January 2016

6 Steps to Ensuring a Culture of Compliance

More than ever before it’s critical for all organizations – private sector, public sector, non-profits, NGOs – to ensure that they and their employees are always acting in a highly ethical fashion and in compliance with applicable law. In this article that appeared in Bloomberg BNA’s Big Law Business Community earlier this month, Microsoft Assistant General Counsel Dennis Garcia outlines some steps that all organizations can take to develop and embrace a “culture of compliance: 6 Steps to Ensuring a Culture of Compliance


Recap: Grand Opening of UChicago’s Community Programs Accelerator


Raamel Mitchell (center), public affairs and citizenship director at Microsoft, and Derek Douglas (right), vice president for civic engagement, chat with Kelly Fair of Polished Pebbles. Photo by Robert Kozloff / UChicago.

As part of Microsoft’s mission to empower the world to achieve more, we connect with local programs in our community utilizing digital resources for good. Our Microsoft Digital Alliances help pair technologies with bright minds to empower people through education, opportunities, and growth.

Last week, we were lucky to grow our Digital Alliance through the announcement of a new partnership with the University of Chicago’s Community Programs Accelerator. Through this connection, we are helping the University of Chicago bring technological and economic resources to their direct and local communities.

Missed out on the announcement? Catch up with our recap — told below in tweets:

Big Shoulders: Billy Banks, Associate Director of The Garage at Northwestern University

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Academic accelerators are the next big thing and Northwestern University is jumping on the band wagon with the creation of The Garage. In Adam Hecktman’s latest Big Shoulders, Billy Banks, Associate Director of The Garage at Northwestern University, discusses this venture in inspiring students and professors to explore entrepreneurship.

Watch Adam’s talk with Billy Banks live on Advisor.TV.


CPS Needs you this Summer


<strong>“I am more advanced in my coding skills and my ability to comprehend new programming languages. With my new skills, I’ve competed in two hackathons and won first place in both.” </strong> – Damien Medina, Lake View High School, interned with Chicagoland Workforce Funder’s Alliance

It’s not about one internship. It’s about the future one internship can change.

Early-CollegeYour partnership and commitment to STEM learning in Chicago contributed to nearly 100 Chicago Public School students gaining significant project experience in IT-focused jobs through summer internships last year. As a result, many students reported significant growth in their problem solving, communication and collaboration skills. In addition, several students have since taken on advanced leadership positions within their schools, and some were even offered part-time jobs from their internship providers. Likewise, internship providers reported significant gains from the work interns performed, as well as the positive impacts interns had on overall workplace environments. These student-produced videos show how internships are truly a win-win partnership for students and companies, alike.

Now in our second year, we are happy to announce some changes that will make the program even better for the summer. This year we are adding the following:

  • Expanded candidate pool- includes graduating seniors as well as juniors
  • Strengthened interview process
  • New and improved student programming and networking skills assessments
  • Customized student preparation workshops
  • Comprehensive orientation webinar for providers

We believe these additions will greatly enhance student and provider experiences. With that said, we would love to have you partner with us again this summer and join our ever-growing movement to provide students with unique opportunities – and a network of our city’s leading organizations who care about our youth. Please respond below if your organization is interested in offering a 2016 summer internship opportunity. Thank you for your partnership.

Sign me up for 2016

Early College STEM School website

Fellow Profile: Kevin Wei

Kevin Wei_FellowWhere are you from? Chicago suburbs of Naperville, fondly referred to as NaperThrill

School/grade/major: University of Chicago / 3rd year / Economics and Public Policy.

Last thing you searched on Bing: AMPK mTOR muscle hypertrophy

Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program? I’ve always valued learning/working with different perspectives; every new point of view is a new door that can lead to better problem solving. To me, Microsoft’s fellowship has a similar philosophy that offered me the opportunity to examine and improve ordinary civic solutions with an integrated approach from different communities.

As a Civic Tech Fellow, I get to interact and bring together every ‘sphere’ imaginable, from private companies, non-profits, governments, academia, activists, etc. Collaboration is a core ideal of what we do at Microsoft, and with the ever-increasing influence of technology in our world, the stakes only get higher. With everyone working toward the same goal of solving common civics issues, we can coherently work toward a greater good through tech.

What’s your earliest memory of using technology to help others? As a 5 year old, I showed my friend how to check out a library book through the computer without the help of a school librarian. I afterwards got yelled at because according to the librarian, my independent learning was equated to ‘threatening to take down the school’s computer system’. It was a traumatizing experience that spurred me to continue my technology trouble-making today.

Who is your civic tech mentor? Shout out to Erin Simpson, who’s currently at Civic Hall and has always been an inspiration for me to work in civic tech. I’ve always been a techie and involved with politics/policy, but Erin gave me an opportunity to combine both of these passions by introducing me to TechTeam, a student group affiliated with The University of Chicago Institute of Politics. TechTeam is a Student Civic Engagement project that provides local Chicago organizations (non-profits, advocacy groups, etc.) technical infrastructure, ranging from digital strategy to website design, always free of charge.. As one of the co-founders, Erin saw the potential in compiling passionate students that and channeled that energy to help organizations that do amazing work. Learning from like-minded students who genuinely wanted to change the world through tech was an incredibly rewarding experience, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without Erin. She’s really helped me in both my personal and professional development, and there’s no doubt that she’s the ‘next big thing’ (and basically already is).

What excites you about civic tech? People still refer to education as the ‘great equalizer’, making opportunities for people regardless of social status or class. Education is undoubtedly important, but I think our world has evolved to the point that it has expanded to include how to use technology in our daily lives. But in Chicago, around 40% of its citizens don’t have consistent internet access; that’s an enormous population that lacks access to opportunities for success and innovation. Soon, technical literacy won’t be a privilege, but an expectation, and I’m excited to be part of the civic tech movement which is fighting for eliminating such disparities.

What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities? Creating communities that are connected by thoughts and ideas and aren’t separated by physical boundaries. Cities like Chicago have an incredible amount of neighborhood diversity, and if we can somehow bring those different perspectives together, civic tech can improve the conventional ideals of what civic engagement really means for all citizens.

Big Shoulders: Kara Zucker, National Program Director for Moneythink

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Literacy is a large topic in America. Usually when we talk about literacy we refer to technological and literary literacy, but what about financial? It’s never too early to teach our children about the responsibility of money and finances. Known as the “Instagram of money,” the Moneythink app is really changing the way kids think about their money.

Watch as Adam Hecktman interviews Kara Zucker, National Program Director for Moneythink, live on Advisor.TV.


Microsoft, University of Chicago form Digital Alliance

Microsoft has a pretty big mission: To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. One of the ways we are working to accomplish this mission is through Microsoft Digital Alliances. Microsoft Digital Alliances bring together an array of programs that empower people, promote a better education, inspire youth to imagine opportunities, and help citizens find a job or start their own business.

Yesterday we announced our newest Digital Alliance — with the Community Programs Accelerator at the University of Chicago. This alliance will help the University of Chicago drive economic development and bring new resources to the academic and local community. The goal of the alliance is to support technology education, economic development and entrepreneurship among the University of Chicago and local communities.

“Technology has long been a catalyst for unleashing local economic competitiveness and extending opportunity for all,” said Raamel Mitchel, Central Region citizenship lead at Microsoft. “This Digital Alliance will help the University of Chicago and its nonprofit partners offer new technology programs, educational resources, and skills training to students, educators, small businesses and local residents.”

The alliance will comprise a number of Microsoft initiatives that support technological advancement for students, educators, professionals, local businesses, tech startups and more. One of the initiatives we’re implementing right away is a series of digital literacy workshops — the first of which will take place today to kick off the alliance.

“In today’s classrooms and job market, digital literacy skills are a must, and Microsoft is committed to helping bridge the technological gap in our communities,” said Sherlaender Phillips, Midwest District general manager at Microsoft. “This alliance will help the University of Chicago extend its programs to have an even greater impact with our neighbors.”

“Through the Community Programs Accelerator, the University supports the development and success of nonprofit organizations that serve communities on the South Side of Chicago,” said Derek Douglas, Vice President for Civic Engagement at the University of Chicago. “The Microsoft Digital Alliance adds to the range of resources we are able to provide to our surrounding communities and the University community.”

Techstars Mobility–bridging the automotive & startup cultures of Detroit

As part of our ongoing focus on the innovative people and civic technology initiatives in Detroit, we look for people who are influential and making a difference in the local technology and startup community. It seems like the “yellow brick road” repeatedly leads to Ted Serbinski and Techstars Mobility. Ted’s bio is below, but suffice it to say that that he is a major catalyst and cheerleader for Detroit and we are thrilled to have him as a guest at Microsoft-Chicago.com.

Our Microsoft Detroit team has enjoyed working with Ted and Techstars. We’ve provided volunteers to help mentor the Techstar Mobility startups in Detroit last year. This included 1:1 discussions, needs analysis and  providing technical guidance and ideas.  A great example of working together is how one of the startups used Bing Ads (calling it his “secret sauce” since the ROI was so much better). Jennifer Marsman, our Technology Evangelist, had this company featured in a Bing Ads case study: http://advertise.bingads.microsoft.com/en-us/motoroso-customer-stories. Jennifer and Drew Costakis, our Director of Solutions Sales and the Microsoft Technology Center in Southfield, both supported Techstar’s final demo day, as well as support the BizSpark program with Techstars.

We hope that by spotlighting innovation in Detroit in the startup and civic tech arenas, we will help accelerate business growth and economic development. We’d love to hear your comments about others in Detroit who are making a big difference.

— Shelley Stern Grach

I’m excited to announce that we’ve opened applications for the 2016 class of Techstars Mobility. You can apply online by going to techstars.com/apply. Applications are open through March 20.

Click here to watch this video for a great overview of the program.

Live from CES 2016

To kickoff the 2016 program, I’m at CES and it’s pretty clear the entire industry is talking about the future of mobility and connected car solutions. Techstars Mobility’s title sponsor, Ford, kicked off CES yesterday with a keynote from CEO, Mark Fields.

“In 2016 Ford will become a mobility company, not just an auto manufacturer” said CEO Mark Fields. Fields pointed to Techstars Mobility as a key part of their strategy.


For full coverage on all of Ford’s other mobility announcements check out this article on CNET. You can also check out the full Ford press release announced Techstars Mobility 2016 here.

What is Techstars Mobility?

Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, focuses on the rapidly changing mobility and transportation industry. We’ve partnered with 8 leading mobility corporations including Ford, Verizon, Manga, Dana, Honda, McDonald’s, Munich Re and Michelin.

We look for software, hardware, and advanced materials businesses across all stages of development — pre-seed, seed, Series A and later. Because of the 8 corporate partnerships, no startup is “too far along” to see a huge benefit from participation in the program.

We define mobility as technologies that power the efficient movement of people, goods and services across all modes of transportation. We look for startups that not only fit this thesis but also align across innovation themes including: connected car, trucking and multi-modal transportation solutions across connectivity, mobility, autonomy, customer experience, big data, safety and security.

Techstars is committed to operating this program in Detroit, operating at the intersection of Detroit’s automotive dominance and its entrepreneurial resurgence.


2016 Program Key Dates

  • Jan 5 – Applications Open
  • Feb 16 – Early Application Deadline
  • Mar 11 – 13 – Early Application Interviews at SXSW
  • Mar 20 – Applications Close
  • May 3 – 4 – Final Interviews
  • May 8 – Notification of Selection
  • Jun 13 – Program Starts
  • Sep 8 – Demo day

2016 Recruiting Event Tour Dates

2016 Webinars

Getting To Know Chicago Through Open Grid

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City government open data portals go a long way to providing transparency, accountability, and the foundation for civic technologists and community organizers alike to tackle challenges in the urban environment. If city data portals provide vehicle for that data transparency, Open Grid provides the vehicle for the true democratization of the data and the analysis lit up by that data.

There is nothing wrong with city data portals. These portals provide lists of data sets that government entities have made available to the public to download and use as they will. Data portals are great when you have a clear picture of the problem you want to solve, you know what data you need to solve it, and you are comfortable using a data portal.   Open Grid is great for those users too, plus everyone else.

Open Grid is an open source platform that allows residents to look at a map of the city, draw a space or drop a pin around an area, and find out what is going on in that geography by adding data maintained by the city. It is a tool meant for the masses, in that will allow the public to navigate Chicago’s open data in a very intuitive way.

As an example, if you want to know what construction is going on in your neighborhood, drop a point on the map, give it a radius, and add the building permits data. Want to know what the weather will be like when that construction starts? Overlay the weather map on top of it. Want to know what the city government has done for you lately? You can see the closed 311 requests around your neighborhood. As City of Chicago CIO Brenna Berman said, “Open Grid lets residents of Chicago know their community deeply”.

Why is the city undertaking this? It is about taking civic engagement to a whole new level. By creating a user interface that makes it easy for the casual web user to see what is going on in their neighborhood, their business place, or the entire city in an easy way, data visualization and analysis is being opened up to the non-technical resident and business owner.   According to Dan O’Neil, Executive Director of Smart Chicago Collaborative (who is hosting the site), “it is about creating a common understanding to make important decisions…this is not about technology. It is about technology having real impact for real people”.

Chicago Chief Data Officer Tom Schenk, Jr. also stresses the everyday user. “Open Grid allows residents to do more with Chicago’s data”, he noted while launching the product at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Electronic Visualization Laboratory:

Open Grid is being positioned as a tool to facilitate collaboration between city government and citizens. Beyond that, the development of the product itself was a collaboration. Dan O’Neil called it a “communion between residents, developers, and government”. In addition to Smart Chicago Collaborative, the city partnered with Argonne National Labs, the University of Chicago, the folks on the Plenar.io project, and Chicago-based U Turn Data Solutions (who I met for the first time at the launch). They also leveraged some funding from the Mayor’s Challenge from the Bloomberg foundation.

The city is not waiting for perfection to roll this out. It is live with a good number of data sets available for residents to explore. Similarly, the city is not waiting to get opinions and contributed thought power. Tom Schenk is presenting it tonight to Chicago’s civic tech community at Chi Hack Night, and has already started getting feedback from of that community on Slack. Being an open source project, it can be leveraged by cities around the country. This is the beginning of something big. Something collaborative.

The STEM Challenge is “Coming of age” at Lake View High School

R&D STEM Learning Exchange Challenges

A 2016 series on innovative programs that help STEM/STEAM come alive for Chicago’s students, in partnership with Lake View High School, an Early College STEM School.

com·ing of age


  1. the reaching of the official age of adulthood and legal responsibility
  2. the reaching of an advanced stage of development

Last year, we wrote about the wonderful partnership Microsoft enjoys with the Illinois Science & Technology Institute (ISTI). Microsoft and Lake View High School participated in the Second Annual R&D STEM Learning Exchange Challenges Student Showcase on May 20, 2015. This was a terrific program and our first time working with the teachers and students at Lake View High School on this state-wide Student Challenge. Microsoft is again supporting the ISTI and Lake View High School in 2016 for the Third Annual R&D STEM Challenge.

This trailblazing, public-private effort connects students to future STEM careers. This school year, through STEM Challenges and the Mentor Matching Engine (MME), the R&D STEM Learning Exchange will reach more than 1,200 students at 29 Illinois high schools. The Exchange promotes inquiry-based learning, builds critical thinking skills and provides perspective on R&D applications for participating students. This ultimately helps strengthen Illinois’ industry by enriching its talent pipeline.

“The mission is to spark interest, preparing students for R&D careers here in Illinois. When we build a pipeline of young professionals, we invest in Illinois’ future innovators. The continued growth of this program and our strong public-private coalition of committed high schools, industry and academic partners demonstrates the deep need for and interest in these learning opportunities,” says Mark Harris, President & CEO of ISTI.

The STEM Challenge program matches participating schools with leading corporations and research institutions. From January through May 2016, students will work alongside experts from Illinois’ top companies and together spur real-world innovation. Their work will be showcased May 19, 2016 and we expect our Lake View High School team to be leading the way in the Challenge!

Let’s take a look at why this kind of continuous investment is so important in Chicago! “The Challenge requires students to utilize the STEM principles of creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking to problem solve and generate viable solutions,” says Angela D. Newton, Assistant Principal and STEM Coordinator.

*2014 Karen Mossberger research (using 2013 survey data).

*2014 Karen Mossberger research (using 2013 survey data).

  • In Chicago, approximately 30% of households have no internet subscription and about 20% have no computer. What is important behind the statistics, is that lack of skills, cost and interest are the most cited reasons adults give for not getting online.
  • Yet, it’s clear that digital skills are vital to success in seeking jobs. You need to be able to search online for jobs, fill out a resume online and demonstrate your online skills, credentials and certifications.
  • In Chicago, the demand for digital learning opportunities continue to increase, as evidenced at Chicago Public Library, at LISC Chicago Financial Opportunity Centers and at dozens of other community and entrepreneurial centers throughout the city.
  • More advanced STEM skills will result in better educational opportunities, more creativity to start new STEM related business and overall drive positive economic growth.

For 2016, we are looking to enhance our partnership with ISTI and Lake View High School students in the following ways:

  • Focus our 2016 STEM Challenge on  one of the hottest STEM topics today-the Internet of Things (IoT).
  • Bring in more Microsoft employees as mentors and participate through the Mentor Matching Engine (MME)
  • Increase the integration of the Challenge more broadly into the curriculum
  • Increase the length of time the students have to work on the Challenge
  • Elevate the professionalism of the Students’ presentations

We held our first kickoff event on this year’s Challenge at Lake View on December 1st.

We have seen tremendous support from the teachers at Lake View this year. They are excited to continue the “coming of age” of STEM and STEAM skills. “The MSFT Challenge requires students to become partners on a mission to plan and shape their reality, their STEM infused world; using the rising future infrastructure of the Internet of Things and their limitless imagination,” says teacher Bernardo Juarez.

Join us as we update you throughout the Spring on the STEM Challenge at Lake View High School and how our students are gaining knowledge in STEM/STEAM, how the Internet of Things impacts their lives, as well as those critical “soft skills” of collaboration, communications and critical thinking.