In recognition of National Volunteer Week, ITWorks is spotlighting one of our amazing volunteers each day this week. Our volunteers are such an asset to our program and make a huge impact on our students. ITWorks would not be the same without them!
Rob Keeton, a Senior Director at Comcast, is always a class favorite in the Philadelphia classroom! He is involved with the ITWorks program by volunteering as a mentor, coming to Peirce College to lead a Friday Session on Time Management, and has gotten his colleagues involved by hosting a tour at the Comcast Center. Rob encourages others to consider volunteering with ITWorks because of the direct impact it has on the future of the local workforce!
How did you first learn about the ITWorks program? What compelled you to get involved as a volunteer?
I was introduced to Tech Impact through the SIM organization while looking for opportunities to network with other local IT leaders. I decided to meet with Patrick Callihan, and he invited me to join Tech Impact’s Finance Committee. It was during that first meeting that I also heard about ITWorks, and it immediately caught my attention because I’ve always been interested in education as potential second career. I was immediately drawn to getting involved with ITWorks. It also made me think about when I was starting out in IT and a little lost – I didn’t have strong direction, so I floundered for a couple years. So, I like to help other people get through those bumpy roads quicker, so they can accelerate onward and upward.
You volunteer in a variety of capacities – do you have a favorite way to get involved?
I really enjoy the guest lecturing during the Friday Sessions. I was nervous the first time, so I put a lot of prep into it. Once I met the class, I was thoroughly impressed with their enthusiasm and participation. They made my job very easy – now I know I can just focus on sharing experiences and the class responds very well. The engagement of these students is even better than some college classes I experienced while substitute teaching. The IT Works students are so hungry and inquisitive, so there’s never any dead space to fill. During every break, I open things up for questions on any work-related topic and get questions on everything from technology trends to office norms and leadership. There’s never a shortage of questions. It’s amazing!
Describe one experience with a student(s) that stands out as being particularly impactful for the student(s), yourself, or both.
No one experience really jumps out at me, but I am particularly proud of one of my mentees, who has really come a long way. Zahir, my mentee during Spring 2016, took full advantage of the mentor experience. He met me every week here at the Comcast building. I even brought him in to observe some meetings. I want mentees to take accountability and set the pace, and Zahir was very proactive. And look at him now – he’s been so successful in the time since graduation and landed a full time job in IT. It’s neat for me to have been part of his journey. And he’s still reaching out!
What do you think the benefit is for volunteers who get involved with ITWorks?
I don’t know if this is too selfish, but you get to feel like a little bit of a rock star in front of these students. We have a lot of pressure in our daily lives to deliver and get things done, and then you stand in front of these students and you realize you have a lot more to offer than you had originally thought. They’re hanging onto every word. But the real benefit is when you see someone go through the program and succeed – say they were a fry cook at fast food joint and now they are working in IT…there’s not a whole lot better than witnessing that and feeling like you helped!
Do you have any insight for organizations or individuals who are considering a volunteer opportunity with ITWorks?
The first thing that comes to mind is not to be intimated by the idea of being in front of the class. And know that you have a lot more to offer than you think. The classes are always thrilled to have you there, and they are engaged. These students are coming from a variety of backgrounds, but very few have any professional or office experience – so anything you can offer is of value to them. I think it’s important to encourage professionals to share their talents; and what better way to do that than by being part of the next generation of workforce. It’s such a lasting impact, and you get to see the direct benefit when they are getting those employment offers.
Our volunteers are such an asset to our programs and make a huge impact on our students. Tech Impact would not be the same without them!
Learn More About Becoming an IT Works Volunteer