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Thursday, June 20 • 11:30am - 11:55am
FEATURED TALK: Finding Mission-driven Work in Tech

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If you want to do work that is mission driven, how do you find an organization that utilizes your skill set while also making a positive social impact? We will review a framework for finding work with deep impact that drives and fulfills on a daily basis. Early career software engineers will come away with actionable steps to help them in their search for social impact driven tech jobs. AUDIENCE Recent graduates, early career, and mid-career software engineers searching for social impact driven tech jobs. This topic may also be relevant for those more advanced in their careers, but who are seeking to find more purpose within their work INTRODUCTION The stereotype of a software engineer is that of a unidimensional nerd who lives in their parents‚ basement and has no social skills. The truth is that software engineering is actually one of the most versatile professions. Software engineers have many skills ‚Äì project management, building mobile apps, web products to name a few. It is applicable in a range of industries like healthcare, education, pharma, ecommerce, automobiles, agriculture, finance. Not all skills are so transferable and it's truly a privilege. This struck me recently when I was at the 2018 Grace Hopper Conference where I met and interviewed so many incredible women in tech. Many fresh graduates there echoed a common theme about wanting to use technology for social good. This post is for those of you who want to use your software engineering skills for social impact. If you‚ interested in doing something that is mission driven, or using your skills to do good and have positive social impact, where do you go from there? How do you find an organization that utilizes your unique and powerful skill set, while also making a positive social impact? I understand that there are many factors that go into choosing a job: location, salary, team, size of the organization and others. But a decade ago, during the height of the financial crisis, I made a decision to find meaningful work with a social impact driven organization. But I was clueless about how to go about it. Luckily, my decisions though unconventional, led me down the right path. I got a master‚ degree in Public Policy with a focus on harnessing technology for social good. Over the years I created, consulted for, interned, and worked with many organizations across the globe who are driven by a desire to create social impact. I have distilled this experience to create the following simple framework to help recent graduates and early career software engineers in their search for social impact driven tech jobs.What is the mission of the organization and does it align with your own values? This seems like a simple question, but it requires a bit of introspection. Your values don‚ have to only be your moral values, but they can also be your hobbies and interests. I have a keen interest in policy and politics, but also love shopping for unique artisanal products and it‚ a combination of all these that led me to my current job at Etsy. What is the mission of the organization? Do they fulfill their mission? Many organizations claim that they have a social mission because it sounds cool. You need to investigate this claim a little to make sure that the organization is not just paying lip service to a social mission. Check if they are practicing what they are preaching. Find out what how they define impact and how they measure it. A lot of this information is publicly available, you just need patience to unearth it. You can find it in their blogs, annual reports and most importantly by talking to their employees, which leads me to my next point.What is the organizational culture like? This is the part that requires the most work. It is crucial to understand organizational culture and whether the organization‚ commitment to social change reflects in how they treat their employees. Finding this out is hard work since this information is not in the public domain. Even though it‚ time consuming, invest time in studying the internal workings of the organization. Speak to your professional network about the organization and try to talk to at least a few of their employees. Before I joined Etsy, I went to their code as craft event and met an employee who was doing a job similar to what I was looking for. Talking to them was really helpful in understanding how Etsy worked. Don‚ hesitate to ask questions about organizational culture during your interview process. What ability will you have to make impact and change at the organization? Your job satisfaction will depend as much on your role within the organizational structure as much as the work the organization does as a whole. Of course, this is more important if you are applying for a senior position, but it‚ useful to consider this even at entry-level positions. One of my jobs was at an incredible mission driven organization, but its bureaucracy made it difficult to bring about internal change. I like nimble organizations that are open to new ideas and change. While looking for a job it‚ important to remind oneself that no job is a 100% match. It‚ similar to a romantic relationship. My husband is not a 100% match for me. We have wildly differing tastes in music, sports and most importantly in food. But our value systems are similar and that is what really matters. Like an ideal partner, an ideal employer should give you the space to grow as an individual. It‚ also important to remember that social change takes time, dedication and commitment. If you have the commitment and patience for such work, invest time and patience in finding an organization that demonstrates similar commitment, not just on the surface but even in its internal processes. If you cannot find such an organization, maybe it‚ time to start one of your own. OUTCOMES/CONCLUSION By the end of this session, participants will have: A better understanding of themselves, more specifically what drives them from a purpose/mission perspective, A framework to follow when researching potential job and career growth opportunities, Questions to ask themselves and their potential employers when going through the hiring process

Speakers
avatar for Rachana Kumar

Rachana Kumar

Director of Engineering, Etsy
Rachana Kumar is a global minded industry leader with a passion for using innovative technology to help others. In her current role as Engineering Director at Etsy, she leads several product engineering teams, directing engineering initiatives that impact over 2 million creative entrepreneurs... Read More →


Thursday June 20, 2019 11:30am - 11:55am EDT
Main Stage