One of the biggest obstacles autistic adults face is acquiring gainful employment. It is hard to find an accurate statistic, but from the research that I have done the numbers of autistic adults that are employed can fall as low as 50%. None went over 55%. That percentage is grim, but they look even more bleak when compared to the stats of other disabled adults. While the numbers may have been presented differently on various sites the one thing that I found they all had in common were that they all stated that autistic adults had the highest unemployment rate of any of the other disabilities.
While those facts seem depressing, there is a company that is wanting to change them around by employing autistic adults. When I heard of the good work Platinum Bay was doing I found it intriguing. I wanted to know more about the company, and how it all came to be, so I interviewed the founder, and executive director Steve Andrews.
Me: What is Platinum Bay? What services do you provide?
Bay is a first-of-its-kind software company designed from the ground up
to hire Autistic people and creates safe and empowering
career opportunities to maximize their extraordinary talents and
abilities. Our services include custom business software development and
technical leadership for mid-sized and enterprise companies. We reduce
long-term code cost so companies can spend less
time maintaining and more time innovating.
Bay also has a first-of-its-kind hybrid business model: a limited
profit / for-purpose corporation designed for maximum impact.
We are incorporated as a California Social Purpose Corporation, which
combines for-profit operations with public, transparent accountability.
We have also formally adopted a non-profit financial model, and all net
profit is reinvested into the company in pursuit
of our mission, and we will be creating a corporate grant writing
foundation to help fill in the gaps in the Autism ecosystem.
Me: What role do you play within the company?
Steve: I am the Founder and Executive Director.
Me: What jobs have you had prior to starting Platinum Bay?
have been a self-taught software engineer for sixteen years, and I’ve
worked at a number of companies including Microsoft. I was also
a Microsoft MVP award recipient for four years prior to joining
Microsoft. Before re-discovering computers, I had a wide range of jobs:
dishwasher, tow truck driver, auto mechanic, package courier, waiter,
short order cook, retail clerk, janitor, security,
construction, delivery driver, petroleum distribution engineer (gas
Me: I see
that you have been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. How old were you,
and how did that shape, or change your path in in life?
was diagnosed in Seattle in 2012 at the age of 33, and to say it was
profoundly transformational would be an understatement. The easiest
way to explain it is that I lived my entire life thinking I was
“typical” – despite the doctors, and tests, and never having a friend
until high school, and failing in school, and chronic anxiety and
depression - and therefore everyone else must have to deal
with what I have to deal with, and therefore I was a failure because I
can’t cope as well as the rest of the world. I’d struggle to connect
with others, experience severe Autistic depression, get overloaded
easily, etc. Finding answers brought incredible justification
to a lifetime of experiences. I am able to better understand my
struggles and challenges and how to cope and be kinder to myself, and
better understand my strengths and how to cater to them. It also led me
to understand why I had so many struggles in the traditional
workplace – sensory, social, political, executive function, etc. – and
showed me how I can use that knowledge and my experiences to create a
workplace where others like myself can find successful career
Me: What kinds of unique ways does the company operate that makes it autistic friendly? (Such as accommodations)
primary goal of Platinum Bay is to provide a safe and empowering
workplace. First, we don’t require perfect resumes – we’re not hiring
professional resume writers – and our interviews are casual
conversations that remove the social stigma – we’re also not hiring
professional interview takers. We care about capability, not social
ability. Next, everyone works remote so they can choose the
sensory and social environment that works best for them, anywhere in
the United States (and longer-term internationally). We also offer the
ability to set your own hours. I can often do my best work in the late
night hours. Next, nearly all of our communication
is or can be text-based, so we can hire people who are non-verbal. And
all of our project managers are trained Autism specialists who honor
each individual’s agency, understand Autistic struggles, and strive
every day to foster a successful workplace. Everything
from how we hire, manage projects and teams, minimizing ambiguity, and
provide clear and consistent expectations, has been designed from the
ground up to support Autistic individuals, all at market salary plus
Me: What would you like readers to know about Platinum Bay?
Steve: We’re looking for good people: Platinum Bay Careers
I want to thank Steve for the great interview, and for all of his hard work, and dedication he has put into making this world a better place for autistic adults like himself.
If you would like to know more about Steve, Platinum Bay, or how how you can become involved see the information below.
Andrews has been a successful software engineer for over sixteen years –
four-time Microsoft MVP Award recipient, frequent technology conference
Autism speaker, and holder of multiple Microsoft and IBM
certifications. He’s designed high-level custom software solutions for a
wide range of international and U.S. companies and regularly gives his
time as a technology mentor to startups in the greater
Los Angeles area and beyond. In a past life, he worked for a small
software company in the Pacific Northwest you probably haven’t heard of.
Steve is currently the Founder and Executive Director of Platinum Bay
Technologies, a social enterprise and for-purpose
software company designed to successfully hire people on the Autism
Spectrum with software engineering career opportunities.
Find Platinum Bay on Twitter and Facebook