Socious extended the Tech4Good Changemaker Scholarship to Samuel Wolf! We will be supporting his full-time Web Development bootcamp at Le Wagon this Summer so that he can learn to code and apply these skills to solve social/environmental problems. To know more about his journey, we interviewed Sam.
Could you tell us about yourself?
Sure thing! When people ask me where I’m from I get the impression they expect a single word answer. It’s a little more complicated in my case. My father is German and my mother is American. Though I was born in Germany and am a German citizen, I’ve spent very little time in my country of birth. Instead, my father’s work in sustainable development took us abroad to Brasilia, Brazil.
So, from a very young age, I was exposed to a multitude of languages and cultures.
In fact, my first language was German, then Portuguese, and finally English. My English was so behind that I was moved to a bilingual school. At the age of 11, my family moved once again to Washington, DC where I would spend most of my middle and high school years. It was during this time that English became my primary language, and though I still retain my Portuguese and some German, they are not as they once were. I excelled in high school Spanish due to its similarities with Portuguese, and though I am still learning Japanese, I hope proficiency in languages can guide me. My final move with my family would again be to Brazil, where I would have the chance to reconnect with the language and culture of my childhood.
Though these transitions were at times tough, I always had my family. Our dinner table conversations were scarcely light in nature. My father would enlighten us about the evolutions of his projects in sustainable development. We listened as he shared how his work was reducing poverty, halting deforestation, and maintaining biodiversity. In short, he was saving the world. I was and continue to be inspired by my father’s convictions. Like him, I want to have a lasting and global positive impact.
Could you tell us about your career?
I have had a somewhat unorthodox career path so far. I graduated with a bachelor’s in biology from Kenyon College, a liberal arts college in Ohio. As a student, I worked for my alma mater’s sustainability office, the Office of Green Initiatives, creating and implementing projects to meet Kenyon’s 2040 goal of carbon neutrality. During this time, I received an opportunity to direct my passion for public health via work with EduCARE, an Indian NGO through which I organized a free health clinic in an underserved rural community. After graduating with a bachelor’s in biology from Kenyon College, I was unsure of how to continue my young career. I always knew that I wanted to make a difference but I knew neither how to create nor where to apply said change. However, I did want to emulate the ‘good work’ I saw in the sphere of international development in which I was raised in. Peace Corps stood out as an opportunity to simultaneously take a grassroots approach and integrate with the communities we were serving. I was assigned to rural Guatemala, where I began my training in Spanish and agriculture. Unfortunately, the global pandemic disrupted what was to be a 27-month commitment. Fortunately, I was able to bounce back soon afterward. I leveraged my background in STEM to secure a role teaching middle school science. Through this experience, I became more cognizant of how much impact teachers have on childhood development. The experience made me recognize the influence my own teachers had on my life. This experience guided me to my current position with the JET Program, where I impact the lives of Japanese students teaching English.
What motivated you to work in the impact sector?
Growing up abroad in a family where the existential issues of our time were casual dinner table conversation molded my understanding of what was a worthwhile pursuit. We spoke about deforestation over tea and aquifer depletion during lunch. I was taught to think about the big problems before I even reached high school. Ingrained with a sense of purpose, and knowing that our jobs are where we invest the majority of our waking adult lives, working in the impact sector is in line with my identity. Unlike monetary resources, we all possess time in equal amounts. The 24 hours in all of our days can be used for good or for ill, and I intend to utilize my resources to leave the world in a better state than I found it.
Why did you decide to join a coding bootcamp?
The impact sector has a need for professionals with hard skills. Not only is the world increasingly reliant on code, but software has become exponentially more powerful. There are an unlimited number of opportunities one can create with the right team with the right set of skills. The Internet is here to stay and all industries are moving to adapt to the new model of doing business that came with it. LeWagon provides a focused learning environment where one can ask questions from experts and fellow students. I am someone who enjoys collaborative work and knowing that I am part of a community will help me through the tougher days of the course. I am someone who likes to understand concepts thoroughly before moving on, so having a pace to follow will be invaluable for keeping me on track. I also appreciate that LeWagon hosts a demo day, which forces students to practice their presentation skills and their ability to speak intelligently about code. Though there are many resources online, LeWagon will help me put my best foot forward when moving into my new career.
What are your career goals?
Aside from work, what keeps you busy, and what do you enjoy doing?
I am an avid hiker and explorer. I enjoy seeing the world on my own two feet. In summer 2021, I hiked across Spain on the ancient Camino de Santiago. It was an arduous one-month journey, but one where I met many interesting people and gained a great deal of insight. I enjoy learning about different cultures and learning different languages, so I am currently teaching myself Japanese. In the spirit of perennial learning, I enjoy reading nonfiction and history, so that I might better understand our world and its needs.