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From AmeriCorps to Google

March 21, 2014

Today’s guest post comes to us from Ben Weaver (AmeriCorps ’12).  Ben served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Points of Light Institute, in partnership with HandsOn Network and Google.  He is currently an Administrative Assistant with Google’s Site Reliability Engineering team in Pittsburgh.

Ben Weaver, AmeriCorps Alum, HandsOn Tech

Ben Weaver, AmeriCorps Alum, HandsOn Tech

In 2011, I spotted a tweet from @iheartpgh that simply said “Like technology? Like helping nonprofits?” with a link to a blog post. The link eventually lead me to the application for HandsOn Tech, a new AmeriCorps VISTA program created by the Points of Light in partnership with HandsOn Network and Google. At the time, I had a full-time job and I was somewhat worried about the very small AmeriCorps stipend, but it seemed like a great opportunity to use my talents and experience with technology to help local nonprofits fulfill their missions. The opportunity to work with the local Google office in Pittsburgh was an added bonus. I knew that Pittsburgh had one of the highest numbers of nonprofits per capita and an ever-growing university landscape and technology sector; I felt that the potential to match these two was huge. I applied and was fortunate enough to be accepted into the program and started a few weeks later.

At the beginning of our service year, we had the opportunity to visit Google’s headquarters in Mountain View for training on nonprofit technology solutions. In addition to the support of HandsOn Tech itself, the trip gave me a lot of insight into Google’s nonprofit outreach, employee volunteering and community affairs teams. It was great to see the involvement they had in the communities where each office was located, which was a welcome change from past employers that did not allow employees to volunteer their skills with local nonprofits.

Our Google mentors at the Pittsburgh Office, Juan, Cathy, Todd, and Mark, were incredibly helpful in providing meeting space, guidance with technology questions, and, most importantly to AmeriCorps members tasked with living at the poverty line, free lunch every two weeks. Googlers, along with volunteer staff from Microsoft, LinkedIn, and local Pittsburgh technology consultants provided training for nonprofits and onsite support on several occasions. The Googlers continue as volunteers to this day, as they have for the past 2 and a half years.

A VISTA’s service term is limited to exactly one year, but I saw great potential in the program and wanted to remain involved and expand upon it, especially in matching skills-based volunteers from Pittsburgh’s many technology companies and universities with local nonprofits. While others went off to grad school or started working as technology consultants, I wanted to remain in the nonprofit sector. Pittsburgh Cares worked with me to create a full-time staff position in order to continue this mission locally. In the new role, I helped to bring onboard a second year of VISTAs and was able to participate in their training in Mountain View. As Community Programs and Technology Coordinator at Pittsburgh Cares, I supervised the VISTAs, sharing knowledge acquired the year before, and continued working with Google Pittsburgh on general Pittsburgh nonprofit initiatives. In particular, I was able to work with local nonprofits in obtaining much-needed Community Grants from Google Pittsburgh in support of technology initiatives, outside of HandsOn Tech.

During HandsOn Tech’s third year, Cathy informed our team that she was leaving her role as one of the Admins at the Pittsburgh office for another position. Due to the relatively small size of the Google Pittsburgh office, the Admins typically participate with much of the K-12 and Community Affairs efforts locally, as well as general office outreach. I jumped at the chance for a role at Google, especially one that would allow me to continue to work with the HandsOn Tech team, Pittsburgh Cares, and the nonprofit community in Pittsburgh as a whole. I eventually ended up as an Administrative Assistant with the Site Reliability Engineering team in Pittsburgh, and just completed my first month yesterday. On February 19, I helped HandsOn Tech Pittsburgh present a Social Media strategy workshop to over 40 nonprofit staff, one of several dozen workshops that I’ve helped with before, only this time as a Googler.

Do you have a similar story of how your current position is rooted in your AmeriCorps service?  We want to hear from you.  Tell us how you were Made In AmeriCorps here.

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