Microsoft Garage Takes On Northeastern University Clubs

| Ben Fersenheim, Chief Intern Officer, Microsoft Garage

Question: Pop quiz, hotshots. What do you get when you cross:

  • Students from Generate, Northeastern University’s student-led product development studio
  • Students from Idea, Northeastern University’s student-led venture accelerator
  • The NERD Garage Team
  • The Master of Mojo himself, Mr. Steve Scallen
  • About $100 USD of pizza

Answer: A pretty sweet Garage takeover of two of Northeastern University’s innovation clubs! Last month, at the invitation of some of our Northeastern alumni, the Garage team crashed a joint meeting of the Generate and Idea clubs to talk about Microsoft, introduce the Garage, and most importantly lead the innovation-loving students in a fun product design workshop.

Mary Morrison [Events Director, Generate] and Connor Gross [Events Lead, Idea] kick off the evening.
As the students filed in, ate pizza, and staked out the best seats in the house, we worked the room and got to know the crew. The two student groups focus on different aspects and applications of innovation, so we had an interesting mix of students from both engineering and business programs. Linda Thackeray kicked off the evening with a whirlwind tour of all the goodness of the Garage. May we never get tired of seeing jaws hit the floor upon learning that Microsoft hosts an 18,000+ person Hackathon every year!

Six teams of students put their heads together to tackle the lightning design challenges that Steve and George threw at them.

With little fanfare, we jumped right into the main event – the George and Steve Show™. They ran the students through a modified version of the Garage Intern Simulator™. If you’re not familiar with the concept, the simulator is hands-on workshop that we run during the early days of our flagship internship classes. Originally the brainchild of Steve and Mike, the simulator aims to give teams of students a preview of what they can expect during their internship. In short (30-45 minute) sprints, students are challenged to define a theoretical product, come up with naming and branding, iterate on their customer stories, deal with Enormous Changes At The Last Minute™, process data, and ultimately prepare themselves for the real deal. George and Steve came up with an even more condensed version of the workshop, and challenged the Northeastern students to define a product and deal with curveballs to their plan in just over 60 minutes. It was impressive to see the teams work together and make real progress, all while learning valuable practical lessons in product design, despite the very tight timelines.

A wild Kristen, one of our star interns from last summer, appears! She actually attends UMass Boston, but heard about the event and make the trek over to get involved anyway.

When all was said and done:

  • Each of the six student teams created, iterated on, and defended their product designs in record time. It was great to see students from different backgrounds coming together to solve problems in a cooperative manner, and for me at least, was evocative of the cross-discipline goodness we model with our internship program.
  • Several students stayed behind to speak with us. Not only did we leave them with an even greater love for hacky goodness, but we walked away with three candidates that we’ve referred for summer internships #recruitinglife
  • We got a chance to catch up with two of our all-star intern alumni – Maddy Leger and Kristen Laird. I’m happy to report that not only has Maddy decided to accept her full-time offer to return to NERD as a PM on the Xamarin team, but Kristen flew off to Redmond the day after the Northeastern workshop and ABSOLUTELY CRUSHED her interview, receiving an offer for a return internship next summer!
  • Chris’s button-making-factory-in-a-box got more miles under its belt, as we brought it with us to crank out on-demand awards for particularly clever and/or tongue-in-cheek achievements by the student teams, such as the “First Team to Use Their Whiteboard” award, and the coveted “I Proved I Listened To Linda’s Talk” award.

All in all, not bad for a Wednesday night.

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