Elastic’s Holiday Spirit: The Search for Sharing

Last year, I wrote about the way Elastic employees from all over the globe came together to rally time and resources to celebrate and prop up people whom they might never have a chance to meet. I wrote about how important giving is, how important caring is, amidst an international climate that can feel threatening and hostile.

Then 2016 came.

I won’t replay the year’s many lows; this is not going to be the blog post for folks who believe that the best way to recap this year is to put the dumpster fire .gif on endless repeat.

Instead, we’re going to talk about the audacity of continuing to give. Shay Banon, our Co-Founder and CTO, and Leah Sutton, our VP of Human Resources, have recently written at length about Elastic’s commitment to encouraging and empowering people who are using our Stack to do good in the world. We’re doubling down on our relationship with Django Girls. There’s more goodness to come (spoilers!) as we march towards Elastic{ON}17, all of it central to the big aspirations of our corporate heart. 

Today, though, we’ve got a whole crew joining me on the virtual stage to talk about the smaller, more personal ways we’re coming together to do good. 

John Black, Sr. Director, Global Sales Development:
Moustaches and Men’s Health

For as long as I can remember, my dad has always had a moustache. Except for that one time when I was in 3rd grade, and he decided to shave it off. My sister and I begged him to grow it back because he looked so strange without it. 

For the better part of my life, I’ve gone without a moustache. Then in October 2012, I learned about Movember.

The Movember Foundation was launched in 2003 in Australia. And since then, more than 5 million people – Mo Bros and Mo Sistas, as they’re called – have joined the cause, helping to raise $710 million that have supported 1,200 men’s health projects. These projects are focused on three of the biggest health issues faced by men: prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health and suicide prevention.

john-black-movember-2016.JPGFor the past four years, I have been a Mo Bro. Although there are a variety of ways to participate in Movember, I have opted to let the hair on my upper lip grow. And each Movember Eve, I get that mixed feeling of manliness, commitment and discomfort around facing the next 30 days. 

I believe in this cause. I believe that men’s health issues are important. And not just because I am a man. But because men, too often, don’t want or know how to talk about their physical and mental health issues. That’s a problem and something that needs to change.

Two experiences in my life have made Movember especially personal. First, my grandfather (I called him Papa) died from prostate cancer when he was in his early 70s. This cancer ravaged his healthy body and mind, and we lost him too early. It was frustrating to learn that, had the cancer been detected earlier, he would likely have beaten the disease. And second, I suffered a serious depression when I was 21. I am grateful that I had amazing friends and family who helped me talk about my issues and get me through this difficult time.

Men experience worse longer-term health than women and die on average six years earlier. Prostate cancer rates will double in the next 15 years. Testicular cancer rates have already doubled in the last 50. Three quarters of suicides are men. Poor mental health leads to half a million men taking their own life every year. That’s one every minute. 

I’m a son, a brother and a friend. But my roles as husband and father are the biggest catalysts behind my participation in Movember. I want to live a long, healthy life alongside my family. So, I’ll do what I can to boost awareness around men’s health issues. And if growing a Mo will help me raise money to improve, lengthen and save lives, then I’m all in.

This Movember, through the generosity of friends, family, and in particular, my Elastic family, I raised $2,236. This money will go toward funding ground-breaking programs across the globe. I am proud and privileged to work at a company whose technology empowers people to make a difference and enact change in their companies, communities and society at large. I love being a part of a company with a heart and soul. We can (and should) do well while doing good.

George Young, Area Vice President, Public Sector:
Supporting the Youth of Nicaragua

george-young-nicaragua-volunteer-work.jpgMy family has been traveling to Nicaragua for over 10 years to help orphans and families living in desperate economic poverty. Projects we have done over the years there include building a feeding center, improvements to local schools, and job training for older kids. 

This year, we teamed up with George Mason University, who is sending volunteer engineering students to help build a water distribution system for an orphanage with 140 children. I challenged my colleagues to together raise $10,000, which we ended up exceeding with a donation of over $30,000! This is not only enough for the water distribution system, but also to drill a much needed new well. 

The work will be done in January and May of 2017 by volunteers who are paying their own way, so all proceeds are solely going to the improvements needed. It is extremely exciting to be a part of a company culture that deeply cares about their employees and also for the world at large!

Tyler Hannan, Director of Product Marketing:
Stuff the Bus

One of the things that my wife and I have always tried to encourage two our girls – Ella, age 10, and Aoife, age 5 – to understand, is that we are quite lucky. And that there are many who don't have the luxuries that we do. This is, of course, true throughout the year...but it is keenly felt at Christmas.

I've been volunteering with a church here in Amsterdam on a program called ‘Stuff the Bus.’ In the past few years they’ve ‘Stuffed the Bakfiets’ but this year we wanted to step it up a bit.


Photo credit: Hillsong Amsterdam on Instagram

We’ve partnered with The Salvation Army (who is working with underprivileged and refugees) and ACM Women’s Shelter (which helps with women caught in trafficking) for Christmas. We asked the question “What do people need?” and got a list in return – the items desired are somewhat sobering and rather practical: toiletries, deodorant, body lotion, shower gel, shampoo, make-up, underwear, socks, blankets, winter gloves, toys, and travel bags.

We've been collecting these items and will continue to do so through the Holidays.

Sandra Boyd, Territory Sales Manager:
A Child Should Never Go Hungry

For the second year, the Elastic Mountain View, California office participated in a fundraising drive for Second Harvest Food Bank. Last year we were honored to win a Gold Award for our efforts and this year we upped our goal to $2,500.

Second-Harvest-Food-Bank.jpgSecond Harvest is an organization that I have personally supported for many years both with my time and money. They believe that everyone should have access to the nutritious foods they need to live a healthy, productive life. Unfortunately, due to the high cost of living, too many people in our community are not getting enough nutritious food to eat. The Food Bank provides food to people in need where they live, learn, and work. The Bay Area is one of the most expensive areas to live and with rents soaring many families are struggling to put food on the table.

Every $1 donated creates 2 meals, and 96% of funds go directly to their programs. Also, 90% of the food they distribute is highly nutritious. I had the opportunity to tour one of their new warehouses recently which was full of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are so important for health but also difficult to afford on a limited budget. 

Some facts about Second Harvest:

  • 1 in 3 kids in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties do not have enough food to eat every single day
  • 1 in 10 people in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties rely on food from Second Harvest Food Bank every single month
  • Second Harvest Food Bank provides the equivalent of 1 million meals every week of the year
  • Nearly 40% of Second Harvest Food Bank’s clients are children
  • 95% of Second Harvest Food Bank’s expenses go directly to programs that feed our neighbors in need
  • Over half of the food Second Harvest Food Bank distributes is fresh fruits and vegetables
  • More than 90% of the food Second Harvest Food Bank distributes is highly nutritious

We’ve just passed our fundraising goal for the year; as of time of writing the generosity of our employees has provided 5,300 meals to our local community members here in the South Bay.

Samantha Alberts, User Success Manager:
‘Tis Better to Give Than Receive

The Elastic London office teamed up with the Salvation Army both in December 2015 and December 2016 for their annual Christmas Present Appeal.

Growing up, my parents did their best to instill the importance of giving rather than receiving in our family. Through my high school I got involved with the Salvation Army every year around the holidays to donate used clothing and gifts to those in need. I was happy to get involved again with Elastic after moving to London and was pleased to find colleagues who also supported their cause.

Elastic-London-Salvation-Army-Donation-2016.jpgOur team donated new, unwrapped toys and gifts for children, families, older people, and people experiencing homelessness around the holidays. In 2015 we collected 13 gifts, and with an even bigger team in 2016 we collected over 50 gifts, including a 1,000 Piece Puzzle, Wiggles Trucks, backpacks, t-shirts, warm sweaters, hats, scarves, blankets, DVDs and CDs, puppets, stuffed animals, costumes, a doctor set, cutlery, Monopoly Junior, Play Mobil sets, a Match and Spell game, British Trivia, body lotions, hygiene products, a DRONE... and so much more! The gifts were then wrapped and distributed to those in need.

Elastic has helped transform the lives of the people the Salvation Army helps and we look forward to working with similar organizations in the new year to continue give back to those less fortunate.

Megan Wieling, EMEA Marketing Coordinator:
Nail Painting with #Lakaan for Pneumonia

For those that know me, they know my love for music runs deep into my heart and soul – every summer I am attending as many festivals as possible, and while I’m working I always have a soundtrack accompanying each task I perform. This love for music is how I found out about 3FM Serious Request, which I have been supporting for several years. 

Serious Request is a weeklong initiative that occurs every year around the holidays to help raise money and awareness for various initiatives and charities. Three popular DJs from 3FM, a Dutch pop music radio station, lock themselves in a temporary studio made of glass for six days lock that is placed in a main square of a different city each year. During these six days, they don’t eat, and broadcast live radio and television 24 hours a day – playing song requests in return for donations, hosting live performances, auctioning off items from celebrities for donations, etc.

Recently, a six-year-old boy named Tijn visited the radio studio. Tijn is terminally ill and suffers from brain cancer. His life expectancy is less than one year, and this will be his last year experiencing Serious Request. Nevertheless, Tijn is very much committed to supporting this fundraiser and to raise awareness and money for children with pneumonia. 

Tijn’s challenge for the people of The Netherlands was to help raise awareness for the cause by painting their fingernails and sharing pictures of them on social media with #lakaan, which refers to both painting nails as well as not caring. In other words, even though Tijn is terminally ill himself, he doesn’t care – he wants to support Serious Request because there are children out there who don't even make it to five years old due to pneumonia.

Needless to say, the Amsterdam office couldn’t resist a chance to paint their nails and raise money for such a fantastic cause.

Elastic-Amsterdam-Lakaan-3FM Serious Request-2016.jpg

Kristina Frost (that’s me), Manager, Sales Strategy & Operations:
Toys for Tots

Like the London office, the Mountain View, California Elasticians also completed our second-annual toy drive, this year with Toys for Tots. This provided a fresh opportunity for our families to get together and provide for those who are less fortunate at this time of year. We sent two large boxes full of dozens of gifts into the San Jose center.

Everything we’ve written about so far reflects our individual drive to bring people together to do good at this and other times throughout the year. I would be remiss, however, to exclude the biggest of all of our holiday efforts: that Elastic, as a company, set aside approximately $40,000 to distribute on behalf of its employees in support of Doctors Without Borders, International Rescue Committee, Conservation International, Helen Keller International and Feeding America. These are organizations doing some of the world’s most important work, whether it be protecting people who are vulnerable, or preserving the precious resources of this beautiful blue marble that we somehow have to find a way to share in peace.

Last year, writing on behalf of all of us for the holiday season, I said this:

I think these kinds of holidays are a way to celebrate each other perhaps as much as whatever is that our particular family tradition suggests we reflect on at this and other times of the year. And our family and friends are very often the easiest people to celebrate. What I've been reflecting on this holiday season, amidst a world in which tragic events surround us and frighten us, amidst divisive rhetoric that tends to suggest people who aren't from our tribe, whatever that tribe looks like, aren't worth our time or our energy or even our charity is: how much harder it is to celebrate the people we don't know.

Perhaps 2016 made this harder; I really couldn’t say. What I will say is this: I’m prouder than ever of our commitment to keep sharing the resources we have with at-risk populations; people of all creeds and all nations, the people we know and the people we don’t. 

So I say it again, from all of us to all of you:

Thank you for believing in us and what we do here. Thank you for being a part of a community that brings this set of people together to strive and to search, in big ways, and in small.

Keep searching. Keep giving. Happy holidays.