Growing While Giving Back
Welcome to the next blog in Appian’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Series where we will focus on the steps that we’re taking at Appian to improve on an ongoing basis when it comes to all things DEI. Throughout this series, we will highlight various initiatives that we are working on across numerous departments within our company.
In this blog, we sat down for a Q&A with two Appian employees to learn about the volunteer initiatives they have been involved in.
Both of these volunteer initiatives share a few commonalities:
· They were both inspired by Appian’s volunteer day of service, where employees around the world took the day off work to volunteer in their communities across the world
· They both are intended to reduce inequities and provide people with more access to important resources to help them thrive
Read on to learn more about these thoughtful initiatives!
Tim Caroll is a Senior Software Engineer at Appian. However, Tim has worked in many different roles throughout the organization! He started his Appian journey on the Customer Success team (formerly known as the Professional Services team) back in 2014. From there, Tim joined the Product Management team for 3 years before moving over to Software Engineering.
Tim’s volunteer initiative: Developing software solutions for non-profit organizations
Appian: Hi Tim, where did you get the idea for this initiative?
Tim: During our company-wide day of service back in 2018, my team spent our time at a local non-profit organization whose mission is to provide support and advocacy for those in need of shelter, food, affordable housing, and more. During our time there, we spent the day cleaning and assembling bookshelves. While this work was helpful, I started thinking of ways in which we could better support our communities using our skill sets and passions.
With that in mind, I approached our CEO, Matt Calkins, and shared my thoughts on how our volunteerism would be more purposeful if our people could use their specific skills and knowledge in their volunteer work. Matt was open to the idea and tasked me with identifying an organization we could support.
Appian: How did you choose which organization to give back to?
Tim: Through my research, I landed on DC Central Kitchen — a nationally recognized community kitchen that recycles food from around Washington, D.C., and uses it as a tool to train unemployed adults to develop work skills, while also providing thousands of meals for local service agencies in the process. Coincidentally, DC Central Kitchen’s COO was looking for a software solution for one of their largest programs, Community Meals, when I reached out.
Appian: What specific volunteer development projects has your team taken on at DC Central Kitchen?
Tim: The first project that our team has taken on was to help simplify their processes around their Community Meals program. As a result from the application build, their onboarding process has been simplified, giving them time back to focus on other internal initiatives. Some exciting feedback I received was that what would have taken weeks to train a new employee, took a day and a half for one of the users in the office.
The improvements we saw to onboarding were just one small piece of the benefit though. The real boon has been how the app has allowed DC Central Kitchen to respond in real time to the changing demand of the community, which has been particularly helpful during the challenging times we’ve faced with COVID-19. When COVID hit, they had to turn much of the existing operation on its head, and our app really facilitated the change. In the end, our application allowed DC Central Kitchen to get food much more quickly to members of the community most in need. This is the type of impact I was hoping to achieve knowing the power of Appian and was happy to hear it really coming to life.
Lastly, we recently deployed Appian’s Workforce Safety app into DC Central Kitchens toolkit. This application was designed to enable organizations to intelligently manage the complexities of returning works onsite, while maintaining privacy and security of individuals’ health information. Moving forward, we plan to continue to take on new projects with the organization. We just established another cross-departmental team with employees from the U.S. all the way to Switzerland, that will soon support a program that fights food deserts in Washington, D.C.
Appian: What do you want other Appian employees to know about this initiative?
Tim: We have an internal survey where employees can share their interest in helping. Once they complete it, we reach out when there is an open opportunity. Currently, we’re primarily looking for employees who can build apps; however, we’re looking to broaden our team with additional skill sets that will be needed for future expansion. If you’re interested, let us know, and keep your eyes open for announcements in the future on other ways to get involved!
Nas Owusu grew up in the D.C. area, where she attended William and Mary. After graduation, Nas started her career in politics, working on The Hill in the Senate. During her time in the Senate, Nas was focused on gaining technology legislation experience. Through that opportunity, she knew she wanted to get into the tech industry full time. She started out on Appian’s Business Development team and soon transitioned to the Chief Customer Office where she spent nearly 3 years. In September, Nas joined our Solutions Team as a Solutions Success Manager. While working in the Chief Customer Office, Nas was asked to be a part of the D.C. Public School initiative.
Nas’ volunteer initiative: Creating STEAM opportunities for students
Appian: Hi Nas, can you tell us where you got the idea for your volunteer initiative?
Nas: Appian has been around for over 20 years, and volunteerism has always been a part of our history — I love that about this company. When we reached our 1,000th employee mark in 2018, we hosted a company-wide volunteer event called the day of service though that got me thinking that we should have a concerted company-wide initiative that we can all support and rally around.
I brought my thoughts to our CEO, Matt Calkins, through a small culture discussion group I’m a part of and he agreed that there was more Appian could do. However, he also wanted to make sure that before we launched any major initiative that we were in the right place as a company and that there were enough people who were truly dedicated to the commitment.
With the COVID-19 pandemic and the uprising of the Black Lives Matter Movement, 2020 became a year of major challenges. These events highlighted inequities, and through internal conversations amongst Appian employees, it was clear our employee base had a strong desire to make an impact in our community locally. Now was the time for all of us to rally together behind a cause!
Appian: What organization did you decide to work with and what will you be focused on?
Nas: Given that everyone was so passionate about reducing inequities, we decided to connect with the District of Columbia Public Schools because by helping students we felt that we could make an impact for years to come — not just for one day or a week.
Last month, we launched programming with the Columbia Heights Education Campus. We’ll be working with children in the 6th grade, where we will provide supplemental education through a variety of activities. Our launch activities for the program include a robotics league and a speaker series.
As experts in the technology field, we’ll be facilitating unique Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) programming. What’s great about this program is that we can work with the students over time, providing programming throughout their educational careers from the 6th grade until their senior year in high school!
Appian: What are your hopes for the program in the future?
Nas: My hope for the program is that we’re able to provide supplemental programming that gets kids to think outside of the box. I want to create something special and memorable to get young students excited about STEAM. But more important than STEAM, I ultimately want to build up each kid to feel empowered to make decisions for their lives and for them to clearly see all the possibilities ahead.
In the future, I hope to expand the model and roll out programs in other cities with Appian employee volunteers at the helm. If you’re an Appian employee interested in volunteering, don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly to learn more about how you can get involved!
We hope you enjoyed hearing about these exciting new volunteer initiatives happening at Appian. If you’d like to read more from our DEI series, take a look at two previous blogs here:
- Behind the Scenes: How our AppianLIFE Book Club Opened the Door for Productive DEI Dialogue
- Behind the Scenes: AppianHERITAGE Then, Now, and Looking Ahead
We look forward to sharing more with you soon!