#ChangeMakers in the Disabilities Community: Hiren Shukla

Hiren Shukla // photos Emilee Prado

Behold, the dreaded job search. It can be a taxing experience for anyone, but for the special needs community it is more than just overwhelming. For these individuals, it might be downright impossible.

“Making eye contact during a job interview, for example, is a common social rapport that neuro-diverse individuals struggle with,” said Hiren Shukla, the director of automation and innovation for Neuro-Diverse Centers of Excellence at EY.

In this role he oversees a total of 80 neuro-diverse employees, which includes individuals with autism, ADHD and dyslexia who office in Chicago, Dallas, San Jose, Philadelphia and Nashville.

According to Hiren, neuro-diverse individuals have just the right mindset for the thinking-centric type of projects that fall under EY’s multinational financial services umbrella, such as analyzing a client’s supply chain or determining data patterns, trends and anomalies.

“We realize that you have to think differently to build and create innovation,” Hiren said. “Thinking differently is something that is inherent in your diverse communities — autism, ADHD, dyslexia. These are groups that inherently look at the world differently.”

Hiren Shukla // photos Emilee Prado
Hiren Shukla with his associates at EY // photos Emilee Prado

And it’s a win-win for both the employer and employee.

According to Hiren, there is an 85% unemployment rate among the neuro-diverse community. “These individuals, who have a really strong skill set and capability, want to be part of the work force but are overlooked.”

But recently, EY revamped its recruiting process and subsequent interviewing and hiring processes to include the neuro-diverse community, and the initiative is growing. EY plans to expand these centers to Costa Rica, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia and India.

Instead of focusing on just the career placement centers at universities and colleges, EY now makes it a practice to partner with community organizations such as Plano-based My Possibilities.

My Possibilities gives adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities an opportunity to build independence and vocational skills in a safe and nurturing environment.

“Community nonprofits and government state agencies are all spending a tremendous amount of time, effort and money trying to help special needs individuals learn skills and find job placement,” Hiren said.

But the recruitment process was not centered on the who, but rather the what.

“We didn’t start with the premise of hiring, say, 10 neuro-diverse individuals and then find a job for them,” Hiren said. “We actually started with a job description and then we found individuals who have a skill set that will support the job.”

After adjusting the interview process to include on-the-job assessment scenarios, EY then needed to find a way to manage the neuro-diverse individuals the company hired.

But according to Hiren, it was a “duh!” moment. “A good manager is a good manager,” he said, “whether you are dealing with a neuro-diverse or neuro-typical employee.”

Neuro-diverse and neuro-typical employees work side by side at EY. There are no noticeable differences among them: same desks, same equipment, same tasks and same benefits. They are given the same job roles as their neuro-typical peers and have the same opportunities for advancement.

“It is uncommon to find someone, so prominent in the business community, who overwhelmingly believes in disability employment,” said Michael Thomas, executive director of My Possibilities. “Hiren is passionate about the work, to say the least.”

According to Career Services Manager Britni Miles, “Hiren is a conduit for change. He’s incredibly approachable and effortlessly serves as the bridge between the business community and social change.”

“My Possibilities provides a job coach for our neuro-diverse employees,” Hiren said. “That means there’s an individual from My Possibilities who has background and training in dealing with some of the stress and anxiety that comes with never having a job before and the challenges that result.

“We know there isn’t a magic wall between what happens at work at what happens in your personal life; it’s all integrated. For us to have a partner like My Possibilities,” he said, “frankly, we could not do this without them.”

My Possibilities >

 


The above content is sponsored. We have partnered with My Possibilities to spotlight #ChangeMakers in the disabilities community.

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