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SEI Corp has Passion for Building Acceptance for Neurodiversity, One Person at a Time

Last week, we held our 2nd Annual Shark Tank event. We were privileged to have four very knowledgeable and successful individuals from the corporate and entrepreneurial worlds who listened to each of the presentations made by Hill Top students. Each of these judges brought their attention, their enthusiasm, their passion and their encouragement to the judge's table.

While each of the judges were thoughtful enough to send us warm and glowing emails about how impressed they were with not only the student presenters but the general student body as well as the community of faculty and parents that took part in the event.

However, Al Chiaradonna, who is the Senior VP of Private Banking at SEI Corporation, wrote a piece in his company blog. He shared it with us. The focus of what he wrote is not just about his experience at Hill Top but also about the influence it has had in his revisiting the topic of neurodiversity in the workplace. He essentially challenges his colleagues to look at their approaches to hiring for the company.

Through their interest in our students, their willingness to provide four summer internships to Hill Top alumni, their generosity of philanthropic support and their enthusiastic volunteerism SEI continues to help us realize that we do very special work at Hill Top. Their involvement shows us that our important work does not end at graduation but should continue on after Hill Top to ensure that people help to celebrate the talents and abilities of such amazing individuals.

I have extracted the pieces about Hill Top from Al's blog to share with you and hope you find it as heartwarming and inspiring as I did.

Thank you, Al.

Your Turn: Are learning differences part of your hiring strategy?

There’s a great saying “all leaders are learners.” We talk about that a lot in this blog, but do we ever stop and think “what type of learners?” I actually think about that often. You see, my twin girls have dyslexia, which is a learning difference, not a disability. As I write that, I can almost feel people rolling their eyes, perhaps thinking I’m just playing with words. But I’m not playing with words. There is a deeper point to the fact that what they have is a difference and not a disability. As a leader, if you don’t understand the subtly, then I think you’re missing something. They may learn differently, but they learn and grow just like everyone else.

...I then ended my week at the Hill Top School, which is a local school focused on educating individuals with learning differences such as autism. I was honored to be a judge in the school’s Shark Tank-inspired competition. These high school students had amazing business ideas and unmatched energy. It was clear I was in a room of brilliant innovators—who just need to be given a chance.

As I sat there and listened to all of these kids, I realized learning and neurological differences are another form of diversity. The diversity may not always be physically visible, but it’s present nonetheless. It’s very important for all of us to be accepting of diversity as humans and open to employing it as leaders.

Your Turn: Are you actively looking for Neurodiverse talent?

I remember an article I read about a year ago in HBR called, Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage. It’s a fascinating read, and on the heels of my recent experiences, I went back and reread it. The article covers not only the opportunities in front of companies willing to hire talent with these kind of differences, but it also provides a candid assessment of why so many do not. As a leader, all of us should read this article and conduct a serious and honest assessment of our own approach to talent acquisition and management—how diverse are we?

I’ll go first. Looking back on these two events made me reflect and ask myself how am I thinking about talent and diversity. How am I even defining diversity? Is the scope of my diversity too limited? Where am I looking for talent? What am I doing to develop talent? Am I following the “main stream” recruiting process, and if so, am I missing this extraordinary talent—talent that learns differently? I’m disappointed to say I think I am missing this talent. I need to broaden my perspective of diversity and rethink my talent management strategy to recognize and embrace these differences.

I know I’m not the only one thinking about this. The HBR article alone is proof of that. But I would love to hear from you, the Front and Centered community. What have you done to embrace and employ talent that learns differently? If you have experimented with or implemented any type of program that supports diversity, equity and inclusion in unique ways, please share it with us in the comments below. After all, can’t we become even stronger leaders by sharing and learning from each other?