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Making an impact: Understood’s pilot internship program takes off


In 2020, unemployment rates for people with disabilities marked the highest in 7 years.

At Understood, we believe in being an example of the change that we want to see. This means demonstrating our mission to help those with learning and thinking differences thrive. Part of this includes creating a work environment where they are embraced and have the opportunity to create meaningful careers. We’re tackling the disability unemployment rate head-on by launching a new internship program with more than a dozen talented individuals who have learning and thinking differences.

The pilot program launched in February and has already played a key role in helping us fulfill our mission. Fourteen new interns will be in residence at Understood for six months, gaining practical work experience across various fields, career connections, mentorship, and professional development. 

The application process for the pilot program was shared across 30+ job boards, organizations, schools, and hundreds of organizational chapters. In just two weeks, over 250 individuals with learning and thinking differences applied to Understood, encouraged by the prospect of building a better future for others within the 1 in 5. 

After a five-day on-boarding process, our cohort connected with many employees who learn and think differently while exchanging perspectives that allow us to remain connected to our mission and each other.     

Jed Webster, Understood’s data science intern commented about his positive experience, sharing that, “Everyone has guided me towards becoming a well-rounded individual and I’m excited to be working with an organization that embraces the power of cutting edge technology.” 

Part of what makes Understood great is that we really do ‘understand’ our people and those with learning and thinking differences because we are committed to recruiting and developing talent from the 1 in 5,” said Katie Aholt, Understood’s director of people engagement and operations, who spearheaded the inaugural internship program.

Yvonne Yancy, Understood’s chief human resource officer, added, “By giving those with learning and thinking differences opportunities, and an accommodating and inclusive work environment, it positively benefits us all. Without those opportunities, the cost to society can be up to $500 billion in lost productivity. We take pride in bringing some of the brightest talent to Understood, and can say with certainty that after these interns have made their mark here, they will go on to further shape a world for difference.”

And the feeling is mutual. In a survey, 100 percent of our new interns shared that they feel welcomed at Understood and are driven to change the stigma surrounding learning and thinking differences.  

“It has been such an honor getting to work at Understood. The work is meaningful and the people of Understood are incredibly passionate and talented. This has been such a great opportunity for me and I am so thankful to get to be a part of it,” said Jessica Miller, design intern.

Understood has already benefited from these individuals’ neurodiversity, energy, and unique perspectives based on their lived experiences. Understood is committed to embracing difference, and encourages more companies to consider bringing neurodiverse talent into their organizations. Their differences can be your strength.

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