Friday 13 February 2015

CSR, Knowledge, and a Student Conference

Dear Junior

At Omegapoint we have for a long time struggled with the question: How can we contribute towards society? Or, put otherwise, how can we pay back to the society to which we owe so much? To use the business lingo phrase: How do we exercise our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?

There is the obvious non-answer: We already contribute to society though our business. We pay taxes without fuzzing or hiding. What we do for our customers must be good in a broader sense, otherwise they would not pay for it. So, obviously we contribute.

But our moral standard is somewhat higher than that kind of waterline mark.

Of course there is always the easy way out: Donate money to some beneficiary organisation. And of course we have done so. But it does not feel completely satisfactory. Anyone can donate spare money: should we not pay those money as salaries and let our employees donate at their own discretion? What could we as a company contribute with?

Also we have done pro bono work: helping NGOs with their web-sites and support systems. Also we have given pro bono aid and coaching to local startups. Of course this is better, but we were still not completely satisfied. Lots of other companies could do this, it did not feel unique to us.

Slowly has the realisation dawned on us. We define ourselves as a knowledge company with an attitude of openness. The epitome of this is our semi-annual two-days competence conference, affectionately named OPKoKo where we run presentations, workshops, and discussion - all powered by stunning colleagues and some occasional guest. This is the soul of Omegapoint, this is what we should share.

Sharing with whom became pretty obvious. At Omegapoint almost everyone has studied at a technical university, apart from some remarkable autodidacts. In Sweden university education has no tuition fee at any of the universities - it is funded through taxes instead. This means that even the best universities have a steady flow of talented young people from all corners society. Omegapoint as a company is build on this foundation. We should pay back to Swedish Academia, and its education of students in particular.

Once question phrased, answer was simple. This spring we will run our first student conference: Studentkonferens 2015 by Omegapoint Academy.

We have put together a one-day conference with three tracks: programming, security, and testing. We will bring our experts from the field to spend a day presenting, discussing and socialising with the students. 

We have tried to pick subjects that are as relevant to students as possible - not far-away is about "strategic architectural enterprise business process modelling", but rather about stuff they can relate to and hopefully use immediately. We ended up choosing "Craftsmanship" as the theme.

Now, "Craftsmanship" is a term that has been thrown around our community left and right, and I am definitely sceptical to some uses of the word. Still, I think the original message of craftsmanship holds: love the craft, pay attention to what matters, be pragmatic.

Yesterday we announced the conference to the public during the Datatjej2015 conference run by female-CS-student association Datatjej. This is not a coincidence. 

At Omegapoint we always hire on merit. The idea to select from non-relevant attributes as gender or ethnicity is completely foreign to us. However, we also do know that women have had (and still have) a harder time in our industry than men. Thus, we want to encourage initiatives that encourage young women to make a move in our industry. Hence, it makes sense to draw some attention to Datatjej2015 by selecting that event for announcing our own initiative.

Now, this is going to be fun. Also, I have been given the honour to present the opening keynote, presenting my view of Craftsmanship in software development. I am really looking forward to all of it.



PS To pay credit where credit is due, I really must praise my colleagues Lotta Hammarström and Daniel Deogun. They where both part of the original idea, and have really worked hard to it come alive.