MailChimp has always been proud to call Atlanta home, and since 2013 we’ve been dedicated to helping it be better, weirder, and more human by investing in people and organizations that add value to the city. Last year, we took our community involvement one step further by giving all full-time employees 16 volunteer hours to use each year in service of the nonprofit of their choice. And as MailChimp’s Community Involvement Coordinator, I’ve had a front-row seat to see how our nearly 700 peeps have chosen to use their time. I could brag on them all day, every day, but here are just a few examples.
Pamela Vickers, one of our Software Engineering Managers, loves Atlanta and loves to empower people who are contributing to its greatness. After speaking to leaders from some local nonprofits, she learned they had big needs around boosting their web presences. So she rallied her teammates and planned a hackathon. Over a few days in November 2016, MailChimp engineers met with folks from Atlanta’s The Living Room, Operation PEACE, and Midtown Assistance Center to learn about their particular needs, build out the organizations’ websites, and automate some tech processes.
This spring, Grady High School’s robotics team approached MailChimp in search of mentors. Alex Kelly, an Email Developer, and Jay Ponnada, a Senior Software Engineering Manager, stepped up right away. G3 was preparing for their big regional competition that weekend, and Alex and Jay were on hand to watch them compete and qualify for the world championship. Since then, they’ve been working closely with the team on writing code, building robots, and even social media strategy.
Alex and Jay were both motivated to work with G3 based on their own experiences as tech-minded teenagers.
“It would have saved me a lot of time and money in college if I had been introduced to development earlier,” Alex says. “So the goal is to help as many kids as I can avoid the struggle of going into college clueless about what they want to do. Even if they don’t stick with engineering, I still just like being there to help them find a sense of direction.”
“I’m passionate about education because it made me what I am today,” Jay adds. “Education can be a door that opens opportunities for people and allows social mobility. Student-led teams like G3 Robotics can have a lasting impact because there’s a different kind of learning than what’s presented in the classroom—it’s about peers coming together to solve problems with a common goal.”
Paying it forward
Aaron Fisher, our Paralegal, has been an active volunteer since he was a teenager. His high school required students to perform a certain number of community service hours per quarter, and the habit stuck. Now he uses volunteering as a way to bridge gaps in experience and resources. “Not everyone is afforded the same opportunities,” he says, “and volunteering aids in leveling the playing field.”
For Aaron, volunteering is also a way to expose himself to organizations and causes he wants to know more about. Right now, he’s active with Raising Expectations (that’s him pictured with some of the kids above), an Atlanta organization that empowers kids and teenagers to graduate from high school through tutoring and educational programs, career exploration and culture-focused summer camps.
“I think it’s important to give young people access to many resources to make their transition into adulthood as manageable as possible,” he says. “Personally, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the contributions of others who felt it imperative to assist me in reaching my goals. I wholeheartedly believe it’s necessary for me to return the favor.”
For a few days every summer, Emily Diffenderfer, our Technical Content Editor, volunteers with Girls Rock Camp ATL. Over one week, campers aged 10-16 learn instruments, form bands, write songs, and perform a big showcase.
“It’s fascinating to watch a quiet camper show up on Monday and then see them cast it all aside to perform something original on stage on Saturday,” she says. “I’ve played music off and on for many years, and these girls have way more guts than I did at their age—more than I have now!”
Emily has also taken part in GRCATL’s annual fundraiser, Ladies’ Rock Camp, and got a taste of her campers’ nerves when she had to play drums.
“The whole thing jazzes me up about what we can accomplish together,” she says. “Especially as women, when we really support one another and let go of fear.”