#NERD10: Transformation in Kendall Square, NERD and Microsoft Over the Past 10 years

Sep 28, 2017   |   Ed Fischer, New England R&D Engineering Leader for Office Collaboration

2017 marks 10 years that Microsoft has hosted one of its Global Development Centers in Cambridge. The Microsoft New England Research & Development Center, fondly referred to as NERD, is celebrating its anniversary with stories and events year-round. Please join us in the celebration on the ground and online using #NERD10.

Since Microsoft opened its New England R&D (NERD) center in September, 2007, the neighborhood, the NERD, and the company have seen amazing transformation. I joined Microsoft in 2005 through the acquisition of Groove Networks. I had worked in Kendall Square during the early 90s when Lotus was the anchor company, and only a few biotech and tech companies populated the neighborhood. In the past decade, Kendall Square has developed multi-story buildings on nearly every street and has become an epicenter of innovation and entrepreneurship, with over 66,000 people working, living and learning in this one square mile. Technology is the largest sector in Kendall Square followed by life sciences and professional services. Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Akamai, Facebook, and IBM Watson are just a few of the local tech giants that now reside here, making Kendall Square an exciting place to come to work every day.

When our team moved from our spartan start-up space in Beverly to Cambridge, the move was a dramatic and welcome upgrade. One feature that stood out to me was the two-story, mostly open ceiling between the 10th and 11th floors. It had amazing views of the Charles River and an open staircase that doubled as seating for large events, such as Satya Nadella’s first visit as CEO to a Microsoft office outside of Seattle. The other signature space was the first floor conference center which was opened to the public to host tech meet-ups, hackathons and other community gatherings. I could walk down there on any given day and see a hundred or more people networking, learning and creating.

While the space was well-suited for the times, we as an office and organization are constantly evolving. As such, NERD is modernizing our space to increase collaboration, effectiveness and innovation. My team has moved into the newly renovated 11th floor. The team sits in “neighborhoods” composed of 8-12 employees. Each neighborhood has a “front porch” where the team gathers for daily meetings. We have also removed the two-story ceiling and replaced it with a modernized common area that functions as both a meeting space for large groups and a lunch space for our employees. The first floor conference center is being re-designed to include a larger Garage makerspace for the community. We are excited for its unveiling in March 2018!

The last transformation that stands out to me over NERD’s past ten years is the evolution of our company focus and culture led by our CEO Satya Nadella. Prior to 2014, we were solely committed to building products and services for our own platform, ignoring signs that other platforms and devices would rise to become more than 90% of the market. In today’s Microsoft, we acknowledge our failures, learn from them, and dream bigger using every platform available to affect change. Microsoft’s new mission is to empower every person and organization on the plant to achieve more. This was a monumental and inspirational shift for me. As a leader in Office Collaboration and Sharing tools, I am inspired to help professionals, students, and anyone in the world with only a mobile device achieve their best and make an impact.  

In sum, I am thrilled to take part in Microsoft New England R&D’s tenth anniversary celebration, all that we have achieved, and the promise of what we will continue to achieve together.

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