Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Neurodiversity in the workplace

For Jim Jacobson, it was game-changing to be diagnosed with autism at the age of 50. Now not only does he have the tools to excel at work, together with the HANDS (Healthineers for Autism and Neuro-Diversity Support) employee resource group they set out to create an environment for extraordinary minds of all kinds to flourish.

Published on April 1, 2021
<p>As the Principal Cybersecurity Officer, Jim Jacobson and his team have the monumental task of managing cybersecurity of products, services, and solutions Siemens Healthineers provides.&nbsp;</p>
Jim Jacobson, Cybersecurity officer, World Autism Day
<p>But there were struggles early in his career as cybersecurity expert, not knowing he had challenges others didn’t have to deal with. Upon learning of his autism diagnosis at the age of 50, Jacobson now has the tools to help him excel at work: “I eventually learned to consciously model my interactions with people, and in tasks, to compensate for abilities that neurotypical coworkers took as a matter of course”, he explains. It was “game-changing” to be diagnosed with autism: “I could now play to my strengths and recognize where I needed make up for my shortfalls.” <br><br>Autism is a lifelong neurological condition that manifests during early childhood. People with autism spectrum disorders have specific characteristics, behaviors, tastes, and ways to do things. The key is to understand their way to see the world and their performance without trying to make them change. </p>

World Autism Days is especially important to Jacobson because it raises awareness of the challenges that people with Autism can face. 

<p>One of these challenges can be securing and maintaining meaningful and fulfilling employment. In addition to raising awareness, he and a group of colleagues wanted to create an open and safe environment for extraordinary minds with the launch of the HANDS employee resource group in December 2020: “First, the level of unemployment for autistic individuals is too high. We need to find better paths to bring them into the workforce. Secondly, for existing <a href="neurodiverse" class="cp-fab-text-highlight">neurodiverse</a> employees, we need to create an environment where these novel minds can comfortably flourish and fully express their unique contributions to our company’s success.”</p>
Neurodiversity is the idea of treating differences in neurology, such as Autism, as normal non-pathological variation. It’s about including and accepting these differences more fully into society. Neurodiversity focuses less on the disability and underscores the contribution that minds of all kinds can make to any organization. It is an aspect of diversity that enhances the workplace in numerous ways. People with neurocognitive disabilities have talents, perspectives and skills that can be distinctly beneficial in many work environments.

Healthineers for Autism and Neuro-Diversity Support

HANDS is about creating an open and safe environment for extraordinary minds of all kinds to disclose and flourish, free from stigma and misconceptions. Additionally, the members of this employee resource group want to provide resources for people working with neurodiverse individuals. “Our diverse minds are what makes Siemens Healthineers so great,” says Jacobson. “With HANDS, we want to support comfortable discussion, appreciation, and integration of neurodiversity within the Siemens Healthineers culture.” <p><br></p><p>For Jacobson the quality of a conversation is not measured by the volume of one’s voice, but by finding new paths for listening&nbsp;<br></p>

Jim Jacobson - Principle Cybersecurity Officer and executive sponsor of the HANDS ERG

<p>This is what makes a truly inclusive culture for him: “We all come to the table with unique experience, unique backgrounds, unique perspectives. This variety enriches our lives at work and society at large. Inclusion is accepting and embracing this diversity, creating a more representative, a more stimulating culture, where everyone can fully participate.”&nbsp;</p>