Retail Business Services embraces innovation with IBM IGNITE

RBS QA Manager, Nancy Silva, shares her experience working with IBM’s Dyllan Rafail, a member of IBM’s IGNITE program who self-identifies as having autism spectrum disorder

Quality assurance is an extremely important job in the fast-paced grocery industry.

Nancy Silva, QA Manager for Retail Business Services (RBS), is no stranger to what it takes to ensure quality across a wide spectrum of digital applications. RBS provides industry-leading expertise, insights and analytics to six East Coast grocery brands, including the country’s largest online retailer. Silva has spent 40 years in the grocery industry, and she’s seen quite a bit of change—but perhaps no more than she’s seeing now. With more people choosing mobile apps to select and even deliver their groceries (grocery app use increased 50% in 2018), Silva and her team are constantly thinking outside the box to deliver the best product in a crowded market.

Silva has worked with IBM Testing as a Service to help RBS reach its quality standards for about five years. She recently started working with IBM’s IGNITE program, which focuses on bringing neurodiverse thinking into the workplace. The program matched IBM employee Dyllan Rafail, who self-identifies as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD), with RBS to help with QA.

She was interested in the partnership, in part because she was ready to invigorate RBS with new and innovative ideas. She was sure Dyllan could bring that thinking to the table. In fact, people with ASD often exhibit high attention to detail and many tend to be highly analytical.

“The QA environment is where attention to detail is critical,” says Silva. “It’s a great fit for neurodiverse people.”

Here, she explains how IBM IGNITE has not only changed her view on neurodiversity, but also her team’s approach to QA:

When and why did you first start to work with IBM IGNITE? 

In the fall of 2017, we were looking for another team member in my area. Our local IBM account program manager discussed with me the relatively new program that IBM was starting in Lansing that hired neurodiverse people, called IBM IGNITE. Initially, there were some questions—we wanted to be sure that the individual was set up to succeed in our environment. Was our noisy lab a good fit? Were any specific accommodations needed?

Through these discussions some of my initial concerns were put to rest, and we decided to give it a go. Participating in the program is a nice fit for RBS because we strive to be a place where our associates reflect the communities where we live.

How was the onboarding of Dyllan different than with other partners?

Honestly, there was no difference in the process we follow with any of our partners. Dyllan went through the same onboarding process that all IBM team members are given.

Tell us a little more about your work with Dyllan.

Dyllan has been a great addition to our team. We appreciate the unique perspective he brings and value he adds to our business. There are many examples of times Dyllan has been an asset, but here’s one that sticks out: During testing of a new mobile application where multiple phones and operating systems were required, most of the team thought we should test each device one at a time. Dyllan looked at the problem differently. He devised a solution by creating a station where multiple phones could be tested simultaneously, streamlining the QA process to be more efficient. He’s also shared some of his own 3D printer inventions with us, like test card holders and phone stands, to help tidy our office.

How has working with the IBM IGNITE program changed your perspective on ASD?

Working with IBM IGNITE has helped me better understand the challenges that people with ASD face after graduation. We all have stories of our first time navigating a job interview and wanting to make a great first impression. And now looking at it from the perspective of someone with ASD, where social skills are not easy, I realize that communication cues are things we take for granted. I can’t help thinking of all the times someone helped me with my career. Isn’t this a good opportunity to pay that forward just a little bit?

For RBS and Silva, the partnership with Dyllan—especially the unique perspective he brings to their QA—has been extremely beneficial. Not only is RBS giving back to an underserved community by working with Dyllan (nearly half of 25-year-old people with autism have never held a paying job), the company is also enhancing its value in a crowded market thanks to IBM IGNITE.