Hello, Chicago

 |   Adam J. Hecktman

When I started my career at Microsoft in 1991, I was struck by two things: the passion of our people for the work that we do for technology, and the passion of our people for their Chicago community.  In 2014, this dynamic has not changed.  Our company was founded on the optimistic belief of the empowering potential of technology. That remains our belief to this day.  And our 500+ Chicago employees also remain a united community of passionate activists, who work together to make the city we love a better place.

That’s why today I’m pleased to announce the formation of a Microsoft Technology & Civic Engagement team here in Chicago.   The vision for this team is to bring Microsoft’s best assets and thought leadership to help civic leaders – and the Chicago community – use technology and the cutting edge ideas to solve our biggest challenges.

What We Do

This team is in it for the long term. We are committed to building deep local partnerships with organizations that are cornerstones of finding and building solutions around Chicago’s most pressing challenges. We are going to be part of the conversations that impact economic development, education, innovation and research in Chicago. Chicago is fortunate to have a great number of civic leaders and citizens who are interested in the same issues. We will learn as much as we can from those channels, and do our best to contribute our ideas on solving those challenges as well.

Let’s look at the civic landscape in Chicago. We have economic engines like World Business Chicago, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, and LISC; we have innovation and research centers of excellence like 1871, TechStars, The Chicago Idea Exchange, and our great universities; we have partners in STEM like the Chicago Public Schools, the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition, and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.   Add to this Chicago’s Civic Tech community (CodeForAmerica, Impact Engine, Blue 1647, etc.), our museums, our libraries—the list goes on, and this is just scratching the surface.

We have an opportunity to build and expand on the work done by this great community of civic engagers in Chicago, along with the rest of the Microsoft Chicago team.  We will bring people together, listen, collaborate, and explore the issues together. And we will feed what we learn back to others at Microsoft, who are looking at ways to leverage technology to address urban issues.

Who we are


This team is currently led by two Microsoft veterans. I am Adam Hecktman (@AdamHecktman). I am a life long Chicagoan and Microsoft’s Director of Technology & Civic Engagement.  I’m passionate about technology and even more passionate about my hometown, Chicago. I am so thrilled to be able to bring these two passions together as the core of my job. I have been with Microsoft for a little over 22 years, most recently as the Director of the Microsoft Technology Center Chicago.


Shelley Stern Grach (@ShelleyStern) is the Director for Civic Engagement.  She has been with Microsoft for 12 years, and most recently has led our Citizenship strategy and activities for the 16 states that form Microsoft’s Central Region.  Now, she gets to put her focus on her hometown of Chicago.  She will be working at the intersection of computing and community, promoting STEM programs and using technology to spur growth in the area’s youth, education and entrepreneurial communities.

chicago-shelley-large-finalIn addition to her roles as a board member for the Women’s Business Development Center, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, she’s also a Commissioner for the State of Illinois Workforce Board.  I can’t think of a better or more energetic partner in this endeavor.

We are very much looking forward to the dialogue. Already we have been inspired by the groups in Chicago who are as obsessive as we are about taking on big city challenges with big ideas, and leading edge technology. Join us by following and tweeting us at @MSFTChicago.

Adam J. Hecktman
Adam J. Hecktman

You may recognize Adam. He’s a regular on TV, you can hear him on the radio, he’s penned numerous articles and is the co-founder of the Chicago City Data Users Group. But some of Adam’s most important work is done behind the scenes in his role as Microsoft’s Director of Technology and Civic Engagement for Chicago. Tech giants, universities and government leaders turn to Adam for guidance on all matters technology, and he happily obliges, helping Chicago overcome challenges and capitalizing on new, exciting opportunities.