April 2013

Two at Microsoft Recognized as Women to Watch

Exciting news from Microsoft New England: two of our colleagues have been recently highlighted as women to watch in Boston’s tech industry!

Jennifer Chayes

Jennifer Chayes

Jennifer Chayes, Distinguished Scientist and Managing Director at Microsoft Research, was nominated by the Ad Club of Boston to its list of “100 Women You Admire.” This list (e-book here), which in the end saw over 250 individual nominations submitted and 30,000 additional admires honored, featured some of the most amazing women in the Greater Boston area. Noting Jennifer’s “continuous work to drive women into STEM fields,” the Ad Club emphasized that “not only does she speak with girls about careers in technology, but she also represents her beliefs in her efforts to bring more women into Microsoft Research.” Jennifer’s work at Microsoft has centered upon co-founding both Microsoft Research New England (in 2008) and Microsoft Research New York (in 2012) as well as Microsoft Research’s Theory Group.

Sara Spalding

Sara Spalding

Quickly following this news was the announcement that Sara Spalding, Senior Site Director at Microsoft New England has been named by Mass High Tech as one of 20 “Women to Watch.” This annual list, currently celebrating its 10th year, highlights women who are thought leaders in their fields, shaping the future of the technology and life science industries. Selected from more than 125 nominations, these women to watch were admired “for their leadership behind the scenes in the office and in their community,” saidChris McIntosh, Publisher at Mass High Tech/Boston Business Journal. Sara, who joined Microsoft in 1991, has actively worked to ensure that Microsoft NERD is a great place not only for its employees, but also for the local tech community. Sara will be honored at an event held on Thursday, May 9 at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. More information is located here. As part of her efforts to develop the local tech community, Sara has also recently published an article in the Boston Globe highlighting Microsoft’s role in Kendall Square.

Microsoft is proud to count such incredible women among our ranks. Their achievements underscore the importance of getting more girls excited about STEM careers.


STEM Inclusion Roundtable Emphasizes Importance of Expanding STEM Education to Diverse Communities

This past week saw the City of Cambridge, The America21 Project, and Microsoft take action on advancing STEM education in a diverse community.  More than 170 policy makers, business leaders, and non-profit organizations gathered at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School to develop action plans to advance STEM education locally. Cambridge is one of 4 pilot cities participating in a White House-driven initiative to encourage youth to embrace the study of science, engineering and technology.

Cambridge Mayor Henrietta Davis speaks to the crowd.

Centered on breakout sessions to identify challenges and possible solutions, the event emphasized creating ownership and developing accountability for action steps. (A summary deck of the project can be found here). In addition, the event featured speakers such asSteven Grossman, Massachusetts State Treasurer, Jan Cuny, Program Manager at the National Science FoundationHenrietta Davis, Mayor of Cambridge, and Dr. Jeffrey Young, Superintendent of Cambridge Public Schools.

Dr. Young mentioned the unique nature of Cambridge: a highly diverse community with two of the world’s top universities (Harvard and MIT), two top technology firms (Microsoft and Google), a large number of innovative start-ups, and an impressive array of non-profits – all of which can surely benefit the students in Cambridge.

Noting that “the city of Cambridge has a long tradition at being at the forefront of the innovation economy,” Cambridge Mayor Henrietta Davis echoed these remarks. “In partnership with Microsoft Research and The America21 Project, we look forward to giving our young people greater access to the resources and opportunities available at these academic and industry centers. President Obama has made STEM education a national priority, and we in Cambridge are coming together as a community to make that priority a reality.”

For its part, Microsoft has also committed to bring AP Computer Science to the Cambridge Rindge and Latin school through theTEALS (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools) initiative, providing lab support and helping to build teacher capacity.  Soon we will begin to recruit industry experts who want to help teach these classes.  To attend an info session on TEALS volunteer opportunities, please email Aimee Sprung (aimees@microsoft.com).

A special thank you is due to the people spearheading this important effort: Mayor of Cambridge Henrietta Davis and Superintendent of Cambridge Public Schools Dr. Jeffrey Young, who have provided the vision and brought together diverse stakeholders to advance STEM education in Cambridge. In addition, a special thanks is due to Rane Johnson-Stempson, Education and Scholarly Communication Principal Research Director of Microsoft Research, for her championing of this very important initiative to further STEM education.

Dr. Jeffrey Young, Superintendent of Cambridge Public Schools, speaks.

The Plan

Taking Action & Solving Problems

Microsoft Continues to Pioneer Efforts Promoting LGBT Equality

Greg McCurdy, Dana Zircher, Chad Griffin, President of HRC, Diana Pallais, and Matt Feczko at the HRC CEI Awards Ceremony.

In what has become a historic year for the advancement of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights in the U.S., Microsoft has continued its role as a major advocate for equality.


Most recently this support has manifested itself in Microsoft joining 277 other business to fill a friend-of-the court or amicus brief calling for the United States Supreme Court to strike down DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, enacted in 1996, Microsoft has continued to put its weight behind repeal efforts since first joining 70 other companies in filing an amicus brief opposing DOMA in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, sitting in Boston in November 2011.

Internally, Microsoft has continued to be a leader in championing workplace rights of LGBT employees, earning the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s 2013 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) “Best Places to Work” rating for the 8th year in a row. The annual CEI report rates large U.S. employers and their policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees. Businesses rated 100 percent are recognized as “Best Places to Work.” In mid-March two Microsoft New England employees, Matt Feczko, Program Manager on the Docs team, and Dana Zircher, Principal Developer Lead, also on the Docs team, traveled to New York to receive the award on behalf of Microsoft. The pictures below show them at the awards ceremony.

Commenting on the award, Dana Zircher, co-policy director for GLEAM’s Board of Directors noted that, “in this historic year for the LGBT community, we’re proud that Microsoft has put itself on the map by taking a strong stance by supporting its LGBT employees.”

Microsoft’s support for equality has a long history. GLEAM, which represents the LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Allies) community at Microsoft, is currently celebrating its 20th year. Founded as an employee resource group, GLEAM works to drive LGBT-friendly changes both inside and outside of the workplace, participating as a representative to the employee diversity advisory council, the organization dedicated to supporting Microsoft in setting and achieving goals promoting diversity in the workplace.

Closer to home, Microsoft is also proud to support LGBT causes in the greater Boston area. As champion of GLEAM New England, Matt Feczko helps to run the organization locally. He creates events at which LGBTQ employees and their allies can advocate for diversity. Matt is particularly excited about the 43rd Annual Boston Pride Parade on June 8th, a 2-mile march ending at a festival in Boston’s Government Center. We hope to see you there!

Microsoft Achieved a 100% rating on the Corporate Equality Index

Matt Feczko and Dana Zircher at the HRC CEI Awards Ceremony



MA Citizen Schools 2013 STEM WOW!

Looking for an inspiring event? Join Citizen Schools on May 1 to learn from middle school forensic scientists, mobile app developers, robotics engineers, and money managers about their next big ideas and innovations in science, technology, engineering, and math! They’ll teach you what they mastered in their 10-week apprenticeships and you’ll be surprised by what you learn too…

WOW! will feature a science fair showcasing the projects of 12 students at the Edwards Middle School in Charlestown who have developed their technology skills through a 10-week apprenticeship in an after school program led by Dan Gonyea and Brian Conley, both Microsoft employees. The class focuses on inspiring engineering, programming, and teamwork skills in the students through demystifying technology and engaging in creative problem-solving activities. Using Lego Mindstorm’s kits, this semester’s teams are building a pinball machine, a praying mantis with six legs, a transformer that drives and stands up like a person, and a Rubik’s cube solver.

The apprenticeship program is only one of a number of excellent community programs led by Citizen Schools. Since its founding in Boston in 1995, Citizen Schools has been re-imagining the learning day to bring more time, more talented adults, and more relevant learning experiences to middle-school students in low-income neighborhoods. You can check out more of their work here. Microsoft is proud to be a supporter of such an incredible program.

Join us on May 1 to be inspired by what these students have developed in just a few months. This project showcase is certainly an event not to be missed.

MassTLC PAX ‘Made In MA’ Party 2013

This year’s PAX East celebration started a bit early at NERD with Mass TLC’s ‘Made in MA’ Party featuring games made in Massachusetts. With over 30 exhibitors showcasing their games and concepts to an audience of 1,500 people, this party showed off the best that Massachusetts’ gaming community has to offer. Gamers, developers, and students each brought a unique spin to the party making for a really great kick-off to PAX East.

New this year was the Student Showcase featuring student groups from Becker College, Tufts University, and Worcester Polytech (WPI) displaying their games to the attendees. With text-to-vote results displayed across projection screens throughout NERD, this new event became a central feature of the party. WPI came out on top… check out the photo of the team below.

Other highlights included a surprise appearance of Bumblebee from Transformers (pretty cool!), causing large cheers from the crowd, and the crowd playing Dance Central 3 for the Xbox Kinect on one of the large projection screens.

Aiming to bring together the entire gaming community in Mass for a night of networking and celebration, the party was a great success! It’s always incredible to see the amazing technology that is produced right in our own backyard.

Students and Developers mingle in front of Dance Central 3 on the big screen.

Students and Developers mingle in front of Dance Central 3 on the big screen.

The winning team of the Student Showcase: WPI.

The winning team of the Student Showcase: WPI.

Bumblebee from Transformers made a Guest Appearance.

Bumblebee from Transformers made a Guest Appearance.

Trackage rated one of the top Metro apps by InfoWorld

Exciting news from the Foundry at NERD.

A Snapshot of the App

A Snapshot of the App

Trackage, an app developed by a team of students during the 2012 inaugural Foundry program, ranked in InfoWorld’s list of top Metro apps.

The app, designed to track your packages from all major postal carriers in one place, has the added bonus of keeping you easily updated through a tile on Metro’s start screen. In addition, Trackage automatically syncs your packages across devices – making it easy to check their status from wherever you are. Throw in the ability to personalize the names of your package and you have a truly great app.

Trackage is just one of a number of great apps developed at Microsoft’s inaugural Foundry program this past summer. Other highlights include an app to help you catch the MBTA, a reminder and alarm hub, and an app to turn your photos into a film; check them all out here.