Ah, yes, here we are again! Announcing to the world that there are millennials out there who do not fit into negative millennial stereotypes. We’re loud, we’re proud and we’re not going anywhere.
According to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, cause work is the No. 3 factor for millennials in deciding where they would like to apply for jobs. We are also 77% “more likely to volunteer if we can donate [our] skills.”
So, while the notion that millennials are lazy and self-absorbed as a general rule has circulated the internet for years, these statistics prove otherwise.
I know what you’re thinking — stats can say a lot, but where are the personal examples?
There are many organizations out there which advocate for millennial volunteers, some of which, like the Peace Corps, are essentially household names. That’s not to say that the Peace Corps is the only option.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Julie Clugage, the Co-Founder of Team4Tech — a Silicon Valley –based organization that recruits tech professionals to join service projects in other countries, where their tech skills will be put to use.
Team4Tech’s “core set of values” include immersion in the “local culture,” “using local suppliers whenever possible for sustainability and local economic development,” the “belief” that “volunteers will be transformed by putting the needs of students and teachers first” and “taking a rigorous and solution-oriented approach” to projects.
Teachers? Students? Yes. Team4Tech’s projects are based in classrooms. The volunteers work with the teachers and show them how to utilize all of the technological improvements that will assist with lessons… a perfect fit for digital natives who work for tech companies.
“Millennials bring so many skills to the table,” Clugage said. “They are the perfect cohort for what we want to do. They want to do this – they just need a path to it.”
Team4Tech’s first project – a project that Clugage initially worked on when she was part of the team at Intel as a member of the company education volunteer corps – was at a job site at a school near Nairobi, Kenya. Kidspire, a nonprofit from the organization, opened a local preschool that was meant to cater to the children of the employees of an area quarry.
Prior to the establishment of the school, the only other preschool options required entrance exams, even for the youngest children. The school utilized adaptive learning software from Waterford Early Learning to help the children improve their reading levels.
When Team4Tech joined the project, its goal was to extend its reach to first and second graders in primary schools so that those students would also have the opportunity to utilize the Waterford Early Learning software.
“We really tried to measure: are we making an impact?” Clugage said. “The reading scores of the first graders doubled after four months. It’s Utopia for us.”
However, improved reading scores are not the only important reward for the members of Team4Tech – they also include changing the lives of the teachers. “We mainly work with teachers, as we are only on site for two weeks” Clugage explained. “One particular teacher from Cambodia got her dream job to teach math in a primary school after using what she learned from a Team4Tech workshop.”
So, who are these wonderful millennial volunteers leading the charge at Team4Tech? Enter Nate Schlein, a Team4Tech team leader who is a Sales Engineer at Box in Silicon Valley – and is currently getting ready to head a project in South Africa.
“Technology is not necessarily the answer — it’s oftentimes the supplement,” Schlein said of the prime mission of Team4Tech’s work. “You feel the impact when you’re able to hand new technology over to the teachers and students. You break such a divide. I remember when students in Cambodia were able to take their first selfies – you should have seen their faces.”
Schlein’s work defies any negative millennial stereotype. “I defy that stereotype by getting up and doing something,” he said. “It’s easy to consume a lot of information and passively support something. This was my opportunity to act. It’s important to take that risk.”
Over the course of our conversation, Schlein indicated that his career goals have shifted as a result of joining Team4Tech. “It’s changed my trajectory in terms of what I want to focus on,” he said. “I ask what extent does my career contribute to the greater good – with a constant focus on giving back.”
What has Schlein gained from his work as a member of Team4Tech? For one, he has experienced a great deal of team camaraderie with other like-minded millennials. He has also learned to appreciate his company to a greater degree, as his superiors allowed him to take the trip not only taking time off from work, but representing Box. He also finds himself telling his stories back home, and encouraging other millennials to participate on Team4Tech projects.
Additionally, Schlein has gained a greater appreciation for life in the United States. “We are so fortunate to be in a place where it’s easy to get to and from work, to have access to a strong internet connection, to have clean water that you can just take a sip of,” he said. “We lose sight of it. We haven’t had an opportunity to experience what it’s like outside. Silicon Valley is such a bubble. I take a second to remember and reflect how fortunate I am to have access to technology — or to get into an Uber instead of a Tuk-Tuk (public transportation in Cambodia that looks like a motorcycle). In Silicon Valley, there’s an app for everything.”
How do Clugage and Schlein encourage millennials to get out there and change the world?
“Figure out what your passion is from the beginning,” Clugage said. “Find your own niche — you have already built your own path.”
“I can do my best to have my voice heard and have my experiences understood,” Schlein said. “It’s important for everyone to understand that they can make an impact individually, whether that be through a volunteer project or committing funds. Touch and aid in these scenarios.”
If you are interested in joining a Team4Tech project, complete an online application here. Clugage suggests visiting your company’s HR department if your company is not a Team4Tech partner company – new partners are always welcomed.
To read more about the impact of Team4Tech projects, visit the team’s Impact Report.