Headline: Joining Forces with the Philadelphia Eagles to Make a Difference for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
There are many challenging things about 2020, but participating in the Eagles Autism Challenge and SAP’s Autism at Work Symposium for the third year in a row was not one of them. While virtual, this year’s event did not disappoint.
On September 26, team SAP participated in the Eagles Autism Challenge, raising more $15,000 and bringing the three-year fundraising total to nearly $50,000 – all going toward funding autism research. I am immensely proud of this feat.
Because the challenge was virtual this year, we had national participants from California and Chicago, as well as from all over the Philadelphia area.
On October 9, in association with the challenge, SAP and the Philadelphia Eagles joined forces again to host the annual Autism at Work Symposium virtually. The event had incredible turnout, with more than 100 people from over 40 different companies in attendance.
Emceed by Brittney Ramsey, Preferred Care manager at SAP Concur and an in-game host for the Philadelphia Eagles, and Mike Giongo, Sales Operations specialist and Autism at Work member, the topics were truly inspiring. Perhaps most notably,
Giongo hosted a fireside chat with Ross Schwartz, Onboarding Specialist and Vertex Inc. Autism Inclusion Program team member, where they discussed the unique challenges and opportunities this new normal has positioned for them as employees on the autism spectrum.
“I very much miss people, but I think technology has helped in that regard, as well as the common spirit,” Giongo said during their discussion. “Even though we are physically apart, we are in this together.”
Schwartz agreed, “Keeping up with social media and Zoom has been huge. I am probably keeping in touch with people more than I ever have. I want to have that sense of connection.”
As a part of this year’s event, the groups also spent time in interactive break-out sessions focused on the following topics:
- Introduction to Autism Hiring Programs: Moderated by Joseph Riddle, director of Neurodiversity in the Workplace, and Ryan Hammond, executive director of the Eagles Autism Challenge.
- Sustaining and Scaling Existing Programs: Moderated by Jose Velasco, Autism at Work ambassador at SAP, and Craig Single, director of Talent Acquisition, People & Culture & Human Capital, Vertex.
- Preparing Young Adults for the Labor Market: Moderated by Margaret Hondros, co-founder of Kinney Center at Saint Joseph’s University; Becky O’Hara, supervisor for Autistic Support at the Council Rock School District; and Cherie Fishbaugh, director of Autism Services at West Chester University.
The event closed out with Sarah Loucks, global lead of Autism at Work Global at SAP, who invited participants to stay engaged in the conversation in multiple different ways, including the SAP Autism Inclusion Pledge, which aims to re-shape thinking about employment possibilities for individuals on the autism spectrum. Participants and viewers are also invited to participate in the upcoming webcast series, Autism at Work: Accelerating Workforce Inclusion.
The best news about this year’s event is that we can share it in full. Watch the replay here.
In recent years, SAP has worked to break down barriers of entry for qualified individuals on the spectrum, foster an inclusive workplace, and share our experiences with other companies. Currently, there are more than 180 autistic colleagues working across 16 countries and spanning 27 different roles – from software development and customer support to human resources (HR) services and global data protection. For more information, visit the Autism at Work area of sap.com.
Lloyd Adams is senior vice president and managing director of the East Region at SAP America, Inc.