Ergin Özdemir – Unusual gurus with superpowers


Ergin Özdemir has an unusual guru with an unusual superpower. This superpower is autism and through it, Ergin has been transformed from a regular engineer to one of Sweden’s foremost public speakers and diversity advocates. Since moving to Sweden from Turkey in 1993, Ergin, a self-described “love immigrant”, has been consumed by questions of diversity and integration. His own experience with a system that makes it unintentionally “almost impossible for an immigrant with or without an education to integrate into Swedish society” compelled him to begin sharing the “perspective from our side”. Ergin re-trained in IT and finally got his first break in a Swedish workplace where he quickly worked up to management roles. This convinced him of the importance of enabling others to get a chance to show what they can do as well.

As luck would have it, Ergin’s definition of diversity was stretched further to cover a wider spectrum when his son Håkan was diagnosed with autism 18 years ago. Since then, Ergin has worked tirelessly towards creating dignified opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds to not only become part of, but also fundamentally transform workplaces. So far he has initiated around 50 internships in Sweden, made it possible for a number of students in Turkey to pursue tertiary education through scholarships, and founded the Diversity Achievement of the year.

In this talk, Ergin will show how having a son with autism has enabled him to become a calmer, more focused, better planned, and paradoxically more spontaneous person, with those benefits expanding far beyond his personal life. Through countless real-life examples and some serious TEDster research, Ergin has been able to show that rather than a burden, diversity in all its senses offers a competitive edge for every organization. All that is required is that we widen our view of where our society’s super powers reside.