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Pro Bono Profiles: Salesforce Volunteers and Olga Tennison Autism Research Center Connect Job Seekers with Opportunities

By Alex Kruglyak March 31, 2017

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April 2nd marks World Autism Awareness Day, which was created in 2007 as a resolution passed through the United Nationals General Assembly. It exists to shine a spotlight on a disorder that affects tens of millions. To show solidarity with the cause, this month’s Pro Bono Profile celebrates a project with the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre at La Trobe University.

Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC) is no stranger to the mission’s 3 pillars – Technology, Community Engagement and Strategic Grants. In fact, OTARC benefited from all 3 areas to deliver an autism-detection mobile application, ASDetect that empowers parents to perform early diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). A Salesforce employee team of pro bono volunteers played a key role in making the project successful.

Naturally when it came time to launch another innovative project, the OTARC team reached out to Salesforce again. Whereas ASDetect application was targeted at young children with ASD the as|careers project was launched to address the adult ASD population. The A-type project goal was to address the issue that adults with ASD are underrepresented in employment. In fact, only 34% of adults with an ASD remain employed in Australia.

Using Salesforce technology OTARC is building a community that connects jobs seekers with employees, employment opportunities and service providers. In order to kick-start the project OTARC reached out to Salesforce for assistance. Jsun Pe, Program Architect in Melbourne, Australia answered the call and through Chatter, requested pro bono assistance from greater Salesforce employee community. I expressed my interest in bringing my experience as a Solution Engineer in Toronto, Canada with to the project and invited my colleague Ben Mozenter, Solution Developer based out of San Francisco to join.

Thus, an international core team of pro bono volunteers was formed, each bringing a unique set of skills to this exciting project. Despite time zone challenges the team quickly mobilized to start on a collaborative effort with the OTARC team.

The OTARC team was on an aggressive timeline to stand up a Community prototype to demonstrate the art of the possible to the project committee. The project involved vision workshops, requirements gathering, solution architecture and design, Salesforce CRM and Customer Community implementation, customization and testing. Within just a few months the combined team was able to implement a working prototype that was presented to the steering committee. The committee was thrilled with results and approved the much-needed funding to take the project to the next level.

Olga Tennison Autism Research Center

One may ask why I chose to volunteer for this specific pro bono project and why not do something for an organization in my own community. Here at Salesforce we are blessed with hundreds of pro bono opportunities to be part of throughout the year. In the last year I have had a chance to work with three local organization on various pro bono projects. The beautiful thing about our technology is that it knows no borders and can be deployed from anywhere in the world. This affords us an opportunity to land a helpful hand anywhere in the world.

When I saw a post from Jsun regarding the OTARC as|careers project, I offered my assistance without any hesitation. I knew of OTARC from a previous innovative pro bono project that launched a successful mobile app. As a technologist I love to work with organizations that leverage technology to accelerate their mission in a whole new way.

Also being able to apply my knowledge in a real life customer environment is something I don’t do often in my role as a Solution Engineer, so applying my skills in a real customer environment also allows me to be better at what I do. I also appreciate the multiplying effect of Salesforce technology. What that means is that if I invest 10 hours of my time in helping a nonprofit to be more effective, through the use of technology, and that saves them even as little as 10 minutes per day of inefficient and unproductive activity, you can quickly see how my initial investment is multiplied many times over (at least fivefold over 1 year). Going beyond these numbers, there is satisfaction that I am empowering a nonprofit to become more efficient through the use of Salesforce technology, which translates to more people served in the community. For me pro bono volunteering is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my job.

Salesforce technology and culture of giving back is a key theme of any pro bono volunteering, however it’s the impact and making a difference in people lives with ASD condition that is the real story here.

Learn more about the Pro Bono Program at Salesforce.