“Everyone can help – not everyone realizes it, though.”
Here, I’m quoting myself, Community Manager at Mews. Not because I believe there’s no one more suitable than myself to quote, but because I’ve been able to contribute to the common good as part of my current role, and I’d like to take the opportunity to share my knowledge with others so that they too can do well by doing good (formally known as a CSR, but that’s a term I’m not too fond of).
Based on my quote, you might think that doing good is easy – well, you’re mistaken, it’s VERY easy, and the rewards are enormous. But don’t get too excited about the rewards just yet – first let’s take a look at some experience-based pointers from our tech team here at Mews on how to set yourself up along the path to doing good and helping others do the same. Whether you’re working in a similar role, as a manager, or just looking to broaden your knowledge on this topic, you’re in the right place.
This article is a combined effort on behalf of myself and our team’s coinciding personal views and hands-on experience, with the hope that you’ll walk away with these four major takeaways:
- Helping others is natural from a very young age – sometimes all you need is a nudge.
- If you want to make an impact, make sure you’re doing something you genuinely care about – and team up with an organization with the experience to make it happen.
- Don’t let imposter syndrome creep in – you can, and will, be helpful!
- Make certain that the rewards you reap come second to the genuine act of doing good.
It’s in us naturally
One thing I’m certain of is that it’s inherent in us all. Every one of us has made a donation to a good cause, given up our spot for the elderly on a crowded tram, or fed birds during winter. The Netflix docuseries “Babies” reinforced this idea that we’re preconditioned to help from a young age, without considering our qualifications or expecting a return. Of course, life’s more complex than constantly doing good, but the good news from the series is that it’s already there within us, just waiting to be unlocked. And it’s up to us, community (or general) managers, to empower our colleagues and employees to achieve their full potential. I know, this all might sound like a terrible cliché, but we know these often have a grounding in the real world.
Of course, it’s worthy of note when initiatives originate from employees, and even better when they’re able to manage it all themselves. But let’s try to look at it from their perspective. There are the new employees, the ones who are overwhelmed by their day-to-day responsibilities, and those who might not believe their contributions could be valuable for doing good (that brings us back to imposter syndrome). As managers, it’s our responsibility to step in and lead the way. By taking a real interest in the people we work with, we can unleash their confidence and help them align their company mission with making the world a better place.
And while I’m not a fan of focusing too much on the rewards of doing good, there’s one you’re sure to benefit from when you’re in charge: helping others do good enormously multiplies your sense of purpose and accomplishment. Personally speaking, I don’t possess skills or talent I can directly pass on to the tech community (and don’t worry, this isn’t an example of imposter syndrome, it really is the case!). What I do know how to do well is connect the right people. And when you can see first-hand how your colleague has benefited in doing good thanks to your help, the reward is priceless. The concept of positive reinforcement is termed to nudge people, which is also the title of the eye-opening book by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, one I highly recommend.
Find a partner and your mission
While you may want and even be able to help on your own, it’s even better to team up with someone with the knowledge and expertise to facilitate your journey. One thing to remember is that you can’t solve all the world’s problems – at least, not yet. That’s why it’s important to narrow your focus to an area you genuinely care about. Another thing to keep in mind is that the scale of good you do will correlate with the resources you have at your disposal. In his book “This is Marketing”, Seth Godin discusses “the smallest viable audience” when selling a product, an idea that’s also relevant in the context of doing good.
The consensus within our tech team has always been that we want to do good in tech, the area where we have the most expertise and can make a relevant impact. It’s effortless to donate money (when you have the money, of course), and while we do that, we prefer to shape causes that matter to us.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the things we do here in the Mews tech team. This can serve as a case study, meaning you can replace our individual initiatives or partners with anything you feel passionate about or believe would make the most genuine impact.
- One-third of our colleagues are alumni of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics in Prague. So, when the opportunity presented itself to become strategic partners, we were more than happy to take it. This initiative represents giving back to the community that made it possible to start and run Mews – and although financial donation constituted a large part of this, we take every opportunity to pass on our knowledge to our alma mater through guest lectures on relevant topics.
- The nucleus of our technical team originated from a student project. Because of this, we strive to support student creativity and entrepreneurship, and take the initiative to partner with hackathons and student-run events whenever we can, such as BEST Prague.
- Our team isn’t only made up of people who knew from day one that their lives centered around computers. We also have a number of career-switchers who found a passion for programming, data, or testing later in life. I’m grateful to Honza Javorek, a prototype for doing good for (almost) no profit. His club junior.guru brings together people in various stages of transitioning to IT with both experienced and junior mentors, some even from our own team here at Mews.
- The Czechitas project, aiming to bring more female talent into the tech bubble, falls within the same category. The deep-rooted idea that men are more gifted than women when it comes to IT is a common misconception, and Czechitas is trying to lead the way in changing this mindset. Our colleagues, both men and women, can make an impact in this area while working with us.
- These are just some of the key initiatives we’ve had the pleasure of working with, but we’re always open to, and on the lookout for, new proposals. If you have any of your own ideas up your sleeve that you think could be a good match, we’d be more than happy to hear them!
You can do it!
We’ve mentioned imposter syndrome throughout this article, but let’s delve into it a little further. Imposter syndrome is when you doubt your skills, talent, or accomplishments. Very often, it affects the brightest and most talented people. I’m no psychologist, but when we look at the tech industry, it often boils down to seniority – the idea that if you don’t have significant experience with a topic, you feel as though you’re not qualified to help others. And that’s where we often go wrong. Can you imagine a senior-level software engineer advising someone who’s just enrolled on their first Udemy Python course? What this person needs is someone who’s recently been through a parallel experience. We can compare this to professional baseball player Mike Trout teaching a novice like me how to hit a 100 MPH fastball when I still can hardly hit the ball off the tee. Progress needs to be gradual, and the same goes for doing good.
Let’s look at the personal example of my colleague Soňa, a classic career-switcher into the tech world. From day one, I sensed that she was meant for something more, but that she may not have realized it yet. As a community manager, my role here was to shine some light on the many opportunities available to her. If you look at her LinkedIn profile now, not only is she a great QA engineer, but she’s also coaching the next generation of women and career-switchers through the Czechitas and junior.guru initiatives. Now, she’s developing her QA skills, all while receiving a deep sense of gratification through her mentoring.
Don’t do it for the rewards, they’ll come anyway
You’ve probably noticed that I often use sports parallels in my professional life, and I’ll use another here. It’s misguided for a player’s motivation to do sports to come from the money or fame they see televised. What you’ll notice is that the best players prioritize a passion for the game, pushing the limits of what’s possible, camaraderie, and the unadulterated satisfaction of scoring a goal or winning that big match. Persistence and going above and beyond is what will get you signed, a gratifying byproduct of doing something you love. The same logic can be applied when doing good. CSR, and here I use the term purposefully, is a paramount topic in virtually every company today, and no one can argue this is a bad thing. Many recent studies demonstrate the benefits this can bring to a company (for example, this HBR article). Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with benefiting from doing good – it’s called a win-win situation, and when followed through correctly, it’s the best kind of win.
Another HBR article illustrates that one thing people look for is authenticity and selflessness. Some companies may look at CSR as a quick win that adds to their cool factor, but this will backfire in the long run. Doing good isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon where every kilometer counts and the biggest obstacle is to start (many marathon runners may disagree with me here). At Mews, on a company-wide level, we’re proud of the important initiatives our team has chosen to focus on over the coming months: homelessness, climate change, and education. As mentioned early on in this article, it’s inherent in us all and it does have a positive impact on everyone involved. Let go of all the doubts and the hustle and bustle, it’s our time, so let’s start today, and the rest will come.
Photo © Natalia Bubochkina & James North.