A leader in Diversity and Inclusion
Ultranauts provides high-quality software testing services to top tier fortune 100 and 500 companies around the world. Over 75% of their employees are on the autism spectrum and 45% identify as women or non-binary. Founded in 2013 by MIT graduates Rajesh Anandan and Art Shectman, Ultranauts’ mission is to demonstrate that neurodiversity is a competitive advantage for business.
According to Crunchbase, the company’s competitive advantage comes from their neurodiverse and differently abled staff, who can have heightened abilities that are an exact match for software testing such pattern recognition, focus, attention to detail, tolerance for repetition.
However, Ultranauts thinks their competitive advantage extends beyond this, explaining to the New York Times that the advantage is that people on the autism spectrum are a diverse group. “One person may recognize patterns quickly, while another has a more measured cognitive style but arrives at different patterns and ways to fix code. The key lies in harnessing the varied talents of teams.”
Ultranauts is also the world’s first fully remote workplace for cognitively diverse teams, with colleagues working in 20 states across the U.S. While companies across the globe have been wrestling with the transition to a virtual working environment, Ultranauts has been implementing innovative structures that allow their employees to achieve their professional goals in a supportive environment. As part of this, Ultranaut employees follow a distinctive set of policies and practices to promote diversity and inclusion.
Mia Armstrong (they/them) was the second Engineer hired by Ultranauts, starting as a part-time employee while she obtained her degree in Computer Science. Prior to joining, Mia had no experience in Software Engineering, and had spent nearly 20 years as a Pastry Chef. Ultranauts does not use an applicant’s prior work experience as a measure of “fitness” for the company. Instead of conducting formal interviews, which can be a challenge for neurodiverse individuals, candidates complete a series of aptitude assessments and work simulations that measure things like problem solving and applying feedback.
Mia knew she was interested in a career in tech, but wanted to make sure the company was the right fit. “I wanted to be part of a company that values personal relationships and not just being another cog in the machine. I didn’t want to work at another ‘good ole boys’ tech company where they don’t value individuality if you’re not a man, and your opportunities are limited.” Mia, who is on the autism spectrum theirself, believes that Ultranauts approach to valuing its workers individual needs, is key to their business success. “Every day we update our Biodex to describe our energy level for the day and our interaction level. Other people can see this and tailor their own interactions with us.” Each employee’s biodex also includes things like their areas of expertise and preferred learning style.
Ultranauts also ensures that their staff can engage no matter their communication preferences or different abilities. All virtual meetings have closed captioning, and each is recorded, transcribed and archived to accommodate workers who prefer reading to listening and foster a more open organization. This includes weekly leadership meetings and includes the decisions made and reasons behind them.
Mia believes that companies like Ultranauts are the way of the future for tech: “A lot of fields have a set way of doing things, and in order to keep up with tech changes, you need people who think differently and have different mindsets and perspectives.
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