Business in Focus: Ultranauts

A closer look at companies executing leadership excellence

Rajesh Anandan and his MIT roommate, Art Shectman, founded Ultranauts with one goal in mind: to prove that neurodiversity and autism could be a competitive advantage in business. “There is an incredible talent pool of adults on the autistic spectrum that has been overlooked for all the wrong reasons,” said 46-year-old Anandan in a recent interview with BBC. “People who haven’t had a fair shot to succeed at work, because of workplace and workflow and business practices that aren’t particularly effective for anyone but are especially damaging for anyone who is wired differently.”

The New York-based quality engineering start-up is now one of an increasing number of firms looking towards autistic talent. But while programs at companies including Microsoft and accounting firm EY are small and focused around supporting neurodiverse workers in the office, Ultranauts has redesigned its entire business around neurodiversity, changing hiring efforts to actively recruit individuals on the autism spectrum and developing new workplace practices to effectively manage neurodiverse teams.

75% of Ultranauts’ staff are on the autistic spectrum. One reason for this is its innovative approach to hiring. In other companies, assessing candidates often focus heavily on communication competencies, which means neurodiverse voices can be excluded. But at Ultranauts there is no interview process and applicants don’t need relevant experience of specific technical skills.

Instead of using resumes and interviews, potential employees undergo a basic competency assessment in which they are evaluated against 25 desirable attributes for software testers, such as the ability to learn new systems or take on feedback. Following these initial tests, potential staff undergo a week of working from home fully paid. Potential recruits also know they can choose to work on a DTE (a desired-time equivalent) timetable, meaning they can take on as many hours as they feel comfortable managing, rather than being tied into full-time work.

Seven and one-half years in, Ultranauts has built the world’s first fully remote workplace for cognitively diverse teams, with colleagues working in 20 states across the U.S. The company has been growing over 50% annually while maintaining a 100 Net Promoter Score among customers, and when benchmarked against global IT firms, they’ve delivered measurably superior results.

Kudos to Ultranauts for modeling how our differences make us better.  To learn more about Ultranauts’ story, click here.









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