Autism and Data Stewardship: Embracing Unique Abilities for Success
At auticon, one of the world’s leading employers of autistic adults in technology, we have a deep understanding of the strengths of autistic professionals and areas where they can thrive. One field where our autistic technologists have excelled is data stewardship, including on a long-term project for a Fortune 500 biotechnology company (see our case studies). In this post, I will break down the importance of data segmentation, what data stewards do, and strengths that autistic professionals bring to this role.
What is Data Segmentation?
Data segmentation involves dividing up and grouping data into relevant segments. By segmenting customer data into relevant subgroups, organizations can identify opportunities more effectively, as well as deliver more targeted communications and improve revenue streams. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, healthcare organizations, and financial institutions are some of the industries that rely on data segmentation.
For example, at a pharmaceutical company, doctors are key to their business. Therefore, they need to make sure they have the correct contact information for each doctor they want to communicate with about their medicines. They have a central repository of information on doctors pulled from different sources, but they need to determine which data is accurate. The information on each doctor needs to be reviewed, verified, and combined into one final record. This process is completed through data segmentation by a data steward.
Role and Responsibilities of a Data Steward
A data steward is responsible for the management, oversight, and governance of an organization’s data assets. They play a crucial role in ensuring data quality, integrity, and compliance within the organization.
In general, data stewards’ duties include the following:
- Managing data from a variety of sources.
- Documenting and enforcing rules around data collection, storage, and use.
- Executing the policies and standards established by the organization.
- Helping to create and implement processes and procedures for data collection, storage, use, and security.
- Helping to identify ways to use data to drive enterprise objectives.
- Improving data quality.
To continue the earlier example from the pharmaceutical industry, data stewards verify that the information on each doctor is accurate. They are given rules and criteria that they use to verify the data from the different sources and standardize the formatting across all the records. Then the data is published internally for the company’s field representatives to use when going out to visit the doctors.
Key Skills of Autistic Individuals in Data Stewardship
Data stewardship requires a specific set of skills. We’ve found that this role is a perfect match for some autistic technologists due to the alignment of these skills with their professional strengths and preferences.
Analytical Skills: Data segmentation requires strong analytical skills, the ability to understand patterns, and attention to detail. Autistic individuals often possess these traits and can excel in tasks that involve logical thinking and data manipulation.
If you identify a pattern of the data, then it becomes very easy. For example, one technologist on our team is especially good at identifying patterns. And when he knows the pattern, his productivity becomes very high. He knows, “This is the way the data is coming in. If this, then that.” He recognizes the pattern and does the work well.
Specialized Focus: Autistic individuals often develop intense interests in specific subjects. If an individual has a keen interest in data, numbers, or technology, data segmentation can be an appealing career path.
Interestingly, we also have a team member who is an aspiring novelist. In data segmentation, there are a lot of process changes that need to be documented. This is a great task for her because it aligns with her interest in writing.
Structure and Routine: Many autistic individuals appreciate structured environments and routines, and they do well when they are given clear instructions. Data segmentation often involves working with established processes and frameworks, which can provide a sense of stability and predictability.
On our client projects, the data stewards have certain criteria and rules they have to follow to accept or reject the data. Once they learn those, they become very comfortable, and it becomes easy for them because they know the guidelines. For this reason, we consistently get feedback from our team members that they enjoy and even prefer this type of work.
Enabling Success for Autistic Data Professionals
Our clients see concrete benefits from having autistic consultants involved in their data strategies. One of our successful data segmentation projects has been with a Fortune 500 biotechnology company. Now in its third year, the project began with two full-time employees and has grown to include eight full-time roles.
This client likes working with our team because the work has been delivered on time with very few errors, which gives them confidence that the team is doing great work. They also know that this type of work is not for everyone—it can be monotonous, and many people would get frustrated and not thrive on this type of project. For that reason, they appreciate that our autistic team members are well-suited to this work and enjoy it.
When working with autistic colleagues, it’s essential to create an inclusive work environment that enables them to thrive in their roles. At auticon, this includes implementing accommodations and providing ongoing support, including through weekly 1:1 job coaching sessions. Our technical delivery managers also meet with the technologists monthly, in addition to daily interactions on the work itself. And finally, our job coaches train client teams on best practices for working with autistic colleagues and leading neurodiverse teams. With all of these supports in place, our autistic teammates are able to succeed in and enjoy their roles as data stewards, delivering high-quality work that satisfies our clients.
About the Author
Sabina Durral is a Delivery Manager for auticon US. She has more than 15 years of experience in information technology, specializing in software implementations and QA efforts. Before joining auticon in 2018, Sabina worked in a variety of industries including security software, mortgage, and real estate. She has led several major technology projects for auticon’s clients and is committed to bringing out the best in the company using her skills and expertise in project management.