Diversity & Inclusion

WillowTree for Good: Meaningful for College Students and Our Clients

It’s one thing to put corporate values on a website. It’s another to put company values into practice.

I often see value statements, missions, and visions framed within internal contexts.

That’s not the case at WillowTree. We care deeply about the people we work with and the people our products serve. We’re building digital products that solve complex challenges and improve lives for humans everywhere. That means anything we build demonstrates our core value that different perspectives, like age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other dimension, make our people and products better.

Inclusivity is at the foundation of our craft.

Our “WillowTree for Good” social entrepreneurship competition mirrors this mindset. In a practical, tangible way, we’re offering undergraduate students the opportunity to leverage technology to serve the greater good. Ultimately, we want to place their unique vision into the hands of millions of people worldwide.

WillowTree for Good finalists.

WillowTree for Good participants concept and prototype digital products to solve challenges most meaningful to them and gain mentorship from cross-disciplinary WillowTree colleagues as they do so. The winning team will transform their concept into reality during a summer internship at WillowTree. Partnering with our in-house digital experts, students continue receiving formal mentorship and ultimately bring their digital solutions to market.

This is activism that relies on action.

For students who have primarily been building within theoretical contexts, that’s extremely exciting. It’s equally thrilling for the WillowTree clients we invite to join us as competition judges.

Together, we felt grateful to witness these transformations firsthand.

During the WillowTree for Good final round of competition held in Durham, NC on April 14, we heard from student teams reimagining problem spaces that included food insecurity, rising costs of living, sexual assault, and more. We witnessed the palpable, refreshing energy of our participating teams. We participated in thoughtful feedback shared by our WillowTree and client judges.

Our winning team, “StayFull,” created a comprehensive food security app. Their product provides resource location mapping services, community engagement and event broadcasting capabilities, a resource repository sharing information about service organizations, and booking features connecting organizations with recipients.

Congratulations to our winners!

  • Lars Heidenreich, product manager, Elon University
  • Josh Garrett, product designer, North Carolina State University
  • Gustavo Rios, software engineer, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Chalisa Phoomsakha, software engineer, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

WillowTree for Good winning team.

StayFull’s founders created a safe digital space where people experiencing food insecurity could access resources anonymously and conveniently. I was moved by their product mission to reduce the stigma, shame, and inaccessibility that, unfortunately, can surround the experience of visiting a food bank.

Their presentation focused on the tech, the product, and the market. The students performed extensive market research and competitive analysis and persuasively communicated their app’s key differentiators and overall value proposition.

You don’t see that in many hackathons or entrepreneurship competitions.

WillowTree for Good winners “StayFull” receive their first-place award.

My WillowTree for Good experience underscored that the next generation of digital leaders already uses technology to solve social challenges. We know that tomorrow’s technologists have deep design and engineering skill sets. But much like our WillowTree for Good winners, they will also need sharp business acumen, commercial awareness, and above all a desire to leverage technology to solve real human problems.

WillowTree for Good judges Patrick Wright, Mike Moore, Josh Gibbs, Courtney Starr, and Lydia Runnels.

Asking clients and student participants to reimagine “best-in-class.”

Large companies sometimes struggle to hire young, talented, digitally-savvy people. Size doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. WillowTree for Good provides our clients — and any firm in the tech space — with a best-in-class model for early talent acquisition through meaningful personal relationships and a tangible, high-stakes “test project.” It’s the same way we build deep relationships with WillowTree client partners and drive valuable outcomes for their businesses.

Plus, how frequently do college students get to pitch their ideas to C-suite executives? How often do C-suite execs get to witness the energy and ideas of today’s undergraduates? Dare I say it, but that transformational experience for today’s execs might be the real commercial value of a program like WillowTree for Good.

Next year, I urge our client judges to come to the competition with additional internship opportunities or full-time offers. You’ll see these students excel in a competitive environment unlike any other. And you’ll be inspired by how they use technology for the greater good.

Keep an eye out this summer as we follow the winning team’s journey to design, engineer, and deliver their new digital solution worldwide.

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