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Making A Difference

Turning a Disorder into an Opportunity

Michael Fieldhouse (AMP 177, 2009)

Michael Fieldhouse (AMP 177, 2009), director for Emerging Businesses and Federal Government at Hewlett Packard Enterprise Australia (HPE), launched the Dandelion program in Australia in 2015, introducing people with autism spectrum disorders into the IT workforce.

A collaboration between HPE and the Department of Human Services and Specialisterne, a Danish social enterprise organization, the initiative taps into the talents common among those on the autism spectrum, including attention to detail, highly focused concentration, perseverance with repetitive tasks, and pattern recognition—traits that are ideal for testing software as well as for working in cybersecurity and analytics.

“These employees have found errors, faults, and gaps in IT systems that have gone undetected for years,” Fieldhouse says, adding Dandelion has been life changing for participants as they have become more self-confident, as well as financially self-sufficient.

Forty-five people have been employed through the program at Australia’s Department of Defence, Department of Human Services, and Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Eleven new recruits are scheduled to start by the end of 2016.

“The Dandelion Program is focused on building careers, resilience, and independence for the individuals involved,” he says, adding, “Ultimately, I hope that we will not need a Dandelion program as organizations become more inclusive in attracting and sustaining talent.”

(Published September 2017)