By Rosa Saba
Tech workers across Kanata North are rolling up their sleeves in preparation for the 2019 Tech Build, with a $100,000 fundraising goal in mind and an opportunity to give
back to their community.
Habitat for Humanity is a charitable organization that helps deserving families own their own homes by engaging corporate sponsors, teams of volunteer workers and donors to build houses. To date, Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa has constructed 76 homes, and plans to finish another four and start another eight this year.
“Companies love it. I think it’s a great equalizer,” says Alexis Ashworth, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa. “You’ve got everybody from executives to support staff, all swinging a hammer side by side.”
Though this is Habitat for Humanity’s first-ever tech build, it’s not the first time the tech community has participated in the organization’s work. In fact, Ashworth says the idea for a tech build came from the enthusiasm of two corporate sponsors, Cisco and IFS, over the past couple of years.
“We thought, OK, we’ve got these tech companies that are sponsoring – why not make this into… a collaborative effort with the tech industry in Ottawa?” she says. “They
have a great team-building experience with their colleagues.”
Both Marisia Campbell of Entrust Datacard and Jennifer Ross-Carriere of IFS participated in a build around 25 years ago, and are now on the advisory board for the 2019 tech build.
Ross-Carriere first got IFS involved in a build two years ago. She says the team enjoyed the experience so much that the next year, they did two builds. Now, as part of the team making the tech build happen, she’s excited for more teams from the tech community to experience the same.
“One of our core values at IFS is to give back to the community,” she says. “Our people just loved it.”
Unlike more traditional team- building events, Ross-Carriere says the opportunity to work alongside colleagues on a meaningful project is something memorable and rewarding.
“It gets people out of the office, which I think is really important to the community and exposes them to something they may not have seen,” she says. “You really do get a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.”
Ross-Carriere has fond memories of build days with IFS teams, and says she’s looking forward to the 2019 build.
“It’s a great, great way to just get out of your day-to-day space, and have fun doing something completely different,” she says.
For Campbell, the memory of participating in a build years ago still stands out: “It was an excellent experience,” she says. Now, as part of the advisory board alongside other Kanata tech leaders, she hopes to get tech firms big and small involved.
Corporate sponsors put together teams of 10 who spend a day onsite doing everything from installing insulation to laying down the lawn. Employees from smaller companies can put together their own peer-to-peer teams, with a fundraising goal of $5,000.
Ross-Carriere says she hopes to see tech workers from different companies working together on the build, since the tech community in Ottawa is already tightly knit.
“We think it’s a great way to get the tech community together,” she says. “Similar to having different groups in our office work alongside each other, it’d be really fun to have lots of tech companies work together.”
Both Campbell and Ross-Carriere say that the build days, where teams work on the construction site alongside the family that will live in the house, are often eye-opening.
“You never know where people are coming from or what’s going on in their lives,” says Ross-Carriere. “It’s opened up a lot of good conversations in the office.”
Campbell adds that many people aren’t aware of how much help is needed in their own community. “We always think outside the community, not always within,” she says.
“Tech build is an exciting opportunity for the community to give back.”