Meet Minnesotans Who Are Successfully Employed

Industry Passion, Knowhow in Bemidji

When Bradley Olson was just five or six, he watched his grandfather design Basic programs on a Commodore 64 computer, an advanced machine in its day. For Olson, however, that was only the beginning.

Today, Olson, 32, who has been diagnosed with autism, is responsible for much of what goes into a large retail website for a growing Bemidji company, NLFX Professional. His photographic memory, knowledge of programming, research and photo editing skills have made him a key asset for the growing sound, lighting, video and intercom equipment provider. (10-13-10) 

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Bradley Olson and
Bradley Olson, left, with NLFX Pro President Ben Stowe, at the
4,OOO-seat Bemidji Regional Event Center.

Musician, CAD Expert

Having survived boot camp by realizing that it was a mind game, Michael Allen describes his past role in the U.S. Army as one of the best jobs of his life. Although not aware of his autism at the time, his comfort with the Army makes perfect sense to him now. "The Army has a manual for everything," said Allen. The structured, organized environment left no doubt about what to do or say, or how to act at any given time, because it was all written down.

At the age of 50, with no close friends and no local support base, Allen started to take stock of his life and try to discover why he had become so socially disconnected. An Internet search of the phrase "socially disconnected" brought him to dozens of pages describing Asperger's Syndrome (AS) and other autism spectrum disorders. (10-13-10)

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Michael Allen
At his computer at Skyline Displays Michael Allen designs modular exhibits and trade show display booths through
CAD programs and computer graphics software. Commonly working on 20 projects at one time he works with a team of people to meet customer’s needs and engineering specifications.

Talented Project Leader Multitasks

"My boss calls me 'Eagle Eye' because I catch all the little details," said Louis Bouchard, 36, a project director for Equation Research, a 10-year-old online marketing research company of 17 full-time employees and several contractors who work from home, anywhere in the world.

Tethered by phone and computer, Bouchard, who happens to have autism, and his colleagues, operate on Eastern Standard Time, since most of the firm’s clients are on the east coast. As a group, they meet only for a January "Summit," an intense company meeting with personnel reviews, seminars (what the company calls knowledge transfers) and celebrations over four days. Although needing to decompress after each Summit, this arrangement suits Bouchard just fine. (10-13-10)

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Louis Bouchard
Louis Bouchard at his home office is connected by phone and computer to fellow employees at Equation Research. As a project director for the marketing research firm, he solves the most challenging programming puzzles.

Visualization Skills, a Passion for Engineering

As a draftsman for the Georgia State Highway Department in the 1970's, Larry Moody, diagnosed  on the autism spectrum over 35 years later, was placed in an elite group of engineers who were designing the Interstate Highway System. He was the only one hired "off the street," and later learned he was in that position due to the fact that his scores on the civil service exam were "off the charts." Moody realized that he could visualize three dimensional highway clover leaf designs from every angle in his head, and that trigonometry actually had a use. This did not seem unusual to him since he expected that others could do the same.

Moody  dropped out of college after his first year with a 2.01 GPA. The experience left him depressed and despondent. But, his job continued to challenge him as he worked alongside computer programmers and civil engineers. (11-16-10)

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Larry Moody
When a compressor manufacturer realized that Moody was one of the few who could understand and back their new design, they created a full page ad in the "Oil and Gas Journal" featuring Moody with the headline "Larry Moody is no Nuclear Physicist." Actually he's one savvy innovator.