WillowTree for Good

Kelli Palmer
Chief Diversity Officer

What’s my first transformational idea for WillowTree?

That’s what WillowTree President Tobias Dengel asked me at the end of my “test project,” the final phase of every WillowTree interview where we ask candidates to present their response to a unique prompt.

No pressure, right?

“Give me until the end of the day,” I told Tobias, knowing I had a full day ahead of meetings with WillowTree colleagues. There was bound to be magic that came from those conversations.

As expected, my discussions with cross-functional leaders and collaborators at WillowTree sparked some big ideas.

Fast forward to the end of a long, exciting day: Tobias is walking me out of Woolen Mills.

“Aren’t you going to ask me what my transformational idea is?” I asked. Tobias looked back at me, perhaps surprised I remembered the question.

From the parking lot, I pitched a social entrepreneurship competition that reflects WillowTree’s tri-force model of design, engineering, and delivery. One that empowers students to conceptualize an app that could change the world for the better. And gives them the tools to transform that idea into a reality.

That day, I planted the seeds for WillowTree for Good.

Sprinkle in some help from our client partners and WillowTree teams? Today, we’re watching those seeds grow.

What I pitched to Tobias a year ago became our WillowTree for Good program. In it, we ask teams of undergraduate and college students in North Carolina to explore the world’s most pressing challenges and discover how a digital experience can solve them. Ultimately, we invite winners to participate in WillowTree's competitive, award-winning summer internship program. Throughout the summer, students take concept to reality: they develop and actually launch their app alongside a team of WillowTree expert engineers, designers, and strategists.

That partnership has a meaningful, two-fold purpose. Number one: interns receive formal mentorship within a company that already excels at professional development. Number two: we provide developmental opportunities to WillowTree teammates who enjoy mentoring new talent and want to grow into a more managerial role.

We’re proliferating goodness.

The program facilitates an energetically dynamic exchange between the world’s best and brightest talent.

Everyone wins.

(But, technically speaking… There’s just one winning team.)

We’ll select that winning team very soon, as we enter the last phase of this two-month competition. Final-round participants are joining us at our WillowTree office in Durham, NC, to present their concepts to judges from WillowTree and our Fortune 500 clients. In May, those winning teammates will start their WillowTree summer internship.

We can’t wait to bring them on board.

WillowTree for Good is a tremendous opportunity for students to apply their learning to real-life situations. They can pursue a cause or challenge that’s important to them.

Maybe that cause is leveraging voice-powered technology to uncover police-based violence, domestic violence, or ICE encounters perpetrated daily against underrepresented individuals.

Maybe it’s the challenge of creating a digital toolkit to educate today’s leaders on diversity and inclusion expectations and sharing ways to pursue those goals.

Or, maybe it’s AI-powered data visualizations that draw attention to the pay disparity experienced by women, which greatly varies when considering other aspects of identity, like historically marginalized race/ethnic groups, caregiver status, gender identity, sexual orientation, and more.

But those are just my ideas.

I want to hear ideas from the next generation of leaders.

There is no more powerful way to transform theoretical knowledge than to apply it practically and in pursuit of a cause close to young people’s hearts and communities. Here at WillowTree, we're honored to provide that opportunity to emerging leaders and bear witness to their insights.

Kelli Palmer
Chief Diversity Officer

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