What’s Next After Microsoft — Civic Tech Fellow Alumnus Kevin Wei

| Kevin Wei, Microsoft Chicago Civic Tech Fellow

Read Adam Hecktman’s goodbye to Kevin here.

Where did you study? I’m a proud graduate of UChicago Class of 2017, with a BA in Economics and Public Policy

What were your main duties as a Microsoft fellow?

Personal Projects – The fellowship gives everyone an awesome opportunity to pick and work on personal projects that are meaningful and help contribute to the civic tech ecosystem in a unique way. It’s such an awesome experience to have the support of the Microsoft Chicago team while you’re working on these projects which are specifically catered to your interests and skills; I developed a passion for digital access/literacy and data storytelling, and you can see that manifested in my projects such as DigiSeniors or Divvy Data Analysis.

Evangelism – Civic technology is all about inclusivity, and showing anyone and everyone the potential of technology for public good was really important. Presence and ‘showing up’ is what gets things done in Chicago, so whether it was hackathons like Migrahack or Tech for Justice, community organizations like Blue1647 or LISC, and civic tech meetups like ChiHackNight or Chicago City Data User Group, I made sure I was there to talk civic tech! No matter where you come from, everyone has something to contribute!

While personal projects and evangelism were important, I could write a whole book on the amount of amazing things I did during the fellowship, from device loans to relationship building. But to sum it up, I think it’s safe to say that there are so many amazing individuals, organizations, and efforts that are doing amazing things across the city, and I absolutely enjoyed every second of meeting and working with the wonderful people who are dedicated to making the world a better place through tech.

What has been your favorite project with the Technology and Civic Engagement Team?

DigiSeniors is an initiative to provide essential digital skills to senior citizens across Chicago. I had worked on it for the entirety of my fellowship, doing user experience research, creating the curriculum, and managing the program as we scaled across the city. This was one of my favorite projects because it really crystalized the power of collaborative ecosystem. Whether we were training nonprofits with our curriculum with Smart Chicago Collaborative, piloting a service-learning project with CPS/Senn High School, the list goes on and on…, it was clear that we need to continue addressing the digital divide across the city. But of course, I also have to give a side shout out to my public policy thesis, which analyzed why Chicago’s civic tech ecosystem was one of the best in the world!

Where is civic tech taking you next?

For now, I’ll be joining a rotational program at LiveRamp, a marketing-tech company in San Francisco, but I’ll never forget my civic tech roots! I know I’ll be heavily involved with the various civic tech groups in the Bay Area, like Code for America and the San Francisco Brigades and hope to learn and grow there! It’s an honor to have been a part of this wonderful civic tech ecosystem and have the ability to say, “you know in Chicago, we did this…”

What advice do you have for future fellows?

I’ll echo some advice from a previous fellow, the wonderful Erin Simpson, when I say that the core mantra of “build with people, not for people,” will always remain relevant. Whatever you’re building, keeping the civic tech ideals of accessibility and inclusivity will always lead you in the right direction.

And I would be remiss to not mention the fact that Adam Hecktman and Shelley Stern Grach are the best team and mentors you could ever ask for, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them; learn as much as you can from them!

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