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Day in the Life of Danielle, Neurodiversity Hiring Program Lead at Dell Technologies

Danielle B. | Senior Advisor Project/ Program Management | Austin, TX

Originally Published: April 3, 2023

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your current role?

My name is Danielle, and I am from Seattle, WA. I have been at Dell Technologies for three years overseeing the Neurodiversity Hiring Program and serving as the Global Business Impact Lead for True Ability ERG!

Why did you decide to join Dell Technologies, and what experiences in your career path led you to your current role leading Dell’s Neurodiversity Hiring Program?

I originally studied speech pathology and audiology in hopes of becoming a speech therapist for those with autism. With an unemployment rate above 85% for autistic adults, I wanted to both support the community and fill the unemployment gap. Prior to working at Dell, I was working at Provail, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help people with disabilities find employment. While partnering with Microsoft's neurodiversity hiring program in this role, I met with new autistic employees, discovered their challenges, and determined ways to create a more inclusive environment.

Through this experience, Dell tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to start a similar program here. I am grateful to say after jumpstarting this program at Dell, we have hired over 100 people through the Neurodiversity Hiring Program. When I joined Dell, I absolutely fell in love with both the people and the culture. Not only am I able to support those with disabilities in my role leading the program, but I also work directly with the True Ability ERG to create connections within the larger disability community.

What steps are you making to ensure Dell Technologies is an inclusive workplace for neurodivergent individuals?

To cultivate an inclusive environment, Dell's Neurodiversity Hiring Program utilizes three approaches: skill-based hiring, managerial support, and career coaching opportunities. When it comes to hiring, the Neurodiversity Hiring program specifically requires that managers set aside a headcount for neurodivergent talent. Additionally, instead of using a traditional interview style focused on social communication and behavioral questions, the program focuses on skill-based hiring. This is a structured interview model that allows candidates to take the lead on the interview, demonstrate their abilities through technical projects and portfolios, and share about themselves in a predictable manner. This overall helps remove some of the biases that serve as barriers for neurodivergent individuals.

Once hired, we ensure there is an ecosystem of support for both team members and managers. Program members receive support through partnerships with True Ability mentors and external career coaching, while managers receive support through training on challenges that neurodiverse individuals face and how best to cultivate inclusion. Within the program, there is also a neurodiversity advisory committee, a group of talented neurodivergent individuals, who work to influence and change the program for the better! Dell also participates in a monthly neurodiversity roundtable with 50+ employers with neurodiversity inclusion to talk about the industry, discuss best practices, and share the pipeline of candidates with each other.

Can you talk a bit about what the True Ability ERG is and your role leading its Global Business Impact Strategy?

As one of Dell's 13 ERGs, True Ability supports individuals with disabilities, their family members, and caregivers. Their mission is to drive awareness and act as a resource for team members impacted by disabilities through four pillars: Team Member Experience, Community Impact, Professional Development, and Business Impact. True Ability collaborates with other ERGs to share stories, raise awareness of challenges, and educate on best practices for inclusion. Overall, I am proud to be the Global Business Impact Lead for this wonderful group of individuals!

What have you been most proud of during your career at Dell Technologies?

I am most proud of the success stories that have come through the Neurodiversity Hiring Program. It is rewarding to provide access to people coming through our workforce and see the many ways they are making an impact. It always makes me smile when I hear from managers that individuals in the program complete a project that was supposed to take 2 months in only 2 weeks. Moments like this let me know that this style of hiring is truly working! I am grateful to work directly with individuals who come through the program and see how successful they are at Dell! 

What are the best ways we can be allies – offering our support and advocating for autism awareness this month?

Be respectful of different communication styles, ways of working, and learning styles. Some people may prefer communicating via Zoom meetings while others may prefer an email. Some may be visual learners, while others may be auditory learners. Understanding the ways in which people work best is what inclusion looks like. The best way to do this is by asking team members “what works best for you?”. Whether someone is neurodivergent or not, you must be mindful of their preferences and respectful of the different ways in which you can support fellow team members. Together, we can create a more inclusive culture.

Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing?

Outside of work, some of my hobbies include cooking, doing yoga, and spending time with my fiancé - we just got engaged! I also am a big hiker, love to travel, and love to do anything outdoorsy, which I was able to take full advantage of when I used to live in Seattle. I also enjoy spending time with my cat, Jasper. He loves jumping into my meetings and stepping on my keyboard.

For more information on the Dell Technologies Neurodiversity Hiring Program and life at Dell, visit the program page and our stories.

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