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INSPIRE 20 podcast: Michael Fieldhouse, social impact practice leader, DXC

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Linda Rosencrance Freelance writer/editor,
Michael Fieldhouse
 

Michael Fieldhouse was hosting a dinner party one evening when he noticed that a guest's child had become intrigued by a Japanese urn surrounded by pebbles. As he watched, the child, named Andrew, began picking up the pebbles and dropping them, one by one, into the urn. As Fieldhouse was making a mental note to himself to fish out the pebbles later, he noticed that the boy was dropping in each pebble at exactly the same time interval.

That's when he had an epiphany about the abilities of autistic children that led Fieldhouse, social impact practice leader at DXC Technology, to create DXC's Dandelion Program. The initiative helps individuals on the autism spectrum build IT skills, and hopefully careers, in tech.

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INSPIRE 20 podcast series

Listen in to the podcast with Michael Fieldhouse on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, and Spotify.

Fieldhouse is one of the executives being recognized as part of INSPIRE 20, a podcast series that showcases 20 executives from around the world who are making a difference in inclusion and diversity in their organizations, communities, and industries.

"We can give opportunities to people like Andrew, who I could see naturally fitting into the IT workforce, where there are a number of tasks that are repetitive and require attention to detail—all the things we admire in IT," said Fieldhouse, who leads the Dandelion Program.

Fieldhouse's efforts go beyond the workday: In his spare time, he also helps develop cybersecurity education programs for primary and secondary school students. He has a background in strategy and change management with a technical focus on cybersecurity.

The Dandelion Program's approach

The DXC Dandelion Program combines the use of robotics with commercial IT industry teaching and methodology. The goal is to help people such as Andrew build and develop technical, life, and executive functioning skills. It focuses on what each individual can bring to the workplace.

Fieldhouse hopes the program will reach a large population of potential employees who are on the spectrum and harness their skills, while providing a holistic employment experience that prepares them for careers in the technology field.

Fieldhouse established the Dandelion Program more than five years ago in cooperation with the Australian federal government. Today there are over 120 autistic people in the program, with partners including Australia's Department of Defense, Department of Home Affairs, and Department of Human Services. IT specialties include cybersecurity, software testing, and data analytics.

DXC's Dandelion Program is designed to provide high levels of support to people with autism, and ensure that they're able to learn and grow as employees and as individuals.

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Changing the culture

The Dandelion Program isn't just about recruiting people with autism, Fieldhouse said: It's about changing the workplace culture to create an environment where people feel included and safe. By successfully integrating people with autism into the workforce, organizations can achieve the competitive advantage found with "a neuro-diverse workforce," in his words.

Fieldhouse said running the program has changed his life, in part by teaching him to be a better parent to his three teenage children.

"I've learned skills that I probably would never have learned before through a program like this," he said. "Work changes our lives. And if you're in a positive environment and creating that positivity, it does have flow-down benefits for all of us."

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