May 2017

Danielle Dean Honored by UMass with Distinguished Young Alumni Award

Here at NERD we have even more reason to celebrate beyond our 10-year anniversary #NERD10. Part of what we get to celebrate day in and day out is our amazing team. One example is Danielle Dean, a senior data scientist lead in the Algorithms and Data Science Group within the Cloud and Enterprise Division, and the most recent recipient of the Distinguished Young Alumni Award by UMass Amherst.

The Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor bestowed by the UMass Amherst Alumni Association on alumni, faculty and friends. Recipients of this prestigious award have translated their UMass Amherst experience into distinguished achievement in the public, business or professional realms and bring honor to UMass Amherst and to their field of endeavor.

Danielle Dean received the award for her contributions in Data Science and her leadership of an international team of data scientists and engineers working on machine learning solutions. In honoring Dean, the UMass Alumni Association cites many of her accomplishments in the data science field, including her role as lead author of three major publications; co-author of the data science modeling book, Data Science with Microsoft SQL Server 2016; and a speaker at more than 20 conferences in the last three years, including keynotes at SQLbits and SQL Nexus, and a featured talk at Strata & Hadoop World Conference in Singapore in December of 2015.

During her time at UMass Amherst, Dean earned two bachelor’s degrees: the first in psychology with a minor in mathematics and statistics, and the second in organizational behavior through statistical analysis. Dean was a student researcher in Professor Linda Isbell’s Psychology lab. Dean’s data analysis work within the lab inspired her eventual study of Quantitative Psychology and Biostatistics.

I am incredibly honored to win the award and feel very fortunate to be surrounded by a supportive community from my undergraduate and graduate schools as well as at Microsoft, which gave me many opportunities to learn and grow along my journey” says Dean.

“I feel fortunate to have had several amazing women mentors in my life who made me believe I could accomplish anything I set myself out to do,” Dean tells us, “from high school mathematics teachers to my undergraduate research professor Linda Isbell to my mother who studied computer science and moved into the big data field. As I have moved throughout my life, I have realized that others are not as fortunate to have so many role models and mentors directly accessible to them, and I want to do my part to fill that role for young women to whom it would benefit.”

Dean has leveraged this experience toward helping other young women through mentorship. She is an active advisor with Girls Who Code, a board member of Microsoft’s Women@NERD (New England Research & Development) resource group, and a career advice contributor through Microsoft’s Professional Data Science Degree Program.   

“My advice to young women who are interested in a career in data science would be to become curious about the world around you – how things work, how things are tracked,” says Dean. “Learn to work with many different types of people who have different interests and passions and come from different backgrounds than you, as they will give you unique perspectives and help you find who you want to become as a person. Never strive to be exactly like someone else but rather find what drives you and seek opportunities to push yourself.”

This isn’t the first time Dean has been recognized for her accomplishments. Previously, she’s received the UMass Amherst 21st Century Leaders Award, Senior Leadership Award, the LeBovidge Research Fellowship, and Psi Chi Regional Research Award.

 Congratulations Danielle and thank you for your contributions in data science and to women and others in this field!

Join Boston Civic Media’s 3rd Annual Conference on June 3

Want to gain insights and approaches for collectively re-imagining public life in Boston?

Join Boston Civic Media’s third annual conference, Civic Imagination: Designing and Building a Better Future, taking place on June 3 from 9 a.m.  to  4 p.m. at District Hall.

Spearheaded by the Engagement Lab at Emerson College, Boston Civic Media is a faculty-led network that aims to advance the transdisciplinary domain of civic media research and pedagogy in the Greater Boston Area. Each year, Boston Civic Media convenes its growing network of faculty, students, activists, journalists, policymakers and nonprofits all invested in “civic media,” or media that creates social change through art, design and technology.

This year’s conference aims to explore the intersection of art, research and activism and is an opportunity to celebrate community-driven public work. From workshops on learning to engage across cultures, borders and divides to DIY biotechnology, expect an exciting lineup of presenters to share strategies, insights and approaches for collectively re-imagining public life in Boston.

The conference includes keynote presentations by Nettrice Gaskins, whose work examines how cultural art and technology made by under-represented groups for creative expression and STEAM learning can ignite our civic imagination, and Mariama White-Hammond, an ecological justice minister who will draw upon her former experiences of social-justice media making with youth to inspire new narratives.

This year, the conference will also tackle the wicked problem of climate adaptation and preparedness throughout the City of Boston with the release of the first ever inter-campus curriculum addressing climate change.

All are welcome to attend! This event is free, but registration is required.

Learn more about Civic Imagination: Designing and Building a Better Future and register here. Can’t attend? Follow along on Twitter using #BostonCivicMedia. 

All I Ever Needed to Know about Civic Engagement I Learned From my Mom

I’ve been listening to a lot of Podcasts lately.  I particularly like the podcasts about successful people where they share details about their lives that led to success or mastery in their field. I like Tim Ferriss, Spartan Up and just found Finding Mastery and am currently listening to a fantastic conversation with Amy Hood. In many of these podcasts, people reflect on the role that his / her Mom / Mom-like figure played in guiding them to success. And there is no question that my Mom’s presence and modeling led me to value civic engagement and the work I do today.

My mom taught me to actively engage with civic organizations. She never just attended a meeting or sat on the sidelines. She engaged and was able to influence outcomes. As a passionate supporter of the Arts, my mom ran the Cultural Arts program at my school to make sure arts programming was a part of our education. And as a professional development / fund raising officer for a non-profit, she supports the Camp where she met my dad, I attended and now my sons go with fund raising advice and guidance. By actively engaging in important organizations, I feel the benefits as much as I contribute, and often even more!

We set out to ask some of the phenomenal civic leaders in Boston to share the lessons they learned from their moms and we received an amazing response. We hope these stories inspire and empower you the same way they have affected us:

Teaching and education has always been a passion and priority for my mom. She was a teacher in England when I was born. She was our advocate in school from pre school to college. And when she stopped teaching, she become a volunteer tutor and a mentor at local schools. She took a year to complete a program on teaching children with dyslexia, and volunteered her time to work with children after school that needed that extra help to complete their homework. We all know how important it is to get a good education (and she raised three kids that all got engineering degrees), but what she showed me is that enabling someone to get a good education, is about patience and encouragement, one day at a time, year after year. Thank you mom.

— Elizabeth Bruce, Universities, Technology and Civic Engagement at Microsoft

When my parents divorced, my brother was 8 and I was 6 years old. We watched our my beautiful mother Linda work three jobs: one minimum wage and two waitress jobs. All of her time and energy went into making a living wage for our family. She didn’t have time to get involved in the PTO, town meetings, or weekend hackathons, and any time she had to spend to interact with city hall or school, meant time off and money lost.

It is for single parents like Linda that I think about first when creating or transforming the way we deliver public service to our constituents. Happy Mothers Day to Linda and the busy moms!

Pictured is Sam, Aunt Robyn (another strong female role model), and Linda (right)

— Samantha Hammar, Director of Digital Engagement, Office of the Treasury, Commonwealth of Massachusetts

My mom has always been curious about life and has been a life-long learner. She has always encouraged me to get beneath the surface, to chase those things I found interesting, to understand the “why” behind the world. She truly shaped my thought process, in that I try to understand the systems, the structures, and the “why” in my world. I think this is why I find the civic technology space so interesting—even though we use the lens of technology in the civic space, it’s ultimately about supporting society and the human condition.

— Cathy Wissink, Senior Director, Technology & Civic Engagement at Microsoft

I’m fortunate to come from a family of strong, socially-minded women on both sides of my family, and have always been encouraged to give back to and engage with my community. On my mom’s side, she and my gran have been role models for me my entire life. After raising her children, my gran returned to work — serving as a magistrate for many years and advocating for the rights of her community members. My mom has always been involved in organizations for education, arts, and the community, and even started a company while I was in high school. They’ve both served as constant role models for me, and continue to remind me of the importance of dedicating my time and energy to causes that are important to me on a daily basis.

— Becky Donner, Director, District Hall

My civic tech work is shaped by what my mother showed me about collaboration and picking your projects. Whether as a leader or team member, she believes strongly in asking questions, listening, and learning from everyone in the room, as that’s how you figure out what’s important and can select an effective path forward. She also shows me how valuable it can be to carefully choose what you give your time and resources to (yes, my mother taught me how to say no!). She has shown me how to go all in on the institutions and issues–in her case, from hospice care to reproductive rights–that make a difference to individuals’ lives and across communities. Civic tech and engagement is about thinking beyond what you alone might know or like or need, and I am lucky to have seen from my mother how to think and live that philosophy.

— Elizabeth Grossman, Director of Civic Projects, Technology and Civic Engagement Group at Microsoft

My mother taught me the value of authenticity, honesty, and putting yourself in other people’s shoes. These are core values of civic engagement, and lead to things like user-centric design, transparency, and collaboration being the guiding principles of the civic tech community.

— Annmarie Levins, General Manager,Technology and Civic Engagement Group at Microsoft

My mom is an immigrant woman who was raised in a conservative cultural environment where women are not always encouraged to be outspoken. Once my mom had her own three daughters, she focused on raising us with the opportunities she didn’t have in her life. By bringing us to a mosque that prioritized civic duties, community service, interfaith work and social justice and actively volunteering herself during events like the Walk Against Hunger, protesting the “travel ban”, and cooking for the Mercy Shelter, my mother showed me the importance of showing up and engaging with the community. I was proud of my mom for also supporting my education and focus on Political Science and Human Rights. Most notably, I am proud of my mom for raising her hand to volunteer in her community despite language barriers.

— Sumia Hassain, Partnerships Development Coordinator, MassChallenge Boston

For my whole life, I’ve watched my mom work tirelessly to support the communities around her, whether through planning events for our schools, knocking on doors for local politicians, or encouraging us to get involved with nonprofit work.

More recently, I’ve been blessed to watch her transition into what is undoubtedly her dream job as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. She works constantly and tirelessly around the clock to make individuals’ lives better — whether it be through 7am weekend phone calls to constituents, attending events morning and night, or filing bills in the House to benefit underrepresented individuals within the State.

My mom has a ‘can-do’ attitude second-to-none, and the beauty of it all is that she expects nothing in return. If I can embody even 1% of the dedication she has to making the lives of EVERYONE around her better, regardless of it benefiting her, I will be more selfless, caring, and helpful than most who walk the earth. I love you, Mom, and am so proud to be your daughter!

— Kara Cronin, Partnerships Account Manager, MassChallenge Boston

Microsoft New England Picks: Not-To-Miss Events, May 2017

We’ve gotten through our April showers — now it’s time for May flowers… and events!

Here are our top picks for events in the Boston area this month:

May 3

Design in Boston: Creating a More Connected City

In celebration of ArtWeek, General Assembly and the City of Boston are pairing up to bring together designers and policy makers who are helping to define and redesign what makes for a better urban lifestyle in Boston.

May 4

Catalyst Conversations: Charmed Science

Join us for an evening exploring magic and celebrating the community of innovators, artists and scientists that have come together to make Catalyst Conversations a vibrant demonstration of the possibility of ideas. Enjoy drinks, small bites, music, magic and good conversation! Your ticket purchase and donation will help us bring direct, free public access to cutting-edge innovations in art and science in 2017 and beyond. Hosted by MIT List Visual Arts Center.

May 6

City of Boston Analytics Team: Analyze Boston Open Data Challenge Final Showcase

The Analyze Boston Open Data Challenge will culminate in our Showcase Event on May 6th at District Hall (75 Northern Ave, in the Seaport). This is a free event where attendees will learn more about Analyze Boston and then see what challenge participants came up with. There will also be instructional sessions where attendees can learn more about tools and techniques they can use to do even more with open data.

The event will finish with the announcement of awards for Open Data Challenge winners. There will be three sets of awards given out:

  • Challenge Track Awards: Winners and runners-up will be chosen for each of the challenge tracks above by a panel of expert judges.
  • Special Prizes: Judges will also pick winners for best student project, best project from someone new to data, best project built on open source software, and best project using maps or geospatial analysis.
  • Grand Prizes: An overall Grand Prize winner and runner-up will be chosen by audience vote.

May 10

Explore | Create | Code

Ever curious about your tech? Learn how to program a micro:bit and create a circuit-based game with Microsoft Garage staff. Tour the Garage and check out the 3-D printers, laser cutter, and future realities room.

The micro:bit is a tiny, easy-to-program device that can be used for cool creations ranging from robots to musical instruments to games. It’s been featured on the television show Robot Wars, and it has programmable LED lights, buttons, a compass, accelerometer, and Bluetooth connectivity.

Sisters will use the micro:bit as part of their games, and then Little Sisters will be able to take it home and keep creating!

May 11

New England Machine Learning Hackathon: Hacking Bias in ML

Join us for hacking the biases, discrimination, and fairness in machine learning, algorithms, big data analytics! Our goal is to have each team develop websites to address these issues.

Prizes will be awarded at the end of the day. The winning team will receive a Surface Pro 4 for the team leader and Xbox One S FIFA ’17 bundle for each team member.

May 13

Technovation 2017 Showcase & Pitch

Celebrate all the locally-made apps submitted for the Technovation Challenge!

This year Posterboard judges will be reviewing a team’s materials beforehand, and then submitting final scores at the Showcase after meeting the team and hearing their pitch. The Posterboard scores will determine which teams get to pitch for the Presentation Award, as well as which teams will move on to the semifinal round.

May 16

MedTech Boston 40 Under 40 Awards

Please join us for an evening to celebrate the 2017 MedTech Boston 40 Under 40 Healthcare Innovators, hosted by PULSE@Masschallenge. This year we are teaming up with the PULSECHECK community to bring you the best in Boston Healthcare.