Microsoft Diversity

Tune In to the Roadtrip of a Lifetime — #CodeTrip

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Where can computer science take us?

That’s the catalyst driving the folks behind Roadtrip Nation’s Code Trip, a road trip throughout the continental US empowering folks through code.

Last summer, computer science students Natalie, Robin, and Zoed went on a journey from LA to Boston to diversify the tech industry. The three come from backgrounds underrepresented in tech, and made it their mission to prove that you don’t have to fit the mold to make it in tech.

Now, you can watch the trip of a lifetime unfold online, as Code Trip culminates in a weekly webseries from September 1 through September 22.

Follow the journey of a lifetime on Twitter at @RoadtripNation and #CodeTrip.

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

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To me, #GirlsCan means there is nothing girls can’t do. It is not just a statement to prove that boys are not better than girls, or that girls can in fact do things. It is a statement that says, “Girls have, girls do, and girls will achieve amazing things, whether there are or aren’t obstacles ahead of us.”

My sophomore year of high school, the Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani herself, came to my school — an all-girls school at that. She introduced us to her program, which we felt opened doors for us to explore limitless adventures as women in the field of tech. When I was a student in the GWC program, I was a part of the Twitter Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program, also in Cambridge. I thought the energy, learning environment, people, ideas I was exposed to, and of course my teacher and teacher assistants were incredible. My teacher and her assistants, who seemed to answer all of my questions, then proceeded to ask me, “Now, how can you make it better?” These few words become a part of my philosophy as a student, and now a teacher assistant.

This summer our students, rising juniors and seniors in high school, are touching on topics like algorithms and encryption, and are plowing through programs like Scratch, Python, HTML/CSS and web design, JavaScript, and this week robotics and Arduino. After taking part in the program as a student, I was shaken by the possibilities that could become realities with the new knowledge at my fingertips. This was what lead me to understand why it is important to teach people how to code. In this day and age, with technology taking over anything and everything, learning to code is equivalent to understanding how to play with the building blocks of everything that could ever be created. The education of coding is important to learn because it is the base of almost everything that we use today. But with that, it is not just a skill, it is a thought process. It is not just languages to become fluent in, it is learning how to think of things in several different ways and using what is most advantageous within your given set of tools, and being efficient.

However, teaching women to code, specifically, is incredibly critical because we are underrepresented in the field. This may seem like just a number, but women represent more than half of the world and are shown to be less than half of the people that can use these building blocks coding gives us to change our world. A lack of representation is a lack of perspective, it is a lack of new ideas, and a limit to the change that can be created.

 FullSizeRender (3)Jasmine Hyppolite is a rising senior in high school from Providence, Rhode Island. She was part of the 2015 Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program at Twitter and is now a teacher assistant for the 2016 summer program at Microsoft. She is planning to major in Computer Science in college and hopes to inspire students to do the same.

Microsoft GLEAM Takes On Boston Pride 2016

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Employees at Microsoft (GLEAM) ERG proudly celebrates diversity and how far we’ve come in the fight for equality. However, our work doesn’t begin or end in June. GLEAM aligns to Microsoft’s diversity and inclusion initiatives all year long to transform our culture, empower our employees, and expand our talent pipeline.

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Microsoft loves Boston — and there’s no better way for us to show that love than in the annual Boston Pride Parade. Held annually on the Saturday of Boston Pride Week, the parade/march is an opportunity for Bostonians of all walks of life to celebrate diversity and equality for all.

IMG_2396This year, on June 11, our Boston chapter of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Employees at Microsoft (GLEAM) headed to Boylston Street with 20 team members to take the nearly 3-mile walk in support of the Boston LGBTQ+ community. With members of our Microsoft Research, Technology and Civic Engagement, and Microsoft Store teams, we walked through Boston Proper with our #HelloPride banner, Microsoft swag (beach balls, whistles, frisbees and more!), and pride to support a strong, diverse community. Plus, our very own Dana (or should we say Data?) Zircher joined us in full Star Trek attire, celebrating Pride with us as Lieutenant Commander Data, our favorite android!

Every year, GLEAM has a Pride presence in various locations around the globe celebrating workplace diversity. We at GLEAM are honored to be invited to the 46th Annual Boston Pride Parade. We have been thankful to join the march year after year and can’t wait for our next parade! But the commitment to diversity doesn’t end there. With GLEAM, we strive to create a supportive employee environment at Microsoft, encouraging other companies to follow suit.

Microsoft Boston Pride 2016

For more pictures of GLEAM at the 2016 Boston Pride Parade, head to our Facebook Page.

Learn more about Microsoft’s actions toward workplace diversity with Microsoft GLEAM here.

DigiGirlz Take on Massachusetts

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DigiGirlz logoOn Friday, April 1st 2016, our New England Campus of Microsoft held our annual DIGIGIRLZ DAY at our Kendall Square office with our largest group yet –  175 attendees, providing middle and high school girls with a better understanding of careers in technology and how technology can simply be fun! Attendees came from Boston, North and South Shore, Central MA, and as far away as Cranston, Rhode Island thanks to Lorilyn Hall and Dino Ciccone who helped get their local school to attend.

We had a great day using Twitter #DigiGirlzMA with contests and ending with raffling off great prizes including a Surface:

Voices of Change: Keeping Boston Connected

Diversity and inclusion are critical underpinnings to our evolving culture at Microsoft and powerful bridges to the marketplace. We are inspired by the local leaders who make diversity a priority in their daily work. In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we’re honored to celebrate women in our community who are carrying out the mission of civic engagement, leadership and empowering other women.

— MSNE Staff

Anne-Schwieger

Cities are realizing that broadband is really an ecosystem — and that it needs to be addressed as such. There are infrastructural pieces of broadband, but there are also really human pieces of it. Mine is a new role for the City of Boston and there are a couple other cities in the US who have similar roles on a growing level. It’s important to note that these positions have become a natural extension of the longstanding commitment that many people have made in the broadband and digital equity space – people have been working for years on what could probably best be described as abject failure of both government and the private sector to ensure that all community members have access to this critical infrastructure.  I have the incredible opportunity to work in this type of role thanks to the many people who have worked very hard for years on the legal, policy, advocacy, and direct community action elements of the broadband challenges that cities face.  The blood, sweat, and tears of these people as well as the press that constituents are increasingly putting on cities to address our broken broadband ecosystems have heightened these issues to a level that we cannot ignore.    

I am a city planner by training.  In the most ideal version of how the profession is practiced, planners help manage change and make sure that the process by which change happens and the actual end product are equitable. Technology has hastened the pace of change in unprecedented ways.  In my role with the City, I get to be part of a big, awesome group of civil servants who are working to make sure that the changes to come in Boston shake out well for everyone.  My job is built in no small part on the premise that if all community members are not fully connected to true broadband internet in the places where we live, work, and learn this change is absolutely not going to reflect the hopes and dreams of all Bostonians.

I’m not a technologist by training at all.  I’m very much a person who tends to wonder, “How do these pieces fit together?” Sometimes, in the spaces where really important things need to be happening, the pieces don’t fall squarely into one department or professional domain.  It is sometimes the case that when nobody ‘owns’ the pieces, there is not yet a strong inclination to see if and how they fit together.  And my role helps with this — I get to work with incredible colleagues all across the City of Boston to figure out how we can make broadband better.  Four months into this job, I cannot think of a single thing I’ve worked on that involves fewer than two departments.  

One of the biggest challenges at hand is that there is not sufficient competition in the broadband market in Boston to enable all households and businesses to get a good quality product at a price that they can afford. We believe that creating competition for private investment in infrastructure will happen — not overnight, but we are doing a variety of things related to streamlining processes and permitting, making buildings broadband-ready, and meeting connectivity goals. We’re working on all of these fronts at once, to make sure that people have options and are able to fully leverage those options.  Otherwise, a lot of our other goals related to equity, innovation, and opportunity cannot be fully realized in a way that works for all Bostonians.  

Hmm.  How do I use technology?  Basically lots of emails and shared documents.  The way that technology enters my work most prominently is through collaboration and learning with colleagues.  This could be colleagues who take care of the infrastructural pieces of broadband that connect libraries, firehouses, schools, and police stations to BoNet, colleagues who lend their great expertise in data analysis and visualization to help us create strategies and set priorities in the broadband space, and colleagues who will help link up broadband and constituent engagement through the new City website that will launch later this year.  

Boston has a solid track record in the digital equity space. There’s a great organization called Tech Goes Home. They work with community members all over the city on digital skills, making sure people have access to hardware, and, of course, making sure people have internet access in their home. One of the biggest barriers we face — and that we’re working with a variety of partners to figure out solutions to — is the fact that there are not a lot of truly affordable broadband options in Boston. This is particularly problematic when we consider that According to the American Community Survey about 1 in 5 Bostonians are not connected to broadband in the home.   Broadband adoption in the US has actually dipped slightly. Meanwhile, adoption of smartphones has really picked up and is on par with home broadband adoption. We know broadband adoption in the home is not the only thing we should be looking at when it comes to digital inclusion and that smartphones have a very important role to play.  But they will not be the thing that allows kids to do all of their homework, engage with rich online content, allows adults to apply for jobs.

How can we as citizens help with your mission?

If we aren’t getting it right, tell us!  Ideally our missions should align.

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.

Conversation in Civic Innovation: Enabling Youth Employment

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As summer approaches, young people across Greater Boston will be out of school and seeking meaningful employment.  The Mayor’s offices in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and other cities have established thoughtful summer jobs programs; additionally, new technology tools are being developed to help connect youth to jobs. Ensuring graduates can find jobs that match their interests and skill sets requires a cross-sector approach from government, private sector and the non-profit space. This event will explore the opportunities and challenges in youth employment, and address the following questions:

  • How can the city partner with local companies to enable youth employment?
  • How do we enable youth to connect summer job experience to future career opportunities?
  • What is the role of technology in connecting youth to jobs?
  • How do we scale youth employment resources to reach municipalities across Massachusetts?

Join us to discuss this crucial economic development topic.

Speakers:

  • Shari Davis, Department of Youth Engagement & Employment, City of Boston
  • Ayda Zugay, YouthHUB
  • Matt Cloyd, MAPC
  • Christopher Scranton, Jobcase
  • Moderator: Aimee Sprung, Civic Engagement Manager @ Microsoft

In coordination with the Venture Café Foundation, the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center will convene a Conversation on Civic Innovation on April 20, 2016, 5:30PM – 7:30PM at Roxbury Innovation Center.

Register Today: Click Here.

About Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center New England:
The Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center aims for Microsoft to be “of” the community, not just exist within it. Through the Innovation and Policy Center we are extending beyond the tech community to:

  • Connect stakeholders from tech to the broader business, academic and government communities;
  • Catalyze important technology and public policy discussions, and;
  • Contribute more directly with the health and vitality of greater New England.

About Venture Café Foundation
The Venture Café Foundation is a non-profit whose mission consists of three pillars:

  • Building and connecting communities of innovation
  • Expanding the definition of innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Building a more inclusive innovation economy

The Venture Café Foundation enhances and accelerates the innovation process through:

  • Spaces for individuals and organizations to gather, tell stories, and build relationships, such as Venture Café at CIC in Cambridge, District Hall and soon the Roxbury Innovation Center.
  • Programs that create connections, such as Captains of Innovation and the Innovation Visitor Bureau.
  • Conversations and events that expand an understanding of innovation and entrepreneurship, such as the Innovation and the City conference and Civic Innovation Series.

Voices of Change — Making Civic Participation Accessible

Diversity and inclusion are critical underpinnings to our evolving culture at Microsoft and powerful bridges to the marketplace. We are inspired by the local leaders who make diversity a priority in their daily work. In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we’re honored to celebrate women in our community who are carrying out the mission of civic engagement, leadership and empowering other women.

— Microsoft New England Staff

Elsa-Sze

On Election Day of the Obama 2012 campaign, I was driving an elderly woman, Rochelle, to the polling station when her oxygen tank started to malfunction. She turned to me and said, “Take me to vote, then the hospital.” Her determination to have her voice heard served as an important inspiration to me–but it also made me wonder, should the ballot box be the only way a citizen can make her voice heard?

The answer is a resounding no. Democracy is more than Election Day, and citizens are much more than just voters every few years. Yet it seemed to me that there was a striking lack of opportunity for people to make their voices heard. While civic discussions happen on a regular basis, not every citizen has the opportunity to participate. When town hall meetings take place at 3PM on a Tuesday – who get to show up? Only the few who have the time, resources, and political connections. This inaccessibility cannot be the norm if we want to have a functioning democracy.

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Through technology Agora is empowering individuals to break down these barriers to participation through live polls, discussions, and Video halls. On the one hand, Agora’s platform allows local officials to easily communicate with their constituents, enabling the solicitation of community feedback. But our technology also empowers citizens–through Agora, anyone can ask their representatives questions, start a conversation in their community, and actively participate in our democracy. Agora, in other words, makes civic engagement accessible to anyone––a drastic improvement over the occasional, in-person town hall.

But it is not enough for our civic technology to be accessible; inclusivity and diversity are also essential tenets of Agora’s mission. Some of this is naturally derivative of Agora’s online platform, but in a community like Boston’s, for example, where we are based, there are more than just the physical barriers to participation. Language, for example, can be a major obstacle for those community members whose first language is something other than English.

And this is where Bing has become a crucial tool––Bing translation has allowed Agora townhalls to be translated from English into multiple languages, enabling and encouraging diversity in every conversation that happens on our platform. It opens the door for the many community members whose voices haven’t been heard due to the extensive language barriers that exist in many of our community conversations, and helps Agora to achieve our goal of expanding participation beyond the ballot box.

At Agora, we believe that our voices matter every day, not just on Election Day. It’s time for us to re-imagine democracy in the 21st century – and we’re doing so by making participation accessible, one conversation at a time.

Voices of Change — Transforming Communities Through Innovation

Diversity and inclusion are critical underpinnings to our evolving culture at Microsoft and powerful bridges to the marketplace. We are inspired by the local leaders who make diversity a priority in their daily work. In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we’re honored to celebrate women in our community who are carrying out the mission of civic engagement, leadership and empowering other women.

— Microsoft New England

Lourdes

Several months ago I was listening intently to leaders from the City of New Orleans tell me the story of how an important and seemingly unassailable problem known as urban blight was transformed with civic innovation. Urban blight – the process where a functioning city falls into disrepair– was a problem at the center of the daily citizen experience and they were able to change that with civic innovation. I left that conversation asking myself, where are those stories of civic innovation going? If a transformational idea exists in one city, can it apply to other communities? Does knowledge of that invention ever scale to other communities who are facing the same challenge? How does that happen?

These remarkably relevant questions kept appearing in my mind in countless conversations I had with leaders of cities and towns throughout the decade I spent working with communities in various roles. I heard stories of the creativity and innovation in governance and technology being used to address financial management, transportation, schools, land use, the environment, public finance, and so many other challenges at the heart of citizen life. I also realized that healthy functioning cities were also being transformed by grass-roots citizen led innovation. The inspiration for my work began to take form in those moments.

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The Civic Innovation Project began with a simple vision that endeavored to raise awareness of civic innovations that were transforming communities by presenting stories from leaders, citizens, academics, and private sector stakeholders using creativity and civic technology to solve the most vexing problems facing communities. The stories, presented in a Civic Innovation Gallery, live alongside actual technology demos, created with data-rich resources, including access to downloads, tutorials, and instructional materials that provide any citizen or leader of a community with an instant roadmap to innovate around a challenge.

When I asked myself – how could I take my work a step further and empower communities and citizens to bridge the information gap? How could I further create a space that facilitates learning about global innovation? I chose to evolve the platform into a learning lab for cities and their citizens.

Examples of what cities and their citizens will find in the Civic Innovation Project learning lab include:

  • The ability to learn from leaders, like those from the City of New Orleans, who in their own words, share an innovation road-map, alongside other examples of inventions from leaders in the public and private sector.
  • Visualizations that distill the most complex aspects of data to facilitate data-driven decision-making, created with Microsoft tools that help communities begin innovating instantly on their own.
  • Data sets drawn from leading sources, like Morningstar, Inc., that will be integrated in models that can help communities assess and understand key metrics related to the markets they operate in.
  • A virtual classroom that will help citizens and leaders learn from each other’s inventions.

Taken together, these resources are intended to create a learning space where information about civic innovation can exist and be used by citizens and leaders to change the trajectory and narratives of communities and increase transparency in significant ways. I believe that process begins when you empower these various constituencies to share discoveries with each other, build their awareness and capacity as civic innovators, and provide them with access to tools that allow them to turn their vision into realities and engender meaningful change in communities.

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To see a video that helps you learn more about the vision behind the Civic Innovation Project learning labs that will be released later this year, and our development process, please visit www.civicinnovationproject.com/preview.

Lourdes German is the founder and director of the Civic Innovation Project, a national platform focused on emerging government innovation that was recognized with a 2015 State of Boston Innovation Award. Lourdes is also a fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, where she advances the Institute’s global municipal fiscal health campaign. An expert in municipal finance, Lourdes is driven by a deep commitment and passion for communities and civic engagement, made visible by her roles as Governor Baker’s appointed Chair of the Massachusetts State Finance and Governance Board, and as an appointee of the Mayor of Boston to the committee focused on the City’s audit and finance matters. For over a decade Lourdes has held several leadership roles in government finance, including as an attorney at the international law firm Edwards Wildman, at Fidelity Investments where she helped create a new national business division focused on government public finance, and as Vice President and General Counsel at Breckinridge Capital Advisors. Lourdes has also served as an advisor to non-profits focused on urban economic growth and social impact investing; has developed and taught a graduate course in government finance at Northeastern University, and serves on the boards of United Way and Boston Women in Public Finance.

Voices of Change — Keeping Everyone Connected and Healthy

Diversity and inclusion are critical underpinnings to our evolving culture at Microsoft and powerful bridges to the marketplace. We are inspired by the local leaders who make diversity a priority in their daily work. In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we’re honored to celebrate women in our community who are carrying out the mission of civic engagement, leadership and empowering other women.

— MSNE Staff

Sharon Gillett

As Principal Networking Policy Strategist at Microsoft, I am blessed to spend my time translating technology innovation into practice. I appreciate the opportunities I’ve got in a company of Microsoft’s scale to work on big problems. There is amazing work being done at Microsoft Research. I work with teams focusing on healthcare and internet connectivity, helping them bring that technology into the real world. We’re looking to overcome the barriers of policy, economics, and more to make sure everyone is connected and healthy.

I love solving problems, and there’s hardly any more powerful way to do that than through technology, because it’s such a fantastic tool. I started my career in networking; it was all about connecting people in new, different, and more efficient ways. There are still at least four billion people on this planet who are not connected to the Internet. I was interested in connecting people in new ways when I started my first job writing software for the ARPANET, and as long as there are still people left to connect, I’m still working on it.

Recently I’ve expanded my focus to healthcare, which is less about connecting people and more about using technology to help us live healthier and more productive lives. It’s also about a broader societal problem, which is making our healthcare system more efficient and productive. Having the opportunity to apply the skills I have to something that is so important to individuals, and that is beneficial to both society and our economy, is great. I like the idea that I’m helping Microsoft to do well by doing good.

Right now, I’m seeing two trends with women in healthcare. The first is about women working in healthcare. There are more women employed in healthcare than in technology. So what happens when you marry the two? I’m seeing efforts to boost the number of women CIOs in healthcare, for example — ensuring women are just as well represented in the technology aspects of medicine as in delivering care.

A second trend reminds me of the saying about “old wine in new bottles.” In this case, the old wine is the long-standing issue that women – and children and minorities for that matter – have too often been left out of patient cohorts for medical research, and if research isn’t done on a diverse group of patients, healthcare isn’t delivered well to all groups of people. The “new bottle” in this case is genomics. We’re seeing that when people do genomics research, if they don’t have a diverse data set, they get the wrong answers about, say, what a mutation means in the genome and whether it’s something rare or common. Some of our researchers have focused on statistical techniques that give more accurate results no matter what, and this kind of work is very important to patients of all genders and ethnicities.

Encouraging women to pursue careers in technology is an issue that is near and dear to my heart, and one on which I have two key thoughts. The first is one of simple economics: women need to be aware at a very early age that technology is already a major driver of the economy — and likely to become even more so in the future. What I’ve observed is that very bright women just don’t get exposed to coding. Microsoft has a lot of efforts to counter that, including supporting the Hour of Code through Code.org and other groups that are trying to bring coding specifically to young women. I think what needs to be said is that you’re not just coding because it’s cool; you’re coding because it’s a foundation of our economy and everybody needs to know it. There are different paths people can take based on code. You don’t necessarily have to become a software engineer, but you do need to know what code is all about, how it works, and understand enough about it to be in the industry.

The second key point is that young women need to understand that there’s bias everywhere, in every industry. That’s not unique to technology. It’s unique to human nature, and you need to prepare yourself for that. A lot of people go in naively, thinking, “It won’t happen to me,” or, “Things are different now.” Things are different now, but bias persists. It persists in different forms, and all over our society. We have to stop pretending that it’s not going to happen to us and we need to prepare ourselves. We need to expect it, learn how to deal with it, and learn to be a little tough to protect ourselves from the emotional drain it can take.

I learned to toughen myself by realizing that it’s not about me. This is not a personal thing, it’s a societal thing. If you take it personally, it’s easy to get bummed out. But if you can step back from that and realize that bias is everywhere, it becomes a little easier to deal with. Once you realize the problem isn’t something wrong with you, it becomes clearer that we all need to work to counter the effects of bias everywhere in society.

Being a leader in technology means looking ahead. It also means crossing boundaries. One of the things I’ve done for a long time is made myself hard to pigeonhole. And I mean that in a positive way! Most problems are not problems of just technology, or just politics, or just economics. They blend all of these elements, and we need to look through all of these perspectives to solve them. One thing that makes me impatient is when people say, “I have a great technology. It’s going to solve all of the world’s problems.” I would say it differently: “I have a great new technology. It has the potential to meet some people’s needs better than before, and let’s see how well it addresses other dimensions of their problems.” It’s easy to forget how important people and their social environment are to technology adoption. There are also economic dimensions and interests involved. We have to look at the full picture in order to understand how a technology can improve things.

That’s what leaders do. They integrate, they look across, they hear other people’s perspectives — they don’t look at things one-dimensionally. You need to have all of those perspectives if you’re going to accomplish meaningful change.

SharonGillett_HiResAt Microsoft Research, Sharon Gillett translates world-leading technologies into practice in the domains of healthcare, biomedicine, and Internet connectivity. Prior to Microsoft, her experience includes leadership positions in federal and state government, academic research and the technology industry.

As Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau at the US Federal Communications Commission, Sharon led staff work on network neutrality and achieved significant reforms to support broadband Internet access through the Universal Service Fund. As Massachusetts’ first Commissioner of Telecommunications and Cable and first Director of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, she spearheaded successful efforts to secure and deploy legislative funding to develop broadband access in underserved areas of the state. As a Principal Research Associate at MIT, she researched and taught telecommunications policy and directed an industry partnership program. As a software engineer, Sharon developed massively parallel text-mining software at Thinking Machines Corporation, and at BBN Communications, she wrote congestion control software for the ARPANET, precursor to the Internet.

Sharon earned a Sloan MBA and an MS in Technology and Policy from MIT, and an AB in Physics from Harvard.

Voices Of Change — Diversity in STEM Can Change the World

Diversity and inclusion are critical underpinnings to our evolving culture at Microsoft and powerful bridges to the marketplace. They can be determining factors in whether or not talented people come to work for us, and whether people buy our products. Through our investment in diverse partnerships on a broad range of opportunities, we continue to work to increase the pipeline of diverse talent, increase retention and match talent to job opportunities that are vital to our success in the future.This month, we are honored to feature the voices of local leaders who represent our commitment to diversity and use their drive to help the community in which they serve.

— Microsoft New England Staff

I always thought of myself as an artistically brained person. My stereotype of an engineer was that of a left-brained, analytical, introverted person, like Bill Nye the Science Guy. Until my junior year of high school when I took a “Girls Exploring Engineering” course. I was paired with a mentor who was a civil engineer, and she inspired me to realize that you don’t have to sit in a box to be successful in a career. You need to have both the ability to be creative and analytical in order to be successful. That motivated me to join my school’s robotics team, and that’s when I decided I wanted to pursue engineering in college.

I applied to MIT because I was inspired by robotics — and the movie Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr.’s character went to MIT to study mechanical engineering, which I thought was so cool. I learned about an MIT program called MITES (Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science). a program that fully funds students to go to MIT for six weeks. This was a life-changing experience for me.

It was so inspiring to be alongside other people who looked like me and were passionate about learning engineering and science, because I was the only person of color in all my AP classes in high school. I fell in love with MIT because of all radical, creative, crazy energy on campus that I felt during MITES.

STEM education provides an ability for your voice to be heard, to have a seat at the table, when really important decisions are being made in terms of how a product is being designed for the people that are going to use it. In the tech industry, it’s more important than ever to have diversity of thoughts when you’re coming up with solutions to really hard problems, because at the end of the day, an elegant solution covers a wide, wide expanse of different users.

Last fall I had the awesome experience of creating the first-ever Black & Africans at Microsoft (BAM) regional chapter in New England. Together with Women@NERD, we organized the first ever mock interview workshop for college students in the Boston area. We invited students to come in and watch a mock interview done by two full-time Microsoft employees, and then they got to do an hour of one-on-one interview practice with them. We had a mixer at the end where they learned about Microsoft careers.

The event got students excited about careers at Microsoft and helped them get over some of the nerves they had with interviewing. Especially with people who are international students, minority students, or just underrepresented populations in general, it can be really, really intimidating to go into an interview cold turkey and just immerse yourself into a culture that you’re not familiar with. We’re trying to give students the opportunity to get that confidence and realize that they are excellent candidates.

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Students at Gique

This is something I talk about all the time with Gique, an educational nonprofit that I started with a friend during my senior year at MIT. We started Gique because we identified as folks that were always at the intersection of left and right brain. Growing up, you’re taught algebra, humanities, science, and history in silos, but when you when you leave the classroom and go off into the world, you don’t experience the world in those same silos; everything is always indelibly intertwined. We wanted to find a way to showcase that — to share that being an engineer and scientist is very much a creative job.

We chose to start our pilot after-school program at the Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester because in communities where there are hard things happening and tough problems, it’s so important to have participatory designs. That’s how you really make lasting change. It’s not dropping somebody into a community — it’s having people within the community be part of the solution.

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 5.34.15 PMThis semester we started an after school program at the Boys and Girls Club called #HackDorchester. We have teams of three students paired with a mentors, who are current student in the Boston area, and they have a budget to design a product or solution to one of five problem areas: housing and employment, climate change, citizenship, education, and public health.

At first glance, the fourth to eighth graders are working on what people would consider adult issues, but the reality is that students know what’s going on in their communities. They are experts at their own daily lives and we’re trying to tell them, “You are an expert. You can start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can. And you have the power of using STEM to make an effective change in your own community. You have the potential to change the world for the better.”