As an engineer, Stephen loves to design solutions and fix things. He’s also passionate about social justice, so when the opportunity arose to join Mary’s Meals as our IT and Infrastructure Lead, it ticked all the boxes!

Mary's Meals offers people from all walks of life an opportunity to become involved in helping deliver "a simple solution to world hunger". Our founder Magnus challenges us that simplicity is found on the far side of complexity - and the amazing work of Mary's Meals presents a tantalising and worthwhile challenge for any engineer!

One of the things I love about my role is the opportunity I get to speak with tech companies about the work we do. When I explain to them the myriad of complex issues we sometimes have to navigate – environmental conditions, food shortages, poor transport networks, weak communications infrastructure, political instability, conflict, famine or disease – I often get into some great conversations with likeminded people who naturally find themselves seeking an opportunity to be a part of the solution.

Earlier this year I found myself in such a conversation with Olvia Khalili, VP for Social Impact at PagerDuty – we use their software to alert Mary’s Meals to network and systems issues – and her amazing team. She invited me to take part in the PagerDuty Tech Summit, their annual conference in San Francisco.

As a techie who had never set foot on US soil before, I was quite excited to be going to the heart of Silicon Valley! The conference was attended by more than 1000 delegates from a variety of organisations – from Fortune 100 global companies to small non-profits with everything in between.

I was asked to participate in their Social Impact session along with Jan Eissfeldt from the Wikimedia Foundation. Both of our organisations had benefitted from a PagerDuty licensing donation earlier in the year. I shared with the delegates about the work of Mary's Meals, how it began with Magnus, how it has developed and how we are using PagerDuty to support our mission.

I told them about my experience just a few months before, in Liberia:

I was working with the Mary’s Meals programme in Liberia, and I saw an opportunity to connect the same software with our vehicle tracking system – for a different purpose.

Our drivers use the tracking system to send an alert for help in the event of breakdown or other need. That signal is relayed from the satellite network over the internet to our security and logistics team. It may be a life or mission threatening situation.

Even with recent infrastructure improvements in Liberia, our office still suffers occasional internet outages, which delay critical responses. PagerDuty now bridges that gap by sending these signals in real-time over the phone networks to alert the teams that need to act.

I ended my presentation with a call to action, inviting the audience to visit our website, sponsor a school or register for the Mary's Meals USA "Run As One​" virtual race event coming up in November. And I gave out plenty of information cards and Mary's Meals pin badges during personal discussions over the course of the two days I was there.

It was humbling and inspiring to receive messages back in the days following the summit from engineers and executives who had watched Child31 and Generation Hope online and had decided to support Mary’s Meals with their colleagues or families.

There's a lot of interest in using Tech for Good out in Silicon Valley and the community there is vibrant, positive and creative. I'm returning excited about developing the relationships started there and growing our global movement through the Tech community.

We talk a lot about promises at Mary's Meals; when we start feeding in a school we are making a commitment to help bring lasting change to children in that community by helping them gain an education. We also make promises to our supporters – to steward their donations well. Keeping our promises means working hard and working smart. Using technology helps us do that.

Whether you’re in infrastructure, software, security, data analytics, social media, VR or video, if you’re involved with technology and are captivated by our cause we’d love to talk with you too!

 

#TechForGood #PDSummit19 #SocialImpact

 

Watch the full summit keynote below: