The best way to help yourself is to help others.
Volunteering for a worthy cause is a selfless act – or is it? You are giving of your time and efforts, but you gain so much more in return. I’ll share with you why I volunteer for TechGirlz. My hope is you’ll consider volunteering for a cause you believe in and see similar benefits.
Supporting a cause
Volunteer for causes you are passionate about. This way, you are spending your time towards a solution. It can give you a sense of accomplishment and control in that you can affect change in your community.
As a women working in IT, I want to encourage young girls to learn about technology in a way that interests them. TechGirlz is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the gender gap in technology occupations by focusing on girls at the crucial middle school age. Women make up only a quarter of jobs in IT. The numbers go down from there – 5% for Asian women, 3% for African-American women and 1% for Hispanic women. The number of women in tech in the United States has declined steadily since 1984. To make it worse, women are leaving the field faster than they are entering it.
It’s important to me to support women in IT now and in the future. It’s about inclusion and creating opportunities for everyone. Technology drives all aspects of our world and it’s important for us all to be represented. Understanding technology gives young girls opportunities for growth, new perspectives and possibly a future career goal.
Learn Something New
Many volunteering opportunities allow you to try something new. Organizations need help and so many tasks can be learned “on the job”. It’s a great way to get out of your comfort zone and be given opportunities you might not otherwise get.
TechGirlz offers girls free hands-on workshops showcasing different technologies. I’ve assisted at the workshops teaching Infographics, Ruby on Rails, Linux, Crowdsourcing and WordPress. I’ve broadened my technical knowledge, sharpened my presentation skills and improved my problem-solving abilities (because public library computers are never without a problem to fix). Technology is always changing and having a love of learning is critical.
During the workshop, it’s my favorite part to encourage the girls to explore, test and even break the technology. Making mistakes is where the learning happens. It’s a great reminder to just have fun and explore.
Meet New People
People who volunteer their time and skills are typically altruistic and supportive. These kind souls are great people to spend time with. It gives you a chance to learn from others and see new approaches. You can grow through the experiences and wisdom of others.
While volunteering at TechGirlz, I’ve met successful and interesting women and men. Also, the people who run TechGirlz are well organized and extremely helpful. It inspires me to see a community come together to share their love of technology to enrich a young person’s life. You also get a chance to network and learn about other’s interests and careers. Who knows? – it could lead to a new friendship, new customer or a new job.
I’m also inspired by the young girls at the workshops. They are very talented and have fresh new ideas.
Recently, during the WordPress class, one girl started her blog on home organization. It was her passion and now she had an outlet to share her techniques.
Focus on Others, Not Your Problems
If you are struggling with something, don’t fall into the trap of focusing on your problems as it may draw in more of the same bad things. Take time to address your problem, but more importantly, stay positive and give of yourself. Break the cycle by using the blessings you have today, right now, to make the world a better place.
I have my share of stresses and moments of doubt. I tend to worry about the future and the next steps in my career in a constantly changing IT landscape. TechGirlz allows me to use my current technical knowledge and combine it with helping others. Sharing my time and encouraging others lifts my spirits. It’s documented that volunteering boosts your well-being. At the end of the TechGirlz workshop, the many smiles and thank you’s from the girls and parents feels pretty great.
Everyone has a talent or gift they can share. Volunteer and open yourself up to new opportunities, new experiences and new people.