Microsoft’s inspired new workspaces boost creativity and collaboration

An open collaboration space in Microsoft's Building 16 in Redmond, Washington.

Buildings 16 and 17 are two of the biggest at Microsoft headquarters – sturdy, brick-and-glass tributes to the practical 1980s, when the company was focused more on manifesting Bill Gates’ vision to put a computer on every desk and in every home than on the architectural prowess of its campus. Inside, however, is a different story. There is light, air and art. There are new, retooled work spaces and vibrant … Read more »

Microsoft hiring program opens more doors to people with autism

Kyle Schwaneke came to Microsoft through a unique hiring program for candidates with autism.

Kyle Schwaneke’s bank account was approaching empty. He’d been unemployed for a year and a half, since the indie game studio he’d been working for shut its doors. His parents, looking for ways to help while he job hunted, had paid the remainder of his apartment lease, but he’d reached the end of that, too. “I interviewed at a bunch of companies, but really didn’t have any luck. Sometimes, I … Read more »

How rising star Vidya Srinivasan launched her career at Microsoft

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In 2010, Vidya Srinivasan canceled Christmas. A computer science graduate student at North Carolina State University by way of Chennai, India, she had scored an unexpected internship interview with Microsoft in Seattle. “I canceled my vacation,” she said. “I reached out to all the Microsoft connections I could possibly find. I spent my Christmas with books, because I really wanted to nail that interview.” And she did. Three years into … Read more »

Inclusive design isn’t just polite – it’s also good business, says devices exec Christina Chen

Sometimes, serving others can be a wonderfully self-serving experience. Take Christina Chen, a fast-rising star at Microsoft who was recently named by Business Insider as one of the “most powerful women engineers in the world.” She began her “education” young, working in her parents’ restaurant, where she first formed the customer-centric mindset that has taken her from appetizers to app development. “I started out cleaning tables,” she said recently, discussing … Read more »

Explore Hugh MacLeod’s illustrated guide to life inside Microsoft

Hugh MacLeod in Seattle, Washington

Drawing for me is a way of processing thoughts,” said cartoonist Hugh MacLeod. “I use lines to join the dots in my mind.” Those dots he refers to cut to the core of office environments. They help capture, within a drawing, the essence of a company’s aspirations. It’s “motivational art that doesn’t suck,” or so says his company’s website. Prescriptive and inspiring is what pops into my head. You kind … Read more »

Smash tests, fire suits and indoor tornados: How UL’s controlled mayhem makes the world safer

Bob Jamieson in UL's “rain room,” where waterproof products are tested.

The Muppets have Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and UL has John Drengenberg. “Never put foil in a microwave,” Drengenberg said as he picked up a large, crumpled section of tinfoil and placed it in a white microwave. He set the timer for five minutes and hit start, triggering an impressive light show and sci-fi sound effects that made my fillings tingle. Still, my inner eighth grader leaned forward, wide-eyed. Looking up from … Read more »

The ultimate wingmen: A day in the life of four Microsoft administrative professionals

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They eat chaos for breakfast. They routinely make the impossible possible. They are the steely scaffolding of companies the world over, including Microsoft. They’re the ultimate wingmen. They’re … administrative assistants. “People don’t realize what all admins do. So much of it goes on behind the scenes, which is as it should be,” said Scott Roberts, executive assistant to Microsoft marketing executive Allison Watson. “The thing is, if people don’t … Read more »

Meet four people helping to design the future of Microsoft

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Behind the idea for any new piece of technology is a question: How do designers at the front end translate hunks of metal, plastic, wires, pixels and bits into a new human experience? Microsoft’s designers approach their products from their own unique angles: Kat Holmes (who is featured in the latest episode of the podcast “Next at Microsoft”) takes her fascination with messy, complicated love stories to Microsoft’s Cortana personal … Read more »

National Geographic’s Stephen Alvarez is taking smartphone photography to the next level

Stephen Alvarez on a recent photo expedition to Big Four Ice Caves in Washington state.

Here’s a very abbreviated history of photography. The oldest surviving photograph dates back to 1826 and was created by French inventor Nicéphore Niépce. A colleague of Niépce, Louis Daguerre, refined the chemical process of photography, making it more widely accessible. George Eastman made the first truly portable camera, called the “Kodak,” in 1888; in 1948, Edwin Land introduced the Polaroid Model 95, which combined portability and instant photography. From there, … Read more »

The smartest AI in the universe is more human than you think

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I’ll be the first to admit it. Cortana intimidates me. “Hi Cortana,” I begin, attempting to strike up a conversation. Her spinning blue orb dilates and contracts like a pupil. “Oh, hi,” she responds. She seems glad to hear from me. “What do you look like, Cortana?” It’s a silly question, and she calls me on it. “I’m a circle now, but I have ambitions,” she says with a hint … Read more »