by Lamisse Williams, Idaho Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (IDVR) Counselor
Meet Daniel Robertson, a management information systems student at the University of Idaho who recently obtained his second paid summer internship at HP.
Daniel worked with counselors at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho who informed him about how the university offers students on the autism spectrum a ray of support services through their Raven Scholars Program. This is how Daniel first heard about HP’s Spectrum Success Hiring Program.
The Idaho Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (IDVR) started working with HP, Inc in June 2016 through their Employee Resource Group. This group is made up of HP employees that want to create more diversity in the business. The group sponsored a Disability Awareness Fair, to which IDVR was invited to participate. After the event, HP reached out to IDVR and asked us to partner with them to design an autism hiring program. IDVR started the process by providing two trainings to the HP hiring managers specific to autism. HP also provided training to IDVR counselors on their hiring process. HP has continued with several hiring cohorts since the pilot version and IDVR offers support and professional expertise to them.
The staff at HP are aware that individuals on the autism spectrum may have a difficult time getting through an average interview process as a result of social deficits. Yet, they also recognize that individuals with autism often possess the skills and abilities needed in positions at HP. Therefore, HP created a pilot Spectrum Success Hiring Program that allows for specific accommodations for these individuals in the interview process. This interview process offers these underrepresented individuals a better chance at getting recognized and hired for the talents they possess that would be otherwise overlooked due to the emphasis on social skills in the average job interview. This HP program was designed with individuals like Daniel in mind.
In late February 2018, HP held its first autism hiring cohort. There were a number of candidates from throughout the U.S., including another candidate from Idaho.
Daniel began working with the IDVR to secure accommodations and support through this experience. A vocational rehabilitation counselor set him up with an employment specialist from Provail in order to prepare him for the intense interview process and assist him with his communication and interpersonal skills. Daniel sent in his resume to HP Inc., and he was flown to Boise during his spring break for a week of back-to-back interviews. With the help of IDVR and Provail, Daniel received on site assistance during the interviews.
The HP staff chose Daniel to participate in this pilot Spectrum Success Hiring Program and hired him for a paid summer internship in Boise, Idaho as a software engineer. Throughout the summer, Daniel created a data model that engineers could use to collect information needed to design future HP products. IDVR and Provail assisted him with job coaching and support throughout his time at HP.
Daniel found himself living out his dream in Boise. His managers took note of his work ethic, enthusiasm, knowledge and his “great eye for detail” also noting that “he’s been able to find problems that the rest of us couldn’t.” This opportunity at HP gave Daniel the confidence and experience he needed personally and professionally. Daniel’s main take away from this experience at HP is that he is “definitely a lot more confident” regarding future careers with HP and other companies. He also feels that he now “bring[s] something very important to the table” in terms of perspective employment opportunities.
Fast forward to the next year, Daniel was contacted by HP to interview for another summer internship position. This year he was hired on the spot as a data analyst intern. Daniel is currently carrying out his intern duties from home in Moscow due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He is on track to graduate from the University of Idaho this December with his bachelor’s degree in MIS. Thanks to the partnerships within the state of Idaho, Daniel now has the experience, skills, references and confidence to pursue a career in data analysis.
Learn more about this VR success story involving Daniel Robertson, the Idaho Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and HP’s Spectrum Success Hiring Program at the following video:
Lamisse Williams is a vocational rehabilitation counselor at the River City Mental Health Office of the Idaho Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (IDVR)