Thursday, October 06, 2011

Autism Traits Prove Valuable for Software Testing

R. Colin Johnson

Smarter software-debugging services are being performed by savants where the intense focus and superlative technical abilities of high-functioning autism shine.Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism that preserves linguistic skills and sometime features exceptional cognitive development, turns out to be a boon to tedious, time-consuming software-debugging tasks, according to Aspiritech NFP.
Raised to popular awareness by movies like "Rain Man" starring Tom Cruise as the brother of autistic savant Dustin Hoffman, people with Asperger's syndrome are often smarter at complex mathematics and tedious computer troubleshooting skills than ordinary programmers. Unfortunately, their poor social skills put them at a disadvantage when interviewing for programming jobs, and getting along with other employees.
Oran Weitzberg has a form of high-functioning autism, called Asperger's syndrome, which enables him to happily spend long hours performing software debugging tasks that are stultifying for ordinary programmers.
Aspiritech's mission is to demonstrate that many individuals with autism have savant-like skills with computers that can be channeled into successful businesses debugging software. Modeled on a similar company called Specialisterne, which has high-profile customers like Oracle and Microsoft, Aspiritech has recruited a growing team of exceptional programmers specializing in computer-software testing procedures. Aspiritech and Specialisterne are just two of a growing number of software-testing companies in Belgium, Japan and Israel that have been recruiting high-functioning adults with autism.
According to Aspiritech, its programmers have unique talents that make them exceptional software testers. These talents include attention to details, superlative technical aptitude and the "ability to thrive" while performing repetitive, task-oriented jobs that ordinary programmers find stultifying. After receiving initial funding from donations to their nonprofit organization, Aspiritech has since built up a portfolio of nine satisfied customers who report exceptional results from the team.
Aspiritech's board of directors includes social service providers, therapists, a vocational expert and a software engineer. The nonprofit also received start-up advice and consultation from Keita Suzuki, who has co-founded a similar company, called Kaien, in Japan. Aspiritech has hired and trained seven recruits with Asperger's syndrome. These recruits have since worked on software-testing projects for smartphone and cloud-computing applications. Aspiritech now offers functional-, compatibility- and regression-testing, as well as test-case development, with experience in cloud-computing platforms including Salesforce.
This year, 60 percent of Aspiritech's funding came from donations and just 40 percent from billable hours to clients; however, the company aims to raise that ratio to 50:50 next year. Aspiritech prices its services in the same ballpark as offshore software testing companies, and pays its programmers up to $15 per hour while providing a relaxed atmosphere that encourages the development of social skills.

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