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Thinking outside the box
At Shell, we take the Diversity & Inclusion agenda seriously!
As part of the effort to strengthen Diversity & Inclusion in Shell, P&T Bangalore held a session on autism.
Srinivas Vanga, payroll executive
Dutch-born Diederik Weve, now in his 29th year at Shell, is a Senior HSSE Consultant based at Shell Rijswijk. Four years ago Diederik Weve was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, which makes his mind work differently. Diederik joined the Enable network in the Netherlands to help break the taboos surrounding autism, and to encourage people to better harness the talents of employees with autism for the company’s benefit. In conjunction with this role, he has delivered many experiential learning sessions across locations in Shell in between his work to help others better understand autism, including how people with autism view the world, and hints and tips on how to create an inclusive workplace.
Instead of looking at his disability as a problem, Diederik says it is a good thing: “Many mental disabilities are ability in disguise, and we just have to make them work for us”. Asperger Syndrome is a type of autism formally known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD, which occurs often in people with an average to high IQ; it means they process information in a different way to most. While they often have difficulty with social communication, they do have a good eye for detail and exceptional focus.
An estimated 1,000 Shell staff worldwide are in this group, though most of them unaware. Evidence shows that autism is more prevalent in engineering communities and suggests that autistic qualities can be productive, especially in such communities. In contrast to the productive side, the public image of autism is much more determined by the limitations that autism poses and it results in a stereotypical image of disability. The aim of a session like this is to make participants experience their own brain processes and subsequently understand what autistic people experience. Understanding why autistics see things differently is a good start for inclusivity and enjoying true diversity.
The workshop had an overwhelming response and was attended by more than 50 people. It was interesting to see enthusiastic and curious staff asking questions and eager to know about Autism Spectrum Disorder. Diederik said he heard from a lot of parents of autistic children and mentioned that he would help connect them and create a network within the Bangalore centre.
In a quiet corner on Level 4 at the Shell Technology Centre Bangalore sits an unassuming man with glasses staring at a screen with fairly large fonts. This is Srinivas Vanga, a payroll executive who has had macular degeneration from the age of 13.
Srinivas has a Management degree from Shivaji University Kohlapur and joined AON Hewitt and has worked for Shell since December 2012. Srinivas’s journey has not been n easy.
“When I was diagnosed with this disease, the doctors didn’t declare it to be a disability. So I was neither covered under the disability act nor was I able to cope with regular jobs or perform like a regular person,” says Srinivas.
With several job changes and a long struggle, Srinivas finally got in touch with an NGO called Enable India that works with people with disabilities. Through Enable, Srinivas first got a job with Deustche Bank in December 2011 as a contract employee with a promise of a permanent position after six months. When this did not materialise, Srinivas was once again jobless and finally landed a position with AON Hewitt who placed him in Shell.
Vinod Kesava, Payroll Manager P&T, is very happy with his decision to hire Srinivas. “I was looking for a suitable candidate who could be a conduit between our administrator and Shell and had good knowledge of the retirement administration process. During this time Mr. Amit Gopal, Vice President India Life, was also a voluntary member of NGO Enable India. He recommended that we consider looking at candidates who were differently abled through Enable,” he says.
Srinivas was interviewed for the position and the rest is history.
Not only has Srinivas proved himself to be a diligent and methodical worker, but he has also made a good impression on his co-workers. “From the day he joined I have noticed that he is sincere and organised with his work and polite with co-workers. He is seen but not heard even while on calls, says Pushpa Raju, Team Lead Business Administration Support, who sits right across from him.
Vinod does admit that he had certain hesitations when he first hired him and was not sure how well he would perform. “I’m pleased to report that Srinivas is very well settled into his role and handles his work responsibly,“ he adds.
It is a great opportunity for recruitment to look at yet another avenue for talent, and with this example we have a case right here within Shell India.