Community Inspired, Employee Driven: How F5 Serves as a Force for Good 

Alexandra Nemeth

Senior Manager, Content Marketing & Storytelling at MovingWorlds

F5 is a global technology company committed to being a force for good. That commitment is shared across the company up to the highest levels of leadership, and from Day 1, CEO François Locoh-Donou has fostered a culture that is passionate about serving others. Its Global Good Program exists to extend that passion beyond the company’s walls: empowering employees to provide time, skills, and grants to inspiring nonprofit organizations actively making their communities a better place.

To mobilize even more support to these valued partners, F5 Global Good partnered with MovingWorlds to expand its worldwide employee volunteer initiative. In 2023, we launched the new “Volunteer Sprint” program, offering F5ers the chance to use up to two weeks of paid time off to volunteer their skills virtually with Global Good’s nonprofit grantees. 

As a member of F5’s Global Good team, Paulina Castañeda not only helped design this new program, but also participated in the pilot as a volunteer. We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with her to learn more about her work at F5, and experience participating in a program so close to her heart. Check out the valuable insights she shared below!

Stepping out from behind the scenes and into the community

Paulina serves as the Global Good Team’s Environmental, Social, & Governance Data Analyst, where she manages employee donations, coordinates volunteer activities, and suggests data-driven strategies for increasing social impact. In fact, her team has guided F5’s approach to engaging with nonprofit partners around the world, with a strong emphasis on human-centered design to make it as easy as possible for nonprofits to access support from F5. 

Expanding the impact of that service is a company-wide priority, and in designing the new Volunteer Sprint program, the Global Good team had the direct support and sponsorship of the CEO himself. She explained, “His involvement and enthusiasm allowed for the program design to be truly centered around the real needs of our nonprofit partners. To find out what those were, we went directly to nonprofits we had supported via our grants and learned that they wanted access to expertise and the know-how of our staff. F5ers have always demonstrated a passionate engagement with—and a deep desire to serve—the communities where they live and work, so structuring it as a virtual, skills-based volunteering program was a win-win.”

Beyond supporting the program design, Paulina was also eager to experience it as a participant. To explain why, she shared, “Personally, I was excited about the opportunity to work closely with a nonprofit doing great work here in Mexico, and to contribute my skills in a meaningful way for longer than a day. Professionally, I saw it as a great learning opportunity in terms of better understanding the inner workings of the nonprofits we support, and then using that insight to further improve F5’s relationship with its communities.”

Finding a values-aligned match

On the MovingWorlds platform, Paulina found the perfect volunteer opportunity to advance both her personal and professional goals with Mexico-based nonprofit, Mentoralia. Mentoralia works to inspire and train girls to become leaders in technology and entrepreneurship through its signature program, Technovation Girls. Over the course of 12 weeks, girls aged 10-18 get hands-on experience building a mobile app, creating a business plan that addresses a community problem, learning coding skills and experiencing entrepreneurship. Throughout the program, participants have the support of trained mentors as well as an online curriculum to support their growth, which culminates in a series of regional and then international competitions. 

Team Neurona representing Mexico in the international Technovation Girls competition
Team Neurona representing Mexico in the international Technovation Girls competition

Collaborating across sectors 

Specifically, the Mentoralia team sought support improving its impact reporting and ability to communicate that impact in future fundraising efforts. “I work with impact reports in my full-time role as an ESG analyst,” Paulina explained, “and am heavily involved in the disbursement of grants to nonprofits like Mentoralia from F5. So it felt like the perfect alignment of needs they had and skills I could offer.” After an initial scoping call, Paulina and the Mentoralia team confirmed the match. 

Paulina (top right) and members of the Mentoralia team on a zoom call discussing their project during Hispanic Heritage Month
Paulina (top right) and members of the Mentoralia team on a zoom call discussing their project during Hispanic Heritage Month

To pinpoint areas for improvement and new additions to include, Paulina spent the first week benchmarking Mentoralia’s data against similar organizations working with girls in STEM and seeing how others in the market reported their impact data. 

Reviewing the findings together, Paulina and the Mentoralia team discovered that the most impactful change they could make was to the report’s underlying logic framework. She elaborated, “Compared to other reports we analyzed, we saw that the logic framework Mentoralia had in place was not always clear to the reader. That prompted us to take a step back and revisit their theory of change to really crystalize who they are, what they do, and how that changes the world. We translated that to more formal framing in terms of activities and outcomes, and made sure to include the specific elements I know from my own grantmaking experience will be evaluated in future funding applications. That clarity will directly improve their ability to track progress, identify new courses of action, and ultimately, fundraise.”

Short-term project, long-term impact

For Mentoralia, these recommendations have been catalytic – “this was the first time they had worked with a donor or representative of a corporate partner, and that inside perspective was really helpful. Just being able to share candid feedback on what to expect partners to look for in an impact report, as well as ways they could better communicate that impact, was really well received.” That impact absolutely extended both ways – Paulina shared that, “This is the first volunteer experience where I can confidently share that my actions with a nonprofit will have a long-term effect and where I challenged myself enough to grow with the project. I saw how my expertise and advice was valued, and was able to navigate new challenges I hadn’t faced before by combining my existing skill set in new ways. I definitely finished this program with increased confidence in my capacity and ability to have a positive impact in the world.” 

By the end of the two-week sprint, Paulina was able to leave the Mentoralia team with a step-by-step guide to improve their impact logic, and include new tools required by federal and international grantmakers into their reports. She also invited the Mentoralia team to F5’s offices in Mexico City to share with her colleagues what they had accomplished together through this program. This capacity building and exposure has positioned Mentoralia to not only better communicate the incredible work they’re doing in the short-term, but has positioned them for continued success in fundraising for growth in the future.

Presentation by Mentoralia at the F5 Offices in Mexico City
Presentation by Mentoralia at the F5 Offices in Mexico City

Feeding insights back into the heart of F5

The experience had a lasting impact on Paulina, too. Getting out from behind her desk and into the world sparked insights that feed directly into her approach to her full-time role. “As my full-time work duties include close contact with nonprofits, I think this experience opened my eyes to a new scheme of collaboration that brings our enterprise expertise to the benefit of nonprofits. I realized that although nonprofits do much of the needed job to transition us into a sustainable and equitable world, they often lack resources, both monetary and human, to do so. I was amazed how simple management structures and tools that we use in the corporate world made a huge impact with them. I now understand that our position as partners should not be limited as financial supporters, but our strongest and most impactful way of helping is by sharing our skills and building long-term capacity for nonprofits.”

The deeper sense of connection extended beyond F5’s nonprofit partners. She reflected, “I knew this opportunity required empathy for nonprofits and their objectives, what I was not aware of is that at the end of the project I also developed more empathy for F5’s cause and my own team. I have never experienced that a global company with such great talent valued enough supporting communities that lend its employees for two full weeks to work with a nonprofit. It’s one thing to say you’re ‘human-first’, but to be directly part of it, making an impact in your own city, it takes on a whole different meaning. Returning to work again, I was amazed by the resources we have to make it easier for our team to support F5ers in volunteering and making a real difference in the world.”

We’re grateful to Paulina for sharing her unique perspective with us, and for corporate partners like F5 who are committed to taking a human-first approach to corporate citizenship. We’re currently in the process of gearing up for the next waves of Volunteer Sprints in 2024, and look forward to continuing this path of growth and impact!

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