Illustration by Fanny Luor

Inside DBX

Creating a sense of community amidst COVID-19


Published on June 18, 2020

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has presented an array of new challenges for how we work, but it’s also changed the dynamics for how we create and maintain a sense of community. We’ve been asking ourselves during this difficult time, how do we continue to foster our relationship with our Dropbox community and Foundation partners? Over the last few months, Dropbox employees across our global offices have shown increased desire to participate in virtual volunteering projects such as career exploration videos, virtual read alouds and panels, recruiting efforts, and helping small businesses and nonprofits navigate new challenges. 

Our Schools 

Dropbox partners with three public schools in the Bay Area; Skyline High in Oakland, and Mission High and Bret Harte Elementary in San Francisco. Generally in the spring we host field trips and job shadow days for our partner schools to help students explore opportunities in tech. This year, we’ve gone virtual and Dropbox employees have shared videos of their career journeys in finance, analytics, and technical program management, to name a few.

“In general I feel that I'm one of the fortunate ones in this crisis in that I'm still able to work and my family is healthy,” says Tim Regan, chief accounting officer at Dropbox. “So I've been looking for ways to actively help others. This, of course, is harder to do when we can't leave our homes, so sharing a career video was a great chance to give something back while still keeping everyone safe.”

The virtual read alouds also serve as a resource for pre K-5th grade students as they learn story frameworks, language patterns, and vocabulary from listening and watching our verbal cues.

“I wanted to help parents entertain and educate their kids for a few minutes while they take a breather,” says Charlotte Camacho, a growth product manager at Dropbox. “I’m hoping the book I read, The Escape of Marvin the Ape, will help children feel a spark of adventure, and to take the world a bit less seriously. I think a funny book is great to counterbalance what else they may be hearing on TV or in adult conversations around them.”

Our community partners

Since the beginning of the 2019 school year, we have been holding an ongoing coding class with Code Nation, taught by some of our NYC-based engineers. The organization is a nation-wide nonprofit that equips students with the skills, experiences, and connections that together create access to careers in technology. In the midst of everything moving online, Code Nation hosted its first ever virtual panel. Liam Neath, a Dropbox engineer based in NYC, was one of the panelists.

“The confusion and uncertainty that comes with picking a career direction during high-school and even university is still very fresh in my mind,” says Neath. “Students naturally have many questions as they learn more about the field through what they read online, learn in classes, etc. But they may not have access to individuals who can answer questions from first-hand experience so I thought it was fulfilling to pay forward all the advice I have received.”

The Berkeley Center for Law and Business started a new initiative during COVID-19 to help educate nonprofits and small business owners who are navigating the stimulus CARES Act. Miles Palley, commercial counsel at Dropbox, helped spearhead this opportunity for Dropbox attorneys to consult with and provide guidance to Berkeley Law students. 

“We all know people struggling with the impact of the pandemic and shelter-in-place orders,” says Palley. “The opportunity to share useful information about navigating the new programs being put in place has been an incredible opportunity. The size of the program—hundreds of students and attorneys—has made for meaningful crowdsourcing of details on what people are seeing in terms of denials, approvals, timing, etc.”

Our Foundation partners

Our Foundation partners, including War Child UK, have been at the forefront of helping combat COVID-19. Charlene Brennan, UK and Ireland head of policy and social impact at Dropbox, worked with War Child UK’s Policy and Advocacy team to provide additional outreach support with UK policy makers to raise awareness of the impact of COVID-19 on UK-based international charities. She also helped War Child UK by asking the UK government to provide an additional package of support. 

“War Child does amazing work in the countries they support,” says Brennan. “Having spent some time with the team, I quickly understood the scale of the impact that this pandemic was having on nonprofits and in turn the communities they support. I wanted to lend my time and my skills as a government affairs professional to help War Child further their advocacy reach with UK policy makers. Raising awareness and securing additional support allows War Child and other international non-profits to continue their work.”

Another one of our Foundation partners, WITNESS, helps people use video and technology to protect and defend human rights. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the people team at Dropbox has been supporting WITNESS’ recruiting efforts. 

“Historically, our team has been ‘pressed for time’ or had urgent deadlines around hiring goals,” says Esther Chou, a recruiter at Dropbox. “But things have slowed down a bit for us so we’ve been able to re-assess how we use our time. Our team can't think of a better way to do this than by offering our skills to organizations like WITNESS.”

Creating connection for lasting impact

Community relationships are built through people’s willingness to interact with local organizations and volunteer. Even in a time when physical interactions are limited, we’re proud to see Dropbox employees engaging virtually with their communities.