Employee Experience

To Engage Employees, Give Back to Their Communities

With massive distributed workforces, and robust bottom lines, the tech industry has a chance this year to impact countless communities. Here’s how one company does it.

Last year, Americans donated a record-breaking $470 billion to charitable causes, a 5% increase over 2019, driven largely by the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis as well as by social justice issues.

During that same time, foundation giving climbed 19% to $89 billion while corporate donations fell 6% to about $17 billion. Corporate giving is often tied to stock market sentiment, and given the pandemic challenges, it’s not surprising companies pulled back. Still, in key industries, reinvestment this year will be vital.

For the U.S. technology and cybersecurity sectors, giving is important for several reasons. Chief among them is addressing social issues as well as helping the underserved find paths into the growing technology and cybersecurity fields.

Every year, for example, Tanium (the publisher of Endpoint) offers its employees five days off to give back to their communities (#taniumgivesback). In teams, and individually, workers provide meals to the homebound, care for needy children, serve meals at food banks, support wildfire prevention, transcribe historic audio for the Smithsonian, clean parks and hiking trails, and perform lots of other volunteer services. Those efforts often culminate in the company’s annual Global Month of Giving in October.

[Read also: Making connections and building community]

Employees also work as mentors for nonprofits like NPower, which provides tech training and coaching for underserved communities, military veterans, young adults, and mid-career professionals. NPower is one of many organizations Tanium funds through its 2% corporate Giving Pledge and Talent of Tomorrow programs, to increase coding education, support teachers, and encourage all communities to consider careers in technology.

Code.org

Hadi Partovi started Code.org with his brother in 2013. It was, he says, born out of frustration over the dearth of people who knew how to write computer code against the sheer volume of employers crying out for software engineers. Code.org has since been embraced by 500 million students worldwide. As Partovi told Endpoint, “Talent is everywhere, even if opportunity is not. And we’re really helping public schools spread that opportunity and helping talented kids everywhere get a chance. The real impact is at the individual level.”

Code.org’s curriculum ranges from basic kindergarten classwork to Advanced Placement coding courses for high school seniors headed to college. Educators love it because everything is ready to go with a minimum of effort or setup, and the tech industry loves it because its classes serve as a potential conduit for tomorrow’s tech and security leaders—and also because it embodies the same values of inclusivity that many tech companies hope to build.

As of 2021, more than 100,000 teachers have attended in-person Code.org workshops, and more than 2 million have begun using Code.org in some fashion in the classroom.

[Read also: How Code.org is teaching the world’s school kids to code]

Computer Science Teachers Association

Recruiting computer science teachers and filling out their departments remains a singular challenge in the battle to bridge the tech skills gap. Consider that only 47% of high schools in the U.S. even teach computer science. Schools that primarily serve economically disadvantaged children are especially deprived of this critical education. And COVID has made that challenge bigger. One in four high-poverty schools and 34% of rural schools had to suspend computer science instruction during the pandemic—just when computer skills were needed most.

That’s where the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) comes in. A nonprofit founded in 2004, the CSTA focuses on supporting K-12 computer science teachers and departments. It provides help for all teaching levels ranging from classroom materials to professional development resources and certification opportunities.

The nonprofit’s work reaches far beyond district-level issues to setting progressive computer science education policies at the state level. These policy goals include establishing K-12 computer science standards and curricula, allowing computer science to satisfy core graduation requirements, and requiring secondary schools to offer computer science programs to all students.

“Introducing young students to cybersecurity principles can tremendously increase their knowledge and drive their interest in pursuing cybersecurity careers as adults,” says Charles Ross, chief customer officer at Tanium. “I am certain I wouldn’t have found my calling in this rewarding field if it weren’t for my high school computer science teacher.”

[Read also: To strengthen cybersecurity, let’s support our tech teachers

NPower

NPower is a New York City based nonprofit whose mission is to solve two fundamental challenges facing the tech industry: a severe skills shortage and a lack of diversity in hiring.  Since launching in 2000, NPower has trained 6,000 students, helping to move low-income people to the middle class through tech training.

“What we’re doing is helping students get certifications that are relevant to the market,” says Matt Velez, a self-described “man of color” who emerged from New York’s housing projects to become director of strategic partnerships at NPower. “We wanted to create opportunities for individuals like myself who come from underserved communities and want to work—to learn—and have a passion for technology.”

NPower’s training program initially aimed to bring talent into the nonprofit world (thus the N in its name). Eventually, its mission grew to include training for military veterans and young adults of all genders, races, and ethnicities. Lately, NPower is invested in bringing underrepresented women of color, who have been hard hit by the pandemic, into the tech workforce.

NPower is a 100% tuition-free program with half-day courses offered in the spring and fall. Students typically start by enrolling in the baseline Tech Fundamentals class, after which they can advance to CompTIA cybersecurity and cloud-computing Amazon Web Services (AWS) certification training.

[Read also: How NPower creates pathways to prosperity]

Where and how to give

If you’re a technology or business leader (or both), please consider giving to these causes. The following links take you straight to the donation page for these worthy organizations.

  • To make a donation to Code.org, click here.
  • To make a donation to the Computer Science Teachers Association, click here.
  • To make a donation to NPower, click here.
Ben Livesey
Ben Livesey is an award-winning finance and business journalist. He worked as a writer and editor at Bloomberg News in London and San Francisco, covering business and technology, financial services and capital markets. Prior to that he was the editor of Moneywise, the U.K.’s best-selling personal finance magazine.