National Volunteer Month at Snowplow

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At Snowplow giving back is something that we take very seriously. This national volunteer week we wanted to share how we, as a remote first company, are trying to make a difference in the lives of people we might not ordinarily interact with when going about our day to day business of building data pipelines in the cloud!

Supporting volunteering initiatives at Snowplow is an interesting challenge as we are a remote first company with employees spread out over 6 continents – we have to grapple with questions such as who are our community? After all, we might be a cloud native company but there probably aren’t any people who would describe themselves as cloud native. 

Challenges with connecting in person is a common problem that many others have faced as a consequence of the various national COVID19 lockdowns occurring worldwide. Not only has COVID19 caused problems with connecting in person but we know that the communities that have been impacted hardest by the virus are typically those that are already disadvantaged for a variety of reasons. For this reason we have focussed on 2 key areas when considering how best to support our employees to make a difference:

  1. Helping to mitigate the impact of COVID19 
  2. Enabling our distributed team to make a impact no matter where they are located

To help our employees make an impact we also offer up to 5 paid days a year to pursue volunteering interestings, and we have entered into partnership with an organisation whose cause we care passionately about: 

The Social Mobility Foundation

Their mission is to “Make a practical improvement in social mobility for young people … [by providing] opportunities, and networks of support for 16-17 year olds who are unable to get them from their schools or families” 

Snowplow is packed with high achievers – people who have gone to the best universities to study the best subjects and from there have gone on to build illustrious careers in a variety of industries before joining our organisation. Our employees have a mountain of valuable first hand knowledge to share on how to be successful academically and how to build a successful career doing meaningful impactful work.

Leading the charge sharing this knowledge our Senior Leadership team delivered an Insight Day last month. Once a Snowplower signs up to a mentor, they will be asked to attend a welcome session and will be asked to do a DBS check. If that comes back all ok then they just have to sit tight while they’re paired with a student. After they’ve been paired with the student, they will support and mentor the student through their A levels to help them get into top universities around the country.

As we are a rapidly growing company and these are relatively new initiatives we have asked Aidan one of our Solutions Architects to reflect on his experiences working as a volunteer to provide some insight into some of the benefits he has seen from getting involved in his own volunteering work. 

Aidan says:

Similar to everyone else COVID19 has had quite a big impact on daily life. This is most true of how I spend my time outside of working hours. In a past life I was a pretty dedicated Brazilian Jiu Jitsu amateur athlete and was making my first tentative steps in the competitive arena. This all came to an end as sweaty wrestling matches with dozens of people in a night was no longer an acceptable way to pass time in the midst of a pandemic….

I was at a loss for what to do, and after brief forays into baking and pickling vegetables a friend recommended The Access Project to me. The Access Project “supports students from disadvantaged backgrounds to access top universities with tuition and mentoring”. I signed up and chose the subject that I wanted to be a tutor for: A Level Chemistry. I chose this as it fits in quite well with the knowledge that I picked up when studying at university (Chemical Engineering).

After signing up, training and initiation I now provide weekly chemistry tutoring to a prospective medical student; more than anything in these weekly tutorial sessions I feel lucky to be able to share a perspective into life outside of the bubble that I normally occupy, I see first hand the ups and downs associated with schools opening and closing in the UK and the palpable frustration at exams being cancelled two years running, and it is very rewarding to be able to provide something of value for someone who has seen so much disruption to their education. 

Delivering tutorial sessions has also helped me further develop the consultative skill set that I use on a daily basis in my career that sees me delivering complex technical information to a variety of personas with relatively limited preparation time.

One unintended consequence of volunteering with The Access Project meant that I ticked off some of the prerequisites required to get involved in other volunteering opportunities – meaning when St John Ambulance asked for volunteers to get involved in rolling out the UK vaccine scheme I was well positioned to put in a successful application. 

Working as a volunteer with St John Ambulance in this capacity has meant that I have been trained in delivering the COVID vaccine and have been working alongside the dedicated healthcare professionals working in the UK to help deliver the vaccine to the general public. 

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to take part in these activities knowing that while the pandemic might be disrupting normal life for many people I am empowered, in small part, to do something that helps to bring some normality back to life for others.  

I can’t recommend volunteering enough – I have been able to meet people I wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to meet in the middle of a pandemic, I’ve learnt new skills and had a chance to revisit old skills, I am not sure where my volunteering journey might eventually lead me but it has been immensely rewarding so far and is something I plan to continue doing indefinitely. 

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