Real Leaders

Do Mission-Focused Tech Jobs Exist? Here’s What to Look For

As the incoming CTO at education technology company Curriculum Associates, a major factor in my decision to work for the company was the authenticity of its mission. This commitment to social impact has kept me motivated, engaged, and driven to continue making a true difference in people’s lives.

Looking for a purposeful job in tech? Here are few ideas to focus on that I’ve picked up after years of working in and hiring for a mission-driven organization:

What are the Company and Employees Excited About?

Before you schedule any interviews, do some digging into the company, its background, and culture. Suppose a company is truly mission-focused and puts people over profit. In that case, it will shine through in the language on its website, social media channels, and other communications like company newsletters and press releases. Even if you’ve heard good things about a company, taking the time to do this so you can form your own initial opinion going into the interview is crucial. In your interview, be sure to ask any questions you may have based on your research. How do your interviewers respond? Do they seem truly happy, driven by the company’s mission and values, and excited to work there? Do they find purpose in their jobs? Is there pride in the impact to users along with pride in the product itself? There’s a lot you can learn from simply observing how they respond to your questions. On the flip side, the questions they ask you are just as important. Suppose they’re equally focused on your fit and interest in the mission as they are on your hard skills. In that case, there’s a good chance they genuinely make corporate social responsibility (CSR) a priority at their company.

How are Employees Treated?

A truly mission-focused company values its employees, supporting them and ensuring they are satisfied and fulfilling the greater purpose they seek in their workplace. While researching to determine if a company has competitive benefits and good professional development opportunities before your interview is wise, it’s also important to ask your interviewers some targeted questions to uncover what life is like is really like at the company. Ask about topics like the company’s work/life balance, volunteering opportunities, and CSR initiatives that the company has implemented. Be sure to inquire about how the company measures and nurtures employee satisfaction. This will help shed more light on the working conditions of people who are actually employed at the company.

Does the Company’s Focus on Mission Extend to Its Products?

A company treating its employees well and prioritizing purpose is great for internal communications, but if you’re looking for a truly mission-focused environment, do some research into the company’s products as well. Companies with a deep dedication to mission are more likely to measure a product’s market reach, revenue, or customer acquisition and how those products positively benefit consumers and, as a result, further the company mission. Consider asking your interviewer about top company priorities for the year or quarter, listening carefully to how the work and its impact are described. Also, when speaking with members of the tech team, ask if they get opportunities to have first-hand access to the people their work helps. This is an especially crucial component because it fosters a connection with the technology work and the real faces and voices of those they reach and demonstrates the company’s true commitment to social impact.

What is the Turnover Rate?

Technology workers typically remain at a company for roughly two years, but mission-driven companies can often retain their employees much longer. When you speak with HR, ask them what the company’s turnover rate is, both generally and for tech employees specifically. In addition, if you talk with the engineering team, be sure to ask how long they have worked there, what drew them to the company, and what has kept them there. Listen for answers that highlight how the meaning and impact of the work are a big factor.

How Did They Handle the Pandemic?

As we move past the COVID-19 crisis, asking about the company’s COVID-19 response is a great way to determine a company’s true character and how they handled an extremely difficult situation. How did companies step up and support employees during the pandemic? Did they recognize their changing responsibilities, such as working from home while their children were also trying to learn from home, and make efforts to help them succeed? Is it mandatory for all employees to be back in the office now, or is the company giving them more freedom of choice on working style? On the product side, did the company shift resources to prioritize products essential to their customers, even if they risked revenue decreases? These are a few important questions to ask as you’re making your decision.

Determining if a company is actually mission-focused takes effort, but it is crucial to do your research if it is important to you. Taking the time to ask the above questions will ensure you are making an informed, educated decision on your next position to help you land a role that leaves you feeling fulfilled, supported, and motivated by the higher purpose of the company you choose.

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