Podcast: Episode 2

How to be a Do-Gooder Startup

November 29, 2022 • 40 min 53 sec

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Corporate social impact has become a crucial component of successful global companies, more so in recent years than ever before. Whether or not a company has resources dedicated to creating a positive social impact can, and probably will, affect their bottom line.

In this episode, host Rachael Lewis-Krisky talks with DigitalOcean VP of Social Impact, Admas Kanyagia (she/her), about how companies of all sizes—from startups all the way to mega-corporations—can, and should, prioritize doing social good into their work. Then Admas answers some questions from new entrepreneurs about how they can bring social impact to their startups. These entrepreneurs include:

  • Matthew Hoogestraat (he/him), creator of the Badger hoodie from Valid Adaptive
  • Ingrid Eskeland-Adetuyi (she/her), CEO and Founder of Tens
  • Katie Pearson Fucci (she/her), CEO and Founder of Parrotfish
  • Mehrad Noori (he/him), Founder and Producer of AnythingEverything

At Digital Ocean, Admas drives philanthropy, product donations, employee engagement, and ESG programs. She has spent her entire career in the social sector working to support nonprofits, humanitarian organizations, foundations, government, and now companies.

Admas Kanyagia Admas Kanyagia, DigitalOcean VP of Social Impact, at the launch day of DO Impact and the IPO one-year anniversary.

Episode transcript.

[00:00:00] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: Welcome to ‘Making Work Work,’ the DigitalOcean Podcast, where we explore everything about work - the tech that makes it possible and the people that make it happen. And of course, that’s never as simple as it sounds. I’m your host, Rachael Lewis-Krisky.

Corporate social impact has become fundamental to businesses more so in recent years than ever before. Not investing resources dedicated to value-based initiatives can and probably will affect their bottom line. We’re welcoming our own VP of Social Impact at DigitalOcean Admas Kanyagia, to discuss how companies of all sizes from startups all the way to mega corporations can and should weave social good into their work.

Let’s dive in.

Welcome to ‘Making Work Work,’ Admas.

[00:01:15] Admas Kanyagia: Thank you so much, Rae. I’m so glad to be here.

[00:01:17] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: You are the no-longer-new VP of Social Impact, having just had your first anniversary at DigitalOcean. In your one year here, I’ve uh, gotten to know you as a coworker and I can say that every time you speak, I find myself inspired. You have this sense of how strategy and empathy can not just kind of coexist, but actually merge into something far greater, um, as if there’s really ways for companies of any size to make long term authentic impact.

[00:01:43] Admas Kanyagia: Thank you, Rae. Those are really kind words. And, uh, I definitely think that’s what I strive to bring to the work, and it’s been a fantastic first year of, of learning, of setting new foundations, but also finding really incredible partners like yourself, internally at the company and also externally to the company to, to do this work with.

So I’m just so excited also for the work and the impact that we can make together.

[00:02:07] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: And to continue learning more about that, can you tell us about DigitalOcean Impact?

[00:02:10] Admas Kanyagia: Yes, Yes. Uh, Digital Ocean impact, or DO Impact as we like to call it, is our global social impact program. It was formally launched in April of 2022, earlier this year to mark our one year IPO anniversary and our 10 year anniversary as a company, uh, and our program. To empower change makers around the globe with our product, our philanthropy, to enable, uh, internal and external communities that are important to us, to give back, and also to ensure a sustainable footprint for the company in the future.

[00:02:45] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: On a personal level, why is all of that important to you?

[00:02:48] Admas Kanyagia: Uh, yes. Uh, well, I am really like born and bred in the social sector. Uh, doing this work with companies is just a very natural extension of both my personal and professional journey.

I’ve had the opportunity really to think social good and social responsibility from different vantage points in society, from government to philanthropy, um, to nonprofits, uh, and to now, you know, really thinking about the role that companies can make, uh, in making the world a better place. And the reason why this is important to me is because it aligns with my own sort of personal journey.

I’ve had the opportunity, you know, grow up as an immigrant in the United States. I had the opportunity also to, you know, be born in a country that had significant like economic, uh, resource challenges, uh, in Kenya. Many of those social problems that are in the world are persistent, but also they’re actually really exciting and innovative solutions out there, that we can really be able to address these problems, especially if we have the will, the intention and the empathy towards it.

So, um, this is why this work is important to me and I cannot imagine doing anything else.

[00:03:58] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: Do you have a story to share of a time where this kind of impact and social impact work really felt like you were doing what you wanted to do? You knew you were in the right place.

[00:04:07] Admas Kanyagia: When I think about sort of a formative story, I always go back to my days on skid row. Uh, I had the opportunity to work for an affordable housing organization very early in my career, uh, where I had this role that sort of braided direct service working, particularly with people who had histories of chronic homelessness, uh, and also was able to work on policy issues, you know, and advocating in Washington, DC for more funding to help braid the kinds of housing and services that were really important for, um, transforming and, and, and exiting, uh, out of homelessness. Uh, and I had to, I got the chance to do this in community, like on the ground. Uh, which, you know, I think is also another like really formative and helpful experience because, you know, proximity is so key. Proximity to the issues that we see in the world is so helpful, uh, in shifting perspectives, in changing internal values and setting your intentions in the right way.

And so, um, I, I always carry those experiences of being on the streets of Skid Row with me everywhere I go. Uh, and I strive, you know, at, at all times to remain really rooted in those values of being in community and in direct transformational impact of lives.

[00:05:30] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: Absolutely, there’s often such a disconnect between the people that you’re serving and the work that you’re doing and it’s very inspiring to hear that there was layers of impact going on; thinking about the policy, thinking about the people, thinking about the actual community building as well.

And related to that, the complexity of social good is, is not easy to navigate. I think that we see a lot of criticism um, to companies, they get in trouble for not navigating that the way they should be and not, um, the practice not matching the mission, per se.

Companies get in trouble with, you know, performative social good. Like during Pride month, we see organizations who are marching in the parades simultaneously donating to anti- LGBTQ+ organizations. Or a business who works with customers that are, you know, working with fossil fuel companies. Or governments that are violating human rights.

So, how would startups and companies sort of navigate this in a way that’s authentic in the impact that it’s trying to do?

[00:06:25] Admas Kanyagia: Yeah. This is, um, you know, sadly very true. Uh, and I think, you know, especially for someone myself who has been in the social sector for a long time, and even sitting, you know, on the side of nonprofits and communities we’ve seen. Many of these performative efforts by companies often rooted in sort of reputational impact alone.

What we see as with many legacy companies, they kind of go through this evolution of sort of trying to, you know, move beyond that sort of performative or reputational, um, view of social impact to really thinking about deeper sources of value. And that’s just because they’ve gotten in trouble many, many times as a result.

And so I think for younger companies who are now on the other side of that, you know, maybe, you know, gosh, a hundred year journey since companies started to think about this.

You know, they have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of many legacy companies and not repeat them. Uh, they have the opportunity to really, you know, I think break the mold into how companies are thinking about serving society.

Um, I see incredible value for companies thinking about social impact as part of their mission, uh, because it can help find, drivers, uh, for sustaining the business, just not for the moment, but for years and decades to come.

Uh, companies can also have like more open dialogue with stakeholders. You know, it’s really great to see terms like stakeholder capitalism being thrown around because now it, it says that, there are many folks who are important to companies: employees, customers, community members that live in the community where the company operates, regulators, investors. And so what we’re seeing is companies are starting to have much more open dialogues with all these stakeholders that can help influence how they act.

We still definitely have a lot of ways to go. There are very many companies out there who are not even convinced that thinking about social impact is important. But you know, we do see an incredible sea change where companies are starting to understand that their, like collective destinies are connected to the society at large and to do this work and be a company that lasts for the ages, you have to think about this complexity and dive in to it.

[00:08:47] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: And you mention terminology such as stakeholder capitalism, but there’s other buzzwords too that we see tossed around in this sort of work. You know, corporate social responsibility, corporate social impact, creating shared value, triple bottom line; there’s so many! I assume that they’re not all interchangeable. Uh, can you sort of break down some of these terms that we see a lot that help maybe companies sort of digest this information and, and understand how to apply it to their own organizations?

[00:09:13] Admas Kanyagia: Absolutely. I mean, on one hand it’s, it’s, it’s great to see all these different buzzwords cuz it means that folks are starting to formulate language and a terminology around that.

And so I think about corporate social responsibility or CSR as probably a legacy framing for how companies used to think about this work, very much focused on public image and correcting public image.

Um, now we’re seeing companies expand and use many of these newer terms today, such as corporate social impact or ESG specifically. What is great is that definitely coming out of both, the sort of business school world and uh, also coming out of, um, especially, forums, like the World Economic Forum, is new terminology around the intentions that companies need to have. This idea of relying particularly on the Milton Freedman, like definition of a company’s purpose is starting to, you know, really be challenged where companies are saying that, hey, our sole purpose isn’t just to make profits. It’s actually to create value for society.

And so you’re starting to see this term such as shared value, which is a concept that was pioneered out of Harvard Business School by Michael Porter, the competitiveness expert, that companies can find these pockets of value if they focus on addressing a social problem and leverage their business in unique ways to address it.

Um, the ideas of stakeholder capitalism is that, your stakeholders are not just your customers or those who pay you, but this wider community of folks that you have to interact with, like employees, like the people who live in the community in which you operate, or purpose-driven capitalism, or B Corps, which have starting to become like a new kind of business entity that really has social impact and social responsibility at the core.

There’s actual evidence that you can do well and do good at the same time, and that you have this connection to sort of a larger sense of value beyond the profits that you make.

[00:11:14] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: For some businesses getting involved in social impact and social responsibility, might seem, at odds with their product and their, core revenue model. For instance, social impact can be seemingly easy because the main product or services that the company offers, um, is in maybe community spaces or animal rights or environmentalism.

While for others, it’s something that maybe needs more work to fit into their organization. Should these efforts be sort of agnostic of the product itself? You know, is it easy to find a way to have impact, even if the product has nothing to do with the impact you’re trying to create?

[00:11:50] Admas Kanyagia: We are now seeing like more small businesses and startups really have this social responsibility mission. But we also have just, you know, regular businesses where folks are developing products and services, to meet a particular need at a specific time. I think that these efforts, can really still start at those kinds of companies and those kind of companies can think about ways of aligning things like their mission and their values to do things like reduce harm from their product and just acknowledge, that they could be harm from their product.

And again, to be able to have larger dialogues with stakeholders. And so these companies can start to building these elements slowly over time.

I think, all of us are just asking companies to start somewhere. And so for those companies that don’t have like a social responsible product or service, they can look within their business and say, okay, are there levers? Are there competitive advantages in our business that could make sense to address a particular social problem?

And I’ll give an example of a financial services company. That might just seem like completely agnostic of a larger like social, impact mission. But many financial services firms have incredible business assets that could help address poverty alleviation. So thinking about access to financial capital and ways in which you use that financial capital to support, community driven projects like affordable housing, could be one way for a financial services firm to think about how they could be able to address, a social problem that’s out there.

And so, I think all I’ll say is that, every company has an opportunity to make a contribution, uh, regardless of what your product and your service is. And it just really takes a really important and strategic and intentional look to say, where in my business do I have assets, you know, resources that I can deploy on a specific social problem that makes sense for me to be able to address.

And I think if companies like do that kind of intentional strategy, They can find an opportunity to make a contribution.

[00:13:50] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: What are some ways that they can start to evaluate that? Is it just bringing employees together and brainstorming and having sort of free flow? Is there, surveys they should do? What are some suggestions of tangible approaches to that reflection for their business?

[00:14:03] Admas Kanyagia: I think about this often when I’m, I’m sort of setting up new social impact programs at companies, is that sort of initial, stakeholder process to better identify, couple of things. Where do people’s passions and, uh, excitements lie or where’s work that’s already existing? Companies are just groups of individuals, you know. And while there might be no established social impact program at a company, what you often find is that employees on their own, in their own time are giving back to causes that they care about, are volunteering in their communities, are working to address a particular social issue that they may be faced with themselves. And so trying to find like where those pockets of passion and even sort of previous work may have happened in the company is a good place to start.

I think what is often frustrating for those in the social sector is that we see companies kind of come in and do sort of fly by to have fly by understandings of social issues.

[00:14:58] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: Social sectors want companies that are not just throwing dollars at an issue, but actually building long term partnerships in that way.

[00:15:05] Admas Kanyagia: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s, that’s what they would like, I mean, dollars are incredibly helpful. We know that a lot of, you know, social sector problems have deep, deep like resource gaps and so, I always tell companies that, money is important, but understanding where to direct, money. Like those are the conversations we want companies to get to.

[00:15:25] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: We’re talking a little bit about the impact that an organization can have. But there is an element of incentivization that has to happen here. If an organization is gonna take the time, spend the money, any kind of resources in order to have any kind of social impact and social good, there is usually some reason that they’re doing that to help their own business too.

So I’m curious if we can sort of talk about the rewards and payoffs for the organization itself, maybe beyond just its good marketing, or maybe beyond it feeling good, I suppose.

[00:15:54] Admas Kanyagia: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, it’s good. I think for a leader like me, if I find opportunities to both deliver, business results and impacts on communities, I can find a place where the company will only want to reinvest more and more and more and more in the work, which will allow even more and more impact on the issues that we see in the world around us. So, I don’t think of it as per pervasive incentives. I think it’s, it’s about sort of really expanding the aperture of companies to seeing value and impact coming from different places than just maybe the traditional business model.

Companies are starting to think about how do they create financial services for people in the global south who particularly had been cut away from the financial services sector because, you know, quote unquote, they were too poor. But they can serve these customers at a lower price point and see incredible pockets of value and drive like new markets for their services and products.

Companies can also use social impact as a frame to reconceive productivity in their value chain, so by taking on things like sustainable water practices or uh, water use practices or reducing energy use, they can find pockets of operational efficiency and help to reduce costs over time.

Employees love to work for companies that are committed and authentic about doing this. So there’s also some tangible results that we see in terms of employee engagement and employee retention.

And you know, finally I would say that studies are now showing that companies who take ESG seriously, do outperform their peers. And so again, there’s real financial returns to companies who sort of take this expanded view of what impact looks like.

[00:17:38] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: I love that point. It doesn’t just have to be sort of external charity or partnerships, but it so that social impact is actually woven into the core of your, your infrastructure.

[00:17:47] Admas Kanyagia: Absolutely. Where this work is not only isolated in just sort of the philanthropic arm of the company or in it’s foundation, but the company is really thinking about how we can integrate all these practices throughout all its operations.

[00:18:02] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: For startups and small businesses, social impact can be a very hard thing to prioritize. They are underfunded or under resourced, they are smaller, they are new, they don’t know, where they’re going yet, and there’s just all these questions that make it so it’s sort of the last thing that it feels like you can put time into.

So how early should a startup or new entrepreneurs actually start thinking about social impact?

[00:18:25] Admas Kanyagia: Yeah, I know it’s tough because all companies are constantly sort of managing trade offs for this work. Even larger companies, you know, but I think for a startup and new entrepreneurs, I think one simple, or I will say it’s simple, but not so simple, a way to get started is integrating this into your mission and values as early as possible. That kind of internal alignment will just set the stage and the foundation for you to be able to do good in the future.

It’s much harder to do this after you’ve grown. Uh, it’s much harder to go back once you’ve had maybe perhaps incredible business success and think about integrating this into your mission and values, because that kind of cultural and internal alignment will just set an incredible foundation for when you do have resources that you’re constantly finding opportunities to do good and taking advantage of those moments.

[00:19:22] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: So speaking of startups and small businesses, um, I’m especially excited about this episode because we’re gonna spend some time answering questions from entrepreneurs who are trying to navigate integrating social impact, um, into their efforts. Sounds good?

[00:19:35] Admas Kanyagia: I’m very excited to hear from them

[00:19:37] Matthew Hoogestraat: Hi, my name’s Matt and I’m working on a startup that produces clothing that’s designed to be inclusive of people who use wheelchairs. I’m a wheelchair user myself and a longtime advocate for this community. So this is a cause close to my heart. I’m hoping to make a dent in just one of the overlooked areas of this population.

And one issue here is that there’s a quality problem in the world of products for disabled. Where because there’s this sort of captive audience for their products, companies are known to create and sell goods with lower than average quality at a higher than average price. And this is one of the issues that our company wants to address, but it’s really complicated.

Even at a slim profit margin, higher quality, low volume products tend to necessitate higher prices. So I’m wondering if you can explain any scalable strategies for getting quality goods into the hands of our customers who may be of limited means, while keeping the company solvent? Could a suggested price, with a pay what you can option work with physical goods?

Thank you.

[00:20:45] Admas Kanyagia: Thank you, Matt, for your question. Um, such a, a critical one I think as companies such as yours are thinking about, you know, some real trade offs. Both in terms of, finding, value, uh, and profit for your business and adequate and sustainable revenue sources. Uh, and at the same time trying to deliver a better product to the customers that you have that desperately need them.

So I think that these kinds of trade offs, are very common, uh, as you know, many companies like yours are trying to navigate these questions, uh, and almost like market failures that we see out there. I think what one of the things that I think could be really interesting to explore right now is, really connecting with diverse partners in this space.

What is incredible to see is that the line between different sectors is actually quite permeable right now. Folks are trying to do social good from really different places in society, both from companies, but also from government and philanthropy which can help to fill the gap, can help, you know, subsidize or be able to like, deliver and reach many of the customers that you’re trying to reach, uh, and to do it particularly at scale.

We are seeing philanthropy and foundations make more mission and aligned invest in startups and businesses like yours who are trying to address market failures like this.

And then obviously government is one of the largest spenders in society, particularly because of their, um, requirements to serve, could be yet another important partner. So, you know, I hope those are some helpful ideas of where you can get started. And definitely thank you for the really important work that you’re.

[00:22:31] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: I’m very excited to see these, uh, clothing come out for Matt’s company, especially as, uh, we as younger entrepreneurs have an opportunity to kind of make new channels and new revenue streams and kind of challenge the molds that we are even being taught in school.

[00:22:47] Admas Kanyagia: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I think this multi-sector approach is becoming more common. We’re seeing sort of, you know, really unique public private partnerships out there. And so yes, you know, again, we have the opportunity to break the mold and to bring partners to the table that we didn’t traditionally, bring to the table before.

[00:23:04] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: Moving on to our next entrepreneur.

[00:23:07] Ingrid Eskeland-Adetuyi: My name is Ingrid, and I’m the Founder and CEO of Tens, a mobile app where ambitious women make life-changing friendship.

Prior to Tens, I had achieved a long-term goal of mine, of selling an original screenplay to top Hollywood producers, and yet I’d never been more unhappy. Working in a male dominated industry, I felt stuck in my career, a lack of community. And I was super lonely. When I obtained my masters at usc, I realized just how many women face the same problem and learned that no easy and accessible solution exists. I also learned just how essential friendship is on success as a new study has just shown that cross class friendship is the leading factor in reducing.

Tens is in the product development stage right now with a working mobile app that we are dog- fooding and testing with small sample sizes. We’ve just implemented OKRs into our process, so we’ve been really interested in the objective setting and key results measuring topic. My question is, for a company with social responsibility at its core, how can we measure the impact that we’re having?

[00:24:25] Admas Kanyagia: Thank you for your question, Ingrid. Um, and again, you know, such critical and important work you’re doing. So measuring impact is, um, sort of a, a long conversation that has been happening in the social impact field and even particularly for companies who want to be, data driven, want to better understand and get insights about where they’re having traction and where they’re not, so that that can inform business decisions.

And so just as we’ve set, you know, OKRs for, you know, all other parts of our business, it is becoming even more critical to find the right OKRs, um, that could both track, uh, progress and measure impact of a business efforts on social impact.

So, um, let’s see. I mean, I think there are so many ways to do this. There are multiple frameworks that are out there that could be helpful. Um, I know earlier we talked about shared value, which has a measurement framework that could be helpful in terms of outlining specific business results as well as social results that come from your efforts.

You know, How are you reaching, new customers, new communities of women. Um, but also thinking about your impact on those women, whether or not that has changed their experiences or transform their experiences through engagement on this app.

I think another place to look is into the ESG or environment, social and governance sort of field. Um, that is known as a very, prevalent, accountability framework for companies to think about their impact on those three fronts. It provides yet another important measurement framework for companies to take on even as early in their, um, development as your company to say, what is our impact on these three things? And can we find the things that actually matter for our business that will let us know whether or not we’re having an impact on the communities that we care about? But I applaud your efforts to think about measurement this early. I think it’s really critical.

Don’t be, um, you know, discouraged or, or daunted by the task. Find a few OKRs that are central to like better understanding your progress on your initiatives. Track those meticulously. Spend time really understanding and reflecting and developing insights as a result, and I’m sure your work will be incredibly successful.

[00:26:41] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: Well said, Admas. It really is the other side of the coin of incentivization where it’s not just why should we do this, but is it having the benefits that we intended for it to have? I mean, there’s a lot of altruism that actually has negative consequences instead of positive

[00:26:56] Admas Kanyagia: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think what’s so important about both processes like OKRs or measurement is the opportunity to better understand progress and to be reflective of your efforts. And taking that chance to build in these kinds of reflective practices where you’re constantly asking those questions of like, are we making a difference? Are we making a difference on anybody’s life? Are we making a difference on the business?

Those kinds of questions I think will be only sharpened and will only better direct your efforts to be even more successful and impactful. And so I definitely applaud Ingrid taking this on even so early in the development of the company.

[00:27:35] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: Wonderful. On to our next one.

[00:27:38] Katie Pearson Fucci: Hi, my name is Katie Pearson Fucci and I am the CEO and Founder of Parrotfish. Parrotfish is a plastic free palm oil free personal care company currently offering shampoo bars, conditioner bars, soaps, scrubs, and soon-to-be shower steamers.

When I first entered this world of trying to purchase plastic free, I realized a lot of the responsibility was actually landing on the consumer to vet these companies or products and make the choices that were right for them. However, when I started my own company, I realized, a lot of the issue to so to say, was that a lot of brands, especially small brands, don’t have the funds to be as sustainable as they wanna be or donate to the social impact programs that they wanna donate to, honestly, because they’re small. But because small businesses are just faking it till we make it, it looks like we are much bigger than we actually.

So my question to you is how do we open up this transparency and talk to our customers about where we currently are, where we wanna be, and do you think it’s a bad thing to be, to put on this facade in a way that we are a much larger company than we are? Or should we just be real with them and be like, look, there are two people behind the scenes here and we are trying to make it work.

[00:29:03] Admas Kanyagia: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:29:05] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: I love this question.

[00:29:07] Admas Kanyagia: I know, Thank you Katie. Oh gosh. Such, such a real question. These are the real issues that, um, many, you know, small businesses have to navigate. I mean, the fake till you make it, I definitely understand the need for that, and especially in an environment, especially with investors and customer pressure being what it.

But the better way is to tell an authentic but aspirational story, not of just where your company is, but of where you want your company to be. And so, um, and I don’t think about that as a facade at all.

It really comes down to the ability to sort of tell the story, not of just where you are, but of where you wanna be and the role that others have in reaching that, you know, aspirational vision that you have for the future. And so I think that can be really powerful for even a two person company to tell. And that story can sustain both you, uh, as well as your stakeholders, you know, for time, uh, to come.

I think for small companies that you know, don’t have a lot of resources to be sustainable or to donate a lot, I mean, earlier we talked about just starting off by something as simple as integrating this into your mission and your values and thinking about, you know, how you talk about these things and how you make them not just things that sit on a wall, but actually help direct like business decisions so that when the company grows and you have reources. Again, you have that intentional internal alignment already set so that you can be activated as quickly as possible. So, but thank you for your question, Katie. It was, it was really, um, real.

[00:30:52] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: There also seems to be, uh, an opportunity with community building almost for, for Parrotfish. I think about back in high school, we had, um, required volunteer hours and it was encouraged, um, for us to even exceed that. And, you know, maybe there’s a way for, um, Katie to get involved with local schools to put baskets together for any people in need for soap and shampoos and other things. And people see that it’s a small operation, but that there’s a community, entrenched community relationship there that they can kind of give back in that way. I dunno, it seems like there’s infinite combinations of opportunities there.

[00:31:27] Admas Kanyagia: Yeah. And that is would be an incredible story for Katie to tell. There are opportunities to do something even at a small scale that again, can be helpful and foundational. Uh, and to use those experiences to learn about how you can direct and donate more and make more impact in the future.

So yeah, there’s definitely a lot of ways in which you can make contributions, however small that they may seem to you, um, that would still be helpful for the communities that need them.

[00:31:54] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: And onto our last question.

[00:31:56] Admas Kanyagia: Great.

[00:31:56] Mehrad Noori: Hey, my name is Mehrad and I’m an interactive producer and founder of an independent production studio called AnythingEverything. My work focuses on taking emerging technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, and using them to create original experiences that present new formats for storytelling.

I’m passionate about this field because I really believe that these technologies have the power to move and inspire people in ways that traditional media like film and television just can’t. And when it comes to social impact or educational story, there’s really no better way to offer someone new perspective than by literally giving them a new perspective. Um, and this is something that things like VR and AR just so good at.

Now, I used to work at a large corporation and when I was there I had tons of in-house collaborators and resources. But I went independent a couple years ago and now I find myself with a very small team, but still working with a large amount of third party vendors, businesses, partners. And while I’d love to maintain a culture of social awareness and responsibility, it can be a bit of a harder lift when the people you’re working with aren’t part of your own organization.

So my question is, what are some ways that small shops like mine who don’t have a huge headcount but still depend on collaboration with external businesses, um, how can we make sure to work with companies who are also like-minded and also conscious of how their work impacts our community, beyond just their own interests?

[00:33:18] Admas Kanyagia: Thank you Mehrad.

As you work with a larger ecosystem of external partners and vendors and collaborators, it is tough to keep culture aligned. But I think that one of the easiest ways to work with like-minded people is to be really up front about your own sort of mission and values as a company.

Uh, and it doesn’t mean that you would, you, you only have to work with folks who are like minded, but you will attract partners and vendors and others who want to work with similar organizations. And so really taking the opportunity to, make that both part of your external presence, make that part of your branding and your communication can really help you attract the kind of partners who want to work on the same kinds of issues that you do.

I also think that, as I said earlier, there’s an opportunity really to break the mold and work with different kinds of partners that are out there. Uh, and so really like not discounting the opportunity to work with nonprofits, to work with social sector organizations, you know, social good startups and others who will have like very similar values to what you wanna do. Um, but you know, people don’t often think about first 'cause they’re not directly like in the private sector. So taking an expanded view of who your ecosystem could really be, I think can help you think about bringing people to the table to collaborate with who have similar values and wanna solve similar issues. I hope that can be helpful for you, Mehrad and, and good luck.

[00:34:52] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: Well, I have one last question for you.

Besides the work we do, and for you, social impact would be that highlight, um, we engage with a lot of things on a regular basis that has nothing to do with the job that we do. So I’m curious if you have anything that you’ve kind of consumed and, um, engaged with, you know, media that you love, books that you love, whatever it might be that maybe helped you solve a problem or sort of challenge your perspective a little bit.

And maybe you could share what that is with us.

[00:35:18] Admas Kanyagia: Oh gosh. Um, there’s a couple of that I’d love to share. I would say that, you know, one of like the, you know, television is so. Great. But not to be like cliche, I’ll share a television show that I really recently loved and so, I don’t know if folks are, are watching this show, uh, called "Mo" on Netflix, which is a sort of dramedy about a Palestinian, American, Aslyee family, uh, living in Houston. And it’s sort of the first show that has been produced about a Palestinian American family in the US. And so it’s just such a, I think, beautiful depiction of the critical and important need for telling the diverse stories that already exist in our society. And so it was a great reminder of that and I just, um, I’ve just been telling everybody to watch it.

And I think, you know, on the work front, I will mention that, that one of the like really inspirational blogs that I read on a weekly basis is a blog called "Race Ahead," by Fortunes, um, sort of diversity, equity and inclusion reporter, Ellen McGirt. She sends out "Race Ahead" every Friday and it has sort of, Like small snippets, stories, and reflections on issues that have faced companies that week, uh, that are related to both diversity and inclusion, and social impact. And so I just find that always as a really helpful way to stay connected both to what’s happening, uh, across companies, but also just a way to also understand and learn from both the good and bad examples that we see out there.

[00:37:00] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: I am definitely going to hop off this call, go and watch this and read the blog.

[00:37:05] Admas Kanyagia: Yes.

[00:37:05] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: Well, I really appreciate all the insight that you’ve shared with us today, and on behalf of myself and anyone listening, thank you.

[00:37:11] Admas Kanyagia: Thank you, Rae. This was really fun. I really appreciate the opportunity to share my perspectives and my story, and I appreciate also all the questions from the entrepreneurs who, sent in them today. But thanks again.

[00:37:25] Rachael Lewis-Krisky: This has been ‘Making Work Work.’ Whether you’re a listener or a customer, the work we do wouldn’t be possible without you.

Special thanks to all the people that make my work work, my DigitalOcean colleagues and friends.

Our music is composed by Mirco Altenbach.

On this episode, the end credit song is by DigitalOcean’s Devneel Vaidya, the Senior Product Manager of Kubernetes.

Our employees are diverse in experiences and talents, so we’re excited to bring you a unique original song from one of our sharks nearly every week. Hang out and listen to the rest.

Check out do.co/makingworkwork for more info.

Until next time, I’m Rachael Lewis-Krisky. Keep swimming friends.

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