By Vanessa Davis, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager
It’s the time of year when we’re all yearning for feel-good stories, the kind of stories that spark joy and shine a light on hope for a bright future, stories that inspire us to act, to serve a greater purpose.
This story illustrates how Octo empowers employees to help others excel. It’s a story about a community impact partnership supported within the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Committee at Octo. We are proud to support H.O.P.E. Project DC (“HOPE Project”), a community IT training program benefiting young adults in the D.C. metro area and beyond. The training program was founded by Mr. Raymond Bell in 2009, and he continues to lead the program today—over a decade and 2,000+ graduates later.
HOPE stands for Helping Other People Excel, and the people involved do this by bringing new hope through technical training and professional development to young adults from economically and socially disadvantaged communities.
Call to action leads to HOPE
In June of 2020, following racial injustices across the country specifically triggered by the killing of George Floyd, a group of our employees formed an internal Call to Action Committee (CAC) to help combat racial injustice. Ian Burke was one of a handful of employees who started the CAC. Mr. Burke is an Octo engineer who also serves on Octo’s CSR Committee. He introduced Octo to HOPE Project. He had learned about HOPE Project from Ramon Queen, a HOPE grad who was working as a helpdesk technician within the same government facility he worked in.
But CAC members didn’t just wake up one morning and partner with HOPE Project. They first met with several organizations focused on supporting disadvantaged and underserved communities. Ultimately, they decided to partner with HOPE Project because they felt supporting HOPE’s IT training program offered the biggest opportunity for impact and lasting outcomes.
At the heart of HOPE Project is Mr. Bell—a charismatic leader well connected to the community. From early on, CAC members were inspired by Mr. Bell’s passion and dedication to serving others.
HOPE Project is successful because of people like Mr. Bell and the HOPE Project faculty who offer community members much more than IT training. They care about and connect with students. They recognize their struggles. They empower them to stretch and grow their skills, their minds, their confidence. They celebrate big wins together. They gather and support each other in times of need. That is how they Help Other People Excel.
Employees want to create impact in meaningful ways. For Octo, that has meant supporting HOPE’s fundraising campaigns and an IT equipment drive and offering training and mentorship. The CAC launched a “Day in the Life” webinar series led by employees in 2020, and it’s still popular. Committee members also partnered with other companies to bring additional opportunities, including software developer and AWS Cloud training. We have since heard stories from HOPE grads who credit this training and other HOPE Project interactions for helping them land successful, fulfilling IT jobs.
Consistent collaboration keeps us focused on delivering positive results and outcomes over time. The CAC meets with Mr. Bell and others from HOPE nearly every week. These meetings are where we hear about HOPE Project’s goals and struggles. We brainstorm ideas and collaborate to create meaningful opportunities to engage Octo employees and the HOPE Project community. It has been a wonderful experience, and we look forward to our continued march forward together.
Gathering with HOPE
On Giving Tuesday (November 30, 2021) Octo hosted a social mixer with the HOPE Project community. We enjoyed good company, shared stories, and laughed over great food and drinks in a fun setting. We talked about our journey together thus far and gave a snapshot of our next impact project—an IT Career Summit hosted by Octo for the HOPE Project community to be held March 19, 2022, at the RISE Demonstration and Conference Center in Washington, D.C.
At the mixer, James Farley, VP of Enterprise Solutions at Octo, talked about the upcoming career summit, describing a vision to engage experts from Octo’s Centers of Excellence to lead workshops and other interactions to support HOPE Project attendees eager to accelerate their IT careers.
Partnering for greater HOPE
Octo’s CSR strategy focuses on serving vulnerable community members and advancing food security, health, and technology education outcomes. HOPE Project volunteers know this and have shown up to help at multiple Octo-supported activities. Earlier this year, they joined Octo to volunteer at a Juneteenth event in Leesburg, Virginia. They joined a CSR partner event, exchanging ideas with other Octo CSR partners serving the D.C. metro area. A HOPE Project grad led an experiment during Octo’s 2021 Virtual STEAM Expo engaging elementary and middle school students through STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) experiments. The partnership between Octo and HOPE Project has gone beyond the walls of both organizations and continues to grow and do good in a growing circle of communities.
Service for HOPE
Many companies are looking for opportunities to innovate. Octo is no exception. Except here at Octo, we look at the communities around us. We look at ways our company and our highly skilled employees can help other people excel. We ask our CSR partners like Mr. Bell what challenges they’d be willing to have our employees help them solve. These are challenges impacting communities Octo is positioned to help through programs like HOPE Project’s endeavors which are fueled by the power of collective action.
With support and engagement from company leadership, CSR employee initiatives at Octo drive positive impact for the communities we serve. Together, we look forward to a more HOPEful future.