by msjones msjones

Employees across Seattle are making a difference. It’s easy to get involved in small or large projects and to make an impact – every little bit helps. We love seeing innovation workers show up! Read about Seattle’s Inspirational Innovators, get excited, and find tips on how you can help.

This month we speak to Emily Hirao, Solutions Engineer at Amperity.

How long have you worked for Amperity and what do you do there?

I’ve been working at Amperity since September 2019 and I’m a Solutions Engineer. I work with our customers’ data and work on ingesting it into our platform and transforming the data to give them insight into consumer behavior.

Did you grow up in the Seattle area or did you move here for work?

I moved here for work; I’m originally from Honolulu, Hawaii. I lived in Pittsburgh while completing my undergrad degree (Go Tartans!) and decided I wanted to be somewhere a bit closer to home in both distance and climate.

How did you get interested in community service and volunteering?

I’ve always volunteered as a child through my school – which had a center for public service. From uprooting non native plants in our hiking trail to being a tutor to new residents of Hawaii, I learned how my actions can make a difference in my community.

What drew you to working with STEM Paths Innovation Network (SPIN) instead of other organizations?

I’ve been with SPIN since I’ve been looking to be a mentor to fellow girls interested in STEM. I myself had a big sister for a few years when I was in elementary school, and I have fond memories that I hope to leave with my mentees as well. I also volunteer with Technology Access Foundation (TAF), and I’m looking to get more involved with the education community.

In your role as a SPIN mentor, can you give us a glimpse of what that entails?

Every three weeks we either have a field day, in which we scientifically explore project based learning as well as team building, or we have a lab day in which we see STEM in action in our communities. So far we have been to Blue Origin, Renton Technical College, and have seen presentations by the Pacific Science Center. I currently have 3 mentees that I individually meet once a month. We typically talk about what the girls are interested in, and how I can help them in any way.

How has SPIN been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis? Are you still able to volunteer with them?

Unfortunately we did have to cancel our field day last Saturday, but I’m currently working on being able to meet my mentees virtually through Zoom.

What other ways do you support our local community?

I volunteer for TAF related events (such as their STEM Expo) and I will be working for the 2020 Census. I believe that both education and representation are very important. I also volunteer every few months with Food Lifeline. Before the COVID-19 crisis I was also signed up to help teach English to adult learners, but that had to unfortunately be postponed.

It can be taxing trying to solve complex social problems. How do you stay motivated as a volunteer?

Looking at a large demographic data and seeing numbers can be unmotivating to anyone – but understanding how your work is impacting others is very rewarding. Whether I’m helping one girl feel more confident as she transitions to high school, or whether I can help one person get more food on their table is one more life that I’m enriching. The smallest of actions can have the largest impact – so never give up.

What words of advice do you have for anyone interested in helping our community, but are unsure where to start?

There are a few online engines – which is how I found SPIN. However, plug into your friends who are current volunteers and their communities. There are often volunteer organizations that have sister programs in other states. But the secret sauce is really finding an organization with a mission statement that resonates with you.