back to article SAP in search of autistic software engineers who 'think different'

SAP wants to hire engineers diagnosed with autism - or people who "think differently" in the words of the enterprise software giant. In a big push to fill out its ranks of developers, testers and bods involved in data quality assurance, SAP has turned to Specialisterne, a group dedicated to finding work for those with autism …


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  1. Aqua Marina

    Fixed it for you

    SAP wants to hire exploit engineers diagnosed with autism.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Fixed it for you

        > All corporations exploit all their workers.

        Marxist Bullshit. You can *always* walk. That's the extent of the exploitation. Then cries arise "but muh pension scheme / unemployment benefits blah blah". These are chains that link you to GOVERNMENT. Enjoy them.

        Meanwhile... Let the SAP HUMAN INSTRUMENTATION PROJECT commence!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fixed it for you

      You may not be that far off. Around the swamp where I dwell there are quite a few outfits which deliberately hire people with "personality problems" and history of "special needs statements. Funnily enough they specifically aim for the ones which can be duped with "we do not work for money, we work here because it is cool".

      12 years ago I told the hiring manager and co-founder in one such outfit to go f*** himself after he told me exactly this combined with offering me 20% salary reduction and an occasional use of "logo stickered" company BMW Z3 to go downtown to try to pick up foreign students for carnal purposes. 6 months later the management crew gobbled a nice chunk of private funding money and jumped ship. The poor "statemented" kids which did the coding got diddly squat. The new owners after figuring out how much of what they got was smoke and how much mirrors put 90% of them on the street shortly thereafter.

      The same crew repeated that feat 3 times after that over the last 12 years. Successful every time. Hire specifically people with autism, asperger or statements. They produce something stellar (and utterly unmaintainable by normal people). Dupe someone to buy the company, gobble a couple of millions in the process. Jump ship. The new owner fires the special needs squad a few months later. The ex-owners come as saviours and pick them from the streets for a new "code for pittance because it is a cool place to work" job.

      Rinse, repeat. In fact, I have seen several crews specialize in this pump n dump scheme around these parts. It is quite popular.

      I really hope that SAP is not doing that. If they are not, I wish them all the best in this endeavor. It takes some crazyness to be a Tesla or Einstein.

      1. Aqua Marina

        Re: Fixed it for you

        I find it funny that 9 thumbs down -1 thumbs up ( = 8 thumbs down ) occurred after my comment, but 8 thumbs up occurred after the AC basically agreed with what I said.

        So where does this leave us? That El-Reg voters cancel each other out, or even themselves out?

        I wonder if the same 8 who voted for me, also voted up the AC? Does the Bronze, Silver and Gold badging scheme take into account the hypocrisies of it's voters?

  2. James 51

    Title is too long

    "People with Asperger syndrome, a form of austism, are often of average or above average intelligence, the society noted."

    I'd like to see the numbers on that and then take a look at their reasoning. I have no doubt that there are intelligent people with autism but I have never heard of a causal link between the two (which is what they seem to be suggesting). Otherwise they are just saying most people are average.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Title is too long

      Autism is really just a case of extreme male brain. It doesn't necessarily mean you'll be intelligent, but if you ARE intelligent, you'll be better at logical/mathematical things than someone of equivalent intelligence who doesn't have autism, which in many ways can make you seem more intelligent, or at least better suited to certain fields. Such people would indeed be well-suited to computer programming if you take the gamble on the fact that they may struggle with social interaction.

    2. squigbobble

      Re: Title is too long

      There's clever autistic people and thick ones too but the IQ spread over the entire autistic spectrum is probably not far from the norm. I suspect that the highest-functioning (with relatively little impairment and enough raw brainpower to learn how to socialise and maintain some facade of normality) autistics get bunged in the Asperger's Syndrome bracket and the less brainy ones (with around the same level of impairment but less means with which to overcome or work around it) get bunged in the Autism bracket. The new DMV criteria more or less scrubs the distinctions and replaces it with a spectrum which probably reflects the condition more accurately.

      1. oolor

        Re: Title is too long

        You mean DSM, n'est pas?

        As point out, the range can vary and not just in one trait. I have been mistaken at times for an Aspie or so-called high functioning, but score in the middle range for empathy. Perhaps my not buying into other's BS (or my own - whenever discussing stupidities and lesser qualities of man I include myself in the middle or lower half) may explain this. I think perhaps the "condition" is really a manifestation of several overlapping personality traits which may be at the extremes of the range coupled with issues of different brain regions working in sync. I have never really bought into the "disorder" classifications of neurobiology in general. Then again, I left higher education before I had to make stuff up to get funding.

        < Carlsberg, this fine evening

        1. squigbobble

          Re: Title is too long

          D'oh, yeah. Not the Department for Motor Vehicles...

  3. ThePlanMan

    Enjoying Being exploited

    As a person with Asperger's working as a software engineer is perfect for me. I'm near the top of my field and my analytical skills coupled with an attention to detail enable me to perform my job well.

    My day-to-day tasks involve problem solving at varying scales allowing me the freedom to investigate solutions thoroughly before arriving at an adequate conclusion.

    Problems often arise when dealing with teammates, but thankfully in my sector the overwhelming majority are intelligent enough to understand how the condition can affect my speech and mannerisms and will account for them when interacting with me.

    My obsession, if you can call it that, is on efficiency. I hate wasting things unnecessarily, be it time when travelling, food, or in the case of work: speed of execution, memory utilisation, ease of use and code elegance. Having a strong desire to maximise these is a real boon and is very much a valuable skill.

    However, the 'distance' between myself and the average neurotypical person means that relationships are fraught with difficulties. Thankfully my girlfriend of a year is very understanding and enjoys some of how I perceive the world.

    Given a choice though, I'd still rather be normal. The frustration of not being able to understand people and their behaviour is not worth it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Enjoying Being exploited

      I'm glad someone who's experienced it said it.

      It's a tough subject to discuss without causing shocking offence to those who want to step in 'on behalf of' those with some degree of clinically recognised autism. Then again as most programmers know, the typical member of the public looking in on a bunch of software developers would consider placing the lot of them somewhere on that scale anyway. When you see some of the quirks of co-workers in an ordinary software shop, you soon learn to treat the term 'normal' as something fairly flexible.

      So I hope this recruitment and employment is done in a way that makes the people feel welcome and valued, and in a way that's meaningful to them. And long may this agency keep up the good work.

      And anyway, to the first poster, I ask, doesn't 'hire' and 'exploit' amount to pretty much the same thing? I mean, if everyone was paid exactly what they were worth to the business, how would it ever turn a profit?

      1. Tchou

        Re: Enjoying Being exploited

        "I mean, if everyone was paid exactly what they were worth to the business, how would it ever turn a profit?"

        It would because the (Top) Management would be paid (much) less than the production line.

        And when you see where the profit is going after investment, one wonder if it's really a good thing *making profit*.... or to rephrase it *who* makes profits

    2. g e

      Don't expend the effort worrying about it, it's a red herring.

      Most normal people don't understand other people either.

      That's my Aspie experience and defo not worth worrying about. It's more a case of 'normals' don't bother to (over)think about why other people seem so hard to understand. If you learn to not give a stuff about it and just accept that, actually, everyone else is as confused on that front as you then you realise that actually you're 'normal' in that sense but just reading more into it than others. Free up the brain cycles for more productive endeavours :o)

      That what I teach my kids, too (two HFA one Aspie). Just cos you don't 'get it' doesn't mean everyone else somehow does (they don't, watch peoples' interactions with each other, if they're not good friends or close colleagues they'll look like they're trying to 'process input' half the time). They don't get it either, the difference is you're the one bothering to wonder about it cos you have spare brain capacity to help you do your own head in all by yourself.

      I also find a healthy dose of sociopathy works wonders ;o)

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Don't expend the effort worrying about it, it's a red herring.

        @g e

        Interesting shift of perspective. It sounds like the problem could be along these lines:

        - Before I work with a system, I need a thorough understanding of it.

        - I don't have a thorough understanding of other people's mental states and motivations.

        - There are no reliable ways to acquire such understanding, so I'll leave the subject alone.

        Personally, I can't disagree with any of this.

        1. g e

          Re: Don't expend the effort worrying about it, it's a red herring.

          Same here, pretty much, I can't embark on a project until I have sufficient understanding of the high-level view. in fact I think that's how most projects end up buggered up, because people are busy making black boxes with insufficient understanding of the actual system its going into and lack of a good enough spec to make it without that knowledge.

          Life is not so dissimilar... I'll not make a promise I'm not 100% certain I can fulfill; I can't be arsed with lying because it's harder work remembering all the lies and maintaining the story; and most importantly, never ask me a question you might not like an honest answer to. Ever. Cos I won't bullshit you to help you deal with your own damned shortcomings, I have enough bother managing my own, thank you! ;o)

      2. Johan Bastiaansen
        Thumb Up

        Re: Don't expend the effort worrying about it, it's a red herring.

        "Most normal people don't understand other people either."

        I second that emotion.

      3. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        Re: Don't expend the effort worrying about it, it's a red herring.

        "Most normal people don't understand other people either."

        Yes, quite a lot of them are just faking it. And usually get away with this.

        What's funny about that - quite frequently, an Aspie is able to do a much better job in understanding, because his (no offence, it's prevalently "he" we're talking about) raw intellectual power can do wonders. It allows to cobble together a crude mental model of the other person, simulate some inputs/outputs on that model, and select the most appropriate response to the situation. Much better than just guessing and faking.

    3. oolor

      Re: Enjoying Being exploited

      @ ThePlanMan:

      Thanks for your perspective. When I read it, I was thinking "that's me" till the last paragraph. I understand people and their behaviour, perhaps more than I want to, and yet I often still wonder WTF?

    4. Jim Carter

      Re: Enjoying Being exploited

      Regarding the obsession with efficiency- apparently, this makes me lazy.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sometimes it's not a choice

    Yes my friend's 12 year old son has confirmed autism and he's very lucid on subjects he is deeply interested in but everything has to be on his terms. He can run rings around some adults on some subjects but that's when he "chooses" to be so. My daughter love playing with him as he's so full of life but sometimes he just retreats without warning and you have to tell your kids to leave him alone as he can't play for the moment. You feel for him, you really do, you know he has a stunning intellect but "harnessing" it may never be possible, at least not be very long periods of time.

  5. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Be careful for what you wish for

    you may find someone who can go into a company and set up SAP as a solution for the client and not a lifetime revenue stream for SAP.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Be careful for what you wish for

      You will find that such a situation is still a lifetime revenue stream for SAP, it's just that the customer will feel slightly less violated.

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Be careful what you wish for .... for Virtual Masters can Deliver Anything and Everything, Remotely

      Be careful for what you wish for .... you may find someone who can go into a company and set up SAP as a solution for the client and not a lifetime revenue stream for SAP. ....Tom 7 Posted Thursday 23rd May 2013 11:49 GMT

      That would be a Cloud Reign Maker, Tom 7 ....... and a Person of Interest to the likes of those with more than just a passing interest in those and/or that able to turn on and off ..... well, Ruling Titanic Rains would be an Optimised Prime Service in such a SAP and Sublimely Applied Program

      And Googling, "Titan Rain", has one entering into a whole new world of gain .... where nothing is as it seems, but ...... whenever one is a warrior, willing, able and ready and not a worrier ..... is anything possible.

      And whenever anything is possible, is nothing impossible and therefore everything is likely and most probable. And that makes Virtual Mastery, both a valuable commodity and fabless skill set and an invaluable asset in any organisation's/business portfolio/nation's agenda.

      All of which begs the question ....... Are SAP AG up for Universal Mastery with Global Operating Devices which Present Future Events for AIRealities which are conceived to be perceived and accepted as Real and Physical, in an Edutaining Program which Follows Leading CyberIntelAIgents? [SAP is funding a project to assess and educate Autistic Children. It has also launched an initiative to hire employees with autism and Asperger syndrome, citing their intelligence in the IT field and attention to detail; they aim to compose 1% of its 65,000 workforce with autistic people by the year 2020. ........]

      And that further expands to be SAP AG being approached here, via El Reg, on behalf of Gifted Adults, who may, or may not, formerly have been Asperger and Autistic Children, to Create a New Orderly World Order out of CHAOS ...... Clouds Hosting Advanced Operating Systems.

      You might like to use your IT Nous/Fabless Industry contacts, El Reg, to put that to leading SAP AG MANagement, for it is AIGenuine Live Offer which Costs Nothing to Purchase, for IT is CyberIntelAIgently Designed to Generate Fortunes for Generations ....... and that be a Novel and Noble Offer that only the Earnest Fool would Refuse, methinks.

  6. Tchou


    Shouldn't they look for "software engineers who 'think different', autistic or not"?

    That is, if the idea didn't came through the marketing department.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Patch

      I wonder how they feel about hiring people who don't know the difference between and adjective and an adverb...

      1. Tchou

        Re: Patch

        They don't care, I assure you. =D

        Thanks anyway.

      2. IR

        Re: Patch

        They've already hired some who do grammar different. Make it harder on the rest who knowledge right grammar.

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Patch

      @Patch Shouldn't they look for "software engineers who 'think different', autistic or not"?

      Please, please, please, no! I spend my life correcting code written by neophytes who decided to invent their own wheel: "I'm thinking outside the box. Mine's going to be square".

      Name another branch of engineering where inexperienced novices are encouraged to implement their own solutions to problems that have already been solved. Would you go up in a plane engineered on that basis?

      1. Tchou

        Re: Patch

        Following your logic, then it is all okay IF the plane is made by an autistic neophyte?

        And if it was not what you meant (of it is not...) then how your intervention relate to what I wrote and the subject of the article?

    3. MissingSecurity

      Re: Patch

      "Shouldn't they look for "software engineers who 'think different', autistic or not"?"

      If they did that than it wouldn't be news the PR depart could point to for how "diverse" their company is.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Grammar

        Actually, SAP are not the ones deficient in their use of language.

        The grammatical error in the title has been introduced by the author of this article. It is Gavin that does not understand adjectives and adverbs. He is in the very good company of pretty much the entire US population.

        I know that Webster guy made a really good effort to simplify the English language (he made an awful mess and comprehensively failed, by the way) - however he did not advocate dropping the use of adverbs.

        This might be symptomatic of a (maybe not-so-) recent decision to change the curriculum taught in schools stateside? Another dumbing-down that will impede human communication and future endeavour.

        Gavin, maybe you can be exonerated to some small degree if you were never taught about such complicated things. Please though, do go and look up what an adverb is and try to use them properly in future - after all, communication through the written word is the fundamental core of your career.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I read David Brin's novel Existence earlier this year. It has an fascinating, indeed wonderful, perspective on people with autism, in the digital/internet age.

    Mr Brin might not be the best of writers but he packs more ideas into one of his novels than most authors manage in ten. Well worth a read.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The proof is in SAP GUI

    Anyone working with SAP GUI over the years knows that the interface has been designed by people who find it hard to relate / interact with others.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: The proof is in SAP GUI

      I would say "SAP FOSS - ftfy", but I think it's my day off from being a neg-magnet...

  9. WibbleMe
    Thumb Up

    I understand

    Being just a little Autistic myself I completely understand, I "just get" a lot of tec stuff that most people run away from. Though I am web developer so I wont be applying.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I feel sorry for these sorts of people, but I'm not going to lie, I have been at the point of punching some of them before. One at my old place used to literally squeal when he didn't get his own way. Like, actually start breathing heavily and making squeaking noises. He would pretty much get into an argument EVERY day about some trifling issue, and once ran off crying because I pointed out a syntax error in some of his javascript.

    I feel for these blokes, but there is a limit.

    1. WibbleMe

      that's nothing to do with being Autistic, if anything that's due to a snobby background and poor office leadership

    2. Dr Paul Taylor

      Evidently you understand the condition, so you should be capable of making allowances for it, particularly given the link between Asberger's and technical competence. We're not talking about someone with a mental illness that might suddenly make them violent. Nor is it dementia.

  11. Jon Green

    "Think different?"

    'It's not "Think different," it's, "Think differently." Different is a comparative adjective. Differently is an adverb. You don't use a comparative adjective when you need an adverb. You're changing or qualifying a verb, so you use an adverb. It's wrong to use a comparative adjective to qualify or change a verb. Are you an idiot? You must be an idiot to use an adjective when you should be using an advert. [...]'

    I'm not sure SAP is quite ready for what's to come...

    1. Jon Green

      Re: "Think different?" - oops!

      ...or, indeed, an adverb. [...] Oh dear...I'm for it now!

    2. C 18

      Re: "Think different?"

      Maybe the point is to think of the concept of 'different', as in 'Think Green'; one would not suggest to someone that they should 'Think Greenly'...

      1. Jon Green

        Re: "Think different?"

        I think Greenly! (The clue's in the name...;))

    3. C 18

      Re: "Think different?"

      And, as it is a reference to the original usage in the Apple advertisement, here's what his Jobness had to say on the matter...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Autism is a spectrum disorder - most people are somewhere on the spectrum!

    There's a bit of a tendency to lump high achieving autistic people into Aspergers. But it's not the same thing. a crude summary of the difference is that Aspergers are aware that they are different, and autistic people are not.

    By the way, my freshly graduated autistic son is just starting to look for his first job in Computer Games design, so this article has made me more hopeful of his chances of getting some work :)

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    I think some prefer the term "neurodiverse"

    And some companies who do this had better watch their backs.

    Some of that "thinking differently" applies to how badly they react to being treated as idiots come financial reward time.

  14. nuked

    Mabye Eadon should apply...

  15. Fehu

    In IT being normal is a disadvantage.

    As someone old enough to have missed the great ADHD epidemic( or the over diagnosis of same), I was lucky to have been branded as "intelligent and quirky". If I were growing up today, I'd be given a "borderline personality" diagnoses at the very least. While I may have been considered an odd egg on most of the teams I've worked with, I've always had a good sense of humor and could make people laugh. Knowing I was not "normal" has never been a burden. Although the attention to detail can be annoying to some people, it has really helped when it comes to debugging code.

    The only odd thing that has struck me about myself is that with people I have absolutely no patience. If you ask me a question and you don't understand the answer, I will simply walk away. That really bothers some people(phb). On the other hand I can spend hours, days and even weeks working on getting some process to behave on a server and think nothing of it. I've often felt that IT was invented just for me and people like me. To over generalize, if you understand computers and programming, you probably don't understand people to a certain degree.

    1. Fehu

      Re: In IT being normal is a disadvantage.

      Oh, almost forgot: Don't ever confide to a "normal" about how you feel and think. They'll try to use it against you. But no worries, they're all doomed to genetic extinction eventually. Look at how much the average IQ has increased in the last 40 years. Before long "normal" will be the new mentally challenged.


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