associated with Asperger's syndrome can be benefits to have as a software developer. High intelligence, a strong memory, attention to detail and extreme focus are good traits to possess in the trade. And characteristics of a life studying and working in technology are appealing to those with Asperger's. From a 2008 ComputerWorld article:

Why do Asperger's individuals gravitate to technology? "Adults with Asperger's have a social naiveté that prevents them from understanding how people relate. What draws them in is not parties and social interaction, but work that allows them to feel safe, to feel in control," explains Steve Becker, a developmental disabilities therapist at Becker & Associates, a private practice in the Seattle suburb of Des Moines, Wash., that conducts ongoing small group sessions for adults with AS, among other services.

"What's better for that than a video game or a software program?" Becker asks. "When you're designing a software program, there are rules and protocols to be followed. In life, there is no manual."

Rumors often fly about the high occurrence of Asperger's among the children of Silicon Valley and even some of it's greatest stars are rumored to be afflicted.

But other behaviors like an inability to multi-task or read non-verbal cues were seen as unfit for the workplace and unwelcome on a job interview, Weitzberg told ERE.

It's illegal to ask an applicant about a medical condition including mental health conditions, hiring managers are attuned to behavior during the interview. While many may be turned off by what they see while interviewing someone with Apserger's, if the job is in software, the interviewer should think again, said Barbara Bissonnette in the same ERE Podcast.

From a recruiter's perspective, people w/ Asperger's really are the specialists and technicians in the workplace. There are lots of jobs where you need skills methodical detail, oriented in their work. We're predicting a real shortage in the next decade of skilled workers. Here we have a talent pool that is underutilized of people who can be filling in some of the gaps in the right kind of jobs with the right kind of support.

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Topics: IT Employment, CXO, Software

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