2024 marks Digital NEST’s (the NEST) 10-year anniversary. When I started the NEST in 2014, I wanted to create a digital haven – a sanctuary of safety, growth and belonging – for Latinx youth in agricultural communities. Little did I know how far we’d go and the uncommon and cohesive culture we’d create. By the end of 2024, we will have five tech hubs surrounding Silicon Valley, and staff who have been with us for years.
The NEST stands as a testament to the power of fostering a culture where employees not only want to be but continuously invest their time and energy. What makes the NEST a beacon for cultivating passion, skills, and a deep sense of community?
It’s these four traits:
Community: The Cornerstone of Success
Digital NEST’s journey is intertwined with the vibrant fabric of the communities it serves. From its inception, the organization has thrived because of the collective effort to make it successful. I acknowledge the invaluable contribution of countless individuals from the community who have played a pivotal role in our growth, from community partners, funders, and electeds, to the youth we serve. This unbroken thread of community involvement, seeking help, and a shared vision has reinforced the NEST’s journey.
Shared Backgrounds & Necessary Skills
The secret ingredient to Digital NEST’s success lies in its people – individuals whose backgrounds mirror those of the youth we support. Our cultural understanding of where we work is a direct result of hiring from the community – individuals who know firsthand the personal challenges, strengths, and wonders of growing up as children of farmworkers. For example, Yazmin Herrera, our Director of Organizational Effectiveness, has been with the NEST from the start. Not only does she bring a drive to uplift those like her, but the skills to be effective. Her 10-year commitment to the NEST is rare in today’s fast-paced world, and a testament to her genuine care for the community. It’s a reminder that hiring individuals who reflect NEST youth and who resonate with the mission is key to building a thriving culture.
A Growth Mindset Unleashed
In a world where change is constant, Digital NEST stands out for fostering a growth mindset. Even after a decade, Yazmin continues to evolve, and is a living embodiment of the organization’s commitment to individual growth. She started as a volunteer and has been in many positions in the organization since. The environment we’ve created at the NEST is one that nurtures and invests in its people, allowing them to stay and flourish. We offer annual staff retreats, parties, mentorship, sabbaticals, competitive benefits, and valuable facetime with executives that coach and invest in staff members’ personal growth. It’s not just about doing a job – our staff are determined to grow personally, and to connect with and support each other.
In a world where professional development is often an individual and lonely journey, the NEST paints a different picture. The organization invests in its employees’ professional growth. Last year we sent our first cohort to the Grace Hopper Conference for staff to network and learn about career opportunities. We offer an annual stipend for professional growth that includes coaching and mentoring from staff supervisors to help staff achieve their growth goals as well as outline a learning path toward those goals. Executives help staff make smart choices, and open doors for them so they better understand all opportunities on the horizon.
I love to share Ximena Ireta-Lopez’s, Senior Manager of People Operations, story. She was with the NEST for eight years before she was drawn away by a higher salary. She was gone for three months when she realized how she missed the NEST’s culture – that she helped build – and people and decided to return. Her story echoes the feeling that supersedes monetary benefits – a workplace that values its people, and a deep connection to the cause.
Digital NEST has successfully created an organization where people want to be. The pull is not just about a job; it’s about being part of a community-driven force for change, and the chemistry and culture of those making that change.
Here are a few tips to build a culture of belonging:
- Community involvement: Actively engage with the community and seek their participation in the organization’s mission.
- Hire from the community: Look for individuals from the community who understand exactly what NEST youth need.
- Foster a growth mindset: Create an environment that encourages continuous learning and personal development.
- Invest in Your People: Prioritize professional development and invest in employees’ growth.
- Connect with the Cause: Build a workplace where employees feel a deep connection to each other, and to the mission.
As Digital NEST celebrates a decade of success, it serves as an inspiring example for nonprofits, showing that a workplace built on community, passion, and continuous growth can indeed stand the test of time.
If you’d like to learn more about how to create a strong culture, or about the NEST, message me on LinkedIn.