Creating a Pipeline of Tech Talent for Chicago

 |   Shelley Stern Grach

For those of you who live in, and love living in, Chicago, it probably seems like a no-brainer that many college students would want to make Chicago their home post-graduation. The reality is that STEM students from regional colleges and universities have many choices, especially with competition from the East and West coasts for top tech talent. To change this dynamic, the Mayor’s office and World Business Chicago created THINK CHICAGO-Connecting Top University Talent with Chicago’s Innovation Ecosystem.

Twice each year, during Lollapalooza and Chicago Ideas Week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel invites top university students to ThinkChicago to meet with Chicago technology leaders, explore companies, and attend various events including the Lollapalooza music festival and Chicago Ideas Week programming. Microsoft Chicago has been a sponsor and participant with ThinkChicago for the past two years. This year, we were thrilled to take the support to a higher level.

Microsoft’s 2016 support for ThinkChicago expanded in three ways;

Shelley Stern Grach (me!) participated on a Career Panel at 1871 Chicago. This panel was moderated by Tom Alexander at 1871, and included Danielle DuMerer from the Department of Information Technology (DoIT), Katie Olson from UILabs and Kenneth Watkins from Blue 1647. The Microsoft discussion focused on corporate careers, but also emphasized the deep focus on civic tech and civic engagement. The comments on millennials truly wanting to make a difference really resonated with the audience, as evidenced by the questions.

Microsoft also hosted 75 students for deep dive tours at the Microsoft Technology Center. This included discussions on the futures of technology, how the world of work and productivity is rapidly changing and several demo’s including Microsoft HoloLens. The Q&A with the ThinkChicago students was amazing and we received many, many follow up emails (and resumes!) from the students. Great shout out to Matt Housholder and Kevin Wei for hosting the students.

Finally, Microsoft’s Retail Store team participated in a Career Fair for nearly 200 attendees, highlighting some of the positions in Chicago and sharing with the students fun technology examples. Many thanks to Terrance Gillespie and Mario Mejia from our Retail Store team for their participation and leadership in this event. Here are some great photos from the Career Fair.

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Microsoft Chicago is proud to partner with World Business Chicago and ThinkChicago to help build the tech pipeline. This is a great program, tightly orchestrated which provides on-site experiences for students to “touch technology careers.” Sign us up for 2017!

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Shelley Stern Grach
Shelley Stern Grach

They say that great work stems from a combination of passion and commitment, something that Shelley certainly possesses when it comes to her life and career. She currently serves on the boards of the Women’s Business Development Center, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Thrive Chicago, Year Up and LISC Chicago. At Microsoft Chicago, she’s the Director of Civic Engagement, working at the intersection of computing and community, promoting STEM programs and using Microsoft technology to spur growth in the community. So no matter if it's work, play, or giving back, Shelley always makes sure her drive and professionalism help her complete her life's goals.