Aspergers and Software Testing -- A Perfect Fit

Last Updated Apr 16, 2008 10:08 AM EDT

People with Asperger syndrome often experience difficulty with social relationships, verbal communication, and using their imagination.

So it turns out they can make beautiful software testers, a job that requires routine, focus, and repetitive behavior.

A new Harvard Business School case study looks behind the scenes of a Danish consultancy, Specialisterne, which employs testers afflicted with Aspergers or some form of autism spectrum disorder. According to an article in HBS Working Knowledge about the case:

These software consultants enjoy their work and are great at it. The testing process -- checking and rechecking outcomes, documenting test plans, and maintaining follow-through -- makes use of the high intelligence, precision-oriented skills, deep concentration, and patience that can be positive features sometimes accompanying ASD.
The workers are paid industry competitive wages and work for clients including LEGO, Microsoft, and Oracle.

The takeaway here for you is to identify the tasks you ask of your workers, and then think creatively about where you might find the best people for the job. They won't always show up on a job board.

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.