March 2015

Recap: NYC Computer Science Opportunity Fair

Recap: NYC Computer Science Opportunity FairOn Monday March 16, 2015, approximately 1,000 NYC high school students, teachers and chaperones attended the second annual NYC Computer Science opportunity fair, hosted at Columbia University’s Alfred Lerner Hall. Microsoft and the New York City Foundation for Computer Science Education presented the event in partnership with AOL, Facebook, and Two Sigma.

The diverse group of students came from 35 high schools in all 5 NYC boroughs. The participating schools were invited due to their relationship with TEALS and other Computer Science Ed programs including NYC SEP, NYC CTE schools, C/I, ScriptEd and the iZone Exploring Computer Science pilot. Also in attendance were students from the Academy For Software Engineering, the Bronx Academy for Software Engineering, Stuyvesant, and Inwood Early College High School.

Every student in attendance has been studying computer science.

Recap: NYC Computer Science Opportunity Fair

The 2015 fair surpasses the 2014 event in scale to become the largest gathering of NYC high school CS students ever! 


Panel Speakers

Our four speaker panels featured an unprecedented and demographically diverse array of local tech entrepreneurs, engineers, and academics, including:

Recap: NYC Computer Science Opportunity Fair

Jessica Banks – Founder of RockPaperRobot

Avi Flombaum – Co-Founder of The Flatiron School

Devindra Hardawar – Senior Editor at Engadget

John Henry – CEO and Founder of Cofound/Harlem

Maddy Maxey – Tech and Design at The CRATED

Marcus Mitchell – Sr. Engineering Director at Google

Gerard O’Neill – Developer at Etsy

Bill Pence – CTO at AOL

Serkan Piantino – Director of Engineering at Facebook

Kelsey Recht – CEO and Co-Founder of VenueBook

Hoop Somuah – Principle Software Design Engineer at Microsoft (Xbox)

Chris Wiggins – Chief Data Scientist at New York Times, Associate Professor at Columbia University

Suzanne Xie – Founder of Hullabalu

David Yang – CEO of Fullstack Academy

Robert Ying – CS Major at Columbia University

Recap: NYC Computer Science Opportunity Fair

The panels exposed students to the wide variety of industries and fields impacted by computer science, and got them thinking in new directions. Dozens of students asked questions and got thoughtful advice and opinions from the distinguished panelists.

Computer Science Opportunity Fair

Recap: NYC Computer Science Opportunity Fair

At the Opportunity Fair, students explored around 50 booths from companies, colleges, and extracurricular programs. Demos gave insight on what it would look like to build projects in the real world. Local university CS departments shared their own research projects and demos, and distributed information about their CS offerings.

Particularly popular booths included Floored Inc’s Oculus Rift application to tour customer floorplans, audio-sensitive lights and other projects from NYU’s Integrated Telecommunications Program, as well as the Microsoft Store’s display of gadgets and YoRecap: NYC Computer Science Opportunity FairuthSpark’s giant Perceptive Pixel touchscreen.

Other booths included tech heavy-hitters Facebook, AOL and Google; local NYC companies like Two Sigma, Etsy and Kickstarter; finance firms like JP Morgan Chase; colleges including NYU, Columbia, CUNY and Pace; and a slew of extra-curricular CS programs like Girls Who Code, All Star Code, and CSTUY. For a complete list, check the event website.


Recap: NYC Computer Science Opportunity Fair Recap: NYC Computer Science Opportunity Fair

All-Star Guests

Recap: NYC Computer Science Opportunity FairAt lunchtime, students were greeted by warm welcomes from Two Sigma’s Patrick Hynes, Facebook’s Carolyn Nagler, and AOL’s Sara Link. Microsoft’s Hoop Somuah spoke about his experiences as a developer and working on Halo. Finally, NYC Chief Technology Officer Minerva Tantoco, spoke about the exciting growth of the NYC tech sector, and noted that in not too long, some of the students in the audience would be up on stage sharing their love of CS with a new generation of students. “The future of NYC Tech is in this room.”

Maker Activity

Recap: NYC Computer Science Opportunity FairCSNYC helped to coordinate The Makery and Maker-State in running hands-on activities in a separate workshop space. Among other projects, students built “paper circuits” that powered LED lights they could attach to their event badge.


Recap: NYC Computer Science Opportunity FairThroughout the day, booth presenters punched holes in students’ raffle tickets to reward good participation. Students with at least 10 holes punched were eligible to enter the raffle and win prizes provided by sponsors including:

-Free 4-week Foundations course The Flatiron School

-Be a Facebook Intern for a day

-Two Xbox One units





Thank You

Recap: NYC Computer Science Opportunity Fair

We offer a HUGE thank you to all of the volunteers, contributors, chaperones and supporters who are helping to prepare and inspire our youngest innovators and engineers through TEALS and other CS education programs, and to our event co-sponsors for helping achieve this unprecedented landmark event!

Check Twitter and Instagram for hashtag #CSFairNYC to see hundreds of posts (some with photos!) from students, teachers, panelists and booth presenters during the event!

To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to youth and education, visit our YouthSpark Hub or follow us on twitter at @msftcitizenship.

Let Me Get That Data For You: The Bing-Powered Data Inventory Tool

Let Me Get That Data For You: The Bing-Powered Data Inventory Tool

Our friends at the US Open Data Institute work to make it easier for governments and others to open their data. One of the first things a government agency must do before launching an open data repository is conduct an inventory of the data they’re already publishing. It lets you get everything in one place. This is a relatively minor step to creating an open data policy and repository, but it still takes work. We were thrilled to learn that the US Open Data Institute team, including Waldo Jaquith, Ted Han, and Dan Schultz, used the Bing Search API to create a tool that radically streamlines the data inventory process.

It’s called Let Me Get That Data For You. All you have to do is enter in a website URL, and it will search that domain for common data formats and return a machine-readable list for you to use. And then you’re on step closer to sharing your data with the world.

As of today, the service will return up to 2,000 datasets per search. This should cover many of the intended use cases, but if you’re working with an extreme case, you can head over to Github and run the open source code yourself.

Civic Tech at SXSW Interactive

It was a big year for civic tech at SXSW Interactive. I first went to SXSWi in 2008, when I worked at Echo & Co. building online communities for nonprofits. I was surprised then how strongly the nonprofit and social impact communities were represented at what I had previously considered a tech conference. To be sure, the experiential marketers are also there in force, and the streets are saturated with their freebies and faux protests against artificial intelligence. But SXSW organizers and panel voters have also dedicated a significant portion of the formal and informal programming to our work: using technology-driven opportunities to address shared challenges. There’s even an entire SXSW Eco spin-off conference around sustainability in October. I won’t list everything here, but some civic tech highlights included:

US Chief Technology Officer (and fellow Media Lab graduate) Megan Smith on the main stage.

Sometimes, when everyone you work with is excited about how the federal government is improving how it uses technology, you forget that many people still haven’t heard about the new momentum represented by government agencies like the US Digital Services and 18F. Megan Smith’s keynote appearance was a clear sign that yes, the world is paying attention to this burgeoning sector we call civic tech.

The Knight Foundation County Fair

It’s hard to overstate the role the Knight Foundation has played in providing seed funding, convenings, and field-defining research to the civic tech sector. If you ever questioned the centrality of their node in the civic graph, their County Fair party last Sunday would convince you. Civic tech startups like AskThem, Code2040, and the Open Elections project demoed their work while the bold names of civic tech mingled amongst jugglers and stiltmen. (Disclaimer: the Knight Foundation funded my graduate degree via the Center for Civic Media).

Harvard Business School’s Digital Initiative

When you first hear “Harvard Business School“, your mind may not jump to civic tech, but the Digital Initiative, directed by former Berkmananiac Colin Maclay, is reshaping the institution around many of the same schools of thought that inform our movement: design thinking, iterative innovation, and experimental approaches to global-scale online education. Bonus points for offering cornhole and limited-edition screenprinted t-shirts of armadillos sporting Harvard sweaters.

Harvard brunches in Texas

A photo posted by Matt Stempeck (@mstem) on

Lastly, a big thank you to my co-panelists, Denise Cheng and Jenn Louis, for inviting me to join them in discussing trust online, and to MIT Technology Review for letting me try on the largest brass rat on the planet.

Women Forward — Civic Tech Changemaker Kristen Titus, Founding Director of NYC’s Tech Talent Pipeline

In my role at Microsoft, I am fortunate to interact with a number of incredible people at non-profits, for-profits, universities, and government agencies. Of course, many of these amazing people are women. And one woman, in particular, has done so much to broaden opportunity and ensure that the tech sector is accessible to all. Her name is Kristen Titus and she currently leads Mayor de Blasio’s Tech Talent Pipeline in addition to a record of achievement running the non-profit Girls Who Code. So in honor of Women’s History Month, Microsoft New York has asked Kristen to share her thoughts and perspectives. Please tweet out and discuss the good work that Kristen has done and is doing, but also remember to shine a light on the incredible women driving change in a variety of fields and in your own community.

– John Paul Farmer, Director of Technology & Civic Innovation, Microsoft New York

Women Forward — Civic Tech Changemaker Kristen Titus, Founding Director of NYC's Tech Talent Pipeline

What is your role in NYC’s tech sector? How did you get into this position?

I work for the City of New York leading the administration’s Tech Talent Pipeline initiative, a $10 million industry partnership designed to support the growth of the City’s tech ecosystem and prepare New Yorkers for 21st century jobs. It’s a first-of-its-kind public sector initiative working with public and private partners to deliver quality jobs for our people and quality talent for our businesses.

Prior to joining the administration, I was the Executive Director of Girls Who Code, a national organization working to close the gender gap in technology and engineering. Building platforms, programs, and constituencies is what I love and mobilizing leaders in support of our communities is what led me to this brilliant opportunity in the administration.

How is New York unique in its approach to women in tech?

New York City is the birthplace of opportunity, the capital of innovation, and the home of nearly every industry, from fashion to tech. The city is also home to among the most diverse talent pools across the globe, and with a tech industry that employs nearly 300,000 people, New York City presents real and unparalleled opportunity for women in technology.

With initiatives like the Tech Talent Pipeline and Women’s Entrepreneurship NYC (WE NYC), New York is working to ensure these opportunities are afforded to all. What’s more, both our City’s CTO and CIO are women — that’s incredible. This administration is working tirelessly to support a diverse, talented, and thriving technology workforce. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

What are some ways to get girls and young women involved in tech?

You can’t be what you can’t see. Years ago we couldn’t beg people to talk about the lack of women in tech. Today, you can’t open a magazine without reading about it, with leaders like the United States’ CTO Megan Smith, Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, and Verizon CIO Judith Spitz at the forefront. And right here in our own administration, we have CTO Minerva Tantoco, CIO Anne Roest, CDO Jessica Singleton, and General Counsel Maya Wiley — all women working on tech in very visible roles. And we’re already reaping the benefits of this. For the first time in years, women’s enrollment in computer science programs is going up.

Role models aside, the data tells us that the message of technology being among the most powerful tools for social change is what drives girls and young women into the field. Imagine what the world will look like when these women are in the field in equal numbers, building the newest, life-changing innovations. I can’t wait.

What skills do New York workers need most?

The Tech Talent Pipeline is tasked with working across sectors to define employer needs, develop training and education solutions, and deliver homegrown talent for 21st jobs. What we know is that New York needs talent that spans a diversity of positions, from software engineers to mobile developers (both Android and iOS) to product managers. We need talent at all levels, and we need talent that is reflective of those in our communities. And while the list of in-demand skills will continually evolve, our job is to ensure New York’s training and education institutions are equipped to deliver on these needs and evolve together with industry.

Where are the best places to find diverse talent in New York?

We know there is a wealth of talent right here in New York, from the thousands in our schools today to those training in bootcamps, accelerated training programs, and some of NYC’s oldest academic institutions. We’ve seen incredible successes from CUNY students in the far reaches of Queens to the participants in our NYC Web Development Fellowship in Brooklyn.

Who has been your biggest inspiration in tech?

The young women of Girls Who Code showed me what this world could look like. And industry leaders like Fred Wilson who have put this work front and center have demonstrated their support in ways we couldn’t have imagined years ago. But it’s when I walk into our Web Development Fellowship classroom and see young men and women doing the impossible that I am beyond inspired. Among those students is a brilliant young woman from the Bronx who taught herself to code in the late nights leading up to her child’s birth. She is the future of this industry.

What do you think is the next step in civic tech?

With President Obama’s announcement of the White House Tech Hire initiative earlier this month, I think we’re going to see more and more cities following New York’s lead to create their own Tech Talent Pipelines, bringing together businesses, community organizations, government, academic institutions and training providers to deliver an empowered 21st century workforce.

Lori Harnick: Empowering Women and Girls in New York City

Lori Harnick: Empowering Women and Girls in New York City

At Microsoft, we pride ourselves in reaching out to our community and using technology and skills to improve it. Our outreach is intended to further social good and civic improvement for all. Last week, I was pleased to be in New York City joining top tech and STEM strategists to promote equality, education, and beyond in the city and around the world.

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On Wednesday morning, I headed to DigiGirlz at Microsoft New York’s Times Square headquarters for an event to inspire young girls to get interested in STEM education and computer science. I had the opportunity to meet with 150 students who participated in hands-on workshops on coding, circuitry, and other important facets of computer science. It was inspiring to me to see the talent and enthusiasm in the room; this was exemplified by a five-year old girl actively joining high school students in these activities. It was encouraging to see the engagement of Carmen Fariña, Chancellor of New York City Schools, who stressed the importance of promoting computer science education in the city and the need for ensuring that girls are equal participants of this education experience.

In the afternoon, Microsoft joined the International Women’s Day celebration with a two-day forum organized by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, UN Women and the UN Office for Partnerships. The main theme of the forum was The Empowerment Bridge: Building a Lifetime of Opportunity for Women and Girls. One of the most encouraging discussions was the panel “Accelerating STEM and Leveraging Technology for Access and Impact,” moderated by Soledad O’Brien. We heard from Chief of Staff for the First Lady of the US, Tina Tchen; Girl Scouts CEO, Ana Maria Chavez; and Microsoft Education Vice-president for the US, Margo Day. They all talked about how women and girls can be empowered by STEM education, better health care services, and by acquiring more job and business skills.

Those who joined us at the forum also got a special screening of Big Dream, a documentary highlighting stories of seven young women in STEM fields breaking boundaries and bridging the gender gap.

Lori Harnick: Empowering Women and Girls in New York CityWe were also fortunate to hold the second day of the forum at the United Nations, where I had the opportunity to participate in a session on sustainable development goals and the role of business and philanthropy in helping drive women empowerment around the world. The Adviser to the UN Secretary General on Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Amina Mohammed, briefed the audience on the status of this process and how the SDGs will help drive gender equality.

Then, Amina joined a conversation with Kathy Calvin, the President and CEO of UN Foundation and Beth Keck, Senior Director for Women’s Economic Empowerment at Wal-Mart. This discussion was moderated by Jane Nelson, Director of the CSR initiative at Harvard’s Kennedy School. I represented Microsoft in this panel, where we talked extensively about the role of the private sector in collaborating with government, academia, nonprofits, and other players to address the issues covered by the sustainable development goals.

I had a very insightful and inspiring couple of days in New York City. Coming to such a vibrant city allows me to see first-hand the encouraging efforts to drive impact at both the local community level and globally. Seeing the excitement of young girls around science and technology and listening to local, national, and global leaders’ ideas on women’s issues only strengthens Microsoft’s belief that STEM education and digital literacy are key enablers for driving gender equality and economic opportunity for women and young girls around the world.

To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to youth and education, visit our YouthSpark Hub or follow us on twitter at @msftcitizenship.

Come hang with us at SXSWi

Come hang with us at SXSWiCome hang with us at SXSWi

We’re heading down to Austin later this week to eat breakfast burritos, talk tech policy, and soak up all that SXSW Interactive has to offer.

John Paul Farmer (@johnpaulfarmer) will discuss Visas, Immigration, and the Tech Industry, an issue that’s been in the news as recently as President Obama’s big TechHire Initiative announcement yesterday. John will be joined by representatives from the White House’s U.S. Digital Service team, the Departments of State, and the Department of Homeland Security for a discussion about how they are working in the U.S. and abroad to ensure that talented workers come to the United States.

(at the JW Marriott, Salon 1, 110 E 2nd St, Austin, TX from 12:30-1:30PM on Saturday, March 14)

And I (@mstem) will join peers from MIT Media Lab and Meetup to discuss the critical role trust plays on online platforms. You can check out a preview of our conversation in the Twitter chat we held with the MIT Alumni Association today.

(at the JW Marriott, Salon 7, 110 E 2nd St, Austin, TX from 5-6PM on Friday, March 13)

Drop us a line if you’ll be at the conference!

Photo by Flickr user joeyparsons


President Obama Announces TechHire Initiative and Microsoft NYC Tech Jobs Academy

President Obama Announces TechHire Initiative and Microsoft NYC Tech Jobs Academy

Let’s start with some good news: After 60 straight months of private-sector job growth, the unemployment rate across the United States has dropped to 5.5%. However, for those with less education, the rate remains higher. For those without technical skills, the rate remains even higher. And while unemployment has fallen, wage growth has been muted.

Microsoft was founded to empower people through technology. The successes of the PC revolution, the Internet revolution, and now the mobile revolution have done just that. But as technology becomes woven ever more deeply into the fabric of our work and our lives, that leads to an evolution in the skills that people and businesses need to thrive. Studies and companies tell us that US businesses are eager to hire those with tech skills. In New York City, for example, tech jobs pay 49% more than the average non-tech hourly wage. So it seems that our challenge and our opportunity are one and the same: to deliver tech skills to those people in need, and then deliver those newly-skilled people to those companies in need.

President Obama Announces TechHire Initiative and Microsoft NYC Tech Jobs Academy

Today, in a speech to dozens of mayors at the annual National League of Cities conference in Washington, DC, President Barack Obama announced the White House’s new TechHire Initiative to deliver employable technical skills to adults in communities across the country. As part of TechHire, an initial 20 cities are committing to pilot new and innovative approaches while sharing lessons learned with one another, in order to identify the most impactful approaches that can be scaled in communities across the country. Companies and educational institutions have stepped up too. In recent years, Microsoft’s YouthSpark Initiative has delivered tech literacy and job skills to hundreds of millions of people worldwide. In the US alone, Microsoft’s IT Academy curriculum has reached millions of students. Yet despite a robust network of 4-year universities and 2-year community colleges and the availability of high-quality curricula, we still see too few of our young adults entering the workforce with the mix of technical skills and project-based experience that employers want. In particular, entire groups of people are underrepresented in the tech workforce, including women, blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans. We can do better. While we should improve our existing education pathways, we can also create new ones.

That’s where the Microsoft NYC Tech Jobs Academy comes in. Based on Microsoft’s success in designing and delivering accelerated learning programs to members of the military using IT Academy curricula in combination with project-based learning, soft skills, hands-on instruction, and mentorship, the Tech Jobs Academy will give access to this type of training to unemployed and underemployed young adults in New York City. The program content will be agile and responsive to the changing needs of industry. Microsoft is working with thousands of companies in the New York area to identify which skills they need most in their workforces, to then train participants with those specific skills through an intensive full-time learning that takes months, not years. Finally, the program will match participants with companies in need for internships, job interviews, or full-time employment.

We’ve seen this approach to work with men and women of our military. We believe there are thousands more in New York and across the country who are likewise yearning for opportunity. As the White House’s new TechHire Initiative aims to spread best practices throughout the country, we’re proud that the Microsoft NYC Tech Jobs Academy will be a cornerstone in the effort.

To learn more about the TechHire Initiative, read the White House’s fact sheet here.

To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to youth and education, visit our YouthSpark Hub or follow us on twitter at @msftcitizenship.

Microsoft Hosts All Star Code’s World of Coding Workshop

Microsoft Hosts All Star Code's World of Coding Workshop

All Star Code (ASC) held its second annual World of Coding workshop on Saturday, February 28th at our headquarters in Times Square. The day began with an introduction from ASC’s Founder & Executive Director, Christina Lewis Halpern and Microsoft’s Operations & Community Manager, Antuan Santana, who gave an introduction to the Microsoft YouthSpark program. The ASC team & volunteers discussed their careers and favorite technology before presenting ASC’s four instructors: Taofeek Rabiu, Elissa Weinzimmer, Max Weinbrown, and Sean Stern.

Workshop topics included “Hacking Mentality”, creating your own startup, speaking in public, coding design, robotics, and more.

We were pleased to see students enthusiastic about their experience and future learning opportunities in computer science. For more information and photos from The World of Coding, visit and read the full workshop and social media recap at the All Star Code Blog.

Celebrating International Women’s Day and the importance of diversity to drive innovation

Here at Microsoft, we truly believe that education is a remarkably powerful tool to encourage and inspire the youth of the world. We’ve never been shy about our undying support for STEM programs, and through that support we successfully launched and continue to maintain our YouthSpark Initiative. However, despite all of this and all of the support within the tech sector, there is still a massive gender imbalance in the sciences. Globally, women’s representation in technology and scientific innovation is minimal, and has even declined through some years. Fifty percent of the world’s population is not being given an equal amount of opportunities and encouragement to go through the education to become a part of the sciences.

A forum on this very topic and its resolutions is taking place today, Wednesday, March 4 at 1:00 in the Corporate Citizen Center as part of the 5th Annual International Women’s Day. Microsoft’s own Lori Harnick and Margo Day will be a part of this event, and female leaders from Girl Scouts USA, UN Foundation, CNN, and more will be featured speakers.

Read more about this forum and other International Women’s Day events on our Microsoft On The Issues blog.

To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to youth and education, visit our YouthSpark Hub or follow us on twitter at @msftcitizenship.

Calling young people with ideas for change — win support to make them a reality

Calling all students or young adults who are active in your local community or concerned about national issues! Microsoft’s third annual YouthSpark Challenge for Change is inviting youth aged 13-25 around the world to share their ideas for sparking change in their communities, schools, college campuses, or the world. Microsoft YouthSpark is part of Microsoft’s commitment to create education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people around the world.

The Challenge asks socially conscious young people to consider how Microsoft technology can help them do more and achieve more, and then submit their ideas between now and March 25, 2015. Microsoft will choose 15 finalists from each age group (13-17 and 18-25) to win a Surface Pro 3 with Office 365. Five grand prize winners from each age group will go on to win:

One of last year’s winners, Laura Fulton, a New Jersey native, started a program called Science for Success with the goal of getting young women excited about exploring science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). An avid science student herself, she noticed the number of girls in her classes diminishing as she moved through school — and decided to do something about it. Her proposal took her to the winner’s circle and a life-changing trip to Ecuador to learn about how to drive community change.

So if you know a high-school or college student or young graduate who’s got some great ideas about improving graduation rates in New York City schools, or preventing youth suicide across the nation, or solving international diplomatic challenges, or more, point them to the Challenge. Entering is simple: they can just submit their ideas to Microsoft YouthSpark and answer a few questions for a chance to get recognition, funding, and a platform to turn their vision into action.

To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to youth and education, visit our YouthSpark Hub or follow us on twitter at @msftcitizenship.