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Tech Jobs, Social Good

In a world in which virtually all companies are of necessity becoming tech companies, it follows that tech skills can get you hired today in a far broader array of fields than was previously possible. One of the many wonderful by-products of this new reality is that candidates with in-demand skills now have the opportunity to pursue careers in fields they’re passionate about, whether those fields are “technical” fields or not. If ever there was a time when tech skills and social good were mutually exclusive, that time is now past!

Tech jobs for social good

Are you interested in pursuing a career that connects your technical skills and your humanitarian ideals? If so, you’re not alone, and in fact we have a great resource to recommend to you. If you visit the Udacity Career Resources Center you’ll see a link to “Tech Jobs for Social Good.” Here you’ll find a selection of wonderful organizations you can get involved with that share your ideals.

Does this sound like you?

Many students are turned off of computer science because they think that it means working on excessively technical problems, and they can’t see the social impact of their work. Often, they don’t know who could use their help.

If so, then definitely check out Code the Change. They have a stated goal of helping computer scientists use their skills for social good, and have been working hard to address some of the challenges nonprofits face in finding computer science talent:

The great irony is that nonprofits and other organizations in the public and social sectors need computer science work now more than ever before; they just don’t have the same recruiting budgets that tech companies have.

If data science is your field of choice, then Bayes Impact is a great place to start your journey connecting your skills with a social good agenda. Bayes Impact is a non-profit with a huge vision, and they definitely have the talent, the partners, and the funding to bring that vision to life:

We are a group of full-time data scientists, engineers, and academics who believe data science can be used to solve the world’s most ambitious problems. We are a group of pragmatists who have seen first-hand how data science can solve industry problems at scale. We are a group of skeptics who realize that meaningful change requires dedication, focus and full-time work over long time periods, and that developing an algorithm is only the tip of the iceberg. We are a group of idealists who dedicate our lives to build operational solutions to social problems by building software for governments and non-profit organizations.

To give you a sense of how deeply committed Bayes Impact is to their vision, and how intensely willing they are to take on critical issues facing our world today, here is a recent launch announcement:

Today, with the California Department of Justice, we launched URSUS — an all-digital police use of force data collection system. This will generate the first statewide dataset on police use of force in the country. It is the first step in our larger Bridge initiative to improve police-community relations through transparency.

If you’re looking for an organization to get involved with whose talent needs are diverse, whose reach is global, and that offers a wide range of opportunities from volunteering to full-time roles, you might consider exploring Benentech, whose expressed mission is to use technology to serve humanity. Visit their Work for Us page, and see whether this speaks to you:

“Do you have a passion for using technology to bring about social change? Are you driven to finding innovative solutions that promote sustainable social impact?

Social innovation, social change

Finding your way into a career that threads together technology and social good can seem challenging, and it can help to understand at a broad level the ways in which technology is today driving new innovations, and pushing social good initiatives forward. A recent Fast Company article entitled 6 Ways Technology Is Breaking Barriers To Social Change provides six broad answers to this key question: “How can we help to have impact at a scale that actually solves the problem?”

  • Empowering with info
  • Teaching and engaging
  • Making matches
  • Crowdsourcing hot spots
  • Reaching the underserved
  • Raising cash for good

As an exercise in connecting these approaches with real-world issues, consider studying the Sustainable Development Goals published by the United Nations last September for an actionable illustration of some of the key challenges we face in our world today, and a coherent representation of the obstacles so many social good organizations are currently working to overcome.

Doing well by doing good

In addition to developing a broad understanding of how technology is fueling social good across the globe, it can also be extremely beneficial to learn about very specific applications. One resource is Fortune Magazine, which launched their Change The World list in late 2015, showcasing “50 companies that do well by doing good.” And The Nominet Trust, a leading social tech funder based in the UK, each year highlights 100 examples of social innovation:

The Nominet Trust 100 celebrates the people and organisations who are using digital technology to change the world for the better. Each year, it brings together 100 of the world’s most inspiring examples of social innovation, where digital technologies have been used to tackle a significant social challenge.

The 2016 NT100 honorees won’t be announced until December, but you can explore the 2015 list now, and you’re sure to be moved and inspired if you do! Oxfam was part of the 2015 judging panel, and in a blog post after last year’s list was announced, Amy O’Donnell, ICT in Programme Lead for Oxfam, highlighted some of the tools they found most inspiring:

We are operating in a more volatile world with more conflicts and fragility meaning that the reality for new mums isn’t always a hospital bed. So a highlight for us was reading about MOM: a portable inflatable incubator for babies born in conflict zones. The WHO estimates that 75% of premature babies could be saved with access to incubation. It was the cost savings and rugged nature of MOM that really demonstrated its huge life saving potential.

Humanitarian Open Street Map’s accurate mapping system used for field workers in the Ebola crisis in West Africa was another highlight for us. Clear maps can be a game changer especially in containment contexts by allowing humanitarians to be responsive on the basis of real time data. In complement to this, connectivity is vital, so we were also impressed with Vodafone’s technology in a backpack to provide communications support in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Impatient optimism

Another way to explore career opportunities that allow you to turn your technical skills towards social good is to learn more about venture capital firms and foundations that fund social good. An approach recommended on our Tech Jobs for Social Good page is to review the organizations these firms fund, find the ones that interest you, and then check out their jobs pages!

Among the organizations we feature on our site are: Kapor Capital, the Omidyar Foundation, and Echoing Green. We also include The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, whose homepage headline affords us the opportunity to ask another “Does this sound like you?” question:

We are impatient optimists working to reduce inequity

Does this sound like you? Are you an impatient optimist? At Udacity, we feel strongly that our Nanodegree programs are ideally suited to the impatient optimists of the world. Students in our programs master in-demand skills rapidly and efficiently, and they consistently get hired by the best companies in the world on the strength of projects they’ve built, and competencies they’ve proven. At just fractions of both the time and the cost of more “traditional” learning paths, Udacity students can swiftly become innovators and leaders in some of the most exciting fields out there—Machine Learning, Data Science, Virtual Reality, Predictive Analytics, Autonomous Vehicles, and more.

Motivation and meaning in your career

Students today are pushing hard to master the in-demand skills that will get them hired at top companies across a wide spectrum of fields, and for so many, the opportunity to eventually turn their skills towards social good initiatives is what keeps them motivated through the long days and nights of study. For some, these humanitarian passions will evolve into full-time work, while others may pursue volunteering opportunities and community activism. Whatever form your interest in social good takes, building connections today with organizations who are committed to serving a greater good through innovative applications of technology is a great way to connect with like-minded individuals who also find motivation and meaning in working on and for something they truly believe in.

Christopher Watkins
Christopher Watkins
Christopher Watkins is Senior Writer and Chief Words Officer at Udacity. He types on a MacBook or iPad by day, and either an Underwood, Remington, or Royal by night. He carries a Moleskine everywhere.