When a former work colleague asked me to join her for volunteering five years ago, I’ll be honest — I didn’t want to go. The event was with an organization that helped homeless clients connect with social service providers in San Francisco. I didn’t see myself as a “volunteer” or “do-gooder type,” and homelessness, especially in San Francisco, felt bleak and insurmountable. But I went anyway (peer pressure works!) and I’m forever glad that I did. That day I met amazing people I would have never met, and started to learn about how community partners work together to create change on a daily basis.
Growing Goodness at Okta
Today I’m proud to work at Okta where employees are encouraged to volunteer, donate, and learn about important community issues through Okta for Good. In October, we launched our employee impact program, which provides a platform for our employees to give back in ways that matter to them and their communities. In our last quarter, Okta employees participated in a company-wide challenge where employees can volunteer, donate, and attend a “Philanthropy 101” educational session - those who complete the challenge win $50 to give to a nonprofit of their choice. The results so far have been inspiring. Thirty percent of employees have volunteered since the launch, and employees have both donated and volunteered all over the globe-- in food banks, community gardens, homeless shelters and schools.
I consider myself lucky that there were almost too many great stories to choose from, but here are a few of my favorites that I hope you’ll draw inspiration from too.
Jim Mollé + Glide Memorial
Meet Jim Mollé, a technical instructor in San Francisco. In November, Jim volunteered alongside his colleagues at Glide Memorial serving breakfast to San Francisco’s most vulnerable – those who are homeless, poor, or hungry.
Okta for Good: What was the most surprising part?
Jim: The spectrum of people in need--men and women, young and old, folks of all nationalities--poverty knows no boundaries. I became aware of how we take such little things for granted.
I was also surprised by how the experience stuck with me. On my commute back to the office, we ran into terrible traffic on the bus. Pre-volunteer Jim would have been too wrapped up with the frustration of not getting to his destination on time. Yet having served at Glide that morning, the perspective (still as fresh at the bell peppers my coworker Barry sliced up for two hours that morning) instead of frustration, led me to feel gratitude.
Simply being in San Francisco, and seeing people suffer on the streets every day has moved me to give back to my community more. Much of society has become desensitized to the problem. Seeing someone suffer is hard. Seeing someone ignore someone who is suffering is unacceptable.
Diane Long + Days for Girls
Diane Long is a senior certification test manager at Okta, based in Illinois. She’s a long-time volunteer with Days for Girls, an organization dedicated to providing sustainable feminine hygiene to girls around the world. Together with her mother and group of dedicated volunteers, Diane spends many-a-day cutting, sewing, and assembling sustainable feminine hygiene kits. Each kit lasts two to three years, allowing these young women to attend school during times they might otherwise be forced to stay home.
Okta for Good: What inspired you to volunteer with Days for Girls?
Diane: As a mother of two daughters and a woman working in technology, I am particularly moved by causes that help move the needle on equality. Late this summer, my mother introduced me to Days for Girls and became a team leader for the organization and I was hooked! After researching many organizations, I knew that this was one I wanted to put my support behind.
I was stunned to learn that so many young women around the world were unable to attend school on a regular basis because they lacked basic hygiene supplies. Solving this basic needs problem is the first step to solving larger problems we talk about-- like the lack of women in STEM. Being able to use my love for sewing to produce something so basic that would enable young ladies to stay in school was inspiring to me. The event is only a day, but I will continue to support this cause long after it ends.
Ciaran Morris and Dot Cuy + "Sleep Out"
Across the pond in Okta’s London office are Ciaran Morris, account executive, and Dot Cuy, field marketing manager. Earlier this month, Ciaran and Dot participated in the Soup Kitchen’s annual “Sleep Out” to raise awareness for the local homeless population. Participants spent a night sleeping on the street to learn about the issues faced by the homeless each night.
Okta for Good: What was most surprising to you?
Dot: It was one of the coldest nights of the year in London– the temperature was around 0 degrees Celsius (34 degrees Fahrenheit). The night started with a nice atmosphere, people chatting and playing board games. I had a long day so I was in my own zone and was trying to focus on getting rest early (how naive). I didn’t think it was cold to start,but after lying down for five minutes, the cold hit me. I was only half asleep the whole time even though I was well prepared, with six layers including a goose down jacket, a blanket and a sleeping bag.
Since the experience, I have definitely been more aware of the homeless community. Whenever I see them on the streets, I’m able to see things from their perspective and think of what more I can do to help. I am generally grateful that I am in a situation that I can contribute to a cause I care about via Okta’s employee giving programs, whether it is for the homeless or anyone else in need in the U.K..
Okta for Good: And the highlight?
Ciaran: The highlight for me, was how generous my colleagues, friends and family were. We raised close to £1,000!
Continuing our Momentum
Two months in, and we’re just getting started! Thank you to our incredible employees, community partners, and great Okta family in helping to create these meaningful experiences. We’re excited to continue the momentum next year. Happy Holidays!