Octo’s CSR: Building Partnerships of HOPE

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By Vanessa Davis, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager

Sponsored by Octo

When it comes to building a more prosperous future for everyone, partnerships are key. Reston-based IT company Octo recognizes this, which is why they established a community impact partnership supported within its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Committee. Octo is proud to support H.O.P.E. Project DC (“HOPE Project”), a community IT training program benefiting young adults in the D.C. metro area and beyond. The training program was founded by Raymond Bell in 2009, and he continues to lead the program today—over a decade and 2,000+ graduates later.

HOPE stands for Helping Other People Excel, and the people involved do this by bringing new hope through technical training and professional development to young adults from economically and socially disadvantaged communities.

Launching a Partnership of HOPE

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Left: Ramon Queen, a HOPE Project grad, addresses attendees at an IT Summit for HOPE Project students.
Right: Ian Burke, an engineer at Octo, met Ramon Queen while working at the same government site.

In June of 2020, following racial injustices across the country specifically triggered by the killing of George Floyd, a group of Octo employees formed an internal Call to Action Committee (CAC) to help combat racial injustice. Ian Burke, an Octo engineer who also serves on Octo’s CSR Committee, introduced Octo to HOPE Project. He had learned about HOPE Project from Ramon Queen, a HOPE grad who was working as a helpdesk technician within the same government facility he worked in.

CAC members met with several organizations focused on supporting disadvantaged and underserved communities. Ultimately, they decided to partner with HOPE Project because they felt supporting HOPE’s IT training program offered the biggest opportunity for impact and lasting outcomes.

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Mr. Ray Bell, Founder and President of HOPE project, addresses attendees at the social mixer with Octo on Giving Tuesday. Photo credit: Marquis Strong.

At the heart of HOPE Project, you find Bell—a charismatic leader well connected to the people in his community. From early on, CAC members were inspired by Bell’s passion and dedication to serving others.

HOPE Project is successful because of people like Bell and the HOPE Project faculty who offer community members so much more than just IT training. They care about and connect with students. They recognize their struggles. They empower them to stretch and grow their skills, their minds, their confidence. They celebrate big wins together. They gather and support each other in times of need. That is how they Help Other People Excel.

Collaboration is Key to HOPE 

Employees want to create impact in meaningful ways. For Octo, that has meant supporting HOPE’s fundraising campaigns and an IT equipment drive and offering training and mentorship. The CAC launched a “Day in the Life” webinar series led by Octo employees in 2020, and it’s still popular. Committee members also partnered with other companies to bring additional opportunities, including software developer and AWS Cloud training. Octo’s CSR Committee has since heard stories from HOPE grads who credit this training and other HOPE Project interactions for helping them land successful and fulfilling IT jobs.

Consistent collaboration keeps volunteers from Octo focused on delivering positive results and outcomes over time. The CAC meets with Bell and others from HOPE nearly every week. These meetings are where Octo volunteers hear about HOPE Project’s goals and struggles. Together, Octo and HOPE Project volunteers brainstorm ideas and collaborate to create meaningful opportunities to engage Octo employees and the HOPE Project community.

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Thaddeus Miller, a HOPE Project grad, led a STEAM experiment with elementary and middle school kids for Octo’s 2021 Virtual STEAM Expo.

Building onto the collaboration for impact, HOPE Project has also become a tremendous supporter of other CSR initiatives led by Octo. Octo invites them, and HOPE Project frequently engages to provide support. Earlier this year, Bell and a few others from HOPE joined Octo to volunteer at a Juneteenth event in Leesburg, VA. In the fall, they joined a CSR partner event exchanging ideas with other Octo CSR partners serving the DMV. Most recently, HOPE Project grad Thaddeus Miller led an experiment during Octo’s 2021 Virtual STEAM Expo engaging elementary and middle school students virtually to do experiments that teach concepts of science, technology, engineering, arts and design, and mathematics (STEAM).

A Gathering of HOPE

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James Farley gives the HOPE Project community a glimpse of what to anticipate at the 2022 IT Career Summit. Photo credit: Marquis Strong.

This year on Giving Tuesday, Octo hosted a social mixer with the HOPE Project community. Attendees enjoyed good company, shared stories, and laughed over great food and drinks in a fun setting. They discussed the journey together thus far, and Octo overviewed its next impact project—an IT Career Summit hosted by Octo for the HOPE Project community, to be held March 26, 2022, at the RISE Demonstration and Conference Center in Washington, D.C.

At the mixer, James Farley, VP of Enterprise Solutions at Octo, talked about the upcoming career summit, describing a vision to engage experts from Octo’s Centers of Excellence to lead workshops and other interactions to support HOPE Project attendees eager to accelerate their IT careers.

“Octo is proud to support HOPE Project and expose its participants to IT education and careers that may have otherwise been unobtainable,” Farley says. “At the IT Career Summit, we look forward to connecting you all and others from HOPE Project with employees from Octo’s Centers of Excellence. Our employees will lead presentations and interactive workshops focused on topics such as Cybersecurity, DevSecOps, Cloud Infrastructure, Data Science, DevSecOps, and Program Management.”

HOPE for the Future

Many companies are looking for opportunities to innovate. Octo is too. The difference is, Octo also looks at local communities and seeks ways the company and its highly skilled employees can help other people excel. CSR partners like Bell are asked what challenges they’d be willing to have employees help them solve. These are challenges impacting communities Octo is positioned to help through programs like HOPE Project’s endeavors which are fueled by the power of collective action.

With support and engagement from company leadership, CSR employee initiatives at Octo drive positive impact for all Northern Virginia and D.C. metro communities and beyond. Together, we look forward to a more HOPEful future.

“Corporate Meets Community” is a column highlighting Octo’s corporate culture and opportunities.

About Octo

Octo is a technology firm dedicated to solving the Federal Government’s most complex challenges, enabling agencies to jump the technology curve. We don’t just modernize. We create lasting change through best practices that help agencies implement and integrate at-scale next-generation technology and innovation. With a mission and service first mentality, we provide Agile, DevSecOps, Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, Blockchain, Cloud, Open Source, and Data Science solutions, collaborating to solve customers’ pressing problems. Headquartered in Reston, Virginia, Octo delivers proven technology vital to the intelligence community and health care, defense, national security, and civilian agencies that directly impact our nation. Visit octoconsulting.com.

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