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Hope Shines at The Beacon

Kelly Salance

In Dane County, Wisconsin there are over 2,400 people currently experiencing homelessness and an estimated 33% of those are families. While there are many overnight shelters, other supportive resources are often lacking making it nearly impossible to transition out of homelessness. This is until The Beacon opened its doors to the community.


Celebrating its one-year anniversary this month, The Beacon is a daytime resource center, open 365 days of the year from 8am to 5pm located just blocks from the Capitol Square in downtown Madison. The center operates around the idea of ‘many needs met under one roof’ and offers a variety of services to the over 235 men, women, and children who come their doors every day. Along with basic needs services, The Beacon offers showers, laundry, restrooms, a kitchen, a P.O.Box where people can get mail delivered to, lockers, a computer lab, mental health clinic, and a family space. “An essential part of our model is the fact that our guests don’t have to find transportation and visit several locations to get the critical help they need,” said Tami Fleming, The Beacon’s Volunteer Coordinator.

In the year since The Beacon opened, over 7,000 people have visited the day center to access its resources. With a lean staff of seven people, Fleming stresses the importance of volunteers in running their day to day operations.  She adds, “You don’t have to be a social worker to make a difference.” You just have to join her 90 min volunteer orientation where Fleming trains volunteers to treat people in a very practical and empathetic way. Volunteers discuss different situations Fleming has encountered over the last 8 years working in homeless outreach. She encourages volunteers to empathize the with stress, trauma and exhaustion that people are experiencing and bring that understand to their volunteering.

As homelessness continues to rise in Madison, innovative and inclusive resources like The Beacon are essential to addressing the problem. We must all come together, treating each other with empathy and dignity to make Madison a place where all people have a place to call home. To volunteer at The Beacon, join their drop-in volunteer orientation or reach out to Tami Fleming (

Why Do We Need an Empathy Movement?

Kelly Salance

Technology underpins nearly every single thing we do. So much so, technology has been termed the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It’s no wonder given experts predict that by the year 2030, between 20 and 25% of all jobs that humans hold today will be replaced by technology and control more and more of your daily interactions.  


Tech may soon be filing your taxes for you, driving your car, teaching you how to play piano, and it may respond to you automatically when you have a customer service issue with a product you just purchased. (We should know...we're working on it!)

While all of this will be done in the name of becoming more efficient and eliminating redundancies, it will do so at a cost: less human-to-human interactions. And yes, we know the cynics out there are shooting off confetti cannons of joy, the truth is human interactions are key to living a healthy life!

According to a fascinating TED talk by Susan Pinker, the Italian island of Sardinia has more than six times as many centenarians as the mainland and ten times as many as North America. Why? Because it's not a sunny disposition or a low-fat, gluten-free diet that keeps the islanders healthy -- it's their emphasis on close personal relationships and face-to-face interactions.

Yet as more efficient algorithms and technology reduce the amount of real, human interactions we have in a given day, week, and month, how can we make sure we don’t lose touch with the stuff that differentiates us from the machines?

Welp, this is might sound crazy, but customer service may just be the answer. (Ok, ok… at the very least one of the answers.) Think about it. It’s a good bet that you might have more customer interactions on a given day than any other. Imagine what it would be like if the vast majority of those support interactions are high-touch, high-empathy and from real people who can detect emotion, relate to our human needs, and even make us laugh occasionally. We might all need to rethink our current retirement strategies. But might actually be happy to do it.

We promise we really aren’t trying to break the world record for eye rolls, so imagine your first Uber ride in a driverless car. (It's already in trials in two American cities, so if we all plan on being like Sardinia, this is in our future.). What would it take for you personally to get in the car?  Would a screen offering a live video chat with a helpful, knowledgeable, and kind customer service representative do the trick? Someone in real-time who can answer any concerns you have with the car, or how the process works, or what happens if it gets stuck. Or would you rather a live customer support person from Uber on video for the entire first ride, so you can feel more safe, more protected, and more trusting of this new technology.

It’s scenarios like these that Zendesk believes is the future of customer experience. It's not only improving technology to automate and make customer service interactions more efficient. But also investing in the creation of more human interactions so we don’t lose sight of the importance of these interactions as we all more and more of our lives to be automated

We call this the Empathy Movement. As tech becomes the tool to define some of our most vulnerable interactions, it’s critical that we all learn how to layer and integrate empathy into our interactions much more deliberately. At Zendesk, we’ve done this by launching the #6hours campaign, which asks every single one of Zendesk’s 2,000+ workforce to invest 6 hours of their time into community service. The idea being that volunteering is a vehicle for building up one’s empathy muscle.


Join us in the #6hours campaign by simply tweeting at us (@ZDNeighborFDN) a photo of you volunteering with #6hours.

You can also catch Tiffany Apczynski, Zendesk’s Vice President of Public Policy and Social Impact take a deeper dive into the Empathy Movement at Relate 2018 this November.

Cloud-Based CSR: How do you show you are down to earth when your service is in the clouds?

Kelly Salance

According to a 2017 Cone Communications study, 87% of Millennials will buy a product based on values, and 7 in 10 Americans believe companies must take actions on issues that might not be relevant to their work. To survive in the 21st century market, companies are nearly required to implement social impact programs that resonate with this new and powerful wave of conscious consumers. But that can be a difficult hurdle to clear if your product or service doesn’t to have a natural connection to a socially-minded initiative. It can feel like a disconnect if what you sell is collaboration software, yet your CEO’s passion is about universal healthcare. How do you make a strong case for getting involved in education if the service you provide isn’t remotely associated with it. When you are a blockchain company, how on earth do you begin to map out what your social impact initiatives should look like.

Some companies have it much easier.

Patagonia for example, when you think about their brand, you think of crystal clear waters, untouched forests, and fresh air. Their product, outdoor gear, is exactly in line with their social impact plan. This deep connection between brand offering and social cause is a logical match and in some ways, allows for the consumer to easily remember both the product and the cause. It is easy to make the connection that Patagonia is the brand you use when camping in nature and the company that is working to preserve nature. Although, often, the connection is not as clear due to the either the product not being direct to consumer or the company taking a completely different brand strategy.

Nike, known for their shoes and athletic wear, does have a global social impact program which is focused on youth sports, yet, if you were to ask anyone in the past month about Nike’s causes most likely you would hear about their Colin Kaepernick ad. This controversial ad campaign which features Colin Kaepernick, former SF 49er, who kneeled during the national anthem at NFL games to protest racial injustice, has dominated many conversations. This willingness of Nike to take a stand and truly commit to a cause that resonates for them has had important economic returns. Nike’s market value has risen by $6 million since launching the ad campaign and just 2 weeks after the ad launched, their stock hit a record high, demonstrating that if a company stands for something meaningful, consumers will respond.

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Here at Zendesk, our customers are other companies. And like most companies in the world of B2B, the connection between product offering and the corporate identity we want to showcase feels more challenging, less connected, less personal.

How we’ve managed to solve for this complex problem is boil down our service offering to what its meant to do rather than what it actually is. Zendesk software, at its core, is about fostering great relationships with customers. Boiled down even further, it’s about relationships. This led us to seeing our social impact programs as a means to promoting what we see to be an empathy movement. Sharing this narrative with our employees has been extremely successful. By volunteering and caring about marginalized populations, our employees have been challenged to understand empathy as it relates to building perspective, mutual understanding, and a long list of other soft skills that are the major philosophical components underscoring the purpose of our software: scaling empathy, even when tech is your only tool.

We would love to know how other software companies have forged a connection between what their product and/or service offering and their identity as a company. Hit us up with your stories at or tweet at us @ZDNeighborFDN.

Empowering the next generation of STEM Leaders

Kelly Salance


Diverse and inclusive companies are more successful and more profitable than those companies that are not. The most simple search on the correlations between a diversity and profitability immediately return numerous, well-researched and substantiated reports correlating these two goals positively.

For instance: “Companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity at the executive level are 33 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile, according to McKinsey’s report, “Delivering through Diversity. And the list of other think tanks citing these same benefits goes on and on.

Yet, the reality is the vast majority of the tech industry struggles with representation of minority groups, including women, which is why at the Zendesk Neighbor Foundation one of our core values is creating equity within our workplace, our communities, and society. One organization we partner with to help achieve this is Teen-Turn in our Dublin office.

Teen-Turn provides teen girls aged 15 to 16 years old the opportunity to gain hands-on technology experience through after-school workshops and two-week summer work placement in technology companies. Teen-Turn’s philosophy is rooted in the idea that when girls are users of technology, but are not involved in building that technology, their perspectives are not incorporated into the design. The end result is a myopic product that doesn’t reflect their needs. Given tech’s ubiquity throughout nearly everything we do, and increasing estimates that thousands of unfilled software engineering jobs will continue to go unfilled, balanced representation is not only necessary from a customer experience perspective, without it, economies risk becoming increasingly vulnerable.

So at Teen-Turn, young women are encouraged to experience, what it is to contribute to the very technology they use. In doing so, girls can better understand the importance of having a say in how a product that they use is developed, and why they might want to have a career in technology.

 Nikita and Greta with Zendesk staff at our Dublin Office opening.

Nikita and Greta with Zendesk staff at our Dublin Office opening.

Zendesk recently hosted two Teen-Turn interns, Nikita and Greta, to join us for a two-week ‘Teen-Turnship’ working with our software engineering team in Dublin. While at Zendesk, they met with each department to better understand the business and then focused the majority of their time on learning how to code using Ruby on Rails. Throughout the two weeks, they spent time learning the basics of the language eventually starting to build websites of their own.

The result: “It’s not boring at all!” according to Nikita. Both were surprised with how fun coding was and said they would love to take more computer science courses after they finish their certs this year. Greta said she found that learning about localization in engineering was really interesting and wants to explore that in her future classes. Meanwhile, Nikita’s biggest takeaway was that there are so many different roles in a technology company that it was the first time she considered that there is a place for her in the tech industry.

While we know there isn’t one simple solution to increasing representation in our industry, for many Teen-Turn girls, this internship is first time they can see themselves working in technology. It is one small piece that adds up to building a more diverse workforce. If you are interested in working with Teen-Turn reach out to them here.

Transformation of the Dublin Docklands

Kelly Salance

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Over the last decade, Dublin has emerged into a prosperous technology hub with companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter (and even Zendesk) setting up their EMEA headquarters in the city. It has marked a new era for the city and perhaps no area represents this resurgence as much as the Dublin Docklands.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Dublin Docklands were synonymous with success in the city, with endless ships sailing coming and going out of Dublin Port — one of the largest ports in the world at its peak. Unfortunately, with the arrival of containerization in the mid-20th century (and the resulting mass loss of jobs for dockworkers), the docklands went into a decline. For the subsequent decades, the docklands became a desolate, post-industrial area without any real purpose. That is until the Dublin Docklands Authority initiated a massive regeneration program in the late 1990’s. Fast-forward ten years, the Docklands are hardly recognizable from the once run-down, vast ghost town of the decade prior.

Today, when you walk around the docks, there is a vibrancy breathing through it — cutting edge restaurants, cafes, offices and apartments makeup this trendy new neighborhood. One such building along the Docklands is Zendesk’s new EMEA headquarters. While this revitalization to the Docklands -- now nicknamed the Silicon Docks-- has been a breath of fresh air for Dublin’s economy, we recognize that when we move into a space we are helping to reshape it and we must respect the history and past to be a contributing part of our community.


With that in mind, our new office reflects our commitment to promoting community involvement and employee well-being inside and out of our workplace. We focus our community work on workforce development and technical literacy as well as diversity and inclusion - partnering with organizations including Dublin Gay Men’s Chorus, Teen-Turn and Dublin Simon Community.

In our physical office space, there are a number of unique features including a ‘mother’s room’ where Zendesk moms returning to work can breastfeed in a sleek yet cozy space (with artwork by Zendesk’s own, Chelsea Larrson), a wellness zone with a yoga studio and ample green outdoor spaces. Additionally, the office is equipped with a full event space available to host many future events with our local community partners in Dublin.

As we settle into our new home, we look forward to the future as we grow our relationships in the community. Yet, we understand that we are a part of a long history in the Docklands.

Internship Spotlight: Roy Abouhamad

Kelly Salance

At the Zendesk Neighbor Foundation, we strongly believe in creating equity within our communities, workplace, and society. One way we achieve this is through workforce development programs — programs and internships that provide opportunities for job seekers to expand their skill sets while gaining exposure to the workforce. In our London office, we partner with HeadStart London to do just that.

HeadStart London is an organization that brings together industry leaders, charities, and young people to bridge the gap between schools and work. Through HeadStart , youth aged 16-18, participate in employability workshops, interviews and eventually have the opportunity for work with partner businesses. Zendesk has partnered with HeadStart since 2015, hiring cohorts of students for week-long internships. One such student was Roy who interned in April 2017. While here, Roy made lasting connections, applied and was selected for an internship with our Sales team this summer.  Recently, we caught up with Roy as his finished his summer internship to learn more about his experience.

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What made you choose HeadStart?

I started in the National Citizen Service program, an organization that offers 15 to 17 year olds the opportunity to try new things, learn new skills, and meet new people. While at NCS, I attended a HeadStart workshop and learned what a cool program it was. HeadStart is designed to allow young people to get ahead in their career if they volunteer at least 16 hours of their time in the local community. While I was a bit skeptical about the program at first, one of the potential employers caught my eye, Zendesk.

 Roy with the other HeadStart interns during his week long internship last year.

Roy with the other HeadStart interns during his week long internship last year.

How was your first week of work experience?

I joined the Customer Success team and really enjoyed it. It was a totally new experience for me as I have not worked in an office environment before but everyone was so nice and accommodating. I learned so much that week and my two big takeaways were learning how to be a part of a a team and how to work towards a deadline before. Both important skills that I just hadn’t had a lot of exposure to before being in an office.

How has your time been in the Sales Department for your Summer internship?

I have really enjoyed it! I spent the summer researching people that we can contact within businesses and inputting that information into Salesforce. It is a whole new skill set I learned this summer. The highlight for me is definitely being a part of the team and the general working environment.

What advice would you give to other potential HeadStart Interns?

Work hard and try to do things that will make you memorable at Zendesk. I continually emailed to see if there were any potential summer internships which resulted in me being interviewed for this internship role.

What are you career goals and aspirations?

I am currently on my way to University and am waiting to find out which one I got into. From there, I eventually want to become a software engineer working for a technology company. My time at Zendesk strengthened my dream of working as a coder in the tech industry while providing me the work experience I need to get there.

Roy is one of the 55 week-long interns that Zendesk has hosted over the last three and a half years. Want to host interns in your office? Reach out to info@neighborfoundation to learn more about how we run our program or to HeadStart directly if you want to launch this program in your office.

The Importance of Trust

Kelly Salance

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At Zendesk, we know that building trust is vital when creating long-standing relationships with your customers, but really, what is trust and why is it so important? In essence, trust is a feeling of security you have, based on the idea that someone is reliable, honest, good, and will do the right thing. You believe in the person or group's integrity and trust develops when people interact and like the results. Building trust is not easy especially with an entire community, yet it is the foundation for any strong relationship. That is exactly why when Projectos Amigos Das Crinças (PAC) opened their new community center in the São Domingos neighborhood in São Paulo, creating a foundation of trust was their number one priority.

PAC is a non-profit whose mission is to promote the personal and social development of at risk youth 0 to 18 years old. In addition to PAC’s two children’s homes, their community center is one that has become the heart of it’s neighborhood. As we know it today, PAC’s thriving center serves over 120 youth in the neighborhood and offers social and educational activities (such as ballet and art classes), playgrounds, income generating workshops for families, and psychosocial care. But the question is how did PAC establish trust with the families of the neighborhood to become a shining light in a sometimes grim area?


The answer is actually quite simple. When PAC first opened their doors they built a free library available to everyone in the neighborhood. Free of charge, anyone can stop by and borrow a book. This was the first time residents of the neighborhood didn’t have to pay to check something out. Rosane Chene, Founding Director of PAC, points to this simple gesture as symbol for how they hoped to be a part of the community. “We used this library, as our way to show we trust the people of São Domingos, so they can trust us.”

Since the early days of the community center, PAC has always founded itself in listening and being part of the neighborhood. Over the last two years, PAC has listened and understands the need to expand their presence and reach. With this in mind, they are taking on a new challenge of building a second community center in a neighboring area, Pirituba. The vision is to develop and construct an adequate space to increase social and cultural inclusion. With help from Zendesk, PAC was able purchase an empty plot of land, getting one step closer to making this vision a reality.

 Rendering of PAC's second community center.

Rendering of PAC's second community center.

From an empty lot, PAC plans to constructing a colorful 765 square metered building complete with a cafeteria, classrooms, a computer room, a dance studio, meeting spaces, and office spaces to serve over 2,500 families and their 300+ children and teens. To help visualize this space, we worked with PAC to create a VR experience of the Community Center. Through this and the renderings, you can clearly envision this beautiful space empowering youth and their families to grow, learn and ultimately drive this neighborhood of São Paulo to be a more equal place.

As you can imagine, when asked what the first thing PAC will do in their new space, Chene replied, “Listen, learn and invite everyone in to be a part of our family.” Through opening its doors to all the community, PAC’s community centers are a trusted and loving place helping to lift up many children and their entire families.

Today’s Youth, Tomorrow’s Leaders

Kelly Salance

Finding a job is a challenging process, particularly if you are a young adult entering the workforce for the first time. It can be difficult to understand where to start your search, how to apply, and what are the best ways to market yourself. The challenge becomes increasingly difficult if you are in a place like Brazil, where the unemployment rate is alarmingly high for young people. In 2017, the estimated youth unemployment rate in Brazil was 30.5%. With a staggering 6.6 million young people (aged 18 -24) not in school or at work, what can be done?


Enter Instituto da Oportunidade Social (IOS) — a non-profit in São Paulo with a mission to seek, support and train young people (15-29 years old) who have less access to job opportunities.Founded in 1998, IOS has always put the youth at the center of their mission. Their core objective is to bring technological access to low income youth through professional training programs. From business management and entrepreneurship trainings to technical IT software courses, IOS offers a variety of classes, support workshops, and trainings to prepare young people to enter the workforce.

Despite 2017 being economically difficult for young adults in Brazil, IOS students saw an 18% increase in entering the job market from the previous year. In all, 1,016 IOS students became employed. Moreover, of the students who graduated from IOS in 2017, at least 35% are working and 15% enrolled in higher education. These numbers indicate that over half of IOS trainees are in better social and economic opportunities after completing their time at IOS.

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When a young person arrives at IOS, they are doing more than just attending trainings. They work to gain knowledge and the skill sets to own their destiny. IOS is preparing their students for formal employment in a competitive job market and showing that we can address the youth unemployment challenge to achieve lasting change.

Work in Brazil? Partner with IOS and learn how to hire a student in your office here.

And to learn more about Zendesk’s partnership with IOS here.