Most of us understand the essence of volunteering, meaning giving our time to support a cause. But how does that make us a partner in a philanthropic mission?
Alicia Park, national outreach manager for TechGirlz, a program of Creating IT Futures, joined a recent episode of the organization’s award-winning Technologist Talk program to elaborate how she develops and deepens relationships with the individuals and organizations that volunteer to support courses such as TechShopz and TechPodz.
Here's an edited transcript of Park’s conversation with podcast host R.C. “Bob” Dirkes:
Bob Dirkes: Alicia, in your outreach for TechGirlz, how do you pitch volunteering? How do you help tech professionals see programs such as TechShopz and TechPodz as different in a very full and robust field of opportunities to give back? How do you help [volunteers] see the light?
Alicia Park: Volunteering with TechGirlz is very rewarding, and it always has been rewarding previous to the hurdles of transitioning virtually [due to the COVID pandemic.] We see that feedback directly from our volunteers that participate in our programs. [Seeing] how inspired the girls are definitely gets them excited.
And that's why we always say being nervous to volunteer for something like [TechGirlz] and working with youth can seem like a challenge. But jumping in, you'll see that you're inspiring and empowering the next generation of women to explore the possibilities in technology. But, in addition to that rewarding feeling that you get, as a tech professional, you're also given the opportunity to build your marketable skills… public speaking, teaching, tech know-how, and expanding your network while teaching these fun, hands-on workshops, alongside others in the tech industry.
There are many ways to volunteer. We feel as though that helps with our pitch and engagement with new volunteers across the country. You can get involved by leading a workshop, being an instructor. But if you're not ready to take that role, you can start off as a teaching assistant where you're there to support the instructor and the girls that are attending. But again, if that doesn't feel like it's you, you could simply be [when in-person sessions recommence] a location provider. Maybe you are just going to assist us in organizing workshops so that we can keep that momentum going and have those workshops available to the girls.
You could also get involved in the curriculum side… The curriculum that we have currently, which is over 60 topics, was built out by industry professionals that came to us and said, "Hey, I don't see this topic listed, but I think this would be a great addition to make sure the girls are being exposed to this idea."
You could simply be an outreach ambassador. That sounds like a really cool title. And it's a very simple one. You can simply share our social media posts… just to help the visibility of our workshops and programs for girls and families that aren't aware that these are out here and they're free to attend. Also, helping with special opportunities that we may have available, helping with marketing projects or other projects that, aren't necessarily frequent, but could definitely use assistance.
So, as tech professionals this is your time to give back individually or as a company. You're directly impacting young girls and their future careers in technology. …If you're working in the technology sector, you already know the startling statistics surrounding the vast gender gap. Only about 26% of computing jobs are held by women. You also know, or should be aware, that more heterogeneous teams win in corporations.
By volunteering to raise awareness, and bring more opportunities to middle school girls, you will, in turn make a strong impact on the future of technology careers, directly to your teams and companies. To close that gap, we need to engage, support and build the tech community around our younger generation of girls first. TechGirlz has all the free resources and support to offer so you can easily do so.
These holistic relationships really have paved the way for us virtually. [Today] virtual workshops help pique both the girls' and the volunteers' interests. That interest will translate into not only their involvement, but involvement of their friends, their classmates and colleagues, while we are virtual and when we eventually return to in-person programs.
Hear the full podcast conversation about developing philanthropic relationships (which includes contributions from Alicia’s Creating IT Futures colleague Jeff Lareau) here: Episode 43 – Talking about Partners: How Do Volunteers, Donors, Funders & Sponsors Work with Creating IT Futures
Technologist Talk is an award-winning podcast produced by Creating IT Futures, CompTIA’s tech workforce charity, where we talk to business leaders, workforce professionals and talent developers about shaping the careers of today’s and tomorrow’s technology workers.