How can you get into tech as a technologist, designer, or product professional and do good? Whether that’s related to a cause you’re personally passionate about, generally making a social impact or social change, or ensuring tech is used for the betterment of humanity. This blog post will help you figure out your “why” in the context of “tech for good” and give you guidance for how to create a career out of it.
Something I’ve noticed throughout my career as a design leader, design manager, tech and design instructor, and tech and design mentor is that many struggle to match something they’re super passionate about to a career in tech. And to be honest, it’s a reasonable struggle! Tech is a huge space. In many ways, there’s no longer a tech industry as tech is everything these days. Tech is much more complex than just “tech”. Tech is everywhere and making a career in tech stemming from your unique “why” takes creativity and finagling. So, again, this blog post will help you match your tech for good “why” with to a fulfilling career.
Keep in mind, “tech for good” means so many things to different groups of people. In this blog post, this will be my personal take on “tech for good”. You’ll notice I’ll broaden the scope of “tech for good” - this is intentional!
Different Perspectives of "Tech for Good"
Again, “tech for good” means so many things to different groups of people. I’m purposely broadening the scope of “tech for good” in order to give you as many ideas as possible. Here are different ways to think about “tech for good” as you kick off your career.
1. Practicing Ethical Tech, Development, Design, or Product No Matter Where You Work
As a designer, you can make a difference by making sure ethical practices are taking place in a user-centered way. This means building products and services that prioritize the needs and values of users while also considering the ethical implications of your choices, regardless if you're a developer, designer, product expert, or anything in between. You can be an advocate for ethical practices anywhere you work and help educate others on the importance of building with ethics in mind.
This can include:
- Being an advocate for and an expert in Inclusive Tech & Design practices
- Being an advocate for and an expert in Product Accessibility
2. Work at a Private Company Solving a Unique Problem
Working at a private company that is solving a unique problem can also be a way to do tech for good. You can use your skills to help create a product or service that solves a specific problem, such as reducing waste or improving accessibility. Look for companies that align with your values and mission, and don't be afraid to ask questions about the impact of the work they are doing.
3. Work for the Public Sector
Working for the public sector, such as government or civic tech, can be a meaningful way to make a difference. You can work at the federal, state, or city level and use your skills to help solve societal issues, such as improving transportation or increasing access to healthcare. You can also work on projects that directly impact citizens, such as building an app to help people find affordable housing.
To be even more specific, you can work directly for the federal government, you can work directly for the state government, you can work directly for your city, or you can work for an agency that works with and for the government at the federal, state, and city levels. You can also work on projects while not directly hired at the federal, state, and city levels and not directly hired by an agency that supports the government, but that still impacts citizens directly. This can relate to specific causes or at the political / campaign level.
On a personal note, there is another layer of the public sector that is often overlooked. I used to work for NYC & Company, New York City’s Domestic Marketing Organization. Many destinations have a Destination Marketing Organization, otherwise known as a DMO. DMO’s can be a great way to enter the public sector space as it is a way to support the city or state you live in. Where do you live? Your city or state may have a DMO!
4. Work for a Nonprofit
Working for a nonprofit is another way to use tech for good. You can work on projects that directly impact the community, such as building a website that helps connect people with mental health resources or creating a tool that helps volunteers organize disaster relief efforts. Look for nonprofits that align with your passions and values and see how you can use your skills to make a difference.
5. Via Education
Lastly, you can use education as a way to do tech for good. You can teach coding or design skills to underrepresented communities or build educational apps that make learning more accessible. You may also consider teaching others about “tech for good” and ethical practices including Inclusive Tech & Design practices and Product Accessibility. By using your skills to help educate others, you can create long-term change and empower individuals to make a difference in their own communities.
How to Find Your Purpose in the Context of “Tech for Good”
Now that we have explored different perspectives of "tech for good," here are some actionable steps to help you identify your “why” in the context of “tech for good”:
- Identify your passions and causes you care about. What issues or causes do you feel strongly about? Don’t even think about the tech or design part yet. Put tech and design completely aside! As a person, as a human being, as a member of society, what causes and issues do you feel passionate about? Write them down!
- You may also think about problems you have identified throughout your life that you feel strongly about finding a solution for. What personal experiences have you had that have led you to identify specific problems that you feel passionate about solving? Again, put tech and design completely aside. As a person, as a human being, as a member of society, what problems have you identified that you may want to dedicate a career to solving? Or a part of your career.
- Research organizations within certain industries that are solving key issues. Look for companies or nonprofits that are using technology to make a positive impact in industries you are interested in, such as healthcare, education, or sustainability. Get creative! The internet has so many lists of organizations that are doing different things in the tech space. Relentlessly research.
- Network with like-minded individuals. Don’t explore this universe by yourself or on your own. Get out there! Attend events and meetups where you can connect with others who are interested in using technology for good. You never know what opportunities may arise from a conversation with someone who shares your passions and values. There may even be a cause you have no idea is waiting for you to discover it that needs YOU.
Get Out There
Let me be completely honest: tech isn’t all good! And that’s the exact motivation behind this post. Because tech needs way more good and way more people trying to do good within it. And when you look hard enough, the tech industry does offer many opportunities to make a positive impact on society. By exploring different perspectives of "tech for good" and taking actionable steps to find your purpose in the industry, you can use your skills to create meaningful change. Remember to stay true to your values and passions, and don't be afraid to ask questions and seek out opportunities that align with your goals. With dedication and a willingness to learn and grow, you can make a difference in the tech industry and create a career that is both fulfilling and impactful.
In summary, "tech for good" can take on many different forms, from ethical design practices to working for the public sector or a nonprofit organization. By taking the time to identify your passions and values, you can find ways to use your skills to make a positive impact on society. The tech industry offers many opportunities to create meaningful change, and with a commitment to your purpose, you can make a difference in the world while also pursuing a fulfilling career in tech.