Good work, and good works, at Cloud for Good

2018 Best Places to Work in IT: For many of the employees of this Salesforce partner, the mission is a big part of why it’s a great place to work.

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Cloud for Good

For philanthropically minded people who have crossed into IT from the liberal arts world and want to work from home, Cloud for Good, the No. 1 small organization on Computerworld’s 2018 Best Places to Work in IT list, seems like a perfect employer.

The premium Salesforce.org partner is a B corporation, which means it’s a for-profit business certified by the nonprofit B Lab as meeting certain standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. It was founded by Tal Frankfurt, who learned Salesforce when he was working as a fundraiser, trying to better manage donors, participants and volunteers at a nonprofit for at-risk youth in Israel. Gradually, other nonprofit colleagues asked him about how to use the platform, and he started consulting.

After moving to the United States, he founded Cloud for Good in 2010 and started hiring people with similar stories. He worked from a home office and saw no reason to rent commercial space, so the company is 100% virtual. Now numbering more than 50, employees come from a nonprofit or educational background, are Salesforce-certified and work from home. “Our employees all see the power of this platform to transform operations for [nonprofits],” says Will Nourse, vice president of operations at the company and formerly CIO at a nonprofit. “That’s what gets our folks jazzed.”

Kestryl Lowrey’s story is typical. After graduating with a double major in anthropology and theater, then going on to earn a master’s in performance theater, Lowrey worked for several nonprofits in New York City. Despite rebelling against a family tradition of working in tech (his father and grandparents worked for technology companies), Lowrey found himself handling technology for his employers. “Out of a nine-person office, I was the only one who knew how to fix the printer.” He joined Cloud for Good in 2014 and is now a solutions architect.

Lara Hoke, a senior cloud consultant who has a degree in fine arts and is an established painter, came from an arts nonprofit in San Francisco. As she learned Salesforce, she became more and more interested in the technology, “but I wanted to work for mission-based organizations,” she says. She says her arts background helps her think creatively about how to help nonprofits use Salesforce to their best advantage. “Our biggest job is as problem-solvers,” she says. “When you’re painting, that’s often what you’re doing. You don’t necessarily know what the answer is . . . but you enjoy the process of figuring it out.”

Despite working alone in their homes, employees’ common interest in nonprofits provides the foundation for a cohesive culture at the company. “We have a strong sense of collaboration and community” that comes from a shared purpose, says Lowrey. “We all want to help nonprofits to use technology for good.”

But Frankfurt takes intentional steps to build on that and create a culture to unite workers spread out among 15 states, three Canadian provinces, and the Netherlands. First, he’s careful to hire people who can work independently at home without feeling too isolated. Second, he sets clear expectations and goals, defining exactly what success looks like. Third, he makes dedicated efforts to build connections and foster collaboration.

For example, employees use Zoom video as their prime means of communication with one another and customers. “All calls are video calls,” says Frankfurt. “I don’t even remember the last time someone called me on my phone.” For camaraderie, employees gather virtually in chat rooms dedicated to common interests such as parenting or sports. Frankfurt holds open office hours in his chat room once a month.

“I feel more connected to my co-workers at Cloud for Good than I did with co-workers that I was seeing in the office every day” in previous office jobs, says Lowrey. And every month or so, he gets together in person with several other Cloud for Good employees in New York.

Nourse joined Cloud for Good almost five years ago, when it had only 10 employees. Back then, the company was using Google Apps and Hangouts, but it outgrew them as the number of employees increased. So it moved from Google to Office 365 and from Skype to Zoom.

There are also personal touches that help employees feel known, recognized and appreciated. The company has a “care group” that comes up with personalized gifts for employee birthdays and work anniversaries, Nourse says. “They gave me, an amateur photographer, a gift certificate for a photo walk around Boston,” he says. “That kind of small thing goes a long way to keeping people feeling integrated and invested.”

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