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Women In Tech: Making an Impact on Society

“Looking at things from the lens of a bigger enterprise, you can see how impactful a project can actually be because you see the whole ecosystem, you see how it works from the public sector, private sector, and you see the different initiatives that could complement it,” – Georgia Martelino, Lead at Microsoft Philanthropies

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The year 2020 has further demonstrated how technology assists in nation-building. Technologists and builders developed tools and apps to distribute cash to the most vulnerable people and even created programs that help assist in the immediate collection and analysis of critical data. The world realized how important tech is to the world going forward.

The Importance of Storytelling

Technology is not something that people could understand immediately. Not everyone would know from the get-go how a particular software or application can drastically speed up, for example, a cash disbursement project. Simply put, there is a need to make sure that tech’s benefits reach those who need them the most. At the same time,  it is of utmost importance to make sure there is a path for everyone to participate in this industry. 

Georgia Martelino knows how to transform complex concepts into messages that can better resonate with others. Building upon her previous role as Brand Communications Head at PLDT Enterprise, Georgia understands the importance of communicating what exactly a product or a service is for and how it can help people and organizations. 

At the heart of every product is many technical terms that people don’t have many contexts to. “I was telling the story of the brand and really simplifying things to bring technology closer to people. None of a product’s benefits matter if no one understands at the core what it is you are doing and what is the impact that you’re making.”

Corporate Collaboration and Messaging

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Corporations understand today how important storytelling is to connect to its customers and gain goodwill from the public. Communication is vital in this hyperconnected world, and Georgia is in the middle of it all, aware that people expect companies to care about communities and contribute a positive impact on society. “Understanding a corporation’s strengths and sophisticated capabilities must be broken down to make it relatable to your particular stakeholder,” she explained.

Now working in the field of philanthropy, it has been nothing but fulfilling for Georgia. The heart of the program is still messaging. Startups and NGOs, which are on the ground, help identify different priorities so problems are better understood and solutions are contextualized locally. Collaboration is vital. Otherwise, nothing will be built, let alone finished. Startups may be operating on the ground or in a particular niche. “But looking at things from the lens of a bigger enterprise, you can see how impactful a project can actually be because you see the whole ecosystem, you see how it works from the public sector, private sector, and you see the different initiatives that could complement it,” she said. 

When asked what piece of advice she can give to starting entrepreneurs who want to begin high-impact projects to society and looking to collaborate with other startups, NGOs and corporations, she said simply to “not be afraid.” 

“There’s no harm in trying. There’s no harm in asking for collaboration. My background is really in storytelling, and it’s really about understanding that story, understanding what it is you are doing. If you can tell your story well, you will find that there are synergies and connections you can build upon.” 

Driving Corporate Social Responsibility

As Philanthropies Lead at Microsoft, Georgia, drives its corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs in the Philippines. The Microsoft Philanthropies Team works with startups through projects that are in collaboration with NGOs and social enterprises to make a difference to society. Startups and NGOs, after all, have lenses that are very different from the lenses of a large corporation. They have the ideas and the blueprint but may need the technology a corporation can provide so a social project moves forward with the best solution that will make the most impact.

“Skilling” is identified as one of the best solutions that will make the most impact. With millions of Filipinos rendered jobless by the pandemic, it is not a matter of a person just finding a similar job with a company that’s still open. Chances are, that job has already been made non-essential by the health crisis. There’s simply no job hiring left for those roles. Skills that a candidate may have now are no longer apt to what employers are looking for. 

Digital skills are huge because it offers job seekers competencies that will enable them to keep up with the needs of our changing economy. In 2020, Microsoft launched a global skills initiative to make its online courses more accessible to citizens—enabling a greater number to become employable. It combines the resources from LinkedIn, GitHub, and Microsoft focused on identifying in-demand skills, providing access to free learning paths, and giving low-cost certifications and free job-seeking tools. 

Learning paths are available on LinkedIn so that those job seekers can learn at their own pace at their own time. Certificates are earned and obtained at a huge discount considering all the people who need such opportunities. Take, for example, this graphic design learning pathway. Graphic designers are always in demand and more so in this digital age. Taking the free course and earning the certificate could allow one to work and be employable by corporations or startups.

Inclusion and Diversity

Microsoft Philanthropies is established to ensure the corporation contributes in more impactful ways to society and ensure people who need technology the most benefit from it. In its focus on using its tech and software for good, Microsoft also ensures to make diversity, inclusion, and accessibility a big part of its business and culture.

Three teams ensure that Microsoft projects are inclusive to everyone of diverse backgrounds. The Accessibility team provides opportunities to persons with disabilities and to those who may have limited capacities. The Women at Microsoft Team provides opportunities to women in and out of the company. Finally, the Global LGBTQI Employees and Allies of Microsoft (GLEAM) team offers opportunities to the LGBTQI community. 

The Philanthropies team likewise ensures that they are a follower of their values. To bring such advocacies forward, Microsoft Philanthropies helps connect such teams with non-profits and social enterprises in the industry. In this way, the company can advocate starting from the grassroots, which allows it to check internally and understand how complex the world’s problems are and how the company can use its resources to solve all these problems.

Making an Impact

Microsoft Philanthropies work with multiple stakeholders, be it startups or NGOs, to understand where the opportunities are and where a multinational corporation could help the most. For example, working with different organizations in the skilling initiative allows identifying skills needed to ensure that people participating in the program will get upskilled and become employable. 

At the same time, various collaborations and synergy with multiple other Microsoft teams have helped the Philanthropies team map out the ecosystem further. After all, these projects are huge time investments, so partnering with a startup referred by the Microsoft for Startups team has provided them the right talent pool to kickstart other skilling initiatives. 

As a multinational technology company, Microsoft has the resources to allow startups to scale like never before. At Microsoft Philanthropies, it’s about ensuring projects that impact society get to take advantage of its tools and services. One example is working with an NGO that needs a simple way to track 1 million coconut trees. Before Microsoft steps in, the process is done manually. 

1 million trees. 

One by one. 

Using software, tasks like counting trees are automated, and the partner NGO sees a huge difference in its operation’s efficiency and how it does its day-to-day business.

Because startups work on the ground and see the opportunities for disruption, corporations with the resources and talent pool partner with or invest in them to enable the startup’s vision to become a reality. Such partnerships are essential; If a corporation wants to make an impact and empower its stakeholders be it the customers or the community at large, it must open to looking for ways to ride on that wave of disruption.

Visit the Microsoft Philanthropies website here.

This article is published on BitPinas: Women In Tech: Making an Impact on Society

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