I think that working at Comic Relief was my first real experience of being in the charity sector and it was truly inspirational; seeing such talented people devoting their time and energy to create a just world free from poverty really impressed me and changed my world view. Before then, I was a lot more focused on my own career goals, but my time at Comic Relief taught me that there is much more to life.
My name is Marcus East and I am the Chief Technology Officer for National Geographic. My love affair with technology started when I was taught to program at the age of 8 in junior school by one of my teachers, Mr. Martin. By the time I got to university, I knew that I wanted to build a career around technology, helping to solve business and social problems. I’m London born and bred, but my career has taken me all around the world. Travel is one of my great passions and I have been to all of the continents and around most of the world. I never get tired of seeing new places and being exposed to different cultures and languages; it is one of the things that led me to National Geographic. I now work and live on the East Coast in Washington DC.
I first became inspired by the importance of charity at Latymer, where we were taught the value of playing an important role in society. It was my great privilege to be the Chairman of the Charities Committee, which gave me an opportunity to get involved in many charitable initiatives and also to arrange some myself — the most notable was called ‘Rainforest Relief’, where we held a concert to raise money to protect hundreds of acres of Central American rainforest. Later on, I became an employee at Comic Relief, which is a truly remarkable charity, and I’ve also served as a trustee for FoodCycle, MyBnk, and Nominet Trust.
I first became involved with MyBnk and FoodCycle when I asked around my network for ideas about interesting charities that I could volunteer with. Through this, I was introduced to MyBnk’s founder, Lily Lapenna MBE, and started my volunteering work there. FoodCycle was founded by one of the MyBnk team a couple of years later, and I was delighted to get involved there too! All the charities I’ve been involved in are rewarding, but being a volunteer at MyBnk and helping Lily Lapenna with some of the early business plans and funding applications before being invited to become a trustee was incredible. The MyBnk team has done a fantastic job helping to improve people’s financial literacy and develop their enterprise skills in a truly innovative way.
I’m passionate about these charities because, as I’m a huge science fiction fan, I see one of the persistent themes in many sci-fi stories is that of growing inequality. If we’re not careful, the increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots that we see in many countries around the world will eventually lead to the type of dystopian future that is the backdrop for much science fiction – tackling inequality is something that is very important to me. One factor that has really helped to inspire me to act is the fact that when I was growing up, so many people were generous with their time for me, mentoring and guiding me – I’ve always had a sense that I want to pass on my good fortune by helping others.
My volunteering goals are that would just like to continue supporting charities large and small — they are all important to our future! There is a great opportunity for many of them to be more effective in their work by harnessing the power of technology, and I would love to be part of that. I believe that employers should support employees by letting them take some time off to do charitable work, and also make opportunities to get involved with charities visible through networks and online communities — it’s a great way to drive people’s personal development.
Volunteering can be a benefit to technological careers, as working with charities often means engaging with diverse stakeholders from different backgrounds, whether they be beneficiaries of the charity, or specialists working in the charity or other trustees. My work schedule keeps me pretty busy, but I always try to find time for charitable causes; I donate to several charities and also try to volunteer where my skills can be useful. Charities are always on the lookout for people with relevant skills and experience that can help them better achieve their objectives – if a charity is of real interest to someone, they should get in touch and start the conversation about how they can help!
To read more about MyBnk and FoodCycle, you can check out the following links: