Microsoft tech volunteers bring magic of software to NGO causes
Between them, Microsoft technology specialists Artur Żarski, Carlos de Huerta Mezquita and John Arnold have spent more than 40 years at the forefront of the IT revolution. As Microsoft technology volunteers, they also share this wealth of expertise with their local communities. And as finalists in Microsoft Europe’s 2010 European Volunteering Awards, Artur, Carlos and John provide inspiring examples of Microsoft’s European employee volunteering program in action.
|Program Fast Facts
About Microsoft’s Employee Volunteer Program
- Launched in 2007, the Employee Volunteer Program is a global Microsoft program to encourage Microsoft full-time employees to give time and expertise to community organizations and causes that inspire them.
- The program provides employees with up to 3 paid days per year for volunteer work on initiatives that help people all over the world to realize their full potential.
- Since 2007, almost every Microsoft subsidiary in Europe has formally implemented the “3 days to make a difference” policy which has enabled an extensive portfolio of subsidiary and individually-driven initiatives.
Artur Żarski, a Development Tools specialist at Microsoft Poland, is an expert in Microsoft Silverlight technology, a powerful Web 2.0 development platform for creating engaging, interactive websites. In 2009, when Microsoft Poland launched a program to assist local NGOs with software grants and technical support, Artur was an early and enthusiastic volunteer:
“I really enjoy helping people understand and use technology. Volunteering also gives me the chance to use my developer experience, as I started out as a developer in 1990 and I love developing new apps and websites. It’s a great feeling to see tools that I’ve created being used by hundreds of NGOs and schools in Poland to build websites and be part of the digital age. I feel glad to help, and I feel a lot of pride in the NGO partners and in our technology, as well”.
In Poland, Microsoft program for non-profit organizations responds to the need, identified by Poland’s NGOs, to convert typically simple and static websites into more dynamic and attractive platforms for engaging with their communities, volunteers and funders. To define the project, Artur worked with a group of MBA student volunteers from Warsaw University of Technology Business School, with support from the Microsoft Innovation Center in Poland.
The resulting initiative provides eligible NGOs with a free web-hosting service, online helpdesk and e-learning center to help them build websites that incorporate Web 2.0 features such as video, blogging, user forums, tagging and social media. Artur not only developed the web-hosting solution but has also provided workshop training sessions and advice to more than 50 NGOs in Poland.
Artur is also involved as a volunteer technology expert in several other Microsoft Poland community initiatives, including e-Centrum, Microsoft Poland’s major e-skills partnership that support digital literacy and skills training in over 400 communities across Poland; and as a volunteer IT trainer for the ELIOS Foundation, which is organizing the Special Olympics European Summer Games in Warsaw in September 2010.
For Carlos de Huerta Mezquita, a senior consultant at Microsoft Consulting Services Spain, using his technology skills as a volunteer brings immense satisfaction. Carlos has chosen to work with Medicos sin Fronteras (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders:
“I encourage everyone to face new professional and personal challenges working with NGOs,” says Carlos. “This experience with MSF has helped me to redefine, among other things, the concepts of virtual collaboration and offline access as a result of meeting doctors who are helping people 12 hours a day and need to update document reports for the ‘first world’. This gives you a broader view and a way to empathize with your customers.”
In 2009, MSF successfully applied to Microsoft Spain’s software donation program for NGOs, in order to upgrade its IT infrastructure and im plement Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (MOSS) tools to enhance IT efficiency, internal communication and knowledge management in the delivery of its vital medical aid services. When Carlos saw MSF on a list of Microsoft Spain technology volunteering opportunities, he knew it was a cause he wanted to support.
In his work with MSF, Carlos provides technical advice and support on the MOSS deployment and running Sharepoint Services within the NGO. MSF subsequently participated as a speaker at Microsoft Spain’s NGO Connection Day to share their project with other NGOs around Spain.
For John Arnold, a senior escalation engineer at Microsoft UK, the company’s support for volunteering provides extra paid leave to supplement the many holidays, evenings and weekends that John has given to the Scouts for more than 16 years. In addition to leading a Cub Scout pack for many years, John serves as a District Commissioner in his local area of London, overseeing the delivery of Scouting to approximately 800 young people. Since 2003, John has also brought his Microsoft expertise to the Scouts in several ways.
For the 2007 World Scout Jamboree, held at Chelmsford, UK, John led the volunteer team that provided IT infrastructure planning and delivery – a five year project given the scale of the event. With more than 40,000 young people and leaders from practically every country of the world, and a further 60,000 ‘day’ visitors from the UK, the ten day Jamboree was larger in participant terms than an Olympic Games. John’s team delivered IT facilities to participants and organisers of the Jamboree, involving installation of more than 5km of fiber optic cable, more than 43km of copper cable, 550 machines, 150 printers and hundreds of voice-over-internet-protocol telephones across six sites.
More recently, John has applied his knowledge of Scouting and IT in advising Microsoft UK and the Scouts Association on deployment of a Microsoft technology grant to upgrade the Association’s core IT infrastructure. The new platform, including Windows 7, Exchange 2010 and Windows Server R2, enables the Association’s staff and volunteers to have mobile access to their files and work from anywhere that has an internet connection.
In addition to advising on IT strategy, John is also helping the Association to formulate and communicate the vision for a renewed set of services to assist the Scouts’ adult volunteers recruit, retain and manage the half million members of the association in the UK. And he has played a key role in the development of a new Microsoft IT Badge for Scouts, which will be available to thousands of young people, helping to increase digital literacy and online safety awareness.
”As a Microsoft employee I really appreciate the ways in which Microsoft supports volunteering amongst its staff from providing time out of the office to matching fundraising. I get a lot out of seeing the benefit Scouting brings to young people and with Microsoft’s help I can increase the impact of the support I can give."