How a Cross-Country Move Better Supported My Independence

Hear from Charles, who shares his personal journey and how he was able to find meaningful, competitive employment at SAP.
By Charles Hollenden

My name is Charles Hollenden. I am on the autism spectrum and I am one of many colleagues who joined SAP via the Autism at Work program. At age 4, I was diagnosed with ADHD, and then at 18, I was officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. I am now 36.

While growing up, I engaged in behaviors that my family and I struggled to understand. I also struggled with learning new concepts. I found out later in life that I was a visual learner, and in school I wasn’t always taught in a way that I could understand. If a teacher did not take enough time to explain a concept, it was confusing for me to fully see the big picture or point they were trying to make.

After graduating from high school, I earned an associate’s degree from a technical school with a major in Computer Programming. Since I always enjoyed math (as it tends to be a visual topic) and had a good sense of pattern recognition and logic I felt that Computer Programming was a good fit.

Finding My Path
I saw an article on CNBC about SAP and the fact that they were hiring autistic individuals who were interested in software. I shared this with my uncle and he said, “Not only should you apply, they are basically describing you.” We attended an Autism at Work event hosted at SAP to learn more. 

After connecting with Specialisterne, I was selected to participate in a five-week training course that included assembling robots to perform tasks such as racing, security, and competing with other robots at golf. After the training course I applied for a position—and in May of 2014 was hired as a full-time employee at SAP. 

During my first few years at SAP, I worked in the Mission Control Center (MCC), and the Center of Excellence (CoE) Backoffice (supporting many US fortune 500 companies).

In 2016, I found my niche in Big Data. Finding my niche also came with a huge personal change. The hiring team at SAP was in Arizona. I am a Philadelphia native and had lived in Philadelphia my entire life. Accepting the new job meant relocating to a different state. This meant a lot of new firsts, from living on my own to commuting and more.

The Big Move and Getting Help
About six months before my move to Arizona, I bought my first home, a condo. Living in the condo was the first time I lived alone, and my parents helped fill in the gaps of what I didn’t know by coming over to help me. 

After moving to Arizona, my mother stayed with me for a week to help me get the essentials I needed to live on my own. I had to improvise with living on my own until SARRC was able to provide services and better support me. 

I was connected to SARRC through SAP’s Autism at Work program and The ARC of Philadelphia. My ARC of Philadelphia job coach Thomas Cory recommended SARRC. He said SARRC was partners of ARC, and he was able to provide me the necessary information to move forward with getting services. 

SARRC has been a great assistance in so many ways. They have helped me with things such as holding better conversations with others (both in email and in person), as well as tasks at home such as organization, cleaning, cooking, and ironing.

Finding My Way Around
In Philadelphia, everything is quite a distance away, making services like UBER and LYFT not a practical solution for daily travel. I had to adjust to snow and heavy rains during winter. In Arizona, becoming adjusted happens during the summer when walking outside is downright dangerous and temperatures can reach 120 degrees. 

In Arizona, since the condo I found is very close to work, I walk to work every day to save on vehicle-related costs. I UBER when I need to go to different places and I use Instacart App to order my groceries. I am still seeking different strategies to endure the extreme heats during my walking commute to and from work. 
 
I continue to explore my interest in Big Data. I enjoy the fact that everyday holds a challenge to tackle and that that I have a supportive manager and team-lead who can help me thrive at the job!

My hope for the future is to make data easier to find for testing, demo, and cloud delivery and create data automation that will help all different teams.

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