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#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.

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.

Fellow Profile: Aaron Myran

aaronmyran_1455034528_97Name: Aaron Myran

Where are you from? I grew up in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

School/grade/major: I did my undergrad at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada where I studied biology.  I’m going into my second year of grad school at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Last thing you searched on Bing: Warriors – Cavs NBA finals predictions.

Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program? I’m passionate about making an impact at organizations through building software and improving access to data.  Before grad school, I worked as the Deputy CTO at a political action organization and got a good taste of developing technology tools for my organization.  I wanted to explore how a global tech leader provides software as a service to make their users more innovative.  Microsoft is really leading in this space at the city and national level.

What projects are you working on for your position as tech fellow for Microsoft New England? I’m working with a couple of civic organizations in the Boston area to develop performance data tools and data visualizations/dashboards using some of Microsoft’s technology stack like Power Bi.  I’m putting together some video tutorials on the process to make the development process open and replicable.

What excites you about civic tech? I’m not always sure that the next hip ‘app’ is really making anyone’s lives any better.  I like that there’s a pretty concrete theory of change behind civic technology:  The government provides a bunch of important services (education, transit, voting).  Civic tech makes these services more innovate or efficient using technology and validates their efficacy.

Staff Spotlight: Kristin Kube

Kristin

Name: Kristin Kube

Hometown: Columbia, Maryland

Job: Business Administrator for the Intune DeX Engineering and PM Teams in Cambridge, MA

Years at Microsoft: 3 years, 7 months

Favorite Local Restaurant: I love Commonwealth in Cambridge!

Last thing you searched on Bing: The singer Ellie Goulding; she was recently in a car accident in Norway and I was reading about it. I was also looking at images of her. I think she is so gorgeous and such a talented artist!

Something cool you’ve worked on recently: My favorite part of my job is event planning! I am currently working on a morale event for my leadership team which will be a bartending/mixology class they take together at Drinkmaster Bartending School in downtown Boston. I get to attend as well; I am super excited!

What inspires you about technology? I love how technology can help people with disabilities. I was particularly inspired by the story of Steve Gleason, a former NFL player who has ALS and who uses eye-tracking technology, which runs on Windows on his Surface, to communicate. This has greatly improved his quality of life. It is amazing and inspiring!

What problem would you like to see solved with technology? I would like to see technology continue to help improve the human experience, whether it be improving the quality of life for people with disabilities, developing new ways for people to express themselves creatively, making our daily lives and tasks easier or exploring the universe. Technology is capable of so much and I can’t wait to see what it accomplishes next!

Jennifer Chayes Receives Honorary Doctorate from Leiden University

jennifer-chayes

Earlier this week, Jennifer Chayes, managing director and distinguished scientist of Microsoft’s New England and New York research labs, was honored by Leiden University with an Honorary Doctorate. It’s very rare that Leiden University bestows an Honorary Doctorate to an individual who isn’t a professor, but this news comes as no surprise to us, as Jennifer has excelled in her 20 years at Microsoft. As a leading researcher in the fields of statistical physics, stochastics and discrete mathematics, she has made major contributions to Microsoft — and to other female researchers inspired by her work and leadership. All of us here at Microsoft New England congratulate Jennifer on this honor.

Read more about Jennifer’s honor — and her achievements — on the Leiden University website.

Fellow Profile: Kevin Yang

kevin-yang_MSNEWhere are you from? Orange County, California

School/grade/major: Harvard, Junior, Computer Science and Statistics

Last thing you searched on Bing: Best Sushi in NYC

Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program? Previously, I led a nonprofit called the Digital Literacy Project, which brings undergraduates into middle schools to teach an introduction to computer science. From these experiences, I naturally became interested in understanding how to magnify my impact on communities and how communities function. As a leader in the Civic Tech space, Microsoft seemed like a great way to continue exploring my passions.

What’s the most exciting tech venture the City of Boston is working on? Naming the most exciting tech venture in Boston is particularly difficult. Boston has an unparalleled ecosystem of innovation with startup accelerators like Mass Challenge, spaces for entrepreneurship like the Cambridge Innovation Center, and partnerships between companies and policy makers like the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. These organizations help innovative tech ventures thrive in Boston and make me particularly excited to work on civic tech in Boston.

Who is your civic tech mentor? I find Hadi Partovi’s mission to demonstrate the transformative power of technology through Code.org particularly inspiring. Over the past two years since its inception, Code.org has engaged over one hundred million people to learn how to code.

What excites you about civic tech? Within the civic tech space, there are plenty of opportunities to make meaningful and lasting improvements to the lives of community members. As shown by the uptake of applications like Microsoft Pulse and OpenGov, local governments enhanced with technology can be transparent and responsive.

What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities? Through new civic tech services where governments can connect with citizens, I hope communities will become more involved with their local governments.

Microsoft’s New England SMSG Organization Moving to Burlington

Microsoft-Burlington

Microsoft Burlington Office, 5 Wayside Road

Later this year, Microsoft’s New England Sales, Marketing and Services Group (SMSG) will move to Nokia’s former offices in Burlington, Massachusetts, from our current Kendall Square location.

Let me be clear, Microsoft is not leaving Kendall Square! Microsoft will continue to have a large presence here. Microsoft research and development teams will remain in Cambridge where they can easily collaborate with leading, nearby academic institutions and the broader technology community. Debi Mishra, Partner Director of Engineering for Azure Machine Learning, and site leader for this Microsoft Global Development Center, will continue to focus on growing our research and development presence here, and our conference center at NERD will continue its mission of hosting industry meetings and meet-ups.

NERD

Microsoft New England Research & Development Center

In fact, the plan is to renovate the more than 150,000 sq. feet we occupy at One Memorial Drive, providing more collaborative work spaces for our research and development teams and giving us room for business growth.

As for my SMSG team, our footprint in the Northeast continues to grow, and Burlington places us in a centralized location close to Boston, but with easier access to all the surrounding states in our sales region.

The move will see all SMSG employees at Microsoft’s 255 Main Street, Kendall Square office, including those in our world-class Microsoft Technology Center (MTC), relocate to 5 Wayside Road in Burlington. The Burlington office will complement our New England satellite offices in Hartford, CT and Rochester, NY. It’s also just two miles from our Microsoft Store at the Burlington Mall.

This move will allow SMSG to truly capitalize on our company’s mobile-first strategy and provide an easily accessible, state-of-the-art hub where we can work more effectively with customers, partners, developers and user groups throughout our Northeast territory.

As I indicated at the outset, this move won’t occur until later this year, but I want our New England customers, partners, employees and friends to be aware of our intentions. We’re looking forward our new Burlington home, but in the meantime we’ll continue to meet your needs from our current Kendall Square offices.

Robert Davy is general manager of Microsoft’s Northeast Enterprise and Partner Group.

Join the ever-growing community of Kendall Square!

Join the ever-growing community of Kendall Square!

What’s next for Kendall Square after its amazing 5-year run? Scott Kirsner, BostonGlobe columnist, BetaBoston blogger, and editor of InnoLead asks this question in his most recent piece for BetaBoston. In the article, he discusses the exponential growth of the Kendall Square area in the past 5 years, from tech moguls to internet commerce, social media firms and startups dominating the area.

We established our presence here in Kendall Square here in 2007.  We now have nearly 800 employees in two, separate offices, and nearly 900 employees in Massachusetts, including our store locations.

We are proud to be part of this ever-growing community and are always looking for more innovators to join our team. Think you can make a difference in the next five years? We invite you to take a look at our job openings and help us make an impact in Kendall Square and beyond.

Read Scott’s piece in the Boston Globe here.

Fellow Profile: Gavin Sullivan

Gavin-Sullivan-MicrosoftWhere are you from? Deerfield, IL

School/grade/major: Harvard, Sophomore, Classics and Statistics

Last Thing You Binged:  “Return of Parks and Rec” – it’s been on hiatus for too long!

Why did you choose to intern with Microsoft?
My interest in technology was born when my dad brought home a Compaq desktop computer running Windows 98 — I was four at the time. Politics followed soon after when I tried to understand the 2000 election (my six-year-old self had much trouble making sense of the Electoral College). My time here at Microsoft has allowed me to bridge both of these interests by engaging with civic technology.

What projects are you working on for your position as tech fellow for MSNE?
I’m currently developing training solutions for our local government users. Microsoft has a tremendous amount of resources available online; I’m trying to package these in a way that is more useful to public sector workers.

What excites you about civic tech?
Civic tech reflects my generation’s evolving attitudes on political participation. Rather than casting our votes every November then sitting back for the remainder of the year, we’re using technology to turn government into a leaner, swifter machine.

What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities?
Citizens deserve to be more closely involved with their local governments’ budgeting process. Cities throughout the country are already using technology to give their constituents greater influence on where their tax dollars go. As more municipalities begin to embrace civic tech, I hope this trend continues across the nation.