To all techies aspiring social impact:“Non-profits need tech skills”

Global challenges Social innovation Technology

“Yes, you can turn your soulless tech job into a social-impact career,” according to Amy Sample Ward, author and trainer on the use of technology for social impact. If you’re thinking about a career move, here’s what you should know.

“Once in a while, something feels missing. You often think that you’d love to do something more meaningful, that makes a positive difference in the world,” she addresses her target audience. She’s speaking to people that work in the tech industry, either at a small startup or a giant corporation. Perhaps they even like their jobs, “but only sort of”.

“Whether you’re a project manager or a developer, there are lots of ways to use the skills you’ve developed in the tech industry for a social mission,” she argues. “The non-profit sector could be your opportunity to combine that experience with social impact in a way that makes you feel great—while still advancing your career.”

She argues that the number of mission-driven employers is increasing tremendously. Just like the range of mission-driven roles within them. “In fact, non-profit jobs are on the rise—they even kept increasing throughout the last recession,” she states.

Technology for social impact

The tech industry is all about opportunities for efficiency and scale. This is no different in the non-profit world. “Those skills are directly transferable,” she says.

“Operations isn’t just about how to make your product or services better—it’s also about processes and workflows. Many tech veterans consider lean and agile approaches to be standard practices everywhere. But trust me, they aren’t,” she says.

A wealth of benefits

“Even common things like daily standup meetings and fast, iterative production schedules are brand new in a lot of mission-driven organizations. This means they can all benefit from those with experience creating cultures based on nimble planning and implementation,” she adds.

What’s more, “despite the tax-code language of ‘non-profit’, these organizations do a lot of work raising funds,” she says. “In the non-profit sector, there’s a lot of investment to be raised beyond cash, too—from in-kind services and trades to long-time partnerships or even cost-share models.” This is another reason why tech professionals can bring a wealth of benefits to an organization with their experience building relationships and raising capital.

Right now

“It never hurts to start looking for a mission that inspires you,” she concludes. “There are lots of open positions in the non-profit sector right now that are waiting for qualified people from other industries, especially tech-driven ones. You might even find what you’ve been missing this whole time.”