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Community Impact In East London: How Our Team Volunteers With Whitechapel Mission

Michaelvannessheadshot Michael Vanness

Screenshot 2023 11 13 At 1.48.55 PM

I think all of us at Appian want to make a bit of positive change in our community and in our world. When I moved from the US to the UK to join our London team a few years ago, I knew I wanted to seek out volunteer opportunities to give back. 

Every few months, we organize a team of Appian volunteers to support the Whitechapel Mission, which serves the houseless and marginalized in East London. I always leave feeling grateful that we can volunteer and give back, and work for a company that celebrates it.

When my team won the Appian Impact Award for our volunteer work, it felt natural to donate it back to the Whitechapel Mission. I want to shine the spotlight on their great work, it’s impact, and why it’s so important to work for a company that shares your values.

Michael Vanness, Solutions Consultant, and volunteer with Whitechapel Mission.  

Volunteer mornings at Whitechapel. 

Each morning, volunteers serve about 250 people. It’s a jam-packed, sometimes hectic morning so it quickly becomes a team-building activity as well. 

We’re able to help inspire a positive start to the day for the people we’re serving. That’s meaningful and that sense of impact stays with me throughout the day and even weeks afterwards. It’s pretty amazing we’re able to do this. 

We’re able to help inspire a positive start to the day for the people we’re serving. That’s meaningful and that sense of impact stays with me throughout the day and even weeks afterwards. 

Here’s how the morning goes: 

  • 5:30 - 6:00 a.m. Prepare, cook, and chat. It’s an early start but the houseless community is up early, and we try to best fit their schedule. That’s a big part of how Whitechapel operates to ensure we’re really helping the people we’re serving and their needs.  
  • 6:00 - 8:00 a.m. Serve coffee, tea, and light snacks. As you can imagine like any restaurant it can get chaotic with yelling orders back and forth. None of us work in the food industry, so it’s all a learning experience. I think it shows how well we can build and expand on the team’s working abilities. The London Appian office is a close group so we’ve had coworkers from many teams help, including Customer Success and Sales. 
  • 8:00 - 10:00 a.m. Serve a full English breakfast. This includes all the essential accompaniment of mushrooms, tomato, eggs, bacon, ham, and sausage, as well as hash browns and toast. 

We're very fortunate that we're in the position where we're able to help a little bit just to brighten someone's day and help give them a meal. But I think that interpersonal connection is all the more important. 

The team of Appian employees/volunteers in the Kitchen at Whitechapel. 

Impactful moments in the kitchen that stick with you.

When we’re serving individuals in the mornings, it’s very personal. We’re in their day-to-day life and everyone has their guard down which allows you to have really open conversations. 

For me, one very impactful conversation was with an individual who overheard us talking in the kitchen to some of the staff about what Appian does as a corporation. He started asking very technical questions and I was a little thrown off. A few of our technical team members started chatting with him and the conversation went on for a while getting into the details on how our Appian platform works. 

He started revealing his background of working in software in California. In the past year, he moved to London for work, fell on hard times, and ended up in this position. I didn’t expect a story like that or to get into the details of our technical product while volunteering. 

It was a powerful and humbling moment, because his background was in tech and not that different from many of us. It shows how many advantages and privileges I have in life and if you take a few of those away, or add in some tough decisions, or mental illness without access to help, anyone can become vulnerable. 

Everyone at Whitechapel is very appreciative of our help, and our team leaves with a sense of gratitude. 

Find a company with people committed to doing social good for the world. 

I’ve personally thought a lot about what work I want to do and how it contributes to doing good in the world. Your full-time job doesn’t need to be at a non-profit organization to drive impact in your community. Work to impact is one of our core values at Appian and I see that in a lot of ways we work and causes we get involved in. 

You can find companies that commit to a greener world through how they operate Employee Resources Groups, or Affinity Groups as we call them at Appian. There’s even a measure system called ESG, environment, social, and governance (ESG) practices, that evaluate how a company operates related to its social and environmental impact. 

Giving back to the community through volunteering has always been an important value to me and I’m grateful to have found a company that celebrates that.


Written by

Michael Vanness

Michael Vanness is a Solutions Consultant at Appian.