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10 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | OCTOBER 2016 PROVIDER PERSPECTIVE I f I asked you to name a highly innovative, forward- thinking tech company, would Microsoft be the first name you would mention? Wouldn't it be one of the Silicon Valley companies, such as Snapchat, Square or maybe Tesla? e guys who gave us the Windows operating system more than 30 years ago haven't done anything to be considered forward thinking, have they? After all, these are the same folks who attempt to buy innovation and often have purchased companies long after trends were moving in another direction. ink about Microsoft's ambitious offer for a declining Yahoo, the purchase of Nokia's device and services business and the $7 billion spent on Skype, which offers free video calling. Nothing innovative to see here, right? (OK, so Microsoft bought LinkedIn recently, but how out of the box was that?) However, I recently found out something about Microsoft that makes me think very differently about the company's innovation and forward thinking. And I say this with tremendous admiration. Microsoft recently started recruiting, interviewing and hiring young adults with autism. is is better than any new version of Windows it ever offered. As you may know, our first child has autism. Getting this diagnosis when our daughter was very young put my wife and me on a journey of unknowns, conversations with medical experts, speech and physical therapy, and traveling around the world looking for cures or solutions to help our daughter progress as she got older. We are not alone in this process. I am sure you have a family member, a friend or a co-worker who has someone close affected by autism. It's no longer something from a 1980s Dustin Hoffman movie; it's a part of our society, our school systems, our everyday world. As these kids get older, they begin to face a new challenge: trying to lead productive lives. is population is growing quickly, too. Between 1997 and 2008, there was an almost 300 percent increase in autism diagnoses. is is a large demographic group about to enter workforce age. My family recently moved to Chicago so our daughter could participate in an exciting program for young adults with special needs, many of whom have autism. I have met many other families seeking ways to help their special-needs children find the best opportunities as they get older. AN INCLUSIVE CULTURE Back to Microsoft, those historically laggard software guys. As first reported by Fast Company, in 2015 Microsoft began a new hiring program inspired by its CEO, Satya Nadella, who has two special-needs children. He began to change the corporate culture by pushing Microsoft to be open and fast- moving and to "seek products for all people of all abilities." e company began a hiring process that supported an inclusive culture with diverse perspectives. Microsoft added a chief accessibility officer (it is innovative with job titles!), who is charged with discovering great candidates whom other companies may overlook. She said, "e better we represent all people on the planet, the better we are going to be able to serve all the people." I love this attitude. is new program has already assisted Microsoft in hiring more than 20 candidates on the autism spectrum for entry-level technical roles. And it has just begun; it hopes to quadruple this rate next year. Microsoft isn't the only company moving in this direction. Others, such as Ford, Walgreens, Pixar and Freddie Mac, have developed plans to add young adults with autism to their workforces. Our daughter was fortunate in high school to participate in a work-study program with Marriott, which gave her greater self-confidence and broadened her horizons. I am so impressed by the growing list of companies pursuing this effort. Now I challenge the multifamily broadband industry to do the same. We in this industry tend to think of our market as innovative and forward thinking, so we should also take this approach in hiring. We have many great opportunities in technical, hospitality, and administrative roles in our field. If you already recruit and hire associates with special needs, I applaud your efforts. If you've never considered it before, now is the perfect time to follow great companies such as Microsoft in an effort to diversify your team. Consider this a "window" on another especially good idea. v Bryan Rader is CEO of Bandwidth Consulting LLC, which assists providers in the multifamily market. You can reach Bryan at email@example.com or at 314-540-1114. Learn more at www.bandwidthconsultingllc.com. Opening a New Window Challenging the multifamily broadband industry to be as innovative as Microsoft (yes, Microsoft!) By Bryan Rader / Bandwidth Consulting LLC