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#6Hours of Volunteering - Employee Spotlight

Kelly Salance

This year, we are challenging our Zendesk employees, customers and neighbors to participate in 6 hours of community engagement in 2018. Individually, 6 hours is an attainable goal and collectively, if we all volunteer 6 hours, we can make impactful differences in our communities. As part of our #6hour campaign, we spoke with Jeremy Reyes, Incident and Escalations Manager in our Advocacy Organization at Zendesk, about his experiences with volunteering.

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Can you talk about your volunteer experience at Zendesk?

I’ve been volunteering with Zendesk for over five years now. Some of my favorite volunteer activities that I’ve had the pleasure of participating in are delivering meals with Meals on Wheels, taking seniors out for bike rides with Cycling Without Age, lunch service at St. Anthony’s, playing bingo with the feisty seniors of Curry Senior Center, and most recently the Spark mentorship program. It’s been nice being able to try out a variety of opportunities over the years and more recently building longer-term relationships through mentoring.

Why is it important to have time to volunteer at work?

I think it’s especially important to have time to volunteer at Zendesk because we’re located in the heart of the Tenderloin. At first glance, it’s easy to see the blight and homelessness and assume that everyone in the Tenderloin is homeless, has substance abuse or mental health issues. The more time I’ve spent volunteering, I realize that is often a misconception and so many living here are trying their best to make the most out of what little they have. Volunteering with Meals on Wheels, you’ll see that there’s a significant senior population living in shoebox accommodations in SRO’s trying to make the most out of their $800-900 social security or disability benefit. Volunteering with Glide, St. Anthony’s, or ECS, you’ll see that there are just everyday people, like you and me, that no longer have a stable living situation, gainfully employed, or are just trying to find a meal to eat. Volunteering with Spark, or De Marillac Academy, you’ll meet kids that are at a significant disadvantage compared to their peers in other parts of the Bay Area, that are born and raised in the Tenderloin trying to beat the odds and be the first ones in their family to graduate from high school and college.

What impact does volunteering have on your work?

It’s really easy to forget that you’re working at a successful technology company in one of the wealthiest areas in the world. Volunteering keeps me grounded, humble, and balanced. I know we’re huge on humblident at Zendesk, so it definitely keeps me humble about my place in the world.

Volunteering has also been a great opportunity for me to meet new colleagues outside of my own bubble at the office. Having been at the company for five years now, I’ve seen the company grow from 300+ employees to 2000+ employees, I’ve met a number of colleagues I’ve become good friends with through volunteering.

Lastly, I think that volunteering really helps me build and maintain a certain level empathy for others. That applies to the people I might be helping, whether that’s at a CSR event or in my 9-5 role making sure to do right by the customer when things break.

What impact did you make in your 6 hours of volunteering?

For my 6 hours of volunteering this year, I’ve been volunteering 2 hours a week in the Spark Program. Spark brings in middle school students from Willie Brown Middle School in Bayview, a STEM focused school in one of the last affordable parts of the city, to Zendesk for a 10-week program. Mentors work with their mentees on a hands-on project, all while providing career and skills building opportunities with their mentee. We’re still working on finalizing our project, but all I can say that the movie Black Panther was a huge influence on our project.