July 2013

Microsoft Among 2013 Technology Leadership Award Nominees

Nominations are in and the finalists for the 2013 Massachusetts Technology Leadership Awards have been chosen!

MassTLC Logo

At the reception on July 18, hosted at the NERD center, MassTLC announced, among over 200 tech executives, the finalists for its 17 prestigious awards. Heralded as the “Academy Awards of Tech,” the 16th annual Awards Gala will recognize both individuals and businesses in a variety of categories including CEO of the Year, Emerging Executive of the Year, Start-up to Watch, and Private and Public Company of the Year (full list of categories here).

And I can’t forget to mention the Recruitment Video of the Year category for which Microsoft was nominated! The short video (below) detailing the Foundry program should look familiar as it was featured here on the blog just last month. As a member and global sponsor of MassTLC, we were honored to be among the finalists!

“We are honored to have Microsoft as a finalist for the 2013 Recruitment Video of the Year Award,” said Tom Hopcroft, President and CEO of MassTLC. “Microsoft’s technology and market leadership is testimony to what fuels Massachusetts’ vibrant tech community.”

This year’s Awards Gala, to be held on September 12 at the Westin Waterfront in Boston, will surely exhibit exactly why the Commonwealth is one of the leading tech hubs in the country. Online voting is now open for the Start-up to Watch and Consumer Product of the Year categories. Click here to cast your vote. While you’re there, don’t forget to register to attend the Gala so you can witness firsthand the innovation and technological leadership put forth by the nominees. And to all of this year’s finalists, congratulations and good luck!


Annmarie Levins: Securing a Future for Computer Science Education

What would it take to get Microsoft, Google, and other tech competitors in the same room passionately agreeing on the same goal? Those who attended the Legislative Tech Hub Caucus know the answer: the importance of making computer science education widely available.

Boston’s tech leaders, including our own Annmarie Levins and representatives of Google, Oracle, and Intel, joined Senator Karen Spilka and Representative Kathi-Ann Reinstein to push for an initiative to ensure that computer science and STEM education become widely available and prioritized in Massachusetts schools.

At the caucus Levins, Associate General Counsel based at Microsoft’s NERD Center, reminded the audience that Massachusetts has a long history as a major tech hub in the United States.  She noted, however, that New York has recently witnessed an expansion of its tech landscape and threatens to surpass greater Boston in the breadth and influence of its tech sector.  One key to maintaining Massachusetts’ leadership status is in ensuring broad opportunities in computer science and STEM education.

But it’s not just a matter of status.  Technology is undoubtedly a staple of the Massachusetts economy, providing thousands of jobs, many of which remain unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates. With over 6,000 jobs unable to be filled at Microsoft alone last year, Levins rightly dubbed this lack of workers as a “talent crisis.” The way to avert this crisis is to step up education in the Commonwealth and around the country.

Levins also spoke of Microsoft’s Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program, which sends Microsoft engineers to teach in local schools on company time.  She noted that TEALS is expanding to Cambridge this fall.  While a successful and admirable program, change needs to be systematic and holistic. Massachusetts’ schools and universities need to work together with the Legislature and businesses to ensure that the Commonwealth remains a technology powerhouse.

To see firsthand how Levins masterfully addressed the challenges facing computer science and STEM education, watch the short clip (above) of her presentation at the caucus. If you had any doubts about the necessity of improved education, they will surely disappear after listening to her speak.

A Future for Computer Science Education

As passionate advocates of broadening access to computer science education, especially at the high school level, Microsoft jumped at the chance to host a reception for and sponsor the Computer Science Teacher Association’s (CSTA) annual conference.

csta - computer science teachers

All of the computer science teachers posed for a group shot!

Microsoft has worked closely with the CSTA, the nation’s premier membership organization for computer science teachers, for many years and was thrilled at the chance to contribute to this year’s conference. And considering ten lucky teachers walked away with a Surface RT or an Xbox360, we have the feeling they were happy with the partnership too!

Our NERD center was packed with 160 local, national, and international computer science educators as well as several other notable figures, including Henrietta Davis, Mayor of Cambridge; Cameron Wilson, COO and VP of Government Affairs at Code.org; and Pat Yongpradit, Director of Education at Code.org. Code.org, a nonprofit organization, works to grow computer programming education and created this must-watch video on the importance of computer science education and coding (be prepared for a slew of cameos by big-name techies, athletes, and musicians alike!).

brian burke addresses cs teachers

Brian Burke, Microsoft Senior Director for State Government Affairs in MA, addresses the CS teachers

The reception was a lively affair, as the bravest teachers in attendance took to the stage for their rendition of Whose Line is It Anyway? The improv-style skits demonstrated how attendees could become advocates for expanding computer science education in their communities. Both Microsoft and Code.org stressed the need to introduce computer science as a core math or science graduation credit. Teachers also witnessed first hand how Microsoft products and technological tools (including Kodu, Small Basic, TouchDevelop, and DreamSpark, all of which are available for teachers at no charge) can enhance their classroom instruction.

With over half of STEM jobs projected to be in computing occupations by 2018 but with enrollment in advanced CS courses actually declining over the past decade, we think it’s about time that computer science education gets some attention!


Closing the Opportunity Gap

Are all schools equal? Do all children receive the same quality and quantity of education and enrichment activities? Do all communities across America provide the same resources to their students to help them achieve their goals?

citizen schools logo

Of course not! While this may be the ideal we strive for, there is, nonetheless, an opportunity gap in education. In particular, students from upper-income families spend over 300 more hours each year with adults than students from lower-income families. They also benefit from almost $8,000 worth of enrichment activities (statistics compliments of Citizen Schools).

ELT Summit 2013 Dr. Freeman Hrabowski

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, Photo Credit: Tonya Hall

Citizen Schools, an organization based in Boston as well as in six other states, works to eliminate this opportunity gap by providing students with Expanded Learning Time (ELT). The organization extends the learning day by connecting students who are eager to learn with adults who are dedicated to teaching. Sounds like a perfect match to me!

ELT Summit 2013 Eric Schwarz

Eric Schwarz, Co-Founder and CEO, Photo Credit: Tonya Hall

Last week Citizen Schools brought together over 200 educators and district leaders from seven states for its annual ELT Partnership Summit. The two-day conference, part of which was held at our NERD center for the second year in a row, featured a variety of workshops, guest speakers, and a keynote address by Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. We were also excited to hear that Citizen Schools staff and volunteers in STEM fields also joined the conversation to share how real-world STEM experts fit into the ELT model.

To learn more about the summit and ELT check out an article recently published in the Huffington Post by Eric Schwarz, Co-Founder and CEO of Citizen Schools.

Apply Now for the 2014 Root Cause Social Innovation Forum

Calling all local and innovative nonprofits! Root Cause is now accepting applications for its 2014 Social Innovation Forum.

Root Cause logo

If you haven’t heard us raving about Root Cause in the past (check out our post about the 2013 Social Innovation Forum held at our NERD center), now is your chance to take notice. Root Cause is a nonprofit research and consulting firm that works with promising, local nonprofits to bring about social change in the Greater Boston area. Each year Root Cause selects one nonprofit for each of its four “social track issues” and a small group of social enterprises for their fifth track. Root Cause describes being a Social Innovator as an opportunity for organizations to “gain visibility, expand their networks, and build capacity.”

What are some of the other perks of being a Social Innovator?  Let’s take a look:

  • Access to cash and benefits valued at $135,000
  • 5 months of consulting and executive coaching
  • $10,000 cash after consultation
  • Showcasing at numerous events
  • Networking and relationship building
  • Graphic design services
  • Support from 16 in-kind sponsors (including Microsoft, of course!)

In this blogger’s opinion, this is one opportunity worth investigating further! The deadline to apply is August 1, and more details and applicant requirements can be found in the applicant guide. A Social Innovator’s Information Session where attendees can learn more about the Social Innovation Forum and the application process will also take place on July 23 at the Root Cause headquarters. Here’s to another year of Boston innovators making a difference in our community!


A Fourth of July at the Office

Fireworks, cookouts, parties…and a trip to the office? That’s right, a trip to the office! Not what you would expect on a holiday, yet over 1,100 employees along with their family and friends eagerly trekked to the NERD center for Microsoft’s annual Fourth of July celebration.

Fourth of July Fireworks

The NERD center provides the best views in the city! Photo Credit: Dana J. Quigley

The Fourth of July party has become a much-anticipated tradition over the past five years, and it’s easy to see why. With some of the best views of the Charles in the entire city, it’s a treat for the Microsoft family to spend the holiday at the office. No fighting the nearly 10,000 people who assemble along the Charles to watch the fireworks! With this year’s party spanning three floors both inside and out of the NERD center, there was an abundance of American and Bostonian pride.

NERD Fourth Celebration

The NERD center was packed with employees, family, and friends for the celebration. Photo Credit: Dana J. Quigley

The beach/boardwalk themed celebration was a family affair complete with a DJ, face painters, a balloon artist, glitter tattoos, and plenty of candy for the kids and adults alike. Partygoers also enjoyed a variety of food stations, each representing a notable U.S. beach, such as Cape Cod, Myrtle Beach, and Coney Island. Word has it that Cape Cod was the crowd favorite, but the hot dog station was a close second! To check out more pictures from the day, head to our Facebook page. And if you missed out on the action this year, don’t make the same mistake next year!