What does it mean to have autism? And what kinds of challenges and opportunities does it present to a workplace?  Novo Nordisk has run Project Opportunity twice together with Autism Denmark and the Danish Autism Institute. The purpose of the project is to support efforts to get jobs on ordinary terms for people with diagnoses on the autism spectrum

Imagine that you perceive the noise level in the canteen as 100 times louder, and that even minor changes in your daily life cause you to lose your overview. Such is life for 28-year-old Louise Wille, who has Asperger’s and ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

Although these two diagnoses give Louise challenges in her everyday life, they also provide her with some unusual abilities. For almost two years Louise has brought her special skills to Novo Nordisk in Bagsværd, where she works on complicated error detection and systems development.

And despite her challenges, Louise manages well indeed. In fact, it only took her three months to finish the tasks her boss thought would take two years.

Project Opportunities was started at Novo Nordisk by Corporate Vice President Liselotte Hyveled in 2012 in cooperation with Autism Denmark. Louise was hired in the second phase of the project, under which four people have been hired at various places in Novo Nordisk since 2015. None of the four participants in the project works fulltime and each has a mentor from the Danish Autism Institute. Their work responsibilities are based on each individual’s special skills.

The project runs two years at a time. The first round of the project was funded exclusively by Executive Vice President and Chief Science Officer Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, who thinks there is good reason to use resources to help people with diagnoses on the autism spectrum join the company.

“I believe that as a company we have a responsibility to utilise all the talent available within Danish society, and not only the people usually considered ‘normal’… It has been fantastic to see how well these four people have been received throughout the organisation and that their colleagues have been understanding and gone out of their way to make them feel welcome,” says Mads.

The project has proven to be a win-win situation for participants as well as Novo Nordisk

Recently, Louise landed a permanent contract.

Efforts are being made to spread the Project Opportunity model to other companies in Denmark, as the purpose of the project is to support efforts to get jobs on ordinary terms for people with diagnoses on the autism spectrum.

For further information

Henriette Ipsen 
HR Consultant