I've been in the tech industry for 20 years, and I've spent a lifetime volunteering for various organizations outside of my day job. A few years ago I figured out how to blend the two together, and the results have been great! It could not have happened without new opportunities in my community, so it has been more like a collective shift with intention. What I mean is this: more companies are offering volunteer opportunities to their employees. More nonprofits are focusing on STEM bootcamps and hackathons. Even the US State Department has gotten involved with several outstanding exchange programs. To use "Tech For Good" I set an intention and found a way to make it happen. The first step was to become focused on how I donate my time and money. Instead of saying yes to all of my friends’ requests to support their charity bike rides and cleaning up the beaches, I had to figure out what I was most passionate about. What matters to me most is the advancement of women and girls in STEM. Once I set my intention I had to build the skill of saying no to requests that don't align, and the result was more hours and dollars available to support what matters most to me.
Next, I started paying closer attention to what my employer had to offer in the way of volunteering. I found that they had several ways I could volunteer with the focus on advancing the status of women and girls so I engaged with those. This shifted more of my volunteer hours into the workday versus on my weekends (another perk!). I thought about my job and how I could leverage parts of it to support my volunteer efforts and this brought me to the point where I created a hands-on workshop for girls to learn about hardware. When I am local I can use the whole server and when I travel I take a suitcase full of old motherboards. The workshop provides the opportunity for girls to remove and install components like CPUs, memory sticks, hard drives and power supplies. The units are non-working so no electricity or keyboarding is involved. The systems are designed where no tools are even needed, everything easily snaps in place by hand so it's very accessible to youth.
Here are some great ways for all genders to engage locally or abroad to advance the status of women and girls in STEM:
- TechWomen.org a US State Department exchange program, which provides volunteer mentor opportunities in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- WAKEIntl.org provides tech skills to women running NGOs focused on social justice locally and abroad (women only).
- Technovation.org needs volunteers to be coaches for girls teams around the world, making mobile apps to solve problems in their communities.
- Code.org needs volunteers to spend an hour in their local school to talk about their career and support their annual Hour of Code event.
- GirlsWhoCode.org has a variety of opportunities for volunteers.
Because I set an intention and did the research, I have been able to make a substantial difference. In the last few years I have traveled to over 12 countries to provide workshops to thousands of women and girls to encourage them to become engineers, and I'm still going!
Find your passion, set an intention, and get going on your path of Tech For Good!
If you would like me to support a talk or event in your area you can find me at www.eileenbrewer.com.
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