How Techies Can Get Engaged in Seattle

Opinion

I meet a lot of tech workers, especially newcomers to Seattle, who want to get involved in the community. Many nonprofit leaders ask me how to engage these techies to volunteer and to give. Techies are motivated to volunteer for the following reasons: expand their network; get to know their community; exercise their skills outside of work; and help contribute to an impactful solution.

Based on my experience heading community engagement at Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA), I’ve created a quick starter guide to help techies get engaged.

Mentoring

If you really want to inspire young people to learn more about tech, you have a lot of organizations to choose from. For ongoing engagement, consider coaching a FIRST Washington team or helping visitors explore the Pacific Science Center. If you’re particularly interested in increasing diversity in tech, check out the Tech Diversity Champions infographic WTIA created in partnership with HERE Seattle. Among the 30 organizations helping children from pre-K through college, Greater Foundation, Techbridge Girls and IGNITE are always looking for mentors and speakers to inspire their students.

Every June, WTIA looks for recruiters and engineers to conduct mock interviews at our Training Camp + Draft Day program. The job seekers come from community colleges and small colleges and thus are at a disadvantage compared to graduates from top-tier engineering schools.

Skills-based volunteering

Do you want to use your tech, design or project management skills to help nonprofits? To work on a team of volunteers on a project, check out Open Seattle, Seattle Data for Good, and AIGA Changemaker Series. Seattle Data for Good has over 1,000 people on their Meetup list, and they meet on a monthly basis. Check out Seattle Tech 4 Housing and New Tech Northwest’s Tech Coalition to End Homelessness for homelessness and housing issues. And if you want to help immigrants and refugees, WA Immigration Solidarity Network and the Welcome Back Center are great organizations to get involved with.

If you’re interested in co-creating a solution with a cross-sector, cross-functional team, consider applying to become an Ion Collaborator, WTIA’s civic leadership program. Working in small teams, you’ll work directly with the community to determine an issue and use your expertise to create a spin-off project that addresses it.

Hackathons

Do you love the rush of a hackathon? Seattle is home to many civic hackathons. Sign up for the Seattle Hackathon Meetup, and you’ll get notifications of upcoming volunteer opportunities. Over the past few years, Seattle has hosted Hack to End Homelessness, Hack the Commute, and City for All. Seattle Give Camp connects developers with nonprofits and is organized annually.

Non-technical skills-based volunteering

If you like the idea of volunteering with other techies in non-technical capacities, you can look up volunteer opportunities through Seattle Works and United Way. For leadership opportunities, check out volunteer-dependent organizations like HERE Seattle and Seattle Startup Week. WTIA organizes a cross-collaboration conference, FullConTech, that produces playbooks with long lists of resources on how to get involved.

In case you want to engage in your community, but you don’t have the time yet, consider donating to any of the nonprofits listed above. Technology Access Foundation, a STEM program that focuses on kids of color, will host their fundraiser luncheon on March 7. And ApprentiWTIA’s apprenticeship program for women, people of color and veterans – will hold an evening gala on May 19.

Julie Pham is vice president of community engagement and marketing at Washington Technology Industry Association. Follow @JulesiePham

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