Another Successful Year with the Philadelphia Eagles: Changing Lives for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum


“What are people on the Autism spectrum good at? Everything,” according to Jose Velasco, head of Autism at Work at SAP Americas. And he’s right.

In recent years, SAP has worked to open new roles and opportunities to those on the spectrum, hiring more than 160 individuals in 13 different countries and spanning 27 different roles – from software development and customer support to human resources (HR) services and global data protection.

For the second year in a row, SAP and the Philadelphia Eagles hosted the annual SAP Autism at Work Symposium at Lincoln Financial Field on Friday, May 17. The event had a great turnout, with more than 100 people from 40 different companies in attendance. Perhaps most exciting, many of last year’s attendees served as panelists, sharing best practices on programs that they have launched or grown in the last year, largely due to the leadership of SAP in this space.

The symposium featured an employee panel discussion that moved many attendees to tears.

“J.P. Morgan Chase helped my career by giving me one. They were able to match my skillset to a job that I would actually be good at… I’ve gotten my own place and live on my own. It feels wonderful and I’m learning core life skills that I wouldn’t have been able to do without my career,” said Kalyn Morris, project coordinator at The Precisionists, Inc. (TPI).

Sam Briefer, account support associate from EY, added, “We work together in a safe, inclusive environment that is supportive of neurodiversity as well. I’m thankful I no longer have to feel ashamed about disclosing I am on the autism spectrum both socially and professionally.”

Velasco; Amanda Radcliffe, board member and co-owner of Vertex Inc.; Jared G. Culotta, treasurer and assistant aecretary for Wawa Inc.; Patricia Insley, senior vice president of HR for Lincoln Financial Group; and Ernie Dianastasis, CEO of TPI, joined the stage for an engaging employer panel. Photo credit: the Philadelphia Eagles.

Speakers included representatives from the Philadelphia Eagles, The Kinney Center of Saint Joseph’s University, Wawa Inc., SpArc Philadelphia, TPI, Lincoln Financial Group, Vertex, Inc., and SAP. The panel also featured a showcase from Bryan Dai, co-founder and CEO of Daivergent, an SAP.iO Foundries program member. The platform sources and matches neurodiverse candidates to data-related jobs and remote projects.

Feedback from the event has been phenomenal. “SAP’s Autism at Work never ceases to amaze me when I see it in action,” said Mariette Kupecz, business analyst and IT manager at Johnson & Johnson. “We are happy we are able partner with SAP to learn and leverage all of the great work!”

To round out the weekend, SAP sponsored the Eagles Autism Challenge 5K on Saturday. As a whole, the Eagles Autism Challenge has raised $3.37 million for beneficiaries supporting autism research, including the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Drexel University, Thomas Jefferson University, and Jefferson Health. Comprised of 31 SAP employees, friends, and family, team SAP raised approximately $19,000 for the cause, which kicked off at an employee rally with Vinny Curry and Eagles cheerleaders at the SAP office in Newtown Square on April 4. SAP was onsite at the Eagles Autism Challenge finish line party, along with the SpArc of Philadelphia, providing literature, conversation, and gifts to the attendees.

If you missed out on participating, it’s not too late to donate to the cause here before the May 31 deadline! And join the conversation online using the hashtag #EaglesAutismChallenge.

“We all have a personal connection when we have the ability to change someone’s life, and we all have the ability to do that by providing these employment opportunities,” said Ryan Hammond, executive director of the Eagles Autism Challenge.

“There is a playbook. We know how to do this. And we have 40 companies here that can make a difference,” added Velasco during the event.

To learn more about how to launch a similar program for your business, please contact SAPAutismAtWorkNA@sap.com and visit the Diversity and Inclusion area of sap.com. For employment opportunities, visit https://sparcphilly.org.

Lastly, learn more about how our customers are also fulfilling their commitments to change the world at sap.com/bestrun.

Lloyd Adams is the executive sponsor of the Eagles Autism Challenge and senior vice president and managing director of the East Region for SAP North America.

Top image via the Philadelphia Eagles.