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Acer America
Acer America Corp. is a computer manufacturer of business and consumer PCs, notebooks, ultrabooks, projectors, servers, and storage products.

Location

333 West San Carlos Street
San Jose, California 95110
United States

WWW: acer.com

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June 23, 2021 | Dawn Sizer

Fueling Innovation with Neurodiversity

3rd Element Consulting’s culture of inclusivity is the foundation of the firm’s hypergrowth trajectory.

“”HAREBRAINED SCHEMES”” is a Teams channel we started at 3rd Element Consulting to encourage out-of-the-box thinking. It’s part of a culture of innovation that we embrace and benefit from, and it’s fueled by our commitment to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce.

DEI has been a driving force for me since I “”rage quit”” an IT job because of a hostile work environment and started my own firm determined to do things differently. And as the mother of a child, now adult, with autism, it’s important for me to create meaningful employment opportunities for him and other neurodivergent applicants.

Dawn Sizer and her son Connor.

That starts with an interviewing and hiring process that doesn’t automatically eliminate an applicant who is fidgety, doesn’t make eye contact, or gives some odd response to a question. Once you understand those are hallmarks of neurodiversity, you can rephrase the questions, change the way you’re asking the questions, or even change the order in which you’re asking them to get a true sense of the knowledge and skills of the applicant.

Adapting your training is also critical. When my son joined the company five years ago, putting him through our training exposed some holes in our process. We revised it based on how he learns, creating a 90-day onboarding program that we now use for all employees. It has been incredibly successful because it encompasses a variety of learning styles and sets up our workers for success by giving them everything they need to do their job.

The first 30 days of onboarding are quite regimented, so employees know exactly what they will be doing, who they should be interfacing with, who they will be shadowing on a particular day, and what they should be learning. We schedule time for them to train on the programs they need to learn, and then immediately following each training session they shadow someone doing the task they just learned, which reinforces the knowledge.

Along with different learning styles, we recognize that everybody thinks differently too, which is how innovation thrives. For example, some employees approach a problem from the actual problem, some approach it from two steps beyond the problem and work their way back, and some see it as a puzzle piece. And while many might put together a puzzle starting with the edge pieces and work their way in, a neurodivergent person who likes the color blue might start with the blue pieces and build out. Sometimes, they may not end up with a solution to the original problem, but instead develop a new product that you can monetize, which is exactly what happened at 3rd Element.

We have municipalities and government clients that want to digitize the abundance of paper files they have and make them easily searchable. Our son, who likes repetitive tasks, created a solution for scanning documents, attaching metadata, categorizing them, and uploading them to SharePoint in the right folders and in the right sites. It’s something clients are willing to pay for, so we’ve spun up a new business division and are looking to hire a few more neurodivergent employees to help with the increase in demand.

Our clients have always embraced our diverse staff, and employees who come to work for us know up front that this is who we are.

It’s a great team that we’re developing into leaders as part of our plan to scale the business over the next few years. Fortunately, we had started the leadership development, put our vendor stack in place, and created processes and procedures prior to the pandemic. So when COVID hit, an almost perfect storm of our readiness to scale along with our client base of growing public safety, professional services, and pharmaceutical cannabis firms enabled us to increase revenue 100% last year.

We also added staff and are looking to add more this year. We are counting on their harebrained schemes to continue fueling our growth engine.

Photography by Eric Forberger


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