Company Corner: Social Cipher

Company Corner: Social Cipher

Here at Patchwork Hub, we believe it’s important to share the work of revolutionary technology organisations. Continuing our Company Corner series, we recently caught up with Vanessa Castañeda Gill from Social Cipher. Social Cipher is a game-based social-emotional learning platform for youth of all neurotypes and the professionals who work with them.

What is Social Cipher?

Social Cipher is a game-based social-emotional learning platform for youth of all neurotypes and the professionals who work with them. In other words, we build space pirate video games to help youth understand themselves and those around them. Our software also helps the professionals who work with them better understand their students’ social-emotional well-being.

What led to the creation of Social Cipher?

I started this company because of my own experiences as a neurodivergent individual (autism/ADHD). After 6 years of being ashamed of my conditions, I realised through the power of play and imagination that I never needed to be fixed; I just needed a different way to learn. I started Social Cipher to make sure that every young person finds that truth.

Why are accessibility and disability important to your company?

As a 50% neurodivergent team, disability inclusion is super important for us. The reason we’re able to create such nuanced characters and moving stories in our games is that we include neurodivergent voices in our team from the beginning. We believe in the idea of ‘nothing about us without us’ and test with neurodivergent youth because they’re the experts in their own experiences. 

We know that with the right support, folks of all neurotypes can absolutely thrive. If that means flexible/remote work, having tasks organized in a visual manner, or simply being able to turn your camera off during video meetings, it's a no-brainer. We encourage those supports, even if it's not the "norm”, whatever this means.

Do you have any tips/advice on how to create a more inclusive working environment?

Definitely! Here are a couple of things that Social Cipher has done to build a 50% neurodivergent team:

  • In job descriptions, include neurodivergence as a strength/something you're looking for.
  • Not assuming that every neurodivergent person wants to be a consultant on their experiences (unless they're hired as a neurodiversity consultant, of course). It's more about leaving the opportunity open if they'd like to give feedback/share about it.
  • Getting feedback from neurodivergent team members on your hiring process! 
  • Encourage folks to give feedback on current processes and how they work out for them. Do your processes work well with their own learning styles/preferred ways that they process information?
  • At the interview stage, we're working on incorporating accommodations into the interview itself! As a neurodivergent person myself, when I've been on the applicant side of things, this step has been a huge indicator to me of a company's inclusivity.
  • These accommodations during interviews can include:
    • Identifying audibly who is talking/asking questions. 
    • Sending questions in advance.
    • Writing questions in chat as we ask them.
    • Closed captions.
    • Sending questions afterwards for more elaboration.
    • Camera off/phone call instead.

What do you think is the biggest challenge your industry will face in the next 5 years?

I believe there exists polarization in the neurodiversity space. The thing is, we all want the same things for neurodivergent folks: to thrive and live happy, healthy lives where people feel supported. The issue is that there's disagreement on how to achieve those goals. There are some amazing disability advocates and organizations doing the work every day to make progress on that though, and with the rise of the Neurodiversity Movement. I have faith that we'll see a lot of positive change in the coming years.

What have you found most helpful in the progression of your company?

We meet monthly to do what we call product roadmap refreshes, which allows us to look at a visual timeline and see all of the goals of each department lined up together in one place. It really allows us to be real about our goals and what may have to change, and it bridges the natural divides that occur between the product and business sides of our company. We also love doing show and tells during our core team meetings – we have super talented and passionate people on our team. This really helps us bond when we share our passions and interests!

Is there anything else you’d like us to share?

Our team is full of a bunch of amazing geeks! We have a fossil hunter, an escape room builder, a master cosplayer, and many more interesting talents on the team. The creativity and passion we have is truly this team's greatest strength (as a bonus, they're incredibly fun to work with!)


Want to find out more about Social Cipher? Check out the links below:

Social Cipher’s Website

Follow Social Cipher on Instagram

Follow Social Cipher on Twitter

Follow Social Cipher on LinkedIn


Published: 4th October 2022

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