Monday, August 31, 2015

Interview with Steve Andrews Founder of @PlatinumBay

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?

Steve: Platinum 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.

 Platinum 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?

Steve: I 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 station attendant)…

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?

Steve:  I 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 opportunities.

Me:  What kinds of unique ways does the company operate that makes it autistic friendly? (Such as accommodations)

Steve:  The 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 benefits. 

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.  

 Steve Andrews has been a successful software engineer for over sixteen years – four-time Microsoft MVP Award recipient, frequent technology conference and now 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


1 comment:

  1. This is inspiring. I'm a software engineer, and want to do similar, including training ASD teens for careers in software development. Thanks for sharing.


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