May 2016

National Day is here again!

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For the fourth year in a row, Code for Boston is pleased to announce our participation in the National Day of Civic Hacking. This year, participants across the country will be partnering with SecondMuse and NASA to take action on a number of civic and social projects. Over two days – June 4th and 5th – developers, technologists, researchers, community activists, and government partners will gather at the Microsoft NERD Center to participate in a two-part event. This year, Code for Boston is changing our usual format and instead of hosting a community-focused two-day hackathon geared towards participation by technologists, we’re splitting the event into two distinct but related events; a CommonCamp on Saturday and HackLab on Sunday.

During CommonCamp, a CityCamp event, Code for Boston is once again collaborating with MassIT, the IT department for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to hold an unconference event wherein we hope to kick start a dialogue about critical issues that face our state. We aim to bring together government employees, technologists, and engaged community members to discuss problems and potential solutions to issues including transportation, environmental and energy concerns, the opioid crisis, and youth employment and workforce development. No coding or technology skills are required to participate in CommonCamp. Rather, we look forward to working with energetic, thoughtful individuals who have ideas about how to address problems faced in our neighborhoods.

“The problems we’re aiming to solve affect everyone – whether you are tapped into the technology world or not,” said Isaac Chansky, a member of the Code for Boston leadership team. “We want to create an atmosphere of inclusion so we can really build community ownership.”

On Sunday, we’ll be running a HackLab wherein local technologists can participate in a relaxed day of technological exploration and civic hacking. The HackLab will function like Code for Boston’s traditional hackathon events, utilizing some of the ideas generated at Saturday’s CommonCamp. Hackers can also work on open-source government projects or they can explore the set of National Day challenges provided by Code for America. Additionally, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, a long time partner of Code for Boston, will be providing a dataset they’ve collected which includes every case that has come through Boston housing court since 2014 (roughly 5400 cases). Participants will have an opportunity to work with that data.

Also on Sunday, we are honored to present our keynote speaker, NASA’s Nick Skytland, who will speak about civic technology and NASA’s open data initiative. NASA is committed to open data and we are thrilled to hear about what they’ve been working on and how we, as citizens and technologists can best leverage our skills to help.

Though this format represents a departure from Code for Boston’s normal two-day hackathon, we are hopeful that the CommonCamp component will draw in non-technologists and engaged citizens to jumpstart some crucial discussions about the best ways to address problems in our communities.

“The term ‘Code for Boston’ can be misdealing,” said Becky Donner, Code for Boston’s Events and Fundraising Lead. “One of the most important roles we play in the civic tech ecosystem is in creating a community for both coders and non-coders to work to solve these important issues together. Some of our most valuable members and ideas have come from people who don’t have a technical background, and we’re thrilled to be able to facilitate these kinds of collaborations.”

To learn more about the event or to RSVP, visit the Eventbrite.

Staff Spotlight: Kristin Kube

Kristin

Name: Kristin Kube

Hometown: Columbia, Maryland

Job: Business Administrator for the Intune DeX Engineering and PM Teams in Cambridge, MA

Years at Microsoft: 3 years, 7 months

Favorite Local Restaurant: I love Commonwealth in Cambridge!

Last thing you searched on Bing: The singer Ellie Goulding; she was recently in a car accident in Norway and I was reading about it. I was also looking at images of her. I think she is so gorgeous and such a talented artist!

Something cool you’ve worked on recently: My favorite part of my job is event planning! I am currently working on a morale event for my leadership team which will be a bartending/mixology class they take together at Drinkmaster Bartending School in downtown Boston. I get to attend as well; I am super excited!

What inspires you about technology? I love how technology can help people with disabilities. I was particularly inspired by the story of Steve Gleason, a former NFL player who has ALS and who uses eye-tracking technology, which runs on Windows on his Surface, to communicate. This has greatly improved his quality of life. It is amazing and inspiring!

What problem would you like to see solved with technology? I would like to see technology continue to help improve the human experience, whether it be improving the quality of life for people with disabilities, developing new ways for people to express themselves creatively, making our daily lives and tasks easier or exploring the universe. Technology is capable of so much and I can’t wait to see what it accomplishes next!

Announcing the First Annual Retrospective for Youth CITIES

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Through my role at Microsoft, I get to be a part of the amazing innovation ecosystem we have here in Boston.  And Boston is not just a great place to innovate because I say so; 1776 recently ranked Boston #1 in their Innovation that Matters Report based on six key themes: talent, capital, industry specialization, density, connectivity and culture.  Every day, I have a change to meet a new startup, attend an event to learn about an amazing new innovation or spend time with a founder to think about who can help grow their business.  Partners like MassChallenge, Venture Café, Smarter in the City, Epicenter Community and more are just some of the organizations that make our ecosystem in Boston unique.

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Last year, I brought my husband to the MassChallenge Awards Ceremony.  My son Alex joined me for the Generation Citizen Civics Day in December. We frequently take my family and friends to Lawn on D, the Greenway, the Boston Public Market and other spaces and places with innovative design.  But I often wonder how I can share the uniqueness and unique experience that is the innovation ecosystem in Boston with my family, especially my kids.

582788_273593796065540_1732480520_nOne organization that is working to prepare the next generation of entrepreneurs is Youth CITIES.  As a member of the board, I have judged the finals and semi-finals of the Youth CITIES March to May Bootcamp and each year the students blow me away with the comprehensive business ideas and plans they develop through this program.

On June 2, the board will host the First Annual Retrospective for Youth CITIES. Please join me at this event to meet some of the students, hear their ideas and learn more about how you can support this terrific organization.

YouthCities2Youth CITIES – First Annual Retrospective
June 2, 2016 | 6 – 9PM
Light dinner sponsored by Fuji
Davenport building, 25 First Street, Cambridge (Atrium of Accomplice building)

Join Youth CITIES to both help us celebrate our last 7 years and help forge our way forward. Meet and mingle with the new wave of young entrepreneurial thought-leaders.  Get a glimpse of what will be in store for the future, the one they will be building in ways we aren’t even aware of yet.

Meet our alumni students and learn how an entrepreneurial mindset has opened new possibilities and transformed their way of thinking, and find out what big plans they have for the future.

With Special Guests:

  • Toni Oloko, Youth CITIES alum
  • Rayza Carrasco, Youth CITIES alum
  • Jeff Fagnan, Founder and General Partner, Accomplice
  • Tito Jackson, Boston City Councillor

Hosted by: Youth CITIES Board of Directors

  • Vicky Wu Davis, Founder
  • Dan Ross, Chair
  • Aimee Sprung
  • Alex Finkelstein
  • Andy Miller
  • Chris Wolfel
  • David Birnbach
  • Dougan Sherwood
  • Kathy Huber
  • Leland Cheung
  • Steve Willis
  • Tito Jackson
  • Tom O’Donnell
  • Toni Oloko
  • Vivjan Myrto

Register here.

Youth CITIES is a nonprofit organization preparing the next generation to become entrepreneurial leaders in their area of passion, permeating all areas whether startups, corporations, philanthropy, or government.  We are changing the way young people look and think about problems, limitations, and obstacles…associating them as just design constraints within endless opportunities for change.

Celebrating Inventive Minds at the CT Invention Convention

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Microsoft New England has been a proud supporter of the CT Invention Convention (CIC) for almost 20 years. The CIC is the nation’s oldest continuously operating children’s invention competition, beginning in the 1983-1984 school year, with an estimated 300,000 children experiencing local CIC invention programs. Annually, more than 10,000 students in grades K-8 across Connecticut from over 200 Connecticut schools take part in the CIC learning curriculum. The CIC is funded by grants and in-kind support from community, academic, and business institutions.

ct invention conventionThis year’s event was held at the UConn Gampel Pavilion on Saturday, April 30. Microsoft continued its sponsorship of this convention including awarding six accessibility awards, in which we honored the best inventions enabling improved lifestyles, living, or access the disabled community. The accessibility award winners are invited to the West Farms Mall retail store to celebrate their inventions. In addition to the six special awards, Microsoft gifted each inventor with a technology prize and had employees judge the competition.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Microsoft Accessibility Awards
Best invention enabling improved lifestyles, living, or access to anything by the disabled

  • Ashlee Alves, Cross Street Intermediate School, Naugatuck | Magno Belt
  • Julia Helal, Fishers Island School, Mystic | Safety Stairs
  • Audrey H. Larson, Dag Hammarskjold Middle School, Wallingford | SEAT Safe Emergency Assistive Technology
  • Preston McNulty-Socha, CREC University of Hartford, Hartford | Bat Hat Smart Eyes
  • Lucca Riccio, Joseph A. DePaolo Middle School, Southington | Message Mask
  • Andy Wu, Talcott Mountain Academy, Avon | Mag-Knitz

Our Space Our Place: Making Tech Accessible to the Visually Impaired

Our technology-driven world is constantly growing, creating new standards and opportunities. Throughout this growth, though, it is pertinent to ensure that this technology is accessible to all. In the spirit of Microsoft’s renewed focus on the connection between technology and accessibility, Smarter in the City introduced us toOur Space Our Place (OSOP), which provides access to education for blind and low-vision students. Programs like Our Space Our Place (OSOP), bring to the table technology — and tech skills — that empower our youth and bring them to a level playing field. OSOP emerged out of the desire of professionals who are blind and parents with children who are blind to improve the employment outcomes for the next generation of blind youth.

— Aimee Sprung

2. BAA 5K 2015: This is from the BAA 5K last year. I love this picture because it looks like everyone has just finished running and they're walking away from the camera. One of the volunteers has her arm around Nakia's shoulder, it looks like a very sweet moment.

As our society progresses through technology, one of the main questions we have to ask ourselves is how we make tech accessible to all. The influence of technology in our jobs, our schools, and our home lives can’t be denied — so it only makes sense that we all understand it on a skill-based level. That’s why we’re bringing coding to Our Space Our Place (OSOP). OSOP is a non-profit organization, offering a respectful, accessible and fun environment for middle and high school students who are legally blind to participate in team sports, the arts, community service and mentoring in Boston and its surrounding communities.

While technology may be everywhere, access to tech is not. Many individuals who are visually impaired use tools that turn text on a screen into speech, but not every coding language is accessible through these means. And not everyone knows that you can code via speech. So we designed a summer camp that makes the coding experience as accessible as possible.

1. Rock Climbing: This picture was taken in January 2016 at the BU Fitness Center's rock climbing wall. It is a group picture with OSOP students and C.A.S.H. volunteers posing in front of a rock wall.

Our summer camp, a week-long program, will be held this July 11 — 15, hosted by Microsoft at the NERD Center. It is open to anybody who is blind or low vision, who uses speech or magnification software to access a computer. Limited to middle- and high- school age students.This program uses tools on the market that get kids and adults excited about coding. As it currently stands, a lot of tools that exist are based on graphics and use flash, making them inaccessible to somebody who uses speech-based tools. So we decided to go back to the basics — we spend time teaching HTML, CSS and Javascript. It doesn’t make sense to introduce kids to tools and say “Oh, if you’re using speech, you can only do X, Y, and Z.” By having the primary instructor be a professional who is blind, we aim to show the students that learning these tools can be done. After doing our research and talking to people “in the know,” we understand that the fundamentals of coding get you started — and all these things can be done using a text-based format (something as basic as notepad).

I want blind kids to learn how to code because I think a lot of times we limit ourselves to just being users of technology. I’m interested in kids understanding that they can be creators of technology. I want to expand future work opportunities for folks who are visually impaired. We’re looking for that somebody who hasn’t thought of this as a possible career — they know they like video games or doing things on the web, but never thought “I could be one of those people.” They can be.

6. OSOP at NBP

One of the mentors here at Smarter in the City, Tim Buntel, articulated it very well in saying that as we move into the 21st and 22nd century, computers will play a bigger part in our lives. We need to improve our computer literacy. This is all part of that.

I’m hoping that as we put this together and implement it, we’ll start building connections with tech leaders who want to improve accessibility. There are so many local companies embracing tech, and it just seems to me that there has to be a space there for people who are visually impaired. If people know that blind kids are interested in coding, they’ll start creating more internship opportunities and employment options for adults.

One study estimates SSI and SSDI beneficiaries who enter the disability programs before age 30 remain on benefits an average of 33 years and incur cumulative SSDI, SSI, Medicare, and Medicaid, expenditures averaging nearly $600,000 during that period—about twice the amount estimated for all working-age beneficiaries (Riley and Rupp 2015). Kids who begin on SSI stay on SSI.

One of the reasons I started OSOP is because there’s been such a high unemployment rate within the blindness community — and across all the disability community. About a third of the people who are blind who want to work are working, which means two-thirds are not working. That is just completely unacceptable.

As we’re talking about a society of inclusion, we need to make sure that we really are taking advantage of all of the skills of everybody. And everybody includes folks who are blind and low vision.

Find more about Our Space Our Place’s programs — including summer coding camp — here.

Recap: Code for Boston’s Spring Demo Night

Code for Boston

Last Tuesday, May 3rd, Microsoft NERD played host to Code for Boston’s Spring Demo Night. Code for Boston, a local volunteer civic technology group, provided an opportunity for project teams to demo the projects and applications they’ve been working on throughout the winter. Code for Boston holds weekly hack nights at the Cambridge Innovation Center where teams collaborate, iterate, and work on projects involving the creative use of technology to solve community needs. On Tuesday, eight teams presented their work to a packed house of technologists, community members, government partners, and interested citizens. Projects ranged in topics from education, to family resources, to transit with the cities of Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville well represented.

“This is a really great Demo Night for us,” said Becky Donner, Code for Boston’s Fundraising and Events Lead. “Microsoft is such a great partner for us and we love showing off the work our volunteers have been doing. I’m excited to see how the community reacts to our projects.”

Kicking off the demos was FindIt Cambridge, a website allowing Cambridge residents to easily find resources for families and children. The project began as a Code for Boston volunteer effort over a year ago and has since been built out to solicit bids from local companies. An initiative by the Cambridge Kids’ Council, FindIt Cambridge has partnered with Terravoz, a local technology consultancy to make the site accessible to everyone.

A project begun during the historic winter of 2015, Snow Ranger was originally designed as an app to help low-mobility citizens navigate unplowed or icy sidewalks and roads. Since then, the app has pivoted – and been renamed ByPath – and in addition to snow and ice, the app considers potholes, rough pavement, broken sidewalks, or any other mobility challenges for local residents.

During CodeAcross 2015, the City of Somerville began a project which became known as Cornerwise, a platform that allows residents to see, at-a-glance, any capital building projects going on in their neighborhood or town. Cornerwise allows users to discover interesting projects and see what the city is planning near them.

Rounding out the first half of presentations was the team working on Student Insights, a method for teachers and administrators to track student progress in the Somerville school system. Student Insights began as the project of the 2015 Code for America Fellowship Team in Somerville and has since been adopted by the Code for Boston volunteer community as one of our most complex projects. With the goal of giving educators a more holistic view of students and the ability to curb at-risk behavior before it begins, Student Insights is also one of Code for Boston’s most important projects.

After a quick break and networking opportunity, we began our second half of presentations with Bikeways 4 Everybody, a project that crowd-sources public input on ideal locations for fully protected bike routes. In collaboration with the Boston Cyclist’s Union, the application has already received more than 500 public submissions.

The City of Cambridge is also taking advantage of local tech talent with the work of the EnerSave team. Cambridge is competing for the Georgetown Energy Prize, a $5 million prize to the city that lowers its energy usage the most over a period of three years. Team EnerSave has created a dashboard that allows Cambridge residents to compare their energy bills to that of their neighbors, receive energy saving tips, and help contribute to lowering Cambridge’s energy usage.

The demos concluded with two projects focusing on that old favorite of Boston technologists, the MBTA. The first project, MBTA Tardy, begun at CodeAcross this past March at the Roxbury Innovation Center and was created in conjunction with Andrew Seeder of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. In the Boston Public School system, students who rack up enough tardies may need to attend summer school. Often these tardies are unavoidable due to public transit delays. MBTA Tardy is a method by which students can track their transit and prove which tardies were due to transit delays, thus preventing punitive measures against students and providing incentive to attend school.

Finally, volunteers presented mbta.fyi, a web application using the MBTA’s real-time GPS information to give the most accurate bus and subway predictions available. The app also allows for route control and presents alternate options for more efficient transit choices.

In total, the eight projects presented at Demo Night provided a good sample of the kind of projects to which Code for Boston volunteers dedicate their time and talents. “It’s great for us to present a Demo Night every so often,” said Isaac Chansky, a member of Code for Boston’s leadership team. “We want to show the community the kinds of things we’re doing and we want their feedback. This is a good way to demonstrate what we’ve been up to.”

“It’s always great to have people ask, ‘Can I use this right now?’” added Harlan Weber, Code for Boston’s lead organizer. “That shows that the work we’re doing is useful and is having an impact.”

Code for Boston’s next big event will be the yearly National Day of Civic Hacking, held this year on June 4-5 at NERD. Collaborating with MassIT (the Commonwealth’s IT department), and GovNextMA, this year’s event will feature a CommonCamp unconference on Saturday and a technology-focused HackLab on Sunday. Visit this link for more information or to RSVP.

TechJam Shows Middle School Students The Fun Side of Tech

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What happens when you unleash a full spectrum of technology on over 200 middle school students? A day of tech, learning, and fun! This April, our Burlington Microsoft Store headed to Shawsheen Valley High School in Billerica for TechJam, a day of tech delivered to students — and we had just as much fun as they did! With 15 Microsoft Retail volunteers, we headed to Shawsheen to take over the school with STEM delights.

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Alongside areas that the school’s robotics and engineering team put together, our group of volunteers spread out across the building to set up six different zones that brought Microsoft technology straight to students:

  • Zone 1: BB-8 Robot Race — An Nguyen & Jade Gosnell
    We brought along an iconic Star Wars character BB8! In the gym, Jade & An helped all 280 kids pilot BB8 through a cone obstacle course – teaching them about the sensors in their smartphones and how wireless connectivity works in iOT devices.
  • Zone 2: Xbox One Minecraft — Rachel Sodi & John Grzyballa
    Rachel & John ran a classroom and taught each kid the fundamentals of coding with Minecraft on Xbox One consoles. The kids were so excited when they saw that Minecraft was an activity at the event!
  • Zone 3: Xbox One Project Spark — Nicholas Martino & Beverly Markwith
    Beverly & Nick ran a classroom with 10 Xbox One consoles loaded with Project Spark. The kids loved exploring the open world of Project Spark and shared their creations with each other.
  • Zone 4: Surface FreshPaint Art Zone — Jena Mancini & Amy Pestena
    Both Jena & Amy did an amazing job instructing all the kids on how to create with the Surface Pen in FreshPaint. The kids all were able to print and take their artwork with them!
  • Zone 5: Xbox Kinect Sports — MD Islam & Evan Pharm
    Our two FITNESS ALLSTARS MD & Evan got every kid up and moving in front of the Kinect camera! From bowling to jet ski racing, the kids were on their feet nonstop!
  • Zone 6: Drone Zone -Joe Dire, Brett Chartenitz & Julian Wiryo
    Goose, Maverick & Iceman(Call signs chosen by them) taught all 280 kids how to pilot a drone using a smartphone! They taught the kids the fundamentals of their Wi-Fi direct which connects the phones to the drone and about onboard solid state memory the drones use to store pictures and videos.

20160421_163940878_iOSAfter a day of fun and nonstop activity, we were thrilled to hear the kids talk to one another about the projects they created and the new tech they learned. We are already planning an event themed for Adults in September, focused on Office 365, Windows 10 and the power of the cloud. We are looking forward to next year’s TechJam, and couldn’t thank Shawsheen Valley High enough!

Impacting Civic Spaces: Boston’s Public Space Invitational

Two years ago, Mayor Walsh launched the Public Space Invitational (PSI), a civic design competition that aims to make Boston’s civic spaces and infrastructure intuitive, beautiful, and delightful through deep collaboration between designers and City Hall. After evaluating 70 entries, the City of Boston awarded nine projects. PSI-winning teams built projects that brought a tidal vibraphone to the Congress Street bridge, provided pop-up learning opportunities on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, and activated the mezzanine of City Hall with brightly-colored skateboard tape.

During the first month of the Walsh administration, a time of transition in January 2014, we were inspired by Philadelphia’s civic design challenge. Our office had been involved with a number of public space interventions. We worked with Soofa to install solar-powered benches in our City’s parks. And with City Hall to Go, we redesigned a former bomb-squad truck to bring citizen services to every neighborhood in Boston.

We were looking to expand the way we sourced, funded, and implemented ideas in the streetscape. We thought that creating an open call for Boston’s creative community could achieve this goal. The only thing we needed was a name. It took a while, but we were particularly inspired by David Sim, Partner and Creative Director at Gehl Architects, and his commentary on reinventing public space in The Human Scale, a documentary about the future of urban design.

“I can’t force anyone to do anything or be anyone. But we can make invitations. We can invite people to walk. We can invite people to sit, to stay…invitations to a better everyday, a better way to cross the street, a better way to wait for the bus, a better way to live your life. That’s all we can do.”

After watching the film, we were really taken with the idea of inviting people to reimagine their public spaces. We coupled this with the idea of an Invitational, a term frequently used in athletic competitions. After a few word combinations, we settled on the Public Space Invitational.

The response to the call was exciting and a bit overwhelming. Designers were eager to collaborate with City Hall to improve the city. After choosing the nine winners of the first Public Space Invitational, the real work began. And we learned a lot. Team dynamics and optimistic budgets led to the quick failure of a few projects. We realized how difficult it is to fabricate durable installations for public space, especially on time and on budget. And we got a crash course in permitting and insuring projects on a bridge and in parks and the building we visit everyday, Boston City Hall.

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The Portable Reading Room on the Rose Kennedy Greenway​

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​Tidraphone on the Congress Street Bridge

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​LightWell in the South End Library Park

A couple months ago, Mayor Walsh announced the launch of the second PSI and its theme: the City of People, Places, and Things.

The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, the Boston Art Commission, and the City’s Streets Cabinet are working with a host of external partners to explore the interplay of digital and analog ideas in the streetscape. We’ve divided the Invitational into three challenges: analog, digital, and a bonus challenge. Our analog challenge explores simple fixes with simple materials. These fixes could be paint in the street or lightweight structures that make a community more cohesive. For the digital challenge, we’re partnering with Microsoft Technology and Civic Engagement to look for projects that experiment with technology, sensors, and a generally connected world to improve the streetscape. We are seeking forward-thinking, human-centered creative ideas that highlight the Internet of People, Place, and Things. And finally, we’re partnering with MassArt’s Matthew Hincman, Professor of Sculpture, and the MBTA to rethink Mattapan Station. How can we make bus shelters more inviting, beautiful, and comfortable?

Since its launch, the Invitational has become a piece of a series of efforts by Mayor Walsh to engage and support Boston’s creative community. The City is working to bolster and expand the connections between City Hall and designers, and can’t wait to build on those collaborations.

Microsoft celebrates National Small Business Week with programs and deals for local businesses

Small business is the heart of the U.S. economy: The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year. Microsoft is celebrating National Small Business Week May 1-7 with events, panel discussions, videos, and in-store offers at Microsoft Stores designed to help small businesses grow and succeed. Get daily updates at the Microsoft Sway page for National Small Business Week.

Boosting IT security for small businesses

On Monday morning, the United States Institute of Peace hosted a panel discussion focused on the importance of cybersecurity for small businesses, which are becoming a key target for cybercriminals seeking to access financial and personal data. Attackers assume that small businesses have limited resources for IT security; experts from Microsoft, ADP and ESET joined SBA Deputy Administrator Doug Kramer to offer solutions and resources that will help small businesses fight back. You can watch a replay of the discussion and follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #DreamSmallBiz.

Office Small Business Academy Live Expert Q&A

On Thursday, May 5, at 7 p.m. EDT, the Office Small Business Academy webcast series is hosting a live event, “Small Businesses, Big Ideas,” from the flagship Microsoft Store in New York. Featured speakers Carol Roth, Ramon Ray and Rieva Lesonsky will field entrepreneurs’ questions about building and growing a small business, from managing employees to connecting with customers. As a bonus, attendees will be eligible to get two months free with an annual Office 365 Business Premium plan.

A local success story

Boston startup HourlyNerd is one of this week’s featured small business success stories. HourlyNerd, which began as a Harvard Business School MBA project, is using Office 365 to help bring top-notch management consulting to small businesses at a price they can afford.    

Special offers for small businesses at the Microsoft Store

Microsoft Stores are designed to support the needs of small businesses with products and solutions, events, support and training. For National Small Business Week, we’re presenting programs to help entrepreneurs achieve more and offering discounts to help you get the most out of your investments. Check out the store nearest you for special workshops and offers.

Enabling Youth Employment: A Conversation with Lawrence Brown

Lawrence-Brown (2)

Last month, we started a conversation on youth employment in the City of Boston. With the help of eight unique panelists from all walks of life, we discussed the importance of delivering employable skills (management, leadership, and coding, for example) to our local youth to drive the economy and uplift our communities. And we know that our youth know the struggle of employment best. So we want to showcase their stories.

Meet Lawrence Brown, a 26-year-old Boston resident who attended Newton schools through the Metco program and is now a computer technician and web developer at Resilient Coders.

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How did you learn about Resilient Coders?

I was referred to the Resilient Coders bootcamp through an employee of the City of Boston. They had noticed me struggling to gain employment but saw my determination and connected me with people to get into the program.

What made you get into coding? What’s your favorite part about coding?

I’ve always been somewhat interested in the tech field. But all I was taught about was the stuff you can physically touch and see, such as networking and help desk — those types of things. Coding is just another outlet to be in the tech industry. My favorite part is when there’s something you work on for two hours and you just can’t get it right, then you take a walk around, eat, maybe talk on the phone… and you come back after giving your brain a rest and you fix your problem in 2 minutes. You surprise yourself, like, “wow, that’s all I had to do.”

Why does this work matter to you?

This work is important because people need websites in this day and age to have people notice them. But it’s more of the opportunity that matters, that there is this mysterious field of tech called coding no one knows about. Who are the people who do this? It’s such a mystery to people, and it could be the person sitting next to you on the bus or train — and that’s what I mean when I say that anyone can do it.

What’s your dream job?

When I was young my dream job was to be in the NBA — my first love is basketball. But now that I’m older and wiser, my dream job would be to manage a company that builds websites and employs inner city youth. I would obviously be managing from some tropical island :)….

What’s the coolest coding project you’ve worked on?

I guess the coolest would be working on my personal resume site. A website that showcases my talents. I would pick this because I’m free to do whatever I want and design it to fit me.

Why is it important for youth to learn these skills?

I think learning this skill is important because it will introduce youth to new ways to gain wealth. The future businesses will all be accessible online and they will be in need of our services.

What advice would you give to youth who want to learn tech skills?

I would say to never give up. It gets hard — really hard — and you will hit walls where it would be easier to quit. If you can get around that wall, you’ll make it in the tech field for sure. And always be open to new experiences; you never know what is around the corner.

With the help of Agora Town Hall, we’ve set up a town hall discussion of our own, where we encourage members of our community to discuss, contribute, and act through message boards, polls, data visualizations, and more. We want to help improve youth employment in our city, and that starts with you. Join us in the conversation at theagora.co/townhalls/mcyouth.