My dream at SAP is to see that our employees treat any form of disability as something that is, say, no different from a person wearing spectacles, and that we don’t say ‘this is a disability’ any more. The day I see that happening, that’s when I know we’ve done a wonderful job as an inclusive employer.
Diversity and Inclusion is a hot topic across corporates, world over. More and more companies are relooking at their inclusivity policies to attract and retain the top, diverse talent to drive innovative outcomes. SAP Labs India saw an opportunity to harness a special, untapped pool of talent 8 years ago. SAP’s ground-breaking Autism at Work program, launched in 2013, leverages the unique abilities and perspectives of people with autism to foster innovation as we help customers become intelligent enterprises.
Meet Bengaluru based Kiran Venkataramanappa, Development Manager and Autism at Work Lead for SAP Labs India. Starting off his illustrious career of 15 years at SAP as a software developer, Kiran believes that his career always had two tracks that were immensely fulfilling. While on the professional front, he grew to be a people manager, his passion for D&I was fulfilled by his role in setting up and leading the Autism at Work programme.
In his own words, “I handle the inclusion pillar and predominantly Autism at Work and beyond that, I work with people with disabilities, shaping the way in which SAP as an employer can welcome them and make them feel comfortable. We are an inclusive employer, which we’ve always intended to be –and we rightfully spread the message that we are. That’s the space I work in, within D&I.
Kiran believes that the best way of giving back to society are programms like these as you not just give hope but deal with real lives and change them in a way where you can see impact. This entire programme is built on leveraging the fantastic talent on the autism spectrum, who are not often given a chance because of a lack of understanding on how to make this work.
“Everyone on the autism spectrum belongs to the same society that we do. They absolutely belong in every way, no question about it. All it takes is to have those eyes to recognize what they are good at, because each of them has an ability to contribute. This is what they now believe in, and just to see this belief – a type of belief that previously did not exist in our society – is phenomenal. For me, to be able to do that as part of my role at SAP, is what I stand for”says Kiran.
Today the Autism at Work programme at SAP is running successfully across 17 countries with over 200 employees hired and engaged via this programme across 25 different roles across SAP. The business leaders have been more than supportive with the programme- we have even had a case where a role was created to accommodate a unique skill discovered in an applicant. And it’s not just the business outcomes, it’s the human and social element that makes this special and sustainable.
Kiran met Bharat as part of the programme 6 years ago. His first impression was a shy, reserved boy who was not a computer expert. But with his enthusiasm and willingness to learn and support from his mentors, he soon overcome this challenge and became an invaluable asset to the team. His professional ethics and work etiquette have been lauded by the team and his manager. Today, Bharat lives independently in Bangalore, managing his day to day chores efficiently. He has even recently bought his own apartment.
Kiran says his ‘wow’ moment was when an autistic employee won the prestigious Hasso Plattner award (the highest award for SAP employees) for his innovation Posting Automation, which radically simplifies accounting processes. His biggest reward is also the feedback from the parents of these employees. While the parents had ensured safety and wellbeing of their autistic offspring, they often were left pondering about their future. Today, they are able to envision a future for their child who has carved their own niche, thanks to the confidence and support that careers provide them.
Ask Kiran to sum up his journey with SAP and his answer will leave you stunned. The company, he says, has given him his identity.
He says “My dream at SAP is to see that our employees treat any form of disability as something that is, say, no different from a person wearing spectacles, and that we don’t say ‘this is a disability’ any more. The day I see that happening, that’s when I know we’ve done a wonderful job as an inclusive employer.”
Bharat and Kiran are raising awareness for neurodiversity and inclusion through their work with Autism At Work, a groundbreaking SAP program launched in 2013 with the goal of hiring employees that are on the autism spectrum and sharing best practices for Autism inclusion with the global business community.
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