What’s Next After Microsoft — Civic Tech Fellow Alumna Fatima Khalid

| MSNY Staff

Civic Tech Fellow Alumni Fatima Khalid

Congratulations on graduating! Can you tell us your official degree and where you received it?

Thank you! 😀 it’s been an exciting past few months.

I am officially a graduate from NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering in Computer Science with a minor in Game Engineering. I also obtained a minor from the NYU College of Arts and Sciences in Broadcast Journalism.

What were your main duties as a Microsoft fellow?

As a team, we all worked endlessly to produce what is now Civic Graph (civicgraph.io) from its beginnings of whiteboard designs and simple d3 plots. As a fellow, I also attended hackathons and hack nights, particularly those of our Code for America brigade, BetaNYC (shout out to Noel, Terrance, and Volkan for a fantastic learning experience). I also participated in civic tech events and conferences in NYC and once, even in Boston. I met a lot of amazing people and got a chance to give insight into their open data projects. I volunteered at civic tech events and even got a chance to be a student-mentor at a Microsoft hackathon. I always used my Twitter account to hashtag and drive engagement for events. Sometimes, people would come up to me and say, “Oh hey, you’re the Twitter girl.” That’s always a great conversation.

What has been your favorite project with the Technology and Civic Engagement Team?

Without a doubt, Civic Graph. It started out as an atlas of ideas, something abstract that our director John Paul Farmer wanted to create. I remember sitting with my teammates, Ken and Jenny, in the early stages of our fellowship thinking it wouldn’t be possible to put all that information into one interactive graph, but we did! The project grew larger and more complicated with every iteration and more people began to contribute data. It was both challenging and rewarding, especially as a team, to see it grow from John’s visions of the idea to the actual platform being used and worked on at hackathons. (NY team, I will miss you the most <3)

Civic Graph, in a sense, taught me how to bring an idea, however challenging, to life. And watching it grow and develop at the heart of civic tech in NYC is just an amazing feeling.

Where is civic tech taking you next?

I’m leaving NYC for Boston, where I was inspired by the engagement and participation of the government at HubHacks 2014. In mid-July, I’ll be joining the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) for the City of Boston as a software developer. With DoIT, I’m hoping to be a part of creating a more responsive city that engages with it’s citizens and usually technology to improve the quality of life. I’m particularly excited to work on the “technology stack” in the city – devices, sensors and connectivity projects. The whole position is just one thrilling smart city initiative and I’m excited to be a part of it!

What advice do you have for future fellows?

It can be overwhelming when you first enter the Civic Tech realm. You’ll find yourself struggling to define your job sector to your friends and classmates. I like to copy my boss, Matt Stempeck when he says it’s “tech for good.”

In the beginning, I felt that things moved too quickly, conferences, hack nights, and hackathons were happening all the time. There’s open data, smart cities, and STEM – something for everyone to contribute in civic tech. You’ll meet fantastic people from all kinds of sectors – government folks, policy enthusiasts, data miners, and technologists.

I’d say be prepared to learn and contribute to ideas and feel incredibly inspired every time you attend a conference or lightning talk. There’s just so much talent and so many incredible projects going on. You’ll come to a point where you’ll be able to define ‘civic tech’ with your own experiences, whether with people, apps, tools, or technologies — and then, there will be no going back!

Good luck future fellows.

Let’s collaborate on civic tech one day! 🙂

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