February 2016

Recap — Machine Eatable with Hanna Wallach

Last week, we were thrilled to join DataKind for our monthly lunch series Machine Eatable at Civic Hall. This month’s event hosted Hanna Wallach, Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research NYC, in an open conversation on machine learning, social science and data. We’re glad to have had plenty of involved guests who were so enthusiastic both in house and on social media!

Some of the top tweets from the event:

Staff Spotlight: Jessica Martinez

Jess MName: Jessica Martinez

Hometown: New York

Job: Inventory Control Expert at Microsoft’s Flagship Store in NYC

Years at Microsoft: 3 years and 1 year as a booster = 4 wonderful years

Favorite Local Restaurant: Catch New York

Last thing you searched on Bing: The lineup for Electric Forest

Something cool you’ve worked on recently: I’ve created meet up groups for open mic night to give people the support they need to go on stage and express themselves. Whether it’s through poetry, music or storytelling. I think that’s pretty cool.

What’s your favorite Microsoft product right now and why?
My Xbox One is my favorite product!  This allows me to stay connected with my family since they live all over the US. I can play video games or watch movies with my niece and nephews while Skyping them at the same time. I can also help them with their homework using Skype.

What’s your favorite part about working at the Microsoft Store?
My favorite part is meeting new people and creating friends. Microsoft allows you to visit other stores and not only bestow knowledge upon each other, but gain a friend. I’ve met some amazing people in different Microsoft Store locations throughout my years with this company and I’m thrilled to call them friends for life!

What is one problem you’d like to see technology solve?
I think technology can truly help bring awareness about suicide and stop bullying. Using technology can allow those in need to stay connected with those facing the same issues. Creating more websites, using Skype, chat rooms, application for mobile devices, and music. Knowing someone is always there for you no matter what time or day.

Voices of Change — Empowering Through STEM

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 York Staff

Christina Lewis Halpern

The technology world is no old boys’ club. It’s supposedly a meritocracy. Can you build the thing? Can you see the future?

You’re hired.

Or so they say.

So why is it that the STEM fields are so empty of people of color? The answer is a lack of access, narrow hiring profiles related to “culture fit,” and a host of iniquities that start with slavery.

Today, African-Americans and Latinos comprise less than 1% of startup founding teams; the percentages of people of color graduating with degrees in STEM, similarly, are in the single digits.

This disparity matters, obviously, because technology is a critical sector—the critical sector—for job growth, wealth creation, and social impact. The technology sector will drive the 21stcentury economy, and we know that the low end of income inequality in America is dramatically overrepresented by people of color. The average net worth of a black household is $11,000. For a white household, it’s nearly $142,000. If these kinds of numbers in tech persist—1 percent of startup founders, 4 percent of PhD’s—that inequality will only continue to grow and grow.

And it matters much beyond the stark economic gaps. We know that technology’s reach defines much of how we live our daily lives, from how we wake up for work (Bing! Says your phone at 6:30 am) to how we plan our days (Bing! says your calendar app).

Given the hoopla about startup unicorns and exits and 25-year-old millionaires it feels like what’s important about tech is the money to be made. But what is most important is that technology and the STEM fields will define the future: how will we organize challenges to systems of oppression? How will we find safe and clean power for the planet? What software will enable all eligible Americans to vote and elect our future President?

Technology is the way we create the world we live in. It should be obvious to everyone that the more voices get heard in achieving a consensus of what the world should look like, the better.

So how do more people of color come to merit a spot in the making of the future? (Or merit a job?) All the diversity programs in the world can’t do it alone, as valuable and right-thinking as they are. One piece—the piece we work on—is to make sure people have both the tools they need to succeed and the tools they need to be put in a position to seek success. The nonprofit organization I founded, All Star Code, provides skills for and access to the tech world to high school boys of color. (There are several fantastic other programs dedicated to girls.) All Star Code offers a free six-week not-for-profit summer experiential education program that teaches programming and entrepreneurial soft skills, as well as year-round introductory workshops. Graduates receive ongoing advising on what to study, internships to pursue, work experience placements and regular annual gatherings.

So much of what the world looks like has been created by a small subsection of humanity: white, male, European. They’ve made some pretty great things. I like email, Xboxes, and penicillin. But I get thrilled just imagining what the world looks like when we all join together and make something. When everybody’s allowed in the future-making business. Why wait?

Christina Lewis HalpernChristina Lewis Halpern is a social entrepreneur and award-winning journalist who is the Founder and Executive Director of All Star Code, a unique, fast-growing non-profit education organization that equips youth with the skills, networks and knowhow to succeed in the tech sector, thus closing the wealth gap and boosting American innovation. Her work has been featured in many major media including PBS, Fast Company, Fortune and Black Enterprise.

Christina is a White House 2014 Champion of Change for STEM Access, a 2014 Echoing Green Black Male Achievement Fellowship Finalist, a 2015 Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellow Finalist, an Observer top 20 young philanthropist, a Jet Magazine top 40 under 40 and one of The Root’s “17 women in STEM” you should know, among other honors.

A sought-after speaker on philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, tech diversity and personal transformation, Christina has spoken at NY Ideas, Harvard Law School, The Atlantic Forum in Education, the Wealth and Giving Forum, and The Black Enterprise Entrepreneurship Forum, among other places. An award-winning journalist and noted writer, Christina is the author of “Lonely At The Top,” a 2012 best-selling Kindle Single memoir about her father, Reginald F. Lewis, the first African-American to build a billion-dollar business.

Christina is a member of the board of the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, a member of the Advisory Board for the Children’s Museum of the East End and Chair of the Class of 2002 Associates Committee for Harvard College. She is also a quiet angel investor in tech startups and an informal advisory to other female entrepreneurs.

Prior to founding All Star Code, Christina worked for five years as a staff writer for the Wall Street Journal. Her writing has been published in the New York Times Magazine. She began her career as a crime reporter in Stamford, Conn. She lives in New York City with her husband, son, daughter and dog.

Voices of Change — The Future of Technology and the Black Community

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 York Staff


Interview by Sacha Thompson

Recently, President Obama announced a $4 billion Computer initiative called Computer Science for All. This initiative hopes to prepare more young Americans for jobs in the technology field. In light of this initiative, I sat down with Computer Science Engineer, Onyi Nwosu to discuss the impact of STEM education and technology on the black community.

As Onyi explains, exposure to technology is important in the black community because it can change someone’s mindset from consumer to maker. “When you are watching TV or listening to the radio you are consuming media but you may not realize how accessible it is to become the maker [of that media]. People use the Vine platform to create fun videos but you can also use this technology to build a business. It’s important for the black community to be involved in the building of things. If there are more makers in the community, then there will be more products that meet the needs of the community. Also, people may not realize how accessible it is to become a maker. If you are interested in computer science there are so many free resources out there, such as Code.org. If you have access to a computer and the Internet you can learn to build apps and websites. You don’t necessarily have to go to college, or have any prior experience, you can start wherever you are.”

With 15 years of experience in computer engineering, Onyi became interested in science and technology long before it became a national concern. “Growing up, I always knew that I was going to be an engineer because of my father, (who is a chemical engineer) I just wasn’t sure what kind of engineer. When I was in college, computer science was just becoming a big deal and my college required everyone to take a computer science class. I took the class and I really loved it and was really good at it. So, that’s how I decided on Computer Engineering as my major.”

Onyi credits her father with fostering a love of math and science in her from an early age, as well as being her constant supporter. “It is so important to have someone who will encourage and support you, and for me it was my dad. He always told me that I could do anything I wanted as long as I worked really hard.” Today, Onyi hopes to provide that support and exposure to the next generation. “I don’t ever feel that I am discriminated against explicitly, but if you are always the only woman or black person in the room you started to wonder if you belong there. I started to think about how I could get more people interested in computer science and looked around for volunteer opportunities. I read an article about Kimberly Bryant’s Black Girls Code organization and thought that would be the perfect way to give back.”

Black Girls Code aims to increase the number of women of color in STEM fields by empowering and exposing girls to computer science and technology at a young age. “It is really important for programs like this to be in these communities so that young people become aware of these opportunities. I know that every girl that comes to a Black Girls Code event will not become a computer scientist, but it’s important that even a few of them become aware that this is an option for them.”

In the future, Onyi hopes to create more opportunities for young people to learn more about the technology field. “There are so many different things that you can do in tech. You can work in Dev Ops and build the actual networks or you can be a designer. Even if don’t have the coding or the artistic skills you can be a product manager or quality assurance tester. That is why it is so important that we keep the barrier to entry very low and expose young people to different aspects of the field. If you find the one thing you like, you can focus and build a career off it. But you can’t become something you don’t know even exists.”

One year in, Civic Hall sets the foundation for civic tech


Photo: @CivicHall / Twitter

Earlier this month, Civic Hall celebrated its first anniversary. In the one year since opening its doors at 156 5th Avenue in Manhattan, the collaborative work and event space has emerged as a natural home for those doing the real work of civic tech. Day to day, the open plan office space is buzzing with New Yorkers running civic-focused startups, nonprofits, and individual consultancies (plus friends visiting from out of town). At lunchtime and in the evenings, the event schedule is loaded with programming, from informal brownbags with special guests to foundations’ flagship events on the main stage. Just a year in, the space has already become a must-visit stop for presidential candidates, international delegations, and elected officials interested in using technology to address shared challenges. Our team has taken to working out of Civic Hall on a daily basis because the encounters with others – planned or otherwise – are second to none.

When Dan’l Lewin and the rest of the Microsoft team were considering how to get involved in civic tech in a meaningful way, Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry were two of the first people they turned to for strategic advice. We know that the Civic Hall team has even more exciting work underway, and we are thrilled to continue our involvement as a founding partner and daily member.

If you’d like to check out Civic Hall, come to one of the many great events being hosted here this month, or attend the NYC School of Data weekend on March 5th.

Department of Defense to move 4 million devices to Windows 10

Government agencies, like large enterprises everywhere, are constantly facing new and emerging challenges, which can range from a constantly shifting threat landscape to managing multiple platforms and devices across their IT environments. And the modern threat landscape has never been more challenging — driving tremendous costs and risk to the security of critical information. Federal, state and local governments around the world, including several agencies in New York, are betting big on Microsoft technologies to help them protect against these cyber threats.

Today, Microsoft announced the latest federal agency to take advantage of a Microsoft solution: the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The Secretary of Defense has directed all U.S. DoD agencies to begin the rapid deployment of the Microsoft Windows 10 Secure Host Baseline (SHB) throughout their respective organizations for information systems currently utilizing Microsoft operating systems. From laptops to desktops to mobile devices, the DoD has a goal of deploying Windows 10 within a year.

In our region, this means that DoD agencies in the New York, such as the Hamilton Army Base in Brooklyn and the US Military Academy Army Base in West Point will likely be planning for adoption of the new Secure Host Base for their Windows environments.

“The Department of Defense is leading the way towards modernizing and strengthen its security infrastructure,” said Susie Adams, Chief Technology Officer for Microsoft Federal. “This is a great example of the strategic way in which all enterprises can adopt Windows 10 to optimize their response to cyber threats, while also reducing costs and streamlining the IT operating environment.”

For more on the DoD’s migration to Windows 10, check out the Windows for your Business blog.

Staff Spotlight: Stanislav Novoseletskiy, Data Architect

Copyright (Stanley Nov)Name: Stanislav Novoseletskiy

Hometown: Kiev

Job: Data Architect

Years at Microsoft: 9

Favorite Local Restaurant: Local is a relative term but my favorite drink is Bloody Mary

Last thing you searched on Bing: Financial Independence

Something cool you’ve worked on recently: Inspiring and enabling government employees to break through efficiency barriers

What inspires you about technology? Its ability to cloud our interpretation of reality, the opposite is also true

What is one problem you’d like to see technology solve? Making our civilization better. I believe that education and culture, or lack of thereof, is the key to improving our collective quality of life. Everything else should exist to support it. Technology, if used purposefully, is a great tool.

Power BI “publish to web” Visualizes Your Data and the Results are Stunning

Looking to monitor, explore, visualize and drive insights from your data?

All this just became that much easier with the new Microsoft Power BI “publish to web” tool. Users can now tell compelling stories with interactive data visualizations in minutes. You can easily embed interactive Power BI visualizations in your blog and website or share the stunning visuals through your emails or social media communications. You can reach millions of users on any device, any place, for an engaging experience. Learn more about this exciting tool here.

When The Civic Innovation Project needed a way to organize the data it collected from 34 countries for its most recent report on civic well-being, the organization turned to Power BI “publish to web.” The tool allowed the organization to render compelling data visualizations and compare trends in an intuitive manner easily digested by its end users. See how the Power BI “publish to web” tool helped The Civic Innovation Project compile its dynamic “A Global Landscape of Citizen Data” report here.

February Civic Tech Events In NYC

NY February

This month we celebrate black history and the first anniversary of Civic Hall, and find out which presidential candidates will advance in the first round of primaries. In the meantime and between time, here are some of the top events in NYC:

February 2

Converting A Tram Depot Into A Creative Quarter In Lviv: A Conversation With Ilia Kenigshtein

February 4

The Mayor will deliver his State of the City address

Databite No. 68: Beth Bechky — working in a crime lab

February 6

Chef Showdown at Microsoft Fifth Avenue

The Chef Showdown is a competitive platform for new and ambitious chefs to showcase their creative talents for an afternoon of food, drinks and interaction. This competition will bring together past Chef Showdown champions and food lovers (a.k.a. you!), for a night of bites, drinks and conversation.

Pre-Super Bowl NFL Madden Tournament

Put your Madden skills to the test! Microsoft Flagship Store is celebrating Super Bowl 50 with a Madden Tournament. Stop by for your chance to win an Xbox One and Madden NFL 16 game, and Microsoft swag. The tournament begins at11:00am on February 6. First 20 guests to participate. Must be 13 years of age or older.

Target First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum — Radical Black History

February’s free “Target First Saturdays” programming includes an interactive exhibit on black radicalism, a monologue performance series on the topic of racial profiling, a screening of a Black Panthers documentary and a free concert by Brooklyn-based singer Charles Perry.

February 7

Eric Foner on the Underground Railroad

Scholar Eric Foner discusses the story of fugitive slaves and antislavery activists who helped them reach their freedom through the Underground Railroad.

February 8

BetaNYC’s #BetaTalk – Open Referral and the future of “the safety net”

Join us for a lunchtime conversation as Greg Bloom, Open Referral, is interviewed by Noel Hidalgo, BetaNYC and 2015 Data and Society Research Institute fellow. Greg Bloom will introduce the Open Referral Initiative and discuss its mission to make it easy to share, find, and use social service data. This conversation will dive into the issues needed to build a networked future of service providers, their data, and the people who need it most. Join us as we discuss open data and how its interoperability can transform a safety net for the 21st century — with a specific focus on the challenges and opportunities in New York City.

February 9

Techfugees NY Creative Conference

February 10

CUNY Tech Meetup — Leaders of the New Digital Age

February 12

Book Talk: Broad Influence

February 16

Book Talk: The Industries of the Future

February 17

Surveillance in the Shadow of the Dotcom Bubble

February 18

Civic Hall is launching The Innovation Breakfast Series and the inaugural speaker is Maria Torres-Springer, President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, in conversation with Baratunde Thurston of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

Databite No. 69: Daniel Grushkin

The Green Book Chronicles

February 25

A Walk in History Clergy Tour & Breakfast

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and the Weeksville Heritage Center present a tour of the African-American cultural institution, located in what many consider one of America’s first free black communities.


February 26th is our next Machine Eatable, featuring Microsoft Research’s Hanna Wallach. Registration page coming soon.

Month-Long Events

America: The Legacy of African American Public Service at the Central Park Arsenal

Despite the presence of slavery, segregation and prejudice, an African American was elected to US public office as early as 1768—and many more have followed, including Barack Obama, whose 2008 election made him the first black president of the United States. This exhibition features art celebrating those public servants and their achievements.

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is hosting a great series of events this month, including a Black Life Matters Wikipedia Edit-a-thon 2016 Edition Saturday, February 6.


March 5  — NYC’s open data celebration, hosted by BetaNYC

See you next month!