Akamai in the Community: Making Tech Accessible
Here at Akamai, we believe every person is important, and that no one should be left out. Our internal culture is cultivated by looking outwards, into the community, to make the life of our society better. Not only do we believe in providing opportunities to our employees, but we believe in doing the same for our community.
We are particularly passionate about developing young people. We believe, as an organization, we can inspire a new generation to pursue technological advancements. Our outreach programs in Math & English, as well as our newly successful program Girls in Code, explore the fun, creative side of technology while remaining future focused. We aim to encourage young people, girls and marginalized sections of society, to consider a career in the Tech and STEM fields.
Why do we believe this?
The International Monetary Fund states that "gender gaps in women's economic opportunities have remained high in India." It is an awareness of this fact, in our Bangalore office, which caused us to consider what we could do to begin to combat it. According to the study, the number of women participating in India's labor force declined to a low of 27% in 2014, from 34% in 1999. At Akamai, we considered why this might be happening, and decided to design a program which targets young girls who are gifted in STEM subjects. This became our Girls in Code project, which had its first successful run in December 2018.
Girls in Code
When organizing the project, we partnered with Unherd, an organization that works with young girls on skill building and enabling them to realize their dreams. We targeted a mixed group of 15 young girls between 15 and 17 years of age, from both low and high-income backgrounds and a mix of schools. We sponsored them through 5 days at the Akamai campus in Bangalore. Every day, they arrived to undertake a combination of exercises and classes and received mentorship from a variety of Akamai employees who are excelling in their fields.
The curriculum included topics such as coding, computer skills, theory, as well as soft skills including a 1-minute presentation (How will I impact the world?), communication, pitching, and confidence. It was important to us that we actively provided the girls with the skills to go forward and claim the career they dream of, as well as giving them a taste of the various tech specialties.
To finish off the program, the girls undertook career counseling. This meant that they were engaged in exercises in which they mapped out their interests and aspirations, matching them to the kind of career they want to pursue. This enabled us to ensure that we not only equipped them with the appropriate skills but also the confidence to pursue their career of choice. As part of the program, we invited the parents of participants to hear from the Akamai volunteers, to ensure they understood the career opportunities and benefits available. We felt this was important to make certain that the girls have the best support in every aspect of their life when pursuing a career.
Charusmitha Rao, Senior Manager of Learning & Development, said: "We are very proud that this program has inspired 15 young dreamers and innovators who will be the game changers of tomorrow."
Our work on Girls in Code continues, as we are determined for this not just to be a one-week event, but for our investment to go beyond the 5 days. Our community outreach team is working to ensure that Akamai continues to support participants throughout their education, and careers. In a post-program survey, 100% of the girls said that they want to take up a career in STEM. This was a hugely encouraging result for us, and a clear sign that the work we are doing is both relevant and successful. We hope to eventually welcome back some of the participants to Akamai in career roles.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Our Corporate Social Responsibility programs span from large, to small, and revolve around 3 core pillars: education, community development, and inclusion. In India, we run our Math for Fun program, through which we have partnered with approximately 900 schools to provide a basic math foundation to roughly 50,000 students. This program targets kids around the ages of 9 and 10 which, as Neha Jain, Director of Operations and Innovation says, "is the age when children begin feeling the pressure of mathematics and start to quit." The program includes a lot of fun mathematical activities which are designed to create interest, and counter fearful inhibitions young people can feel at the beginning of their education.
Feedback from our surveys have shown an improvement of more than 35% in various aspects of mathematics. We also keep qualitative data records to ensure that the work we are doing is being well received by the participants. To collect this data, members of the CSR team visit schools involved in the program in person and interact with both the teachers and students. This feedback is critical as, at Akamai, we don't just want to run a program for the sake of it. We want to bring value to our community.
Gourishankar Gudla, Akamai's Director of Operations, said: "as a growing economy, opportunities are always coming up, but people who are underprivileged don't have access to these opportunities because they don't have the skills." Therefore, Maths for Fun aims to counter this problem by giving young people the skills, early on in their education, to make them employable.
Other examples of results from our CSR programs include having reached almost 500 schools, in and around Bangalore, with education on menstrual hygiene. We have constructed washrooms to give young people the benefits of cleanliness. We also ran a skill training program for 150 differently abled youth, preparing them for meaningful employment opportunities. Our Akamai employees are always involved in these programs in a voluntary capacity. We consider it a significant benefit for our employees to feel that they are giving back into the community. This could be in person, actively engaging with participants of our CSR programs, or through a collection to raise money for events such as local floods.
At Akamai, we have a dedicated group of people working consistently on our community outreach programs. Giving back is one of our core values, and integral to our Diversity & Inclusion programs. We believe that when people of different cultures, backgrounds, and personalities come together as a team, we are stronger. We all think differently, and therefore see problems and the way to solve them differently. All our outreach is, therefore, part of a company-wide effort to ensure that we are actively contributing to the wellbeing of our community. We believe in making tech accessible for everyone because everyone is important.