Who Are The People in your Neighborhood
In my days filled with Zooms, I try to structure at least one of them each day to focus on something I’m passionate about. Typically that means some of the volunteer work I’ve become involved with over the years. Just last week, a friend of mine introduced me to a leader in his company who is passionate about social justice. To meet someone who was focused on not just doing an incredible job at work, but in the world as well was nothing short of inspiring.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with other people who, though typically quite different, share a common interest in both making an impact, and about contributing to the community at large. I’m even more grateful to have evolved my role over the years to lean even more heavily on both scaling culture as well defining our community efforts. It has allowed me to continue to weave this into the fabric of the company, as well as satisfy my own interest in this area.
Back in my first job, there was an opportunity to contribute $5 from each paycheck to help support a national organization. Literally having budgeted out my meager salary down to the dollar, $10 a month was not insignificant; and yet I did it gladly. I knew I was heads down in work and life, and thought it was a convenient way to make a difference.
As time passed, helping out in my community continued as a side interest, but not one I prioritized. It wasn’t until I started working with the Queen of Sweden that all of that changed. That may sound super fancy, and candidly, it was. And while it’s a long weird story to how I got involved, the experience offered a turning point for me. After about two years of being involved with the World Childhood Foundation, I learned three key things about myself. First, I realized I felt a deep sense of purpose to help children. Secondly, I realized as a woman who had spent her career in startups to avoid bureaucracy, working with royalty - no matter how amazing the organization - created far too much red tape for me to want to navigate. Finally, I knew serving the community in some meaningful (read: not necessarily convenient or easy) way needed to be woven into my life moving forward.
When I joined Rapid7 nearly ten years ago, we were tiny and had little to offer except our time. As we began to grow, we found ways to weave the notion of giving back into our culture, supporting cross functional teaming while servicing our community at the same time. #rapid7givesback is now an international program, where each of our offices globally selects organizations in their local communities, primarily focused on STEM or Diversity and Inclusion efforts, and gives of their time. More recently as the company has continued to perform, we’ve been in the incredibly fortunate position to be able to also donate money and additional time to partners we truly believe are making a real difference in our communities. We have sought out deeper connections to organizations by weaving their work into our company - such as having our people engage in their epic fundraising events or mentoring youth, like at BUILD Boston or developing their leadership skills and supporting our diversity efforts by hiring fellows from Hack.Diversity. There is no single way to get involved. The point is, when people are so inclined to give back, and we can do something that enriches our company, our community and ourselves, how could we not want to lean into that?
This unique moment in time has caused many of us to focus both on our own mental well being as well as what we can do to contribute back to our communities. While countless articles have been written about the benefits of volunteering, let me share my highlights to motivate you further.
- It creates a sense of purpose. I don’t know about you, but as of this morning my Zoom count was at 1,041 since the start of the pandemic. Finding ways to break up my routine and connect me back to something meaningful outside my everyday work is kind of awesome. In the midst of chaos and tragedy, spending time helping people and organizations who need the help just plain feels good and has added some additional meaning to my life. Who doesn’t need a little more of that right now?!
- It’s good for you. Many of us feel like we are working even harder right now, as we are never truly “away” from our work. Studies have shown that by spending time volunteering, we develop more purpose, which supports a healthier outlook. It’s also been linked to stress management, in addition to better sleep and prevention of chronic health issues.
- It can help you connect with others. Even the most introverted people often enjoy an opportunity to connect with others who share a similar passion or interest area. Widening your network through volunteering will help you meet and get exposure to people you are likely to find super interesting.
- It changes your perspective. We all have challenges and struggles in our lives; but there is always someone worse off than you. Many of us reading this don’t struggle with access to education, or worry that our basic human needs are being met. Not everyone is that fortunate. No matter who you help or how you offer that help (financially, time, etc) that experience holds the opportunity to open your eyes to the broader community; not just your own comfortable place in it.
- It can help you grow while sharing your skills. Skills we take for granted and don’t even recognize as strengths are often valued and appreciated by those we choose to share them with. Spending time volunteering can help you to develop these skills further, while expanding your outlook and evolving them in new ways.
There are likely numerous other benefits, but these are the ones that stand out to me. In my quest to build this focus inside our company, I’ve gone all in on the two organizations I’ve mentioned above. However, it doesn’t matter which org you chose to support; just that you support something. You don’t need to open your wallet; in many cases time is just as valuable. If you are ready to open yourself up to truly giving back, there’s no better time than right now. So whether it’s finding a group that supports something you feel passionate about, or you can get involved with an organization your company already supports, there is no shortage of work to be done. Just do it.