//oneweek hackathon shows culture shift at Microsoft

Last week, we celebrated an unprecedented event at Microsoft: //oneweek. With a week-long lineup of festivities, //oneweek was CEO Satya Nadella’s kickoff to reignite Microsoft’s culture. One highlight: A global hackathon for all employees, to generate and advance big ideas. A core organizer in Hackathon planning: Microsoft’s Garage.

Matthew Shaffer is a software engineer for Manageability Services Group (MSG) under Global Foundation Services (GFS).  He works on software that helps monitor the overall health of datacenters. During //oneweek, he participated in Team Wicked. In his own words, Matthew gives you an inside look at the international Hackathon:

The project I’ve been working on is called Wicked (Worn Interface for Computing Environment using Devices.) It’s about integrating the capabilities of wearables into a single, cross-platform experience: your phone, eye-wear display (Moverio is what we are using, similar to Google Glass) and eventually smart watches together, so they work seamlessly.

We are integrating these devices together through a Raspberry Pi, a credit-card-sized single-board computer. This allows people to use Bluetooth input devices like keyboards and mice.  We want to integrate our phone’s communication capability so we are able to remote into computers from wherever we can get data on our phone. Once we can remote in, we want to be able to show the display through the glasses and use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse as input so we are connected basically everywhere.

We also would want to be able to use our phone for other capabilities such as watching Netflix, getting directions into your display, or having Cortana assist us in any way possible.

Here’s how I got involved in the //oneweek Hackathon:
I have known Ronald Wochner, Wicked’s team leader, since before our time at Microsoft.  We were in a transitioning program called MSSA (Microsoft Software & Systems Academy) for soldiers who were looking to pursue jobs in the technology field after they leave their military service.  I saw Ronald while on the Sounder on our commute back to Tacoma.  We got to talking about //oneweek and about Hackathon, when he asked me if I had a project.  I told him I thought about it but didn’t sign up.  He pitched me his project, pulled out the Moverio, showed me, and I was hooked.  I was almost excited as he was. I told other members of my team about it and they joined as well.  It’s been an exciting experience to be able to work with different technologies I don’t get to use on a day-to-day basis and use them in a creative way.

The hackathon shows a culture shift within Microsoft.
I think it shows we’re open to change. We want to enable developers to make a better experience for customers and cultivate innovation.  The hacking mentality is about using something in a way it’s not necessarily meant to be used in order to solve a problem users didn’t know they had.  In the past, companies have tried to fight this movement and stop customers’ creativity in how they used their products.  It’s exciting to see that Microsoft is trying to embrace this creativity.

At the Company Forum, Satya encouraged each employee to bring his or her A-game to work. He asked each individual to reflect, and “ask yourself this question, ‘What is possible for you?’”

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