Volunteers talk about using their tech skills for good!

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Last month we teamed up with SFTech4Good to host a conversation at Startup Basecamp about leveraging tech skills for good. Our training director Val moderated a conversation with three Empower Work peer counselors—Sydney, Kate, and Steve—about their volunteer experience.

After seeing a post on her employer Oracle’s intranet, Sydney jumped at the opportunity to become a peer counselor. As a remote worker this was a great opportunity to gain coaching skills and be part of a community.

Kate, who works for Salesforce, joined Empower Work because she values listening and supporting people and wanted a volunteer opportunity that would allow her to tap into these skills.

Steve, who also works in tech, shared that he was coming out of a difficult work situation himself when he serendipitously saw a bus ad for Empower Work. A lighbulb went off in his head when he saw the ad: he could use his skills to help others through their trickiest work issues!

A light went off in [Steve’s] head when he saw the ad: he could use his skills to help others through their trickiest work issues!

Peer counselors receive over 20 hours of training that builds professional skills in active listening, management, and workplace dynamics. Sydney was pleasantly surprised by how robust and in-depth the curriculum was. While it was hard work, Sydney says she uses the skills she learned every day--whether it’s supporting a texter at Empower Work, or in her own job.

Here are a few of the things they’ve learned while supporting texters:

Shifting perspective.

Kate says that once she’s earned the trust of a texter, her favorite question to ask is: what’s your gut telling you? It gets people out of their heads she says, especially if they feel stuck. Sydney also love to re-frame the situation by encouraging texters to take a step back and view their situation through another lens.

Guide, don’t advise.

It’s easy to shift into problem solver mode, Kate explained. It’s harder, but more effective, to listen and validate. It can be incredibly valuable to take a step back and validate the person’s emotions before moving to an action plan. This can be as simple as saying, “I hear you, and that sounds tough.”

The issue isn’t always obvious.

It’s important to takes a step back and figure out what’s at stake for the texter. On the surface an issue may seem straightforward, but there are often other factors at play such as power dynamics, financial concerns, race and gender issues, and much more. It’s important to give people the space to unpack these experiences and get to the heart of the issue.

Steve, Kate, and Sydney all mentioned that the skills they’ve developed at Empower Work have carried over to their own work or personal lives—whether it’s being a more empathetic listener or asking solutions-driven questions.. They aren’t alone—over 95 percent of our peer counselors say they re-invest the skills they learn in their own careers!

Interested in joining a community of peer counselors who want to make work better for everyone? Learn more or start your application!

Empower Work Team