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For those that didn’t know, Thursday April 2 was World Autism Day. In fact I was right there with you in not knowing this. That was at least until an announcement posted to The Official Microsoft Blog by Mary Ellen Smith, Corporate Vice President of Worldwide Operations. In this announcement, she outlined a new program to hire individuals with autism for full-time, Redmond-based Microsoft positions.

To launch this program, Microsoft is teaming up with Specialisterne, a foundation started in Denmark where the majority of employees have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. These employees work as business consultants on tasks such as software testing, programming, and data entry for the public and private sectors. The foundation has offices in more than a dozen countries, and works with many big tech players like SAP.

This program further affirms Microsoft’s commitment to diversity and enabling those with disabilities to have long term success, but there’s also a personal connection. As Mary Ellen Smith noted, this resonated with her on two levels.

First, as a parent. I am the proud mom of Shawn, now 19, diagnosed with autism when he was four years old. Secondly, as a proud executive at Microsoft. A company that believes strongly in diversity.

At Microsoft, we believe that diversity enriches our performance, our products and services, the communities where we live and work, and the lives of our employees. We provide an inclusive environment where everyone can do their best work and have been investing in these programs for many years. In fact, this was one of the things that attracted me to Microsoft.

I definitely like the direction this is going, as this pilot program could quite possibly provide some interesting opportunities not otherwise presented to those who fall on the autism spectrum. Microsoft will however be on the radar for many who’ll be curious to see how it shapes up, both for those hired and the company itself.

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