Out blazing a trail
Online-communication company Outblaze seeks staff who share its CSR philosophy
Initiatives that benefit the community not only help Outblaze to identify with the strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) principles it strives to maintain, but also help the firm attract like-minded employees.
“CSR has been an integral part of Outblaze’s identity since our earliest years,” says Ibrahim El-Mouelhy, corporate communications director and a founding member of Outblaze. “We do not see it merely as ‘paying back’ to the local community for our success, because we began contributing to the community long before we became successful.”
He says CSR acts as an identifier for the company, which is recognised as a pioneer in the field of multilingual online communication and cloud computing across digital media services. “Our CSR programme helps us to differentiate Outblaze from other developers or employers of IT professionals. The long-term investment in CSR matches our long-term investment in staff,” he says, adding that Outblaze is not a “hire and fire” kind of business and takes pride in its record of employee retention.
He says the company needs people who will integrate well at Outblaze. “We look for people who share our philosophy that work should not be exclusively about business and competition. Doing something good makes you feel good, and we want our people to feel good at work,” he says. “We don’t do this because it is politically correct, we do it because it is part of our DNA.”
As part of its CSR activities, Outblaze works with a number of community-focused organisations including the Federation of Hong Kong Youth Groups, the World Wildlife Fund, the Salvation Army, the SPCA, Let’s Make A Difference, ORBIS and the Asian Youth Orchestra.
Recently, Outblaze launched a pilot project to examine and narrow the “digital divide” in the Hong Kong education system. “Digital divide” broadly refers to access, use and knowledge of internet information and communication technologies.
As part of the project, Outblaze donated Android tablets to Chan’s Creative School on Hong Kong Island, provided on-site technology training for its staff, and studied the impact that the use of tablets had on students.
El-Mouelhy says the tablets for the education project involved multiple Outblaze employees, including senior executives, investing hundreds of hours of their time. The effort also involved partnering with two professors at the Department of Applied Social Studies at the City University of Hong Kong on a study describing what happened when tablet technology was introduced.
“We were extremely fortunate to have the unpaid assistance of academics who saw the value in what we were trying to do and helped us to accomplish it,” says El-Mouelhy, who adds that internally, staff members understand and appreciate that Outblaze can achieve a lot by helping others.
“Outblaze is profitable, internationally respected and boasts dozens of awards. But the real reason we are proud is that we have achieved successes while lending a hand to those in need and remaining true to our core identity,” El-Mouelhy says.
For Outblaze researcher Isaac Poon, the hands-on experience of working with students at Chan’s Creative School has added a new dimension to his job.
“I initially expected the research to benefit the business. However, I was happy to learn that the research was designed to help students, teachers and also the general public,” says Poon.
“Being able to introduce students to the important experience of learning on tablet computers has definitely added to my sense of job satisfaction. I really enjoy seeing the happy, smiling faces among the children – it is clear that they really like using tablet computers in the class room,” says Poon.
Internally, Poon believes the Outblaze approach to CSR activities also has a positive impact on the company. “ If I compare this job with my previous role with a US multinational corporation, the atmosphere is more sociable and team work seems to develop naturally, although staff members enjoy a lot of independence to define and manage their own tasks,” says Poon.
Tse Yau-tat, a teacher at the school, says the tablet devices donated by Outblaze have expanded the level of student interaction and engagement.
“The tablet devices enable our students to experiment with the latest technology,” Tse says, adding that students mainly use tablets to read stories during English lessons. They also learn “finger drawing” during visual art classes. “Our students are more willing to read English stories out loud when they read from a tablet device,” he says. “We emphasise that e-learning devices are not an entertainment gadget, but they do add to the classroom-learning experience.”
Chan’s Creative School has received praise from the Hong Kong Education Bureau for providing diversified learning opportunities and boosting students’ confidence.
As a long-term supporter of the Asian Youth Orchestra (AYO), Outblaze has helped it design logos, its website – which they also host – as well as concert flyers and online ads. Outblaze also provides IT expertise, sponsor concert tickets for local students and hosts the AYO annual artist-faculty dinner.
“We sponsor young musicians who might not otherwise get a chance to perform at this level, and I am pretty sure that Outblaze cares about that,” says AYO general manager Keith Lau.
He says Outblaze has a genuine interest in the orchestra’s aims and achievements. “Outblaze is a big exponent of the ‘Made in Asia’ story, and in a sense AYO and Outblaze are quite similar because both organisations have shown the world that Asia can produce great examples of what were once considered Western domains: classical music and technology,” says Lau. “In general, I think Outblaze is just happy to help if it can; it’s a pretty friendly company,” he adds.