Stepping in to Help

by Aseem Chandra

posted on 11-23-2016

It’s hard not to be reminded about the importance of “giving back” during the holiday season, and our employees turn this concept into action every day by supporting charitable organizations, local communities, the environment and more.

We recently sat down with Aseem Chandra, Vice President of Adobe Experience Manager and Adobe Target, to talk about Adobe’s values and how they’ve inspired him to volunteer his time with a nonprofit focused on a little-known brain condition. Read on for our Q&A.

Q: Before we get into the specifics of your charitable work, tell us about how you find the time to devote to it.

A: This is such an important question because time can often be the biggest barrier to involvement with a nonprofit or charitable cause that interests you.

First, you need to think about what’s important to you personally and where charitable work sits within your priorities. We’re all balancing family, career, personal interests, health and fitness, etc. If you decide to make volunteering a priority, then you need to talk about it with your spouse, partner, family members and even close friends. Having their support is crucial and if these conversations spark an interest within them to volunteer alongside you, it’s a win-win for all.

Another important conversation is the one you should have with your manager to ensure that he or she understands the commitment you’re making and why it’s important to you. We’re fortunate here at Adobe because the culture supports and encourages volunteerism. A conversation with an Adobe manager might even uncover available matching programs or the potential for a team activity.

Q: How can we best make an impact within the nonprofit world?

A: Money certainly helps, but making an impact doesn’t always require a large financial commitment. A contribution of your talent and time can often be more meaningful.

Many nonprofits operate as a startup, with a small staff of generalists who wear multiple hats. They’re in great need of experts – legal experts, HR experts, marketing and PR experts, technology experts, event planners, fundraisers, administrative support and more. Financial expertise is an especially critical area within the nonprofit world, where donors’ dollars are closely scrutinized. Bringing our for-profit mindset into a non-profit organization can help tremendously, often resulting in a more rapid execution of vision and strategy.

One last thought. Many nonprofit organizations are dealing with life and death scenarios. The work you do has a direct effect on people’s lives and I can’t think of anything more motivating or inspiring than that.

Q: You have been involved with the Hydrocephalus Association for many years. What motivates you to volunteer your time and talent to that particular organization?

A: One million people in the U.S. live with Hydrocephalus and it is also the most common reason for brain surgery in children, yet it is largely unknown. As something that impacted my family, I was saddened to see a general lack of awareness, especially when compared to other less-common brain conditions that benefit from greater research funding and public support.

I started a dialog with the Hydrocephalus Association (HA) and first became involved by attending a national conference where I met patients, caregivers and the medical professionals who support this community. I was inspired to help them accelerate their research efforts, but I understood that giving money wasn’t necessarily the best I could do. What this organization and many others like it sorely need are particular skills and I realized that I could personally help with that.

Q: What are some of the things you’ve done in your volunteer capacity at the HA over the past few years?

A: I began by volunteering to chair one of the committees tasked with communications and PR, which is where some of my professional experience lies. I then moved on to support research and expansion of the organization’s brand experience via its website, Facebook page and other digital channels. Improvements in these digital channels have had a big impact on those who live with the condition as well as their friends and loved ones, bringing them better access to support networks, information, and online resources.

I currently serve as the chair of the board of directors where my primary role is to help set the organization’s long-term vision and strategy, and to ensure that donor funds are used effectively to support our mission. Each person on our 21-member board partners with HA staff and serves on several committees. As active volunteers, we leverage our personal and professional experience and networks to help the HA achieve its goals.

aseem-pledge-of-allegianceQ: How has serving on a nonprofit board contributed to your professional and personal development?

A: Even newly minted volunteers will quickly learn how to do more with less, become more entrepreneurial and develop more out-of-the-box thinking, which will always endear you to any manager. But, you’re not just growing your skillset and your network by volunteering. You’re contributing to a cause that’s important to you and making a tangible impact – this is where personal development comes into play. You get much more out of it than what you put in and the skills, experiences and relationships you gain will accompany you throughout your career as well as your personal life.

Personally, I’ve gained exposure to the nuances of board dynamics and the board’s relationship with the CEO. I’ve learned how to create alignment across a diverse group of highly accomplished people, which isn’t without its challenges. But finding ways to unite behind our common cause and leveraging each person’s unique experiences, skillsets and background has been very rewarding. And, I’ve grown in my ability to streamline projects and uncover efficiencies by overseeing limited budget and resources while still setting high benchmarks for growth.

Q: Is there any parting advice you would give to anyone who is considering getting involved in a volunteer role?

A: First, make sure you’re passionate about the cause and mission of the organization. Next, take the necessary steps to get involved. Let the group know of your interest and the time that you have available. Start as a volunteer in any capacity and don’t feel obligated to jump right into a big role. Even helping answer the phones for a few hours can be incredibly helpful. Ease into your volunteer obligation to ensure that you can make good on your commitment and that you feel connected to the mission. Don’t overthink your involvement at the start, it’s not necessary. Just show up and see where it leads. As Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Learn about Adobe Corporate Responsibility.

Topics: Leadership, Sustainability