Where are you studying?
I am currently in 3rd year, pursuing my masters in Digital Media Art from San Jose State University.
What were your main duties as a Microsoft fellow?
My main duties were two-fold, one working with the teams internally at Microsoft wherein I developed user-friendly design template library for the internal civic tech team, helped organize multiple events and document them through digital videography and photography. Secondly, I was responsible for external outreach to the bigger silicon valley community by volunteering as mentor and facilitators at multiple events like hackathons and meetups. I also worked with an incredible local meetup brigade called Code for San Jose on several projects to solve civic issues of the community. In a gist, my fellowship at Microsoft enabled me to apply design, art and technology, which are my fields of specialization, in the real world through a very different lens.
What has been your favorite project with the Technology and Civic Engagement Team?
Working with the enthusiastic teams of Code for San Jose on several projects has been a wonderful experience. One of my favorite project was to lead a user testing session for “Mobility Map“. The website was developed by one of the teams of Code for San Jose and had won third place in VTA hackathon. The user testing session helped us identify user’s pain points and key issues in the information architecture.
The reason that it was very special because it helped us provide a model for the cohort where the members not only developed new products but also tested and iterated throughout the process. This was the first user research session at Code for San Jose and was a great success that laid path to create a viable and user-friendly product.
Where is civic tech taking you next?
My experience at Microsoft made me understand the potential of technology, collaboration, and innovation for the great benefit of the civic ecosystem. I want to continue playing a catalyst role in developing this ecosystem in the following ways. First, I continue to work with Code for San Jose to develop Open-311 application. The app will empower the citizens of San Jose to easily report public issues that can be followed-up and fixed by the city government.
Second, I am working as Student Associate Director to organize a large-scale prototyping competition at San Jose State University called the “Paseo Rapid Prototyping Challenge & Festival”. The aim is to inspire students to use “tech for good” to make San Jose an incredible place to live, work and play.
Third, I am working on a collaborative art project called “Migratory Cultures ”. It is a series of outdoor video projection mapping events in the Bay Area and India that includes portraits of numerous powerful immigration stories from 14 countries. While technology has the power to create solutions, art has the power to connect people. This art project communicates our shared global commons and the differences as well as universality of human movement and experience with a wide range of audience.
What advice do you have for future fellows?
One of the amazing parts of my fellowship was the wide and inspiring genre of people I met and connected with throughout the year, from government officials, data miners, technologists, policy makers to community workers. These interactions expanded the meaning and my understanding of civic technology to a whole new level. It also opened up additional avenues for me to contribute creatively and meaningfully. My advice will be to make use of every little opportunity, every connection, every technology, every mentor and every event while you are there. You should also remind yourself about your specific area of interest and expertise and align it with the vast expanse of resources available during the fellowship.