Today, Xceptional, a new technology services firm, is being launched in Sydney. We have a big vision – to impact 1000 lives over the next 5 years – and we believe this is an incredible opportunity.
There is such rapid growth at the moment in the technology space. The sector is hurtling forward towards a cloud-first, mobile-first world. Almost every company is getting involved in building software.
Yet if businesses do not get on top of software testing the costs will be huge. Bad testing can lead to lost customers, lost revenue and security challenges all leading to negative reputation impact.
Some have tried turning overseas to bring the costs down. However, this option always costs more than initial expectations. There is additional costs of managing across countries and cultures. There are the challenges of explaining work over time zones and grappling with video conferencing issues.
Deloitte Access Economics has estimated that over the next 5 years there will be a tech talent gap in Australia of 100,000. That is a lot of people that will have to come forward to fill those roles.
One of the best places to look for top talent, we believe, is among those that are autistic. In many cases, their skills and unique characteristics place them really well for technology jobs, especially software testing.
Xceptional is a global leader in employing autistic people for software testing. We have built up experience during our pilot phase and have delivered outstanding results for our early customers.
But how did this all get started?
The spark that ignited the idea of Xceptional took place a year ago. There were two key moments, both related to job hunting. One was a job lost and the other a job gained.
Everyone who has a sibling knows what a big influence they have on your life. My sister, Sarah, is awesome. She is such a warm, gentle person and has an incredible memory, especially when it comes to movies and musicals. She is autistic and she has had a challenging time with employment over the last two decades.
A year ago, Sarah had a short term job. They decided not to renew her contract and cited one example where she carried out an instruction literally, rather than reading between the lines.
I was so frustrated when I heard this. It really got to me, the fact that an employer couldn’t make a small adaptation for my sister, in understanding her way of working. Sarah works well with clear instructions, and her frankness can actually make her a great team member, if properly understood and embraced.
There and then, I decided that I wanted to lead change in the world. I wanted to inspire other employers to adapt for those with disabilities and focus more on their strengths rather than their challenges.
Around the same time I heard of Brett. He is also an autistic person, like my sister. Like me, he has an interest in IT and is a bit of a geek. He is also an amazing piano player.
I first saw Brett on a BBC show called Employable Me. They were following autistic people in their job hunt. They had challenges with anxiety, with interviews especially. I sat up to listen because of my sister.
Brett was placed in a software firm – it seemed almost as a favour – but he knocked it out the park in terms of performance. At the end of the show the manager was literally in tears explaining to their whole company how well he has done.
Suddenly, I thought: What what would a firm look like made of people who were focused on for their strengths not challenges? What would a firm look like that delivered exceptional technology outcomes for clients and employed autistic people?
The idea was born.
I began to talk to friends in IT about this new idea. I’ve worked in the technology sector for 15 years, building technology platforms that connect partners together for social impact out of Hong Kong. Many of my former colleagues introduced me to people who have become our early customers, or helped give us introductions that helped us get started.
STORY SO FAR: 3 SUCCESS
The last twelve months have been an amazing journey. There are three major successes that I want to share with you.
1. OUR CUSTOMERS
We have been honoured to work with an amazing group of customers though our pilot phase. Getting paying customers this fast is a great testament to how well we’ve started.
We’ve even had international customers. One of our customers in the US is Brand New Box. We have done testing for several of their customers, including compatibility testing across iOS, android, Macs and windows. Our staff have been fantastic at finding bugs that would have prevented multiple sales.
We have also had the pleasure of working with several large technology firms, digital agencies and nonprofits. What we are especially proud about is of our initial pilot phase customers 50% have come back for additional project work.
2. AWARD WINNING
A second highlight was winning the Kickstarter, a business planning competition. This competition is one of the top social enterprise awards in Australia. It was a real privilege working with our two mentors on this program and we were delighted with the robust business plan that came out as a result.
3. OUR TEAM
Thirdly – and far and away our biggest win – has been our amazing team of testers.
As an example, our first team member, Tim. He has some amazing IT skills. But because of his challenges he struggled with finding work. Yet since joining our team he has been consistently delivering fantastic results for our customers, helping them to find crucial issues that would have caused lost revenue.
VISION FOR THE FUTURE
We have a big vision: To impact 1000 lives by 2022.
We are building a world leading software service business by exceeding our customers expectations and employing autistic people through focusing on their strengths rather than their challenges. But we are just getting started. Today is our official launch and makes the end of our pilot and our start of our next phase.