IT-Consultant Marko Riegel Photo: Björn Wiedenroth / auticon
Outside, traffic is pushing down Hardenbergstrasse, from Ernst-Reuter-Platz towards Zoo. Even though there’s only a slight hiss from the cars, Dirk Müller-Remus closes the windows. He aims to reduce sensory input to a minimum in the office, because he knows that his employees perceive things differently. He has learned to avoid subjunctives when he speaks and conveys his intentions very directly.
These are small details that reveal that Auticon is a special company. The people who work here have extraordinary expertise, but might struggle when it comes to social conventions or ironic winks of the eye - they are on the autism spectrum.
Auticon employees might test highly complex systems, analyse codes, or clean up large quantities of data for external client organisations. Meanwhile, job coaches provide them with support in their day-to-day communication. ‘People on the autism spectrum bring particular qualities to clients. They are highly focused and take an original approach to problem solving,’ says Müller-Remus, adding: ‘You might not notice it at first glance.’
In the case of his own son, it took 14 years for Asperger syndrome to be diagnosed. The Managing Director turns serious: ‘We had to come to terms with our own child needing a lot of support in his everyday life.’ Then Müller-Remus had a key experience, visiting a self-help group for people on the spectrum and their relatives. There were 20 adults, sharing one dilemma: on the one hand they were creative and talented, and on the other hand disorganised and feeling overwhelmed. ‘They all had one thing in common – they were unemployed.’
At that point Müller-Remus became angry – about this injustice, angry about the future of his own child. He then decided to create an occupational environment that could facilitate this autism-specific potential. The idea for ‘Auticon’ was born, and the economics graduate and software developer changed careers.
Today, Auticon employs 34 consultants on the autism spectrum at six different locations across Germany. Having started in City West, Auticon now runs branches in Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, Munich and Hamburg, and also set sights on London. In these densely populated areas, Müller-Remus connects the data flux of our time with the exceptional ability of his employees in a meaningful way. Their ability to recognise hidden structures and patterns allows them to optimise processes quickly and efficiently. He summarises: ‘I’m not saying that they’re better software developers. But their contribution significantly improves teams.’