A LeanTaaS employee shares their contribution and long relationship with a local outreach program, in an installment of this series spotlighting the members of our team, what makes them special, and the experiences that transform their work into more than just a job.
In late 2022, the administration staff at the LeanTaaS Charlotte office found a use for former employees’ MacBooks, as a critical resource for a community educational organization. Marianne Smith Stern tells the story below.
- What is your role at LeanTaaS and your background, and how long have you been with the company?
I joined LeanTaaS as Office Manager in April 2022. While I was hired on full time, I started out on a part time basis to transition out of my previous role. For the past several years I’d served as Education Director for the Creative Player Sports Foundation, commonly called the Creative Player Foundation, in Charlotte. My exit from the organization would create a knowledge and experience gap. In letting me begin my role part time, LeanTaaS gave me the flexibility to make sure the foundation would experience minimal disruption. Now that I’m full time, I’m able to still volunteer with the Creative Player Foundation, which makes a big impact in the community. I’m passionate about their work.
- Can you tell us more about the Creative Player Foundation and how it serves the Charlotte community?
The organization’s founder, Daniel Araujo, grew up in a very low-income family in Uruguay, and was a talented soccer player who was able to work his way into playing professionally. He now lives in Charlotte with his own family, and wanted to help local children the same way he had been helped. Youth soccer in the US tends to be a “pay to play” system, and Daniel saw a way to provide free play time as well as education and mentorship to children who needed it. He also knew a powerful way to help children at risk of falling behind in school was to support their reading comprehension.
Daniel founded Creative Player Foundation in 2014, as a program that uses soccer as a tool for education and opportunity via exposure to role models and mentors. Today the foundation runs an after-school program where middle school students, many of them recent immigrants to the US, go for physical activity (through soccer), followed by classroom sessions focused on reading comprehension and growth mindset activities with volunteers.
Classroom time runs for an hour and a half at the end of a regular school day (4:30-5:30pm), so prior to COVID-19, many Charlotte companies had regular employee volunteers. From these volunteers, students learned about potential career paths and new skills like coding or understood the value of current skills like maintaining fluency in their first language. Overall, it’s a great program to foster connection, growth, and relationships in our community, besides giving the students tools to succeed. Since COVID-19, the Foundation has found it difficult to have enough daily volunteers and those relationships and the insights they give to the students are missing. I think there’s an exciting opportunity for LeantaaS employees to get involved in a meaningful way.
- How were you inspired to use your role at LeanTaaS to support the Creative Player Foundation?
While the Creative Player Foundation favors physical activity and books for students over technology, the students do need to test digitally four times a year to track their reading comprehension progress. Testing is critical to both funding and curriculum planning, so the foundation needs functioning computers to fulfill its mission.
During COVID-19, while I still worked at the foundation full time, the venue we rented for the after-school program had to sell off the Mac lab we used for testing. For a time, due to the circumstances, we were able to run the program without testing but this was clearly a short-term fix. When I joined LeanTaaS in April 2022, we still didn’t have a solution.
Early in my role at LeanTaaS, I was organizing our storage with Chris Council, our IT Systems Admin. We realized we had stashes of retired MacBooks from past employees, which contained sensitive information and presumably would need to be destroyed. The computers were only five or six years old and still worked. I knew immediately that the Creative Player Foundation could use these to save the after-school program, though the process of “scrubbing” the computers appropriately would be a challenge. Many LeanTaaS team members would need to work together to overcome it.
- How did the LeanTaaS team come together to achieve that goal and get the computers ready to reuse?
Making this happen took a lot of collaboration from both team members in Charlotte and our leaders in other locations. The idea of donating the computers received great enthusiasm across the board, but since it was unprecedented at LeanTaaS we had to research and create an entirely new process. After the idea was approved, we had to ensure we were meeting HIPAA and other regulations, then physically clear the computers according to those standards before we delivered them.
Ultimately people from across the organization worked together as one team to make this happen. Marketing and finance leaders vetted the donation, product leaders connected with HITRUST to confirm we could follow regulations correctly, and our IT and security experts admin scrubbed the computers according to protocols. From my initial outreach to LeanTaaS leadership on October 1, 2022, to the donation on November 30, the actual process only took about sixty days, which shows the team’s motivation.
We were able to donate 25 MacBooks to the Creative Player Foundation, which was a total game changer for the program. For the first time ever, there were more computers than the kids in attendance that day.
- This project was a success. What do you think the impact will be on LeanTaaS’ outreach in the future?
First, we now have a blueprint in place to continue donating our technology. We have our location in Santa Clara and LeanTaaS team members working remotely across the country, so I think there will be plenty of ways to contribute our resources to other communities in the future.
In Charlotte, we’ve strengthened the relationship between LeanTaaS and the Creative Player Foundation. My hope is we begin our own regular volunteer outreach so the LeanTaaS team, those based in Charlotte and visiting, can share their many valuable skills with the students in the program and we can contribute locally to our community.
Finally, in this project we truly showed our One Team core value, as many of us put our diverse expertise and perspectives together to make a measurable difference. This is a great starting point for many great things we can do in our community outreach in the future.
Are you a LeanTaaS employee who sees an opportunity for outreach in your local community? Connect with your leadership.
Interested in joining the LeanTaaS team? See our Careers page.