adesso Blog

There are several posts that explore ways your day-to-day IT work can benefit from the activities you do away from the job in the adesso blog. Our colleague Sven Sethmann’s blog post titled ‘A passion for software testing – drawing lessons from competitive sport’ inspired us to report on our own personal experiences.

Volunteering is an important pillar of our society. There are over 16 million people in Germany alone who perform volunteer work. There is growing support available from the federal and state governments, taking the form of an increase in the tax exemption granted for volunteer work and volunteer instructors.

As we see it, volunteering cultivates skills that can also come in handy in software development and IT consulting. Especially in the context of agile approaches and frameworks, you can develop a variety of soft skills by doing volunteer work that can also be put to use in your everyday work.

Here are other examples of where volunteer work can help undergird agile principles and methods:

Iterative approach and continuous improvement

Volunteer projects are well suited for breaking down large packages into smaller units in order to make small, incremental improvements all the time. This is similar to the SCRUM sprint concept, in which improvements are regularly made to product and processes. To give an example, volunteers can take an iterative approach to organising events, meaning they can learn from past experiences and use retrospectives to optimise processes.

Collaboration and teamwork

Volunteer initiatives often require people with different talents and interests to work together. This fosters the skills needed to work effectively in a team, which is a key aspect of agile development methods such as SCRUM. For example, organising a charity event requires that you coordinate with marketing experts, event technicians and volunteers. Having to work with people with such a way array of skills is similar to the situation one would find in an agile development team, which is ideally able to work on complex tasks in a self-organised and holistic way.

Flexibility and adaptability

Volunteer work is often accompanied by unforeseen challenges that require you to adapt the approach on the fly. This exemplifies the agile mentality of being able to react quickly to change. When carrying out a project such as an environmental protection programme during flu season, volunteers need to be flexible and be able to fill in for others in the event someone cannot come because they are ill.

Customer orientation and added value

Many volunteer projects seek to deliver real benefits to the community or a specific target group, a concept similar to customer orientation in agile methods, where the aim is provide tangible benefits to customers. Here is an example: volunteers develop an educational platform that focuses on the needs of the users, similar to the approach taken in agile software development.

Feedback culture and a willingness to learn

Feedback in volunteer projects is gathered from the community or from other volunteers. This promotes a culture of continuous improvement along with a willingness to learn, which is a fundamental aspect of the agile principles. Taking feedback on board in order to optimise a course programme is one possible manifestation of this.

Reflection and self-development

Volunteering gives you the space you need for personal reflection and self-development. Similar to the agile principle of retrospective, where teams reflect on their work, volunteers can draw on their experiences to analyse and improve their skills. Reflecting on your role in educational projects allows you to see where your strengths and weaknesses are and work to improve in areas where you are weak.

There are many ways to learn from volunteer work and apply this newly acquired knowledge to the agile principles practised at work each day. Developing one’s ability to reflect and create value is a crucial skill to build on that can contribute to one’s personal growth.

Practical example – WAGO

We would like to present a few practical examples where the characters involved have the opportunity to adapt and change.

Johannes served as a youth leader in the Catholic Rural Youth Movement for over a decade. Time was set aside for reflection after each group session, where the focus was on working together in an atmosphere based in respect. This made it possible to continuously adapt and improve the programme. The young members learnt to be considerate and compromise by working with different type of people with different personalities.

These experiences were taken on board in the SCRUM review carried out at his work. The agile principle was put into practice within the team, working under the ‘assumption that other people do their job well and are experts in their relevant field’. Having trust in and showing appreciation for each other means that fellow members of the team are not micro-managed, which often stifles innovation, reduces creativity and lowers morale. Johannes also put this into practice in his dealings with his team colleagues.

Tobias is an instructor specialising in media studies who has set up a new department at a sports association. He attended a number of courses and took part in advanced training focused on sports to gain the certification he needed. These focused on teamwork, dedication and how to develop a large network.

One of the principles set out in the agile manifesto is ‘technical excellence is our primary motivation’. It is also put into practice in the sports programme, too. The instructor could only offer the children under his care something of value if he was constantly working to build up new knowledge and skills. Other agile principles included ‘interaction is more important than tools and processes’ and ‘reacting to change is more important than following a plan’. The training plan had to offer enough flexibility to meet the needs of the individual groups of pupils. Here, too, it was not always possible to make everyone happy. The children were offered one-on-one instruction if they needed it. Transparency and validation have led to greater acceptance for the rules, also in the case of employee transfers in the professional context, for example.

Johannes served as a mentor for Tobias when he joined adesso as a new employee. He followed best practices at the company to make it possible for Tobias to get off to a smooth start and was also available as a contact after the training period had come to an end. Tobias quickly realised that both of them shared similar experiences from their voluntary work and also put this into practice in their day-to-day work.

Ways to support voluntary work

There are various ways to promote voluntary work. While earning extra money on the side should not be the primary goal, the volunteer should not have to shoulder the costs associated with the work they do themselves.

To make life easier for them, there is a tax exemption for voluntary work of up to €840 euros per year and for volunteer instructors of up to €3,000 per year, to give two well-known examples. Associations and other institutions also offer tax-free perks such as product vouchers, travel allowances as well as birthday and anniversary gifts.

In Bavaria, it is possible to take an unpaid leave of absence and have any loss of pre-tax income fully reimbursed by the Bavarian Youth Council. This is possible for up to 11 days per year and up to a predefined maximum per diem rate. It is available in connection with training and educational programmes associated with youth outreach and other similar activities. This can be a win-win situation for the employee and the employer alike, provided the project work allows for this. The employee can improve his or her social skills and support youth activities, while there is no additional costs for the employer beyond the administrative work involved here.

A heartfelt thank you to all volunteers

We would like to thank everyone who volunteers. And if you would also be interested in getting involved, there are a number of ways you can volunteer your time and a number of areas where your help is needed.

If you are curious to find out more about how volunteering has helped us in our work, feel free to get in touch. You can reach us by e-mail at and

Would you like to learn more about exciting topics from the adesso world? Then take a look at our latest blog posts.

Also interesting

Picture Tobias Kirsch

Author Tobias Kirsch

Tobias Kirsch is a Senior Software Engineer and has been with adesso since April 2023. After many years in IT, including as a developer, his passion is test automation in all its forms. He enjoys the cross-sectional tasks related to neighbouring disciplines such as test management and development.

Picture Johannes Bayerl

Author Johannes Bayerl

Johannes Bayerl is a Senior Software Engineer and has been with adesso since July 2021. In his long IT career, he has been able to familiarise himself with various programming languages and frameworks. His current focus is on backend engineering in a hybrid project.

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