April 2014

Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center – New England & The Venture Café Foundation Present: A Conversation on Civic Technology and Transportation

CivicTechtransport header

Boston is home to one of the oldest public transportation systems in the United States. Because of this, the historic streets and systems are consistently undergoing upgrades and rebuilds, causing unwanted traffic and delays.

But with the rise of new technologies, solutions are being developed.

District Hall recently hosted the 37 Billion Mile Data Challenge highlighting the vast array of data available related to driving in Massachusetts. More data is available from the Open MBTA initiative providing improved information to citizens and better analysis to the MBTA.

As Bostonians demand more from our public transit systems, let’s put our expertise in technology and innovation to work to create new ways to address the transportation challenges in our city.

I’m happy to announce that on June 3rd from 5:30 to 8:30pm, the community will come together for the second event in our Conversations on Civic Technology series, this time hosted at District Hall in Boston’s Innovation District. We’re bringing together a diverse set of people from government, non-profits, industry and academics to go deep in the area of transportation and civic technology. Topics could range from public transit awareness and traffic mitigation, to the sharing economy in transportation, parking, tolling, and beyond.

As with the first event, we hope to take an interdisciplinary, problem-focused and action-oriented approach, and include a diverse set of voices in the conversation.

I’m looking forward to picking up the conversations from our last event, and welcoming newcomers to our discussion.

Follow us on Twitter @MSNewEngland for  upcoming announcements of the panelists. The official hashtag for our civic tech series is #CivicTechBOS.

Register here for this FREE event today!

Boston Business Journal Names Microsoft One of the Best Places to Work in Massachusetts

BostonBusinessJournalAs the site leader for Microsoft’s presence here in Cambridge, it’s great to see that the Boston Business Journal has named Microsoft one of the Best Places to Work in Massachusetts.  This designation from @BostonBizJournl recognizes our achievements in creating a positive work environment that attracts and retains employees through a combination of employee satisfaction, working conditions and company culture.

We are one of 60 companies to be honored; the top 20 companies in three size categories will be honored at an event on June 12th and profiled in a June 13th special supplement of the publication.  I hope you’ll check it out online or in print.

As Chris McIntosh, publisher of the Boston Business Journal said in announcing the awards, “In good times and in bad, our results validate how the creation of the right corporate culture can create powerful business advantages. Employees are proud to work for companies that are about more than just business.”

We agree.  From the time we created our presence here along the banks of the Charles River, looking into Boston, we wanted to be of the community, not just doing business in the community.  As our Community page points out, since 2003 we’ve donated more than $78 million in cash and software to nonprofits and underserved communities in Massachusetts.  And as our Events page demonstrates, there’s always something interesting happening here at NERD, or at our Boston retail store, or other stores in New England.

While Microsoft is headquartered across the country in Redmond, Washington, we’ve always recognized Massachusetts as one of the world’s leading centers for innovation.  This state has:

  • More than 200,000 tech industry employees;
  • A thriving venture capital community; and
  • More than 60 colleges and universities and more than 200,000 students in the Greater Boston area

We’ve always done a good job of identifying the talent here, and persuading quite a few to move across the country to Redmond.

But let’s face it, there are LOTS of reasons why you wouldn’t want to leave New England – and there is no reason you should NEED to leave in order to join Microsoft.  We have been developing a critical mass of engineering, research, sales, marketing, retail and other talent for some time now.  Just take a moment to check out some of the exciting work being done here, from Office 365, whose revenue grew more than 100 percent in our last quarter to our conversational understanding team working on exciting, new systems like Cortana for Windows phones that can talk and understand, to machine learning in the cloud, and of course Microsoft Research New England, which is one component of our worldwide research organization with more than 1,100 brilliant scientists and engineers pushing the boundaries of computing.   The research organization here and in New York is led by Jennifer Chayes, who just last week was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

As Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s new CEO said earlier this year when he assumed his new role, “Many companies aspire to change the world.  But very few have all the elements required: talent, resources and perseverance. Microsoft has proven that it has all three in abundance.”

That’s certainly been my experience.  So if you’re intrigued by what the Boston Business Journal considers one of the hottest places to work in Massachusetts, check out our jobs page and see if there’s a role for you here.  I’d love to meet you.

Julie Bennett
Site Leader, Microsoft N.E. R&D

Microsoft Northeast GM Welcomes 150+ Nokia Employees to Microsoft; As Acquisition Is Completed

nokiaOn Friday, Microsoft announced the completion of the Nokia Devices and Services business acquisition, enabling Microsoft to accelerate its share of smartphones and feature phones in developed and emerging markets, and increase our role as a devices and services company. Specifically Microsoft acquires Nokia’s smartphone and mobile phone businesses, its design team, most of its manufacturing and assembly facilities and operations, and sales and marketing support.

Here in Massachusetts, we’re pleased to welcome about 160 Nokia employees who now join our Microsoft New England family.

We look forward to building on our existing partnership and our deep industry experience to help accelerate our ability to deliver world-class mobile solutions to customers here in New England and around the globe.

Craig Hodges, Northeast GM

Preview: HBS Digital Initiative Beta Summit 4.28.14


The world’s gone digital. It’s time to take part in it. Time to disrupt and re-invent it. Time to be a force in how rapidly developing technologies affect the world we live in: media, health, advertising, music, civic tech, engagement … the list goes on and on.

The Digital Initiative (D/I) is a new academic start-up within Harvard Business School (HBS) that seeks to understand and shape the digital transformation of business through research, teaching and engagement. It is the passionate D/I staff and the students of HBS’ course, Digital Innovation and Transformation (#digHBS), who’ve organized the Digital Initiative Beta Summit tomorrow from 4-8pm on the HBS Campus in Batten Hall, home of the Harvard Innovation Lab.

Colin Maclay: Director, Digital Initiative at HBS, former Managing Director,  Berkman Center

Colin Maclay: Director, Digital Initiative at HBS, former Managing Director, Berkman Center

“Digital transformation is the application of digital technologies to the transactions and processes that sit at the core of our businesses and, like the ripples from a stone dropped in a pond, change our institutions, culture, and society,” D/I Director Colin Maclay told MSNE. “Many have posited that as a result, every company is a software—or a data—company, and it is clear that ways to create and capture value are changing as a result of digital technologies and practices.”

“While the rules are being re-written—or unwritten—we are all trying to understand how to respond to and embrace the emerging dynamics.”

They’ve invited provocateurs from a wide range of organizations to the Summit, from Betaworks to The Boston Globe to Twitter to Microsoft’s own Cathy Wissink (talking #civictech) and Steven Martin (talking the cloud), to YOU, for a discussion to help better understand some of the big questions we face in these exciting technological times. Similar to our civic tech series, impact starts with conversation and collaboration—the pulling together of ideas from people experiencing digital transformation from all sides. And that’s exactly what D/I and #digHBS are doing here.

Their goal?

“To have serious fun. We want to integrate diverse perspectives and communities, make real progress in understanding issues of digital transformation, and develop new frameworks for addressing the challenges that our provocateurs are bringing to discuss,” Maclay said. “We want to start something special.”

And finally, we asked Maclay why it’s a “beta” summit.

“We are committed to embracing the tools, practices and culture of the domain we study, and capture a bit of that spirit by embracing *beta* for the summit—underscoring its experimental nature,” Maclay explains.

“Amazing restaurants like Clover grow from food trucks and supper clubs, powerful creative communities like Threadless start as hobbies, and start-ups like Twitter “pivot” from offering one service to another. It’s clear that the waterfall approach isn’t only dead in software development.”

In other words, the possibilities for organic development in the digital age are limitless and we can create new models.

So we’ll see you at Harvard Business school tomorrow?

Check out the full list of speakers via the Summit official site here: http://www.dighbs14.com/#!schedule/cee5

Registration for the event in now closed, but stay tuned for a recap on the #MSNEblog from our own Cathy Wissink this week!

Staff Spotlight: Alex Smith

Alex_SmithTomorrow, April 24 is Alex’s 6-year Microsoft anniversary! Congrats!!

Name: Alex Smith

Hometown: Wellesley, MA

Job: Senior Premier Field Engineer, Enterprise Search

Years at MSFT: 6 years, as of April 24

Favorite restaurant in Boston: Anything in my home neighborhood, Washington Square in Brookline: Publick House, Fairsted Kitchen, The Abbey, and I really want to try Ribelle.

Last thing you Binged: “max visible pixel density chart” because I’m a geek, and always looking at new gadgets.

Something cool you’ve worked on recently: I organized a technical training summit in Cambridge for my team. We had technical training sessions and dry runs for people who were preparing sessions for the SharePoint conference.

What inspires you about tech? That technology doesn’t do anything by itself, but it enables and amplifies whatever it is you want to do. Working with software is especially rewarding because of the range of problems you can solve.

What problem would you like to see technology solve? I think virtual assistants like Cortana and Siri will be very big in the coming years. Enough computing power is now available to start doing surprising and delightful things with them.  Then, as people start to use them more, they will start improving exponentially.

Check out Alex’s technical blog here!

3 Not-to-Miss Events This Week at Microsoft New England

April showers bring May flowers … and the busiest season for events at Microsoft New England. Follow us on Twitter @MSNewEngland for daily updates + live-tweets!


1) As Part of Cambridge Science Festival: Transformative Collaboration in STEM Education
Tuesday, April 22, 5:30pm – 8:30pm
Twitter: @CSFTweets, #CambSciFest

Recent educational exams continue to show U.S. students’ math and science scores lagging behind other developed nations.  Cambridge is rich in STEM resources, and many stakeholders are invested in giving young people the opportunities they need to thrive as the next generation of STEM professionals.  In order for all students—including the minority, female and low-income youth who face a startling achievement gap—to benefit from these resources, it is essential for different sectors to collaborate. As the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Dr. Karen L. Mapp writes, “Transformation occurs as organizing groups bring individuals, communities, and institutions into relationship and action.”

Building upon last year’s “Plugging the Leaky STEM Pipeline” roundtable, this discussion will bring together specialists from different fields to discuss ways that child care centers, K-12 schools, afterschool programs, universities, businesses, government offices, research companies, and community members can work together to inspire and support the next generation of young scientists, innovators, designers and leaders.

From 6:00-6:30 p.m., children and youth from Cambridge schools and out-of-school time programs will present examples of their STEM work.   At 6:30 p.m. a panel discussion will share new research, best practices, and success stories that illustrate the value of collaboration.  The session will end with time for networking.

Takeit2) AIGA Boston: TAKE IT FROM ME
Wednesday, April 23, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
Twitter: @aigaboston

Join us for a speed dating style event at which students and emerging designers will meet in small groups to ask questions, start conversations, and casually network with design professionals.

This event will allow students and emerging designers to ask questions to professional designers to hear about their career paths, discover their process, and learn from their mistakes and successes.

hackfit3) HACKFit Boston Spring 2014
Friday, April 25, 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Thru Sunday, April 27, 4:00pm

Late Registration Here

HACKFit is not just a hackathon or Startup Weekend, it’s a way of life.

We unite technologists and entrepreneurs to launch fitness startups that will transform physical activity and health. Prepare yourself for an unparalleled experience where you will be challenged mentally and physically. You’ll pitch ideas, form teams, overcome physical challenges, and build technology to compete for the glory of best fitness startup.

Discover a true sense of accomplishment, supercharge your weekend with physical activity, have a great time, and form a lasting bond with your fellow HACKFitters that’s experienced all too rarely these days.

Don’t Miss the Cambridge Science Festival: 10 days of events and something for everyone!


On April 18, the 8th annual Cambridge Science Festival will kick off 10 days of more than 100 events.  As I look through the program guide I kind of want to attend everything!  Here is a sample of the activities I plan to attend:

Big Ideas for Busy People
Friday, April 18
10 speakers get 5 minutes each to share their Big Idea.  Check out the line-up here.

Science Carnival 2014
Saturday, April 19
See, touch, smell, hear, and taste science in new and exciting ways. Are you ready?  Be sure to join our Science Festival Kick Off at 12:00pm!

The Science of Baseball
Sunday, April 20 @ Fenway Park
Learn about the Science of Baseball while enjoying the Red Sox vs. Orioles game at Fenway.

Digital Movie Madness
Tuesday, April 22 @ Microsoft Store, Shops at Prudential, 800 Boylston St., Boston
Unleash creativity and take on the world of movie making! Students will learn to make a movie from beginning to end. They can be an actor, producer, director, animator, and designer. Create a story, write a script, cast characters, then action! Film the movie or play one of its characters. Then edit, add music, transitions and credits.

Cambridge-Boston Bridge Tours
Monday April 21 or Wednesday April 23
Go on a walking tour of our bridges from Cambridge to Boston with civil engineers who inspect them daily.

SciFest Block Party
Saturday April 26
Explore Tyler Street, Somerville’s exciting maker space, fitness arenas, environmental startups, brewery, and urban farmhouse.  Followed by after party at Aeronaut Brewery showcasing a new science festival brew.

Autonomous Fighting Robots Final Competition
Sunday, April 27
Come see robots destroy each other within a bulletproof arena.

Discover more CSF events and activities at cambridgesciencefestival.org.  Or make your own schedule on your phone. Download the Guidebook app and search “Cambridge.”

Autonomous Fighting Robots Final Competition 2013

Autonomous Fighting Robots Final Competition 2013

Event Recap: MassTLC’s #MadeinMA Pre-PAX Party

Xbox Kinect Gangnam Style!

Xbox Kinect Gangnam Style!

On Thursday, April 10th, MassTLC hosted their 5th annual “Made in MA” Pre-PAX party to celebrate the MA gaming community. Here’s the story of the night told in tweets!

Three Things to Cheer in the News This Week

Photo Left by John Tlumacki (metro) via BetaBoston "Mayor Walsh opens up Boston’s online data"

Photo Left by John Tlumacki (metro) via BetaBoston “Mayor Walsh opens up Boston’s online data

The Red Sox haven’t provided much to cheer about yet, but in other areas within the city and surrounding communities, the news is brighter.

Mayor Walsh’s executive order opening the City of Boston’s data deserves a big cheer.  It represents a major milestone in the city’s evolution as a tech innovator and is a clear declaration that Boston intends to be a leader in transparency.  Advocates of open government cheered this development for the greater transparency it brings to citizens about their city and its management.  But open data also brings something else: myriad new opportunities for entrepreneurs, academics, community organizations, individual citizens, and other groups, who can use data to drive innovation, insight, research, collaboration, and problem-solving.  As the analysis released this week by GovLab at NYU revealed, open government data creates opportunities in virtually every part of society, from transportation to finance, from education to real estate. The GovLab survey includes 43 Massachusetts companies that use government data to generate new business and develop new products and services.

The City’s commitment to open its data also reflects the evolution of technology.  The availability of cloud computing to store and process big data sets, coupled with major advances in the analysis and visualization of different data types, make it possible for the city and others to share and use the data effectively.

This brings us to the second cheer of the week, for Global Internet of Things Day, which was celebrated on Wednesday, April 9th.

The Internet of Things — which refers to the ability of devices of all sorts to connect to the Internet and transmit information back and forth – is something that could not have happened, at least not at scale, without recent developments in technology.  Developments in sensor and battery technology enabled devices to get smaller and smaller, while advances in connectivity enabled the connections among devices and the cloud to get stronger.  And tools like machine learning now enable more accurate insight and prediction.  As a result, our ability to measure the environment around us – and take automatic, customized action in response – is greater than ever before.

According to McKinsey Global Institute, the Internet of Things has the potential to create an economic impact of $2.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion annually by 2025.  The applications range from the personal (health monitoring devices and smart homes that track and manage energy usage) to the agricultural (systems that monitor moisture and water plants and crops exactly when and as much as needed) to the industrial (manufacturing equipment that tracks its own wear and tear so it can be repaired before it breaks). The Internet of Things requires an ecosystem of companies and capabilities, including sector-specific knowledge (e.g., for applications in self-monitoring of health and wellness), expertise in security and reliability, and platforms for data integration and analysis.  The diversity of expertise and culture of innovation in the Boston area positions this community to be at the forefront of creating and growing these new businesses.

And thus to my third cheer, for the news of the tremendous growth of start-ups in Boston. It is great news for all of us in the Commonwealth to see growing investments in the start-up sector and the expansion of opportunities in new communities within Greater Boston.

Event Recap: 5th Annual New England GiveCamp

Photo by David Seah | Check out his whole #negc2014 Flickr Gallery here.

Photo by David Seah | Check out his whole #negc2014 Flickr Gallery here.

This is a guest post written by New England GiveCamp co-organizer Jim O’Neil.

Last weekend, April 4-6, the New England Research and Development Center (NERD) hosted the 5th Annual New England GiveCamp. Held annually at NERD, GiveCamp teams non-profit organizations with technical, design, and marketing professionals who donate their unique expertise in the areas of website development, logo and branding creation, social media strategy, and more.

This year two dozen organizations from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, including Turn Back Time, Project Laundry List, and Transition House, were the beneficiaries of the efforts of nearly 100 volunteers who attended the 48-hour event.

The event kicked off Friday night with pizza and networking followed by an orientation and introduction session. Project teams then spread out through the conference center to stake their claims on working space (and tent space!).

Teams worked on projects throughout the day on Saturday and well in the wee hours of the morning, with as many as 30 attendees taking the “Camp” experience literally by pitching tents and setting up cots to spend the entire weekend in the conference center.  On Sunday afternoon, the entire group reconvened for short presentations in which each of the teams described what they had accomplished through the weekend.

JimOneilViewIt wasn’t all work and no play though, ‘smores in the microwave and make-your-own sundaes served as late night snacks and socializing opportunities for the attendees. On Saturday night, dinner was served on the 10th and 11th floor of the conference center, providing an awesome view and photo opportunities of the Boston skyline. Some of the leftovers were donationed to both Haley House in South Boston (one of the GiveCamp NPOs) and CASPAR, a shelter on Albany Street in Cambridge.

Several sports enthusiasts stuck around to watch UConn upset Florida in the NCAA Final Four on the big screen, and in celebration of National TableTop Day, some attendees enjoyed a game of Scrabble, Clue, Settler of Catan and other board games before returning to their projects.

For those of you that missed the opportunity to participate in this year’s event, check out #negc2014 on Twitter for highlights, and be sure to follow @negivecamp and http://newenglangivecamp.org for information and details on the 2015 New England GiveCamp.

Check out the full Flickr Gallery from #negc2014 here!

Nice blog coverage by David Seah here