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Leaving the Rat Race to Save the World


Companies are offering their IT employees the opportunity to volunteer for projects in developing countries, and some IT workers, frustrated by a lack of purpose, are leaving the corporate world and lending their expertise to nonprofits. IBM started a program to send 100 workers to Romania, Turkey, Vietnam, the Philippines, Ghana, and Tanzania to work on projects integrating economic development with IT, and the number of applicants was stunning.

Meanwhile, the nonprofit Geekcorps organized by the International Executive Service Corps sends IT professionals to developing nations to assist in computer infrastructure development projects. The appeal of high-tech jobs with a social purpose, such as those offered through non-governmental organizations (NGOs), is growing among skilled IT professionals. NGOs have emerged as serious competition for corporations in the search for IT talent in an increasingly tight labor market. "Companies are starting to realize that they don't just have a financial responsibility but a social responsibility as well," says Geekcorps volunteer Ryan Whitney. Increasing numbers of companies are realizing that overseas volunteer programs allow IT employees to gain experience that can be of benefit to enterprise IT teams by cultivating their leadership skills, to name one example. However, volunteerism can be viewed as a turn-off for certain employers, while another issue is that volunteers may be unprepared for the culture shock of moving to another, less developed country.

From Computerworld

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