Networking & Neurodiversity: Creating Intentional Spaces

“THANK YOU for the quiet room option,” read the multicolored marker note on the dry-erase board.

“YES!” another emphatic note agreed.

These real-world reviews were left by participants after The Enterprise Center’s last Networking & Neurodiversity event, a quarterly workforce development initiative held in partnership with the City of Chattanooga, Chattanooga Autism Center, Chattanooga State Community College, UTC, STEAM Logistics, Game On Chatt, and other area partners.

Created as an alternative to traditional happy hour networking events, Networking & Neurodiversity prioritizes creating distinct spaces for conversation, connection, and quiet to provide an opportunity for attendees to engage in ways they are most comfortable. 

With spaces for employer and resource tabling, small conversation or breakaway rooms, dedicated multiplayer game stations (facilitated by Game On Chatt) and a food and beverage area, the focus is on providing options for attendees to customize how they experience the event while also encouraging employers to get to know qualified potential applicants they may not meet otherwise. 

“This event means a lot to me, personally,” said Zac Beker, data manager and analyst for TEC’s Tech Goes Home program and one of the event creators. 

Beker, who identifies on the autism spectrum, first talked about the need for inclusive networking opportunities on a panel with Chattanooga Autism Center last year.

“It’s about meeting people in a way that doesn’t feel pressured,” he said. “This means a place exists for people who want a job and connections but don’t feel comfortable networking in those traditional spaces.”

For Carla Elliot, a disability awareness advocate and member of the Mayor’s Council on Disability, the event is unique — but she hopes that won’t always be the case. 

“Networking & Neurodiversity … is a movement,” she said of the last event and the momentum building behind it. “It’s about meeting people where they are. To make life better for all Chattanoogans is the goal.”

Networking & Neurodiversity’s next quarterly happy hour will be held on Floor Five at The Edney on Tuesday, June 27 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Get details and RSVP to the free event here.

For tabling or sponsorship opportunities at future events, contact [email protected].

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