Know Any Good Web Developers?

The Taproot Foundation in Chicago is looking for good web developers who want to do it pro bono. Talented web developers are hard to find and are in demand. Taproot has some projects staffing right now and would love to meet web developers who may be interested in becoming pro bono consultants with the Taproot Foundation.

I’ve been involved with Taproot for about 1 year now and about to start my 3rd project as a web developer. Working with Taproot has been a rather rewarding, albeit at times frustrating, experience. I’m not going to attempt to advocate volunteering, it’s just a good thing to do. But for a web developer being a pro bono consultant offers a singular experience: as an IT professional, never again will you feel as appreciated as when you deliver the final site to your pro bono client. In addition, you will have an opportunity to hone your existing skills or learn something new. And, of course, you will get to meet all kinds of new people with different backgrounds from different companies around Chicago.

So, if you think being a pro bono consultant is for you, please visit the Taproot website and Create a Profile. 

If you apply by Monday morning 5/11, Taproot may be able to have you come to the next Orientation which is on Wednesday, May 13th at 6pm in downtown Chicago.

If you want to know more about Taproot, just drop me an email or leave a comment to this post.

My 3rd Taproot project

A few days ago I received an email from another Account Director at Taproot asking if I would be interested in working on another project.  This is yet another advanced website project for Gift of Adoption.  Of course, I said yes.  Now waiting to talk to the Account Director about particulars of the project.

As a side note, this will be my first true (significant) web development undertaking using my Macbook.  Looking forward to discovering available tools and what I can do on this platform.  Hope I won’t be missing Microsoft Visual Studio and Visual Web Developer.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – what a great compliment!

I just received probably the greatest compliment any developer can receive.  And it feels even better to receive it for one’s volunteer work.

Last year I did a project with Taproot to design and build a new website for DuPage Habitat for Humanity.  Earlier today, the Executive Director of DHFH forwarded the following email…

…I am co president of HFH in Ogle County, Illinois, just south of Rockford.
We are in the process of establishing a website.  We have been “studying” a lot of websites from across Illinois and to some extent across the country.

We REALLY love your website!  We are going to hire a web designer, we would really like her to pattern our site after yours.  I don’t mean an EXACT copy of course, but we do envision/hope it will (eventually) have the same features and many of the same headings and subheadings…

As a volunteer, thanks are the only form of payment you receive.  That email made me really proud of the work our Taproot team did last year and made all those hours all worth it.  Now I want to do another project.

My new Taproot project — Workforce Chicago

So somewhere along the line, in the past few days, I had agreed to do another Taproot project.  This one is also a website project (I seem to be developing a reputation as a web developer) for Workforce Chicago.  The project itself is almost done, I’m coming in at the 11th hour.  It seems that the original developer working on the site is MIA.  Hope he’s alright and it is just work and life robbing him of the ability to finish the site.

So I have an almost complete set of pages, which just needs to be tweaked and delivered to the client.  It is always fun to inherit code from someone else.  There are few things worse than looking at your screen and thinking why, why, why would ANYONE do something like THIS!  Luckily, the original developer was rather good, better than I am, I must admit.  His code is well structured and nicely arranged.  Many compliments to the developer, I wish I knew who he is/was.  I won’t get the full credit for the completed site, but I will learn a thing or two in the process.

With any luck, I will be done with this project before the end of November.

Taproot Foundation Joins Obama & McCain at Service Nation Summit

From an email I received today as a member of the Taproot Foundation

The Taproot Foundation is a proud member of the Service Nation coalition, which consists of more than 100 of America’s top service organizations. Service Nation is sponsoring a presidential forum on Thursday at which both John McCain and Barack Obama will answer questions about service. It will mark only the second time during this campaign that the two will share a stage.  The event is being moderated by Time Magazine’s Richard Stengel and PBS’ Judy Woodruff, and will be televised live on CNN and other channels at 8:00 EST.

While we don’t endorse either candidate, we believe that all Americans should know where the candidates stand on the issue of service.  You can help make this happen by letting your friends know that you will be watching the forum on Thursday and then sharing your thoughtful analysis of the candidates’ positions with them in the days and weeks ahead.

My only problem — how do I come with a thoughtful analysis of the positions?

It’s a whole different non-profit world

Working almost most of my life in the for-profit sector, it is a very different experience being engaged on a project in the non-profit world. The difference becomes even more obvious when the project itself is being done through a network of volunteers, such as the Taproot Foundation. The project scope, the objectives, the deliverables – all a different ballgame. And if you are not used to it, shifting gears to think like a non-profit, to accept the differences is a very hard and painful work.

My first Taproot Foundation project is a website refresh. This is project is for DuPage Habitat for Humanity. The Habitat for Humanity organization wants to increase on-line donations and better promote itself through an appealing website. Sounds simple, right? Something that we do almost every day. It seems that as of late, in my day job, I have 2 of these projects running at the same time. I can prepare a project plan and outline the deliverables with my eyes closed and hands tied behind my back. Or so I thought…

The rude awakening, the realization of how different this experience is going to be came during the internal kick-off meeting. Listening to the project leader outline the final deliverables, it took me a long time to come around to his point of view. In the for-profit world, such deliverables would never fly. A paying client expects a complete project: from design to implementation. However, in this case, the deliverables are much more vague. The gist of it – we’ll do as much as we can in the time allotted. We won’t implement the new website. We may not even do the entire website. We’ll do as many pages as we can within the budgeted duration and effort. Suggest something like this to a paying client and you’ll be out of the door faster than you can ask where is the bathroom.

I’m still trying to come to terms with this. Maybe looking back, after the project is finished, I will think differently. But today, it seems that this small non-profit organization, the one that can’t afford a paid consulting team, is getting the short end of the stick and yet it is very thankful to get even that much.

The Taproot Foundation or how my needs have changed

I never thought this to be true, but at some point in your life, money stops being the primary motivator for what you do. Being a poor student in college, Maslow seemed to be out of his mind when he came up with his hierarchy of needs. A job paying $20+/hour, a nice car and a hot girlfriend were the apogee of my dreams – everything else, esteem and self-actualization, would be naturally achieved through that. But dog on it! That block Maslow was on to something when he built his pyramid. Today, 13 or so years since being a poor student, I want my work to be more than a paycheck at the end of the week. Self-actualization doesn’t seem to arise from the car I drive or neckties I wear. There are other forces at work. (Perhaps, it also has to do with the fact that I drive a Hyundai Elantra.)

As the result of all that, a few weeks ago I decided to look for ways to use my skills towards goals other than a paycheck – in short, to volunteer. Volunteering is not something that I grew up with: in the Soviet culture, some pro bono activities were pretty much mandatory, but it was not something that you sought to do. In a country where everyone is taken care of by the government, there are no nonprofits, there really shouldn’t be a need for them.

After a little time spent searching for ways to do that, I decided to join the Taproot Foundation. This nonprofit foundation provides other nonprofits with HR, marketing and IT consulting services. The services are delivered through a nation-wide network of professionals volunteering their time to give back to the community. The nonprofits that the Foundation helps generally fall into 4 categories: health, education, environment and social services. The nonprofit organization must fall into the target annual budget range of $350,000 to $10 mil.

I am very excited to have found the wonderful folks at the Taproot Foundation who give professionals like myself a way to donate their time, to do something more than earn a paycheck. It’s a wonderful cause and I’m looking forward to working on some of their projects.