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Paying it Forward: Benefits of Volunteering in Tech

Volunteer Hands — Pixabay

My journey started in my junior year of university. I attended a portfolio review where Maria Guidice asked whether or not I had any online examples of my work since I was interested in web design. I sheepishly said no and she suggested that I go to Meetup.com, join a group, and keep her posted. What she said stuck with me: it meant that I didn’t have to be alone anymore.

Skip a few years and my first out-of-school volunteering experience was with Anita Borg Institute – Chicago Chapter. It was mostly signing event attendees and monitoring booths. It wasn’t much, but my experience taught me some lessons about volunteering in tech that I would like to share.

If you have issues like lack of time, children to watch look after, a particularly debilitating condition, etc., call ahead/ message the organizers on Meetup.com (if they are on there) to see if accommodations could be made. Often times, these organizations are more than willing to help. If the organization can’t help out, then you might want to make arrangements at least 48 hours in advance.

1. Volunteering can boost your confidence/get out of your shell.

When I was presenting the organization to strangers at non-profit fairs, I always had to reinvent myself in order to sell Anita Borg Institute to strangers. I was terrified at first because I thought I would be found out as a fraud or that I didn’t belong. But, the more I volunteered, the less I drew into myself. I realized that I had more value than I let myself think I had. Volunteering can help you

2. Volunteering can make you feel at home with public speaking.

I’m an introverted UI Designer / Front-end Developer whose on the Autism Disorder Spectrum, so speaking in public is not easy for me. And yet, the more I volunteered, the easier it got. Try sticking to your passions / why you got into volunteering in the first place.

3. Volunteering can give you a sense of responsibility.

If you are a minority in tech, you will realize that it’s much bigger than you. You could be the last push/catalyst for themselves to get into tech. Volunteering could help you learn your limits and make could make you feel useful and productive.

4. Volunteering can help you stand out during the job hunt

If you are just getting into to tech, volunteering can be a boon. It looks great on your resume. In fact, if you have volunteering experience on your resume, hiring managers are 27% more likely to choose you than if you don’t. It could also grow your network since people are likely to know who you are. As long as you leverage your newfound network, you could ask them to be a reference and then you have a better shot at getting a job.

In the end, volunteering may not be sexy in the short term, but it can yield high returns if done properly.