We have a lot of work to do in the tech industry to create inclusive work environments at scale. Far too many talented people avoid choosing or decide to leave roles in tech because their team culture doesn’t value their background which results in them feeling unwelcomed or excluded. Strong research suggests that those who have exposure to strategies for overcoming obstacles, navigating conflict and creating inclusive environments improves the effectiveness of students, employees, mentors and leaders.
When we think about the culture we aim to cultivate at Microsoft, we want to create an environment where employees feel they can thrive. Our outlook is informed by a growth mindset, fostering inclusion and diversity, and making a difference which manifests in the way we show up at work every day. These foundational elements inform how we build teams and interact with our colleagues, how we create products and how we work with our customers and partners to help them achieve their goals. It also informs our own career progression – they inspire us each day as we aim to empower others to achieve more.
Today we’re excited to announce the Growth and Resilience in Tech toolkit, which includes nine new learn modules available for free on Microsoft Learn to help anyone in tech, from student to employee, mentor or manager, hone these important non-tech skills and foster a more inclusive and diverse workplace.
In 2020 we launched this curriculum as a pilot and were able to connect with over1,200 students across 190 universities, 97% of whom declared this had a profound impact teaching them skills they can immediately apply in school and life. To develop this curriculum, we partnered closely with Mount Holyoke’s Metaview Mentors to build a research-based toolkit involving core psychological, educational and team-based concepts and skills as part of a different kind of “learning pathway” for the tech industry.
Our goals are to help to usher in a new and diverse generation with the technical and resilience skills needed to have great impact in the world. We aim to build a more inclusive future by fostering confidence, resilience and a sense of belonging across industries. Our approach outlines clear and simple skills to making belongingness, growth mindset and other core problem-solving and collaboration strategies top of mind and actionable. Our toolkit consists of videos, activities and reflection questions.
In addition to students and universities, we piloted the program here at Microsoft and learned from our own employees how it helped them in their day-to-day environment. This led us to evolving the curricula for scale. Our employees have found the materials helpful in their own learning and development, especially in a group-learning context like a mentoring ring which helps to develop a common language and creates an environment to share strategies. We’ve found that revisiting these concepts prepared employees to maximize their impact at many different levels. This can play out when encountering a difficult bug or at a higher-stakes level, or when navigating a difficult conversation around roles and responsibilities in a team project.
These modules are organized across three principles:
- Recognize discomfort: In tech, we are lifelong learnings and are always going to be pushed to learn something new. We all have felt out of our comfort zone, whether it’s learning a new tool, asking an expert for help on a program, working closely on a team with people we just met or pitching an idea. Programming requires learning; it’s not an innate skill. Struggle, challenge and discomfort can be part of learning computer science. Even the most experienced professionals at Microsoft make mistakes or hit writing blocks. Great programmers are made through practice and experience.
- Strategize solutions: Have you ever been presented with a challenge and felt like you didn’t even know where to start? Strategic problem-solving abilities to plan, iteratively test, evaluate and refine work are necessary for group or individual projects. How we approach something can be as important as the final solution. This process includes awareness of our emotional state as well as management or regulation of emotional reactions. Simply put, technical skills aren’t enough. We often devote inordinate hours to learning how to use and create with technology, but relatively few hours on our emotions. Making space to recognize and strategize around the role emotions play is essential for succeeding in computer science and at work.
- Pivot & Persist: Have you ever felt like you’re at a breaking point? Unexpected challenges arise every day, and these can sometimes push us to the edge. Sometimes we might have a plan ready to go, and then something goes wrong. At times this can lead us to feel like giving up. Learning how to react to and recover from unexpected disruptions or setbacks is an important ability to hone. Understanding and naming what is happening, disentangling what we do and do not have control over, and regrouping with new strategies helps improve persistence and the ability to bounce back or pivot, rather than panic, in the face of difficulty. We can learn to pivot a difficult situation into a productive one.
These skills can be used to challenge our conceptions of what’s taught in computer science, learn new and critical skills for the workplace, and build flourishing and healthy communities. Culture cannot be created with platitudes – it’s made up of the lived experiences of the individuals in a community and will continue to evolve as we learn through experience. Check out the video and modules on MS Learn today!