Martin Coughlan is a software engineer working for Symantec, as part of the #strongertogether campaign, Martin shares his thoughts on volunteering. Symantec is participating in the Business Impact Map and the #strongertogether campaign.
The interactive map launched today showcases what companies are doing for their local communities across the country and also shows the collective impact of the network.
As we unveil the impact achieved by the participating companies in 2017 we take the opportunity to hear from the volunteers that make this impact a reality.
Tell us about your volunteering experience…
The bulk of my volunteering time is spent as a scout leader. I’m the group leader of the 10th Kilternan scout troop which means that as well as taking part in scouting activities with the kids I also run the troop, organising events, fundraising and filling out grant applications. As well as being a scout leader I also volunteer with Symantec to give online safety training to kids in schools. I visit schools all over Dublin and talk to them about Cyberbullying and talking safely online. I have also worked with the Irish Girl Guides to help train leaders who want to teach internet safety in their troop.
Why did you decide to take part and volunteer?
I’m quite an introverted person and wasn’t the type to put my hand up and volunteer for anything. But then I became a dad of 3 boys and started bringing them to all their various activities. One evening when collecting my eldest from Beavers (the youngest form of scout) I was asked if I’d like to help out and things just grew from there. Once you are exposed to the enormous commitment that people make so that your kids can take part in something it’s difficult to ignore.
My job within Symantec is to develop software to find and categorise all the inappropriate content in the internet. This gives me a valuable insight into how the internet works and how it is being used. Once my kids were of an age where they were becoming active internet users I thought I would take part in Symantec’s online safety in the community program and give some talks in my boys schools. Once I started to do it, I found it was something I was good at and really enjoyed and the corporate responsibility team reached out to me to ask if I would consider doing it in other schools.
What did you enjoy from the experience?
I love being a scout leader. Being outdoors and teaching the kids how to be independent and look after themselves and each other is always fun. Many Thursday evenings as the time to go to scouts approaches I think to myself “It’s been a long day and I’m tired and I’d just like to sit down and relax”. But I always make myself go, and I never come back regretting it.
Visiting schools to talk to the kids about internet safety is hugely rewarding. The energy you get from them is amazing and they really relate to the area you are talking about. There is a real lack of understanding in this area even among younger teachers and it really feels like you are doing some good if you can help them understand how to deal with some of the pressures of being a young person in the age of social media.
What would you say to a colleague who hasn’t volunteered before to encourage him/her to give it a go?
I’m an engineer, and like many engineers I can tend to be inwardly focused and analytical which people often see as cynicism. Don’t let people make you feel like you have to fit into some sort of ideal of what a volunteer is. I have learned over the years of doing this that kids respect an expert. If they feel you really know what you are talking about they are more than happy to listen and whatever you put in they will give you back in spades. Find the thing that you are passionate about and go share that passion. Don’t do it for other people or for the company. Do it because it excites you and makes you feel that in some small way you are making a difference.
How important is it to you that the company you work for shares your values and facilitates you to undertake volunteering activities as part of your role?
There are only so many hours in a day and as a father and husband and volunteer having a company that shares my passions and allows me to take time out of my day to do the things I love makes a huge difference. Without the support I get from Symantec I’d still probably be volunteering but I certainly wouldn’t have the luxury of doing as much as I do as often as I do it.
Visit the Business Impact Map to see the impact that Symantec have made together with their employees.