How Baseflow gave me the opportunity to end up at School's Cool
A Playground for Passion
Baseflow’ers get to spend 10% of their time to dive into anything their heart desires. This time is used to tinker with cloud detection algorithms, explore uncharted culinary territories, stroll through nature, or sweat it out in the gym.
During my time at Baseflow, I have started many different projects, of which most never saw the light of day. I honed my lock picking skills, spent time on a Flutter app for fellow vegans, got really into Advent of Code, and more recently started my pentesting journey through Hack the Box. In this blog, however, I want to tell you about the 10% project that gives me the most satisfaction out of all of them.
Ever since I started my career, I have been trying to find my place in society. I want to give my geeky side enough substance to chew on, while also listening to my urge to do good. Working at Baseflow, my geeky side is covered. Together with experts, I am working on high quality software that is used by people all over the world. And within the company, there are many ways in which I can ‘do good’. For example, once a month, my colleagues and I go Trashpacking on Friday afternoons.
Still, I wanted to do more. Rewinding to January of this year, I found myself at a conference for schools: de Nationale Onderwijstentoonstelling. Why? Well, in a previous life, I taught Mathematics in high school, and it seems the teacher within me just refuses to retire. Anyway, part of the reason I was there was to meet Eric van ‘t Zelfde. I knew him from the Dutch TV show Dream School. In the show, he and Lucia Rijker team up with Dutch celebrities to inspire a group of school-leavers to develop themselves and work towards a future with ambition.
Eric’s talk was scheduled at the end of the day. He took us through his experiences as headmaster of several schools. With his pragmatic way of thinking (which got him into trouble from time to time), he turned the worst schools into the best ones within years. Throughout the talk, he knew how to keep the story funny and entertaining, while at the same time not shying away from the terrible things he experienced in this role.
If you can read Dutch, I highly recommend reading this item, in which Eric briefly goes over some of his experiences. Throughout the talk I was in awe. This person made a difference for so many people! On my way home on the train I could not stop thinking about it. I felt inspired and wanted to take action myself. I searched online for voluntary work in Enschede and found many options. I decided to start with something I was familiar with from my teaching years; helping teenagers. I was so hyped I applied before I even got home.
And that is how I ended up at School’s Cool. This organization matches volunteers to elementary school students who are on the brink of moving to middle school. These students could use some extra help with the transition for a plethora of possible reasons.
Mentors help their mentee with anything but the actual school work. This could be creating a schedule, figuring out what they like and do not like in life, opening up and talking about feelings, or just getting a break from the situation at home. School’s Cool is active in several parts of the Netherlands, including Enschede. After applying, I got matched with a student. We meet weekly after school finishes. I use my 10% time at Baseflow to bike to his place, hang out, and bike back. Initially, it was a bit scary for me to be honest, as I could feel responsibility that I had not experienced before.
However, after meeting my mentee a couple of times we had a great connection. We matched very well together, enjoying geeking out over many things. His family was very welcoming, and soon I felt more than just a mentor. We spent some weeks learning about programming, to the point where he built his very own website using HTML and CSS. We also looked into Rubik’s Cube algorithms, duked it out on the chessboard, talked about whether dinosaurs could have been killed by a meteorite and played soccer in the rain. You should have seen the look on my colleagues’ faces when I returned to the office halfway through the day, soaking wet and smelling like sweat.
This experience has given me, and is still giving me, a sense of purpose and fulfillment. I have learned a great deal about responsibility, setting boundaries and mentorship. All while having loads of fun.
Are you also looking for a way to do good? Try volunteering! You will contribute to society while gaining invaluable skills. If you would like to become a School’s Cool mentor too, feel free to reach out to me, or you can visit https://www.schoolscool.nl/ for more information.