#AutisticInTech: Celebrating Autism Acceptance Month

Women of Silicon Valley
Apr 5 · 5 min read

April is Autism Acceptance Month, a time for us to celebrate the autistic people in our communities and reflect on ways neurotypical folks can provide better, continuous allyship. This month, we’d like to introduce you to three autistic technologists, who give insight into their career and academic narratives.


Hana Gabrielle Rubio Bidon

(she/her)

Student, Cornell University

Hana Gabrielle Bidon is a sophomore at Cornell University, intending to major in Information Science, Systems, and Technology. One day, she decided to attend an event about data science and she immediately fell in love with the field, as it utilized both mathematics and computer science skills. Though she has yet to decide which career path she wants to dive deeper into, she’s considering business analytics, data analytics, data science, and data engineering.

Outside of academics, Hana is heavily involved with Cornell Minds Matter, which is a mental health organization that strives to promote the overall well being of Cornellians. She’s part of the organization’s policy team, in which she’s leading an initiative to create a Mental Health 101 presentation for freshman orientation. Through her work with Cornell Minds Matter, she’s actively advocating for mental health and interested in the intersection of technology and mental health.

Furthermore, Hana is an active member of Women in Computing at Cornell. Since discovering her passion for computing in her first CS class, she felt intimidated by the fact that many of her peers had been coding since high school. Fortunately, she’s found a community of other women in computing fields, with whom she bonds by participating in networking events, social events, and volunteering for the Girls Who Code program.

In addition to these extracurricular activities, she is a Crisis Counselor at the Crisis Text Line. Applying her personal experiences with mental health challenges, including dealing with panic attacks and suicidal thoughts, along with rigorous training, Hana is able to help others who are in crisis and in extreme emotional and behavioral stress.

What’s something you’re really proud of?

In January 2018, after having been hospitalized twice and having been in a toxic relationship, I took care of my mental health by taking a two-semester leave of absence from Cornell. Though it was an impulsive decision, I’m glad that I took that time off from school to focus on my mental health issues and got the right care for myself from both a therapist and a psychiatrist. Though I am no longer working with them, it’s great to know that I’m able to apply what I learned from those therapy sessions to my current life as a Cornell student.

What’s a challenge you’ve faced, and how did you handle it?

Adjusting back to life as a Cornell student after my mental health leave has been challenging. Taking a leave of absence was disorienting. I lost much of my friend circle during that time and had trouble making new friends through my classes and clubs. As an autistic person, it’s difficult for me to maintain friendships and socially interacting with my peers and my professors does not come easily.

So far, I’ve been working through this challenge by actively meeting new people, joining a mentorship circle for Women in Computing at Cornell, and by chatting with other members of Cornell Minds Matter. I’ve also started to have lunch every Thursday with one of my professors. Overall, it’s a work in progress but I’m slowly adjusting back to Cornell beautifully by using my resources, talking to my advisors, and connecting with both new and old friends.


Cindy Gao

(she/her)

Solution Consultant, Google

Cindy is a solution consultant leading Google’s Exchange Bidding business. Having worked in many different Google offices — Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and now based in Mountain View, California — she has a love of travel and living in new places.

Cindy enjoys attending lectures and startup talks to keep herself up to date on the fast-paced technology industry. She is a mentor for Google TOPPA@Berkeley program, aimed at helping students to grow and plan their careers. In her free time, Cindy enjoys doing cosplay, painting, and taking photos.

What’s something you’re really proud of?

I lead a Chinese Googler Network and community in Silicon Valley, which includes many high tech companies such as Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, etc. Through this organization, we have organized several events with ~300 volunteers and ~3000 attendees. You can find out more about our organization at www.zgzggala.org.

What’s a challenge you’ve faced, and how did you handle it?

My greatest challenge is being social and making new friends. The way that I handle this is by pushing myself to do more community and event organization work. While I’m still not great at making friends, the work that I am doing will hopefully benefit people in one way or another, and that in itself is fulfilling.


Paulette Maria Penzvalto

(She/her)

Program Manager, Google

Paulette Penzvalto is a Program Manager in Corporate Engineering at Google. She is passionate about Diversity and Inclusion, as she leads Autism Employee Resource Groups at Google and is active in the Google Disability Alliance. Paulette presents internationally as a keynote speaker on issues pertaining to Autism and Employment in tech and previously served of the San Francisco Mayor’s Council for People with Disabilities.

Paulette studied Computer Science at Columbia University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Liberal Arts with a focus on Neuroscience at Stanford, where she is also a research assistant in the department of neuroscience and lead on the Stanford Neurodiversity Program.

In addition to her work in the sciences, Paulette has two graduate degrees in Opera. This past season performed a main stage role at Opera San Jose and sang on the album “Kirtan Lounge: Precious Jewels”, which was nominated for 6 Grammy Awards, including best foreign Language Album.

What’s something you’re really proud of?

I am proud of my bachelor’s degree, which I obtained while working full-time at Google.

What’s a challenge you’ve faced, and how did you handle it?

I have a severe learning disability. In school, I took a proactive approach to overcoming the challenges of my disability by asking for accommodations when I needed them, by using assistive technologies such as LiveScribe Pens/screen readers, and by attending office hours regularly to get the additional support that I needed.

What are your thoughts as we enter National Autism Acceptance Month?

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to succeed. Remember that you are worth the resources, education and career opportunities you receive. The world needs your voice and your light.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


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Women of Silicon Valley

Celebrating accomplished women and genderqueer folks in tech. The Women of Silicon Valley team consists of Clarissa Bukhan, Lea Coligado, Tamar Nisbett, Jessica Sullivan and Marianne Abreu.

Women of Silicon Valley

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Telling the stories of resilient women & genderqueer techies, especially those of color.

Women of Silicon Valley

Celebrating accomplished women and genderqueer folks in tech. The Women of Silicon Valley team consists of Clarissa Bukhan, Lea Coligado, Tamar Nisbett, Jessica Sullivan and Marianne Abreu.