Women in Data Science Conference & Pre-Event @NERD: “Hacking Bias Ideation”

On February 2, the Microsoft New England Research & Development (NERD) Center hosted and sponsored the “Hacking Bias & Discrimination Ideation Session,” a precursor to the Harvard-MIT chapter of the Women in Data Science Conference.

This six-hour event was designed to tackle the presence of bias in data science models and algorithms through discussion and brainstorming of the following topics:

  1. Gender Bias in Word Embeddings:
  2. Identifying Gender Bias in Performance Reviews
  3. Neuroinformatics Research Group Understanding Response Bias
  4. Bias in ML algorithms applied to healthcare
  5. Bias in Law Enforcement Predictions
  6. Consumer Protections in a Digital Age
  7. Hiring and Selection Models
  8. Who Has Political Power and How Do You Measure It?

If you’d like to attend an upcoming Hacking Bias and Discrimination event, please consider:

The following day, more than 200 participants attended the Women in Data Science Conference held at NERD. Cathy Chute, Executive Director of the Harvard Institute for Applied Computational Science, and Elizabeth Sikorovsky, Executive Director of the MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, delivered the opening remarks, followed by Elizabeth Bruce, Microsoft’s University Relations Lead, who presented a summary of the pre-event outcomes. Our very own Jennifer Chayes, Managing Director of Microsoft Research NE & NYC, delivered the keynote presentation, followed by talks from Microsoft Researcher Jennifer Listgarten, MIT professors, and data science industry professionals. Click Here for the conference agenda, abstracts and slides.

A recap video, via Zac Carpman:

RECAP: #CivicTechBos — Broadband Equity

What’s the importance of broadband equity?

Last night, our latest Conversation in Civic Innovation (#CivicTechBos) explored new technologies in broadband, ways to make internet accessible, and the importance behind it all.

Speakers included:

Miss out on our event? Catch up with us on Twitter Moments (below):

Celebrating #NERD10 — Microsoft New England’s Xbox Giveaway

Have you heard? It’s our anniversary! This year, we’re celebrating 10 years in our New England R&D Center (NERD) in Kendall Square, Cambridge. Over the past 10 years, we’ve been lucky enough to engage with the local community, attending (and hosting) events from Hubweek to the Kendall Square Eatup to our own #CivicTechBos nights. We’ve worked one-on-one with local startups, tech leaders, and individuals who care about New England and are helping us work forward through civic tech. And now, we want to give back. We’re celebrating in a big way by offering one lucky reader an Xbox One!


Entering is easy — we’ll be posting a pinned tweet on February 20 (which we’ll link in the space above!) that will run until February 24. Once that is live, you can enter by logging in to your legally registered social media account on Twitter and post a publicly viewable message that includes sharing a memory of NERD from the past 10 years and the hashtag #NERD10. The entry limit is one per person per day during the Entry Period and each entry must be substantially unique and different.

Thanks for celebrating with us — and good luck!

NERD10 Xbox Giveaway Sweepstakes Official Rules (PDF)

Bringing Broadband Equity to the Forefront — #CivicTechBos, February 8, 2017

As technology progresses, our need for it becomes more and more apparent. The right to internet access is important in our advanced society, but access is still not guaranteed worldwide — or even in our city.

While the City of Boston has made incredible advancements to making the internet accessible, the need for high-speed internet access has never been so obvious. That’s why our upcoming Conversations in Civic Innovation event, held this Wednesday, is centered around broadband equity — a necessity that helps our students learn, to build small businesses and to enable residents to engage as citizens.

Anne Schwieger, Broadband and Digital Equity Advocate for the Boston Department of Innovation and Technology, will be speaking on this week’s panel, and sat down with us to explore broadband equity within the city — and the world.

What does equity mean to you?

To me, equity looks like the institutions of our civil society and government acting in a way that protects all of our rights and actively affirms and enables the ability of all among us to derive benefit from the educational, economic, and civic spheres of our world.

Digital equity will be achieved when all people have the digital skills, digital tools, and Internet connectivity that they need to engage with and continually evolve these civil society and government institutions so that they respect and affirm our rights to thrive as individuals and as communities in the 21st century.

In the context of our work on broadband and digital equity, our thought here is equity across the board as well as equity within specific areas such as equitable access to education opportunities, access to great jobs, access to healthcare — increasingly, that type of access depends upon great access to digital skills, connectivity and tools.

Our thought is that digital equity is (not the only), but one of the key foundational pieces to enabling equity in all other areas.

Why specifically broadband?

In the most basic sense, ‘broadband’ is a term ascribed to Internet service that meets or exceeds a given data transmission speed. It becomes super interesting when we begin to look at it from a human angle.

People need broadband Internet in the places where they live, work, learn, and engage in civic pursuits, etc to pursue the things that are important to them, their families, and communities.

Infrastructural elements of broadband, various types of broadband services providers, and the institutions that we work with and for to create the future are also part of this broadband ecosystem.  

What are some ways that we’re making technology accessible in the city of Boston? What are some steps that we can take?

Boston has had a commitment to digital equity for a long time. For over a decade, we’ve provided support to local organizations such as Technology Goes Home, we have worked hard to connect public buildings like schools and libraries to fiber. It’s something that the City is working to expand to all public schools as we speak.

Home broadband adoption is not at a level that we believe it should be — we need it to be at a higher level in order for people’s goals, family goals, community goals, and city goals to be actualized.

Home broadband adoption is not at a level that we believe it should be. Over 1 in 5 people in Boston do not have broadband in the home, primarily for reasons of cost. That’s approximately 140,000 people in a city of just under 670,00 people. We are working with a number of partners to facilitate people who do not presently have broadband in the home in accessing low-cost offerings.

Ultimately though, the reason that 1 in 5 people are not connected to broadband in the home stems in large part from the reality of the broadband market in Boston. For a long time there has not been the type competition to drive down prices. We are hopeful that recent and prospective changes to the Boston broadband market will create the array of high quality, affordable service offerings that will serve the needs of all Bostonians.

The broadband market in Boston is shifting from 90% of households having a single choice of broadband service provider to an increasing number having 2 or more options. Our goal is for every household and business in Boston to have 2 or more options of wireline or fixed wireless service. The ‘or more’ is key there. It’s a pretty exciting time for broadband in Boston, and we’re really pleased that there is a community of providers that seem to be committed to offering services that households and businesses need, increasingly at a price point that is affordable for more people. A recent article in the Boston Globe took at look at recent changes in the Boston broadband market.

While not itself a regulator of broadband services, the City believes it has a role to play in enabling a broadband marketplace that works for all Bostonians. One thing we are very focused on is looking at ways to streamline processes and permitting where possible and making city owned assets such as shadow conduit more available to broadband service providers. This can decrease their cost of expanding service and conceivably bring greater broadband choice to all Bostonians more quickly. Here is a publicly available map of city owned shadow conduit.

I think that there is an ethos of shared ownership running through a lot of our broadband and digital equity work citywide, and this allows our priorities to be reflected in the day-to-day work that we do with one another across many departments. Here’s an article with info about the ways that colleagues across the City of Boston have collaborated on broadband and digital equity initiatives.

What should we discuss on February 8?

I would love to hear what the audience and panelists think the city can do and what they think they can do that perhaps they aren’t already doing to contribute to and enable outcomes we’re all committed to. The City of Cambridge has a broadband task force; we have a metro area that more or less is all facing similar challenges. What can we do to learn from each other? We basically have a shared metro-wide workforce, where someone lives in Cambridge and work in Boston or vice versa. We depend upon great connectivity metro-wide to reach our own goals. This is an area that is good for everyone. It would be interesting to see how people think municipalities ought to work together on some of these goals. Theo Hanna would be a great person to talk about that, because Tech Goes Home is starting to work with community organizations in Cambridge.

Join us Wednesday, February 8, from 5:30pm-8:30pm at Roxbury Innovation Center. RSVP here and join the conversation online by following @MSNewEngland and @VentureCafe and using the hashtag #CivicTechBos.

Anne Schwieger works for the City of Boston Department of Innovation & Technology as Broadband and Digital Equity Advocate. In this role she supports the City in creating a comprehensive broadband policy framework that addresses existing and new broadband  infrastructure and the ease with which Bostonians can use this infrastructure to harness the full power of internet connectivity to pursue educational, professional, health and wellness, and civic endeavors. Anne also serves on the City of Cambridge Broadband Task Force and is the producer of Cambridge Broadband Matters on Cambridge Community Television. She holds a Master in City Planning from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT and a BA in Biology and Society from Cornell University.

#NERD10: Microsoft R&D Celebrating 10 years in Kendall Square

2017 marks ten 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. Below, T.K. “Ranga” Rengarajan, CVP – Engineering, kicks off #NERD10 with a look inside our Global Development Centers.

This year, we celebrate Microsoft’s New England Research & Development Center’s (NERD) 10-year anniversary—and what a 10 years it’s been!

NERD is home to one of Microsoft’s vibrant Global Development Centers, or GDCs, that are integral to the success of Microsoft. The company has six GDCs across the globe: Silicon Valley, India, China, Israel, Vancouver, and Cambridge, MA (NERD).

I liken GDCs to the roots of the banyan tree: these aerial roots elevate and strengthen the primary trunk and, over time, can become very strong supporting trunks themselves. Similarly, each of Microsoft’s GDCs cultivates an environment that yields innovation in engineering (AI, robotics, Azure and Hololens); health; education; gaming and augmented reality. Having research and development arms in various cities and countries is critical to having a diverse, global engineering workforce: they provide the company with access to top talent, different and exciting ecosystems, and dynamic markets.

I am honored to say I started my career in New England. My first post-grad job was at Digital Equipment Corp. in Nashua, New Hampshire. There, I was able to witness technology booming out of the Boston metro area during the minicomputer era, with great engineers creating industry-leading technologies, both in hardware and software. I have a profound respect for the workforce in the area–and that respect only continues to grow.

There are many reasons why we chose Cambridge as one of our strategic locations. The New England area exemplifies the interconnection and influences between academia, industry and technology. Cambridge, Boston and the Northeast are known for its universities, professors and research programs. For this reason, Microsoft NERD was built next to MIT and minutes away from several, other renowned institutions. Given this highly educated and skilled talent, Boston has a long tradition of starting and building great technology companies focused on software engineering, application engineering, medicine, health, finance… the list is long! In particular, Kendall Square (where NERD is located) has become a major hotbed for tech, biotech, and start-ups and has been called the most innovative square mile in the U.S! Having NERD in the middle of this ecosystem is important — not just to Microsoft, but to the community as a whole. Microsoft is proud to stand with our neighbors in such a robust community.

If you aren’t familiar with the work being done here, I encourage you to explore this site and to review the job openings we have here. Great technologies and research have emerged from NERD in its first 10 years, and we look forward to even greater contributions to Microsoft and to the community in the next 10 years.

To find out more about Ranga and Microsoft’s global development strategy, follow Ranga on Twitter @trengarajan.

T.K. “Ranga” Rengarajan, a Corporate Vice President within Artificial Intelligence and Research (AIR) in Microsoft is responsible for global aspects of engineering. Among his responsibilities are all Microsoft Global Development Centers located in China, India, Israel, New England, Silicon Valley and Vancouver, the Garage program to drive grass root innovation and advanced technology projects in the areas of system and performance. Ranga and his teams are responsible to ensure Microsoft attracts, trains and retains the best talent in the world. Previously, Ranga led engineering for Microsoft’s Database and Big Data businesses driving significant cultural transformation in the Data Platform team, notably in focusing on execution, faster innovation and delighting customers. His leadership was instrumental in growing the service culture in SQL DB and launching and growing the full complement of Azure data services – Data Lake, DocumentDB, Search, SQL DW, HDInsight on Linux. 

Before Microsoft, Ranga held senior leadership positions at SAP, Wily, Sybase, Digital Equipment Corporation and at several Silicon Valley startups. At SAP, he was responsible for the Business Analytics and Hana applications. Before that, he ran Wily’s application management solutions. He also has held executive positions in engineering, operations, and support at Silicon Valley startups focused on customer experience management, wireless, security, and internet messaging services. Earlier in his career, Ranga ran database server development for Sybase, Inc. At Digital Equipment Corporation, Ranga was among the youngest individuals elected as a Distinguished Engineer and set the world record in transaction processing with Oracle Rdb product in the TPC-A benchmark, resulting in papers and patents.

Ranga holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin. He lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and two daughters.

Working Forward: Shannon Felton Spence, Brown University Master of Public Affairs Candidate

I always knew I wanted to grow up to be a part of the bigger picture. It is a privilege to be part of a community, and the power of the human connection is what makes a society strong. I never wanted to have just a job. Rather, I want to lead a career of consequence.

Through my post-college years, I weaved my way through various mission-driven positions in Boston. Then, in 2013, I joined the public affairs department at the British Consulate General, Boston. As a lifelong anglophile and challenge-taker, I was excited to represent the British government in the town that’s famous for kicking it out. Truly a dream job! My role was to promote British culture and policy throughout New England. I spent much of my time talking to and learning from local organizations – both in the private sector and NGOs – as well as government.

The fabric of diplomacy is built on connecting with others and finding opportunity through partnerships. There is an understanding that no one has the resources to go it alone. Initiatives are stronger when the responsibility is shared. Collaboration also leads to greater innovation and creative solutions.

In the UK, private sector involvement in the greater good dates back over 100 years. In 2017, it is understood that participation in society is linked with an organization’s standard operations. The US has also come a long way in recognizing the opportunity that exists for the private sector to play a key role in community advancement. Tackling the challenges of the 21st century requires coordination across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.  

I left my job at the British Consulate to study for my Master’s degree in Public Affairs. I chose Brown University for its historic commitment to social justice through creative solutions. Through my courses, I’ve learned about smart policy design and data-driven decision making. When it came time to complete my consultancy, I could think of no better place than Microsoft. I wanted to explore the private sector lens on community engagement and responsibility.

With its mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more, Microsoft has demonstrated a real commitment to being part of civic solutions. Boston and Cambridge are hyperlocal cities with high levels of participation. There are so many people and organizations working toward a greater good. The Microsoft Technology and Civic Engagement (TCE) team has expertly navigated this ecosystem to form meaningful partnerships and drive impact. I am fascinated by the way their work around innovation equity is enhanced by their commitment to collaboration within and across sectors. It is truly diplomacy in action.

RECAP: Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s 2017 State of the City Address


Last night, our Technology & Civic Engagement team in New England had the wonderful honor of being invited to  Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s 2017 State of the City Address at Symphony Hall in Boston. Together with city leaders, fellow constituents, and the Mayor himself, we celebrated Boston’s successes and growth in the past year, and looked forward to successes in 2017.

A look at the night, in tweets:

Read Mayor Walsh’s full State of the City Address here.

Profile: Shannon Felton Spence

Shannon Felton SpenceName: Shannon Felton Spence

Where are you from? I grew up in Denver, Colorado but have made Boston my home since college.

Current education: I am in the last semester of my Master of Public Affairs from Brown University. I did my undergraduate in Political Communication from Emerson College.

What is your experience in the civic sector? I spent three years as the Head of Politics & Communication at the British Consulate General of New England. In that role, I worked a lot with SMART Cities and sharing best practices between the UK and the six New England states.

Last thing you searched on Bing: slow cooker recipes  (…my favorite way to survive the New England winters!)

Why did you choose Microsoft? It was a very easy choice! I am interested in how large corporations partner in the community to make a difference. Microsoft – and specifically the Civic & Tech Engagement team — is doing that in so many amazing ways. I am excited to be a part of that and to work with such a well respected organization.

What projects are you working on with Microsoft’s Technology and Civic Engagement team? I am working on a storytelling project: identifying the cool things Microsoft has accomplished in the community and communicating that to a larger audience.

What excites you about civic tech? Everything! I love how the use of tech can benefit an entire community.

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


Welcome to 2017! Our New Year’s Resolution? Attend all the great civic tech events the Boston area has to offer.

Here are our top picks for January 2017:

January 4

Social Venture Partners: Creating One Million Jobs by 2020

Can a group of local leaders come together to trigger transformational change? Join Social Venture Partners Boston and our special guests on January 4th in discussing the power of venture philanthropy to drive critical social change, both locally and globally. Doug Miller, an SVP Boston Partner and Founding Chairman of both the European Venture Philanthropy Association and the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network, will talk about trends in the space before introducing the former chairman of Microsoft India and founding chairman of Social Venture Partners India, Ravi Venkatesan, to share SVP India’s audacious new goal, the Million Jobs Mission, of training and empowering one million people for sustainable livelihoods by 2020.

January 9


Children will engage in programs that explore science, technology, engineering, arts and math through activities, experiments and play. Ages 5+

January 10, 17, 24, 31

Code for Boston Weekly Hack Night

These Hack Nights are our time to meet in person to work on and discuss civic tech projects. Come by to say hi and hack with us!

January 10

Boston Python User Group January Project Night

An evening of collegial cooperation!

Bring a laptop. Bring ideas. Bring questions. Bring enthusiasm. Bring friends. The Boston Python Project Night is a time to find others with compatible interests, and work away. Code, hack, teach, learn, meet, laugh, talk: it all happens at Project Night.

All skill levels are welcome. There will be at least two tables of beginning learners, and helpers for them. Other table-topics in the past have been Django, Data, Web Scraping, Hardware, Puzzle, Science, Art. Anything goes!

Boston New Technology January 2017 Startup Showcase #BNT73

Free event! Come learn about 7 innovative and exciting technology products and network with the Boston/Cambridge startup community!

January 11

Mass Innovation Nights 94

Start the year off right and join us for this cool technology focused event with Draper’s startup-focused Sembler Office hosting and sponsoring. We will have it all — robotics, a pressure sensor tool for prosthetic and protective gear, a device to disable smartphones while driving and so much more! We will have ten products in all to showcase along with two products from Wentworth Institute of Technology’s Accelerate.

How to become a Data Scientist

This event will feature data scientists in the Boston area who have recently started their careers and will share stories of their journey from post-doc to full-time careers with great companies. These stories will focus on the projects that each speaker completed during their time as fellows for Insight Data Science.

Insight Data Science is an intensive seven (7) week post-doctoral training fellowship bridging the gap between academia & data science.

January 14

Winter in Boston: Fun Activities during Colder Winter Months

New England weather in Boston can make it easy to stay at home to hibernate, but fear not. This class will cover ways to find fun activities and how to explore Boston during the cold winter months.

January 19

Boston WITI Meetup (Women in Technology) — Coaching Circles: Be Your Best

Join WITI Boston as we host a group of outstanding coaches as they share their views on what can make the coaching experience a game-changer for you. You’ll choose two different coaches to learn from and attend their coaching circles. During the 40-minute sessions, coaches will provide insight into their fields of expertise and answer your questions. See the coaches’ bios on the registration website to get started on choosing your two coaching circles!

January 26

Association for Women in Science + Society of Women Engineers: The Proper Etiquette of Job Hunting

During the recruiting process, job candidates often find themselves confused about what’s appropriate when it comes to professional etiquette: how to increase your professional network, what makes an application successful, or how important your online brand is. Whether you are a student or a professional, join ASWIC + SWE for a lively panel discussion moderated by Lauren Celano, CEO of Propel Career.

January 28

Boston FIG Talks

We proud to announce FIG Talks, which will take place on January 16th, 2016, at the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center. This event is aimed at designers and developers, and for people who are interested in getting started creating games of their own. The talks will feature three main tracks, Game Design, Game Development and Game Business.

Year in Review: 2016 in Civic Tech


New England, we love you. This year, we explored civic tech head on with our local communities, driving change one person at a time and expanding our team beyond belief. As we approach our tenth year in our Cambridge offices at the New England R&D Center (NERD), we’d like to thank everyone who has helped us make an impact over the past year.

A look back at an amazing year on the Microsoft New England Blog:


Milton IrvingVoices Of Change — Bringing Everyone Into the Conversation
Milton Irving, Executive Director, Timothy Smith Network

Diversity and inclusion are critical underpinnings to our evolving culture at Microsoft and powerful bridges to the marketplace. The Timothy Smith Network provides that opportunity — and not only through the deployment of technology, but through the deployment of the services and the programs to leverage technology within the community.


LourdesVoices of Change — Transforming Communities Through Innovation
Lourdes German

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we were honored to celebrate women in our community who are carrying out the mission of civic engagement, leadership and empowering other women. One of those leaders in Lourdes German, the founder and director of the Civic Innovation Project, which began with a simple vision that endeavored to raise awareness of civic innovations that were transforming communities by presenting stories from leaders, citizens, academic and private sector stakeholders using creativity and civic technology to solve the most vexing problems facing communities.

Bringing Massachusetts History to the Digital Sphere

The Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) is a staple to our city’s relationship with its strong history. We partnered with MHS for its 225th Anniversary exhibit, “The Private Jefferson,” showcasing the largest collection of personal paper and drawing by Thomas Jefferson. MHS wanted to make this story accessible to everyone — and we were honored to use Microsoft technology to make that happen.


Opti_OnAzure_illustrationStormwater Made Sustainable – Opti Prepares Us for Tomorrow’s Storms

Opti products address stormwater management in a completely modern way. By combining lightweight IoT hardware with a platform natively built on Microsoft Azure, Opti is able to predictively, autonomously, and securely control stormwater facilities based on the forecasted rainfall.


Lawrence-Brown (2)Enabling Youth Employment: A Conversation with Lawrence Brown
Lawrence Brown, computer technician and web developer at Resilient Coders

There’s great importance in 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. We showcased stories of those who’ve landed in tech fields. 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.


Girls Who Code Visit Microsoft NERD Center for Mentoring Event
Charis Loveland, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Azure Machine Learning

For the second year in a row, Microsoft hosted 20 girls last summer at the Microsoft Cambridge campus to teach coding in partnership with the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program. Through the mentoring program, Girls Who Code aims to provide girls with the invaluable opportunity to interact with strong, powerful and exemplary female role models.

Using Power BI to Track Gentrification
Aaron Myran, Microsoft New England Civic Tech Fellow

Aaron Myran, a Microsoft Civic Technology fellow, is interested in how public data and APIs can be unlocked, visualized and shared to facilitate civic engagement and policy decisions. He created a dashboard using Microsoft’s Power BI that visualizes the change in price per square foot for the rental market in Boston over time to address gentrification — a difficult public policy challenge.

WP_20160715_13_01_59_Pro“Now, How Can You Make It Better?” — Girls Who Code Empowering #WomenInTech
Jasmine Hyppolite

To Jasmine Hyppolite, a senior in high school from Providence, Rhode Island, #GirlsCan means there is nothing girls can’t do. She told us about her sophomore year of high school, when the Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani herself, came to her school and introduced her to the program.


City to City: Igniting Best Practices from Boston to Austin
Cathy Wissink

Microsoft’s Cathy Wissink flew to Austin, where she had the chance to join the Boston Chamber’s “City to City” trip. She recapped her experience, and took away, among other things, that public-private partnerships matter now more than ever.

Students at AMSA Charter School Delve Into Complex Cybersecurity Issues
Michael Impink, Senior Manager at Microsoft Corporation

The Advanced Math and Science Academy (AMSA) Charter School in Marlborough, Mass. exemplifies the value of learning computer science from a young age. Michael Impink, Senior Manager at Microsoft Corporation, had the opportunity to lead a discussion with juniors and seniors regarding current topics in cybersecurity. These high school students discussed topics that are complex even for most graduate students.


wfin_371__dsc9929Coding Outside the Classroom — Resilient Coders’ David Delmar on Making Change

Resilient Coders — a nonprofit based out of the CIC in Boston that teaches underserved, at-risk, and super smart young people to code — is a program that is actually making change. The program takes kids from diverse backgrounds, teaches them to code, and gives them opportunities to work in tech — opportunities that they may not have otherwise.

Thank you to all who joined us in sharing the important stories that shape our community. Let’s work together for an incredible 2017.