One of the greatest benefits, in my opinion, of working at Foundant is the volunteer program. You may have read about some of our group projects in the past, but I’m talking about the opportunity (and encouragement) we as individuals are given to seek out and participate in volunteer projects outside of the group.
This benefit offers us the chance to use regular working hours (approximately 1% of our annual work time) to give back, and to use our individual strengths to make a difference in an area we feel passionate about. Some of us spend a few hours here and there throughout the year, and others choose to use the entire time in one go. The point is, we are empowered to choose how best to spend our time making an impact in our community. (Really cool side note: we each use GLM to apply for our volunteer hours!)
For instance, I have recently split my time between high school basketball and a barbershop singing group. Sounds weird, right? Let me clarify:
Basketball: The Gallatin Valley Tournament Committee promotes and supports high school sanctioned events in Belgrade and Bozeman. Montana is a large state, and some teams have to travel seven or eight hours in order to compete. During tournaments in Bozeman, the Committee runs a coaches’ hospitality room – a place for coaches and administration from schools all over Montana to relax, have a bite to eat, and visit with peers during the long waits between games and after their long journeys. The funds available for this hospitality room are limited, and so they rely on volunteers to run it and local businesses to provide the food. Fun Fact: my husband owns a local restaurant supply company; guess what I volunteered for!
Barbershop Group: My other volunteer project is for The Bozeman Chord Rustlers.The Rustlers are an extraordinary group of men (all different ages) who share a love of barbershop music. Throughout the year they can be heard singing for civic and charitable organizations, private groups, churches, community events, and fundraisers; each summer they sponsor a music camp for High School boys and girls; and (of course) they sell the famous Tater Pigs™ at the annual Sweet Pea Festival in Bozeman to raise money for their nonprofit group. Often, throughout the year, they are in need of flyers for one or more of their fundraising events. This is where I come in. As someone who works in marketing communications, I both enjoy this kind of project and am able to offer help where my strengths lie.
Now on to those robots…
Last weekend I was able to take my kiddos up to the campus here in Bozeman for the FIRST Robotics Competition and watch Mike Schuld, Foundant’s Lead Developer, in action during his volunteer project. Montana FIRST “is a unique varsity sport of the mind designed to help high-school-aged young people discover how interesting and rewarding the life of engineers and researchers can be.” In short, it was robots going head-to-head in an arena style competition. How cool is that??
But, as Mike explained to me how the competition works, I opened my eyes to what was really happening here. There were a lot of intelligent kids in that gym, and any one of them could probably do something awesome with robotics material and code, but it was more than that…they were learning about teamwork on a whole new level. Teams were paired up, and then went head to head with another set of teams. Not only did they have to work in sync as a newly formed team, their robots had to as well.
As the mother of a young boy who likes computers more than football, and dinosaur trivia far more than rough-housing, this unique approach to teams struck a chord. I could see why Mike enjoyed being in the midst of this competition and, as I watched him explaining how it works to my son and showing him the Oculus Rift (don’t worry, I had no idea what that was either), I knew that this was more than a competition, more than fun; even more than a volunteer project. This was a passion to everyone in that room.
In addition to the volunteer hours we are free to use, Foundant employees are also encouraged to donate monetarily to causes of our choosing. Foundant pledges to match up to $100 of qualified donations for each employee once per year, allowing any donations we choose to make go even further. After seeing my son’s excitement about the robots and learning that his school doesn’t yet have a team to complete in the younger competitions, Mike decided to make his next donation towards helping to start a new team for my son’s school, so he and other students who might want to get involved in learning more about robotics, programming, and working hard with a great team can have the opportunity to do so. (Side note: I found this out when Mike reviewed this post and simply added this paragraph…*sniff, sniff*…a developer with a heart of gold!) But, in all seriousness, he gets it…and he gets my son. Again, how cool is that??
I hope to be able to relate more stories like mine and Mike’s over time, and I hope you’ll be willing to share some of your passions with us as well.