An Hour A Week To Make A Difference #FutureEdge

Master Software Engineer Thomas Kunnumpurath hovers quietly behind the “Gotta Catch “Em All” team as they explain the features of their Pokémon inspired app. He knows the team he’s mentored over the past 10 weeks in the C1 Coders program, have got this (and they do, ultimately winning best app in the “Wish I Had This” category). His only frustration mirrors his team’s: if only they had just a little more time to add the additional features they’ve discussed to the app.

Thomas is one of number of Capital One employees who have volunteered to mentor middle school students as part of the C1 Coders Program, Capital One’s an ongoing effort to help students develop a greater interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In the 10-week program, these volunteers teach sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students about problem solving, teamwork and the basic principles of software development. The students learn how to create their own mobile applications using MIT University’s App Inventor and demo their apps at Capital One C1 Coders closing events.

10 weeks may not seem like a lot of time — but what they lack in time, the students overcome with enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. Thomas tells me that he was apprehensive about just how much the students would be able to retain since lessons are once a week for about an hour. Apprehension pleasantly turned into surprise, as the kids quickly picked up core concepts when building their own apps.

Like so many volunteers I spoke to, Thomas gained as much from the experience as the middle-school students. “It gave me a new found appreciation for coding and made me realize I have a skill that I can help train the next generation of coders” he tells me.

It’s a big undertaking to ask employees to volunteer their time. So, surrounded by energized mentors and students, I ask Thomas what guidance he has for other companies seeking to engage employees in similar community focused initiatives:

  1. Find a skillset that your workforce has particular expertise in and find a partner organization in the community that you can contribute your time and expertise to.
  2. Mandate a community service culture (such as having every employee spend at the very least spend at least 1 workday a year volunteering). C1 Coders is convenient for many employees as it takes place for a defined period of time (1 hr a week for 10 weeks) and the commitment starts towards the end of the workday.
  3. If as an employee, you find a specific need in the community that isn’t something other organizations are addressing — come up with a proposal and pitch it to your senior management. Your company will appreciate the effort.

Through its Future Edge initiative, launched in 2015, Capital One is focusing $150 million over five years in community grants and support efforts to help more Americans get the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century. As a part of the initiative, Capital One is collaborating with leading educational and community organizations across the country to address areas of critical need for the nation’s ability to grow and prosper in the digital age (C1 Coders is a great example of this!). The goal is to help more Americans develop the skills they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow; help entrepreneurs succeed in the digital age; and provide money management resources to prepare people for future economic success.

Yes, I’m a #CapitalOnePartner and proudly have the privilege of working with an inclusive company, aiming to make a difference.