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Published 01 August 2012 14:12
Hell is other people’s jobs for forensic cleaner Pam Marsden, pictured here in her home in Sydney’s Northern Districts. Photo: Simon Alekna
Wherever there is a job, there is probably someone willing – even glad – to do it.
Some years ago, I interviewed Pam Marsden, a woman who ran a forensic cleaning company. She was called to clean up crime scenes or to take on those “houses from Hell” – the ones crammed to the gutters with years of compulsive collecting and stinking detritus.
When I asked what was the worst job she could ever imagine, she answered: a desk job.
Cleaning up blood and gore gave her a great deal of satisfaction because she was helping people when they needed it the most.
Real hell was “bureaucracy, where you are just sitting on your backside behind a computer all day. I am action woman. That is just me. That is the type of person I am,” she said.
Finicky work such as software testing is another job that requires a special sort of person. It involves long periods of concentration and the ability to recognise flaws in repetitive information.
Much of this kind of work gets sent offshore but there is still a demand for local testers who can work closely with a client. But few people want to take those roles, when there are plenty of more exciting and varied ones elsewhere.
Luckily, there are a pool of people who love this kind of work – and they are very good at it.
That they have autism should come as no surprise to those who work in IT. The behemoth companies in Silicon Valley are often said to be full of people with Aspergers Syndrome – an often very high functioning form of autism, where people can be very bright but have a social deficit.
An entrepreneur, Thorkil Sonne, started Specialisterne, a software testing company in Denmark, after his son was diagnosed with autism. He recognised that his son needed a future where he could have the dignity of working in a job he enjoyed.
Ninety per cent of Specialisterne’s staff have autism and they have provided superior results to clients such as Cisco Systems, Computer Sciences, Lego Group, Siemens, Oracle and Microsoft.
Sonne has been busy franchising the idea around the world, with operations in Denmark, Scotland, Iceland, Switzerland, Austria and the US (Minnesota).
In Melbourne, Info Xchange Australia, Social Firms Australia (SoFA) and Alpha Autism have combined to start TestIT, a local version inspired by Sepcialisterne. So far, the company employs eight people, six of them with Aspergers Syndrome.
The executive director of SoFA, Caroline Cross, says 50 people applied to work at TestIT when applications opened last year.
“Starting small and then growing is the logical way to do it,” she says.
For those interested in hearing more about TestIT and other organisations set up to employ people with disabilities, SoFA is holding a breakfast expo with four social firms (with have up to 50 per cent of people with a disability) in Melbourne this friday at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre in Lonsdale Street. The other firms are Yarra View Nursery, Incito Maintenance (cleaning), The Mission Caters (catering), and TestIT.
For the breakfast, readers should contact James Murphy at SoFA: email@example.com.