The Doing Good award: How Johna, Krittika, Stephanie, and Stacey maximized Hack Week by putting their skills behind a good cause

Hack Week is one of our favorite annual events at Dropbox. During Hack Week, team members across all our locations have the opportunity to unplug from their day-to-day work and use their skills to create new, exciting products or software. But this event isn’t reserved for technical roles or limited to internal initiatives. This year, a small group of women from Marketing and Comms set out to lend a helping hand to a nonprofit organization — and won an award in the process.

Product Marketing Manager Johna Seo had only been at Dropbox for a couple of months when Hack Week started. She worked in HR for several years before going back to school to study marketing and brought her new skills to our table as a Dropboxer. As a Chicago native, when she saw nonprofit Code Nation, who needed help launching their Chicago programming for the first time, on our potential project list, she knew she had to get involved.

“I saw it on the dashboard, but there was no owner for it. So I was really trying to get connected with someone to learn more about it, and it turned out that the only way to actually do that was to become the owner myself! I felt some insecurity about leading this project, because I’d only been here for a couple months at that point and didn’t have years and years of marketing experience. But then as we got started, it helped me validate my new skills, and I learned a lot by doing. I was able to see this marketing problem through end-to-end — while you’re working on bigger things at Dropbox, that can take a lot longer. But for a one-off project like this, it was nice to be able to flex those muscles and put them to use.”

One of the people Johna recruited for her team was Stacey Johnson, Head of Product Communications, who saw a unique opportunity to help Code Nation up their PR game. As a nonprofit that provides tuition-free coding courses and work-based learning programs to students from under-resourced schools, Code Nation needed the support of the communities they work in to truly make an impact, and Stacey knew she could help.

“I rounded out the marketing team with some PR-specific tactics. There was a clear opportunity for Code Nation to raise more awareness through press outreach and engaging with their local media landscape, so that was a key part of our plan. Non-profits typically don’t have the resources that companies like Dropbox have, and Hack Week is a great opportunity for us to give back. It’s also always helpful to have outside perspective. When you bring thought diversity to bear toward a good cause, you can help to further an organization’s mission.”

Another member of the team, Senior Product Marketing Manager Stephanie Startz, is intimately familiar with the struggle that nonprofits can have in getting the time, talents, and resources they need to succeed.

“I used to lead marketing at the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, so I had a good grasp on what a nonprofit communications and marketing team needs to streamline their work and get results. I know firsthand how resource-constrained nonprofit organizations can be, and how much they value and appreciate external support. Being able to volunteer my time with skills-based volunteering gives me energy and I value that Dropbox provides us with 4 days of volunteer time.”

One thing the team didn’t see coming was winning the award for one of the Hack Week categories, Doing Good. This recognition allowed the entire company to celebrate in and become inspired by their success. As Stephanie said, “It was so surprising. You see the Hack Week demos and people have really splashy projects to show off, and all we had was a document! It’s valuable, it’s really helpful, but not shiny.” Team member and Product Analyst Krittika Patil was equally shocked.

“I didn’t realize that Dropbox would value that sort of thing so highly. Going into Hack Week, when I found out that I had the opportunity to work on something outside of Dropbox that could also use my former marketing background, I thought, first of all, that’s a good way to unplug from my day-to-day analytics work. And second, I’ve already been trying to find ways to give back and volunteer, and you’re giving me a whole week to do that? Sign me up!”

Even though Hack Week is over, after their successful collaboration with Code Nation, all four team members are inspired to keep contributing to skills-based volunteering wherever they can. And they hope they have motivated other Dropboxers to do the same. For those who don’t know where to start, Krittika recommends reaching out to organizations on LinkedIn or subscribing to their newsletters for more information on how they can help. And Stephanie is sure that, regardless of any hesitations, there’s a space for everyone.

“I would encourage anyone to research organizations that match their values and just reach out. It’s unlikely that anyone would ever be turned away for wanting to lend a hand.”

Want to learn more about how you can become a part of Dropbox’s success, both internally and in our communities? Check out our jobs page.



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