January 2017

RECAP: Lightning Talks with Tech Jobs Academy

With the start of a new year, people around the world generally make resolutions to themselves [to do better things and be better people].  These resolutions can run the gamut, but the one thing they seem to all have in common is the want and desire to improve—whether it be to improve on one’s self, one’s circumstances, one’s environment etc.  

The beginning of 2017 is very significant for the Tech Jobs Academy program as we celebrate one year of the program and are still freshly excited about our second cohort, who graduated three months ago. Keeping with the spirit of new beginnings and new resolutions, last week we celebrated the new year by hosting a “Tech Jobs Academy Lightning Talk” which featured three awesome graduates from our first cohort.  

The goal of this event was very simple—provide an opportunity for the program’s two cohorts to get together and hear from some of their peers who are utilizing the skills they’ve learned in Tech Jobs Academy in their every day work. It was a chance to share, to learn, to grow, to be vulnerable and to be present. We were fortunate to have three keynote speakers who all took a different approach on sharing their experiences in Tech Jobs Academy, their paths leading up to Tech Jobs Academy and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.

Abel Chajet, Information Technology Support Specialist at The Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG Justice Center) provided an overview of his path to Tech Jobs Academy which started off with a deep love and appreciation for technology. Despite his tech interest, he always felt barriers to building on and deepening his skill set. Abel remarked that the things he felt were missing from his different academic experiences prior to Tech Jobs Academy were great resources and peers.

He explained to the room that beyond the wonderful technical skills he acquired in Tech Jobs Academy, he learned even more about the importance of “networking with more than just Ethernet cables and switches!” In fact, his networking led him to connecting with Bradley Michelson, Director of Business Development at Idealist and friend to our team, who then was able to connect him to CSG Justice Center. For Abel, it was important to work for an organization like the CSG Justice Center because he felt “it would be fitting to serve the public good because so many public resources have been spent” building him up.

 

Makini Osson, IT Helpdesk Engineer at WCA Technologies Inc., provided encouragement to her peers to constantly talk about the work you’re doing to your network and to constantly do things that will showcase yourself and your abilities.

Through her presence both online and offline, Makini was able to land in a career path where she is able to expand on her skills using what she learned throughout the program. In fact, the president of her company told her she was primarily hired because of her training in Azure, since many of their clients, who are small businesses, were beginning to migrate to the cloud. Makini concluded her remarks by quoting Albert Einstein, “life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

David Linton, Service Desk Engineer at Dataprise, concluded the series by detailing his extremely diverse path to Tech Jobs Academy and by emphasizing the point Makini made of communicating with your network the work you’re doing.  

David opened by saying his first introduction to the New York City College of Technology (CUNY City Tech) came a number of years ago when he was enrolled as a Computer Science major studying computer engineering.  His time there, however, was cut short when he was told by a professor that computer engineering was a dying field if you weren’t on the teaching side.

From there, David entered the workforce doing various jobs including producing fashion shows, working for the radio station “Hot 97” to working as an Operations Director for a bus company. It was during this particular role that David was re-introduced to technology and his passion for it because his manager also wanted him to work as the main IT professional on staff. It was also around this time that David, drawing from his various work experiences, created his own one-man video, photography and web design consulting business called No Introductions.  

When David was laid off around the recession, he continued growing and building No Introductions. A few short years later David accepted a position as a Video Manager at a company that also wanted him to work as an IT Coordinator. It was here where his love for technology resurfaced and coincidentally it was during this role that he found out about Tech Jobs Academy.  David felt this opportunity could be his big break into strengthening his technical chops and adding to his portfolio.  

Fast forward to Tech Jobs Academy. David made it a point to utilize social media platforms to share the work he was doing in the program, and this simple yet powerful act allowed him to gain contracts for small businesses, where he could set up and manage their wi-fi connections and build servers for their network. David concluded by reiterating that no matter how long it takes, if you’re passionate, dedicated and committed things always have a way of working out.  

As someone who joined the Microsoft Tech Jobs Academy team well into the first cohort, one thing working on this program has shown me is that New York City is fortunate to have talented and passionate people with great drive and ability who are just looking for an opportunity.  Beyond that, it’s shown me that when you bring these types individuals together from it grows a supportive and nurturing community dedicated to paying it forward for generations to come.

Heat Seek Keeps the Heat On This Winter With Data, Tech & Transparency

During New York City’s annual Big Apps competition in 2014, I learned about a new civic tech solution called Heat Seek, and I’ve been a supporter ever since. I’m currently a proud member of the Board of Directors of this tech-powered non-profit that is making a real impact by using an internet of things approach to empower tenants, landlords, community organizations, and the justice system with accurate data that can make a dent in our city’s heating crisis. For many New Yorkers, heat equals health, education, and opportunity. Heat Seek uses technology to defend people’s rights to those things. Thanks to Co-Founder and CEO Noelle Francois for sitting down with us to tell the Heat Seek story.
John Paul Farmer

downloadIt’s cold in your apartment, but the heat and hot water are regulated by your landlord. The wall thermostat reads 57 degrees Fahrenheit for three days — well below the city’s mandate. When the landlord dodges your calls, you file a complaint with the city’s 311 service. Immediately before inspection, the landlord raises the heat, only to lower it back once the city’s inspector leaves. Your options are limited: continue to freeze, find a new apartment, or take action. In court, the proof you provide is your word and handwritten heat log with temperatures and timestamps you’ve recorded yourself. Oftentimes, it’s not enough to get the landlord to comply.

This is the reality for many New Yorkers. Every year, thousands of renters spend the winter in a frigid apartment, Heat Seek Executive Director Noelle Francois told Microsoft New York. Heat Seek aims to combat this struggle. Their mission is to make the city a safer, warmer place to live for all New Yorkers. The nonprofit uses tech to empower tenants, providing unbiased evidence (data) to verify heating code abuse claims in court.

Last winter, the city received more than 200,000 heat-related complaints from 37,000 different buildings, most of which were in lower-income neighborhoods throughout Upper Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn.

“What we find is that for the specific subset of tenants we work with most closely, they’re being harassed — they don’t just have inept landlords,“ Francois said.

Heat Seek installs temperature sensors in these apartment complexes, where tenants have not been able to resolve heating problems through traditional channels. The sensors, consisting of a printed circuit board, a thermistor, a Raspberry Pi, and a wireless modem, talk to each other through a mesh network. Once an hour, they collect and transmit ambient temperature data to Heat Seek’s servers. Tenants and their lawyers can access this data on a web app. This data, integrated with public 311 heating complaint information, illustrates what Heat Seek has determined is a heating crisis in New York City.

The sensors come at no cost to the tenants participating in Heat Seek’s program, and can function without Wi-Fi in the homes of elderly or lower-income tenants — those who need the data the most.

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Credit: Heat Seek

“The idea was always that we want to be able to serve the most vulnerable tenants in the city who don’t have the means or the resources to solve this problem on their own. We didn’t want cost to be a barrier,” Francois said.

Heat Seek sensors are currently installed in about a dozen buildings, with an expectation to expand to 25 buildings by the end of the season.

“We intentionally scaled down from last year because one of the big things we found last year was that providing tenants with data is great, but it’s not enough, especially if tenants don’t have a lawyer and don’t know what to do with that data,” Francois told MSNY.

Heat Seek has begun working hand-in-hand with tenant organizers, public interest attorneys, and city officials at the Housing Preservation & Development department. Together, they look at the city’s open data — complaints, violations, court cases, change in rent-stabilized units, and other indicators that demonstrate a building might benefit from Heat Seek’s sensors. Heat sensor data is shared with the city, so inspectors can drop by unannounced to confirm a pattern in the data.

“We’re hoping that this year, with a more targeted approach, we’re able to see a higher percentage of the buildings where we have sensors actually resolve their issues,” Francois said.

They’ve already seen success. At 178 Rockaway Parkway in Brownsville, sensors were installed in partnership with the Legal Aid Society in October. Nearly a quarter of the time, the temperature hovered around 60 degrees, in violation with NYC Housing Code. In December, Heat Seek held a press conference in front of the building, and Legal Aid Society filed a case against the landlord. Before the case saw a trial, a day after the press conference, the heat came on almost 10 degrees warmer.

before-and-after-graph

A graph of the temperature inside apartments at 178 Rockaway Parkway in Brownsville, before and after Legal Aid Services took action using Heat Seek’s data. Credit: Heat Seek

“After we see more of that impact, then it’s about scaling. There’s no point in scaling for scaling sake,” Francois said of the company’s plans to expand.

Looking ahead, Heat Seek plans to focus on some of the neighborhoods that are up for rezoning as part of the mayor’s housing plans.

“We know that during rezoning and after rezoning, the cost of living in those neighborhoods goes up. Landlords can start to charge more for rent, making it difficult for a lot of the tenants. We want to at least eliminate this one harassment tactic, of refusing to heat the apartments, that’s really effective in driving tenants out,” she said.

They aim to help landlords, too, to heat their buildings more effectively while reducing costs.

“We’re trying to be a non-biased third party,” Tristan Siegel, a coder with Heat Seek since the beginning, told the New York Times. “Even though we did start with tenants in mind, we’re really trying to bridge that gap.”

Ms. Francois credited the NYCBigApps competition in helping them move from an idea to a civic tech success, as well as support from Civic Hall, Beespace, and Robinhood Labs, to name a few.

“We’re proud to be a part of the civic tech, tech for the public good, community. We’re a nonprofit, simply driven to make tech that serves the needs of the partners we work with and the tenants we work with,” she said. “That impacts every aspect of what we do, right down to the design of the sensors.”

Heat Seek works most closely with:
The Legal Aid Society
Legal Services NYC
Brooklyn Legal Services Corp A
Flatbush Tenant Coalition
St. Nick’s Alliance
– Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
– Council Member Ben Kallos
– Council Member Ritchie Torres
Housing Preservation & Development
CASA
Make the Road

Microsoft New York Team Demo Night

Each season, we take a moment to showcase our team’s latest work, share updates to existing projects, and make key announcements. It’s an opportunity to bring our community in on key programs, as well as a forcing function to ship code! You can watch the presentations below, and check out previous demo nights and events on our YouTube channel. Thanks to everyone who joined us at the Microsoft Reactor at Grand Central Tech Friday evening!

The evening’s presentations include:

  • Matt Stempeck – Vision Zero with DataKind (at 06:35 in the video)
  • Briana Vecchione – Civic Graph (at 10:03)
  • Ross Dakin – Microsoft Translator (at 15:46)
  • Rebecca Garcia – Tech Jobs Academy (at 19:53)
  • Natasha Scantlebury – Tech Jobs Academy (at 24:53)
  • Matt Stempeck – Campaign Technology and Civic Engagement (at 35:10)
  • John Paul Farmer – State of Civic Tech (at 42:34)

Thanks to Joly MacFie of the Internet Society New York chapter for recording the event.

Some top tweets from the night:

Civic Tech Events This January in NYC

msny-events-january

Happy 2017! It’s time to shrug off the holiday lethargy and kickstart the new year the only way we know how: with the best events in civic tech NYC has to offer.

Here are our top picks for January 2017:

January 5

Brooklyn Innovation Awards

Get ready for the Brooklyn Innovation Awards 2016! It’s our 2nd annual awards ceremony where we throw a party to celebrate the nominees, the community and announce the winners.

We’ll keep the talking to a minimum and make this more about a chance to meet and connect with each other. The goal is to honor the game changers of our community.

January 10

NY Tech Meetup + Afterparty

Join fellow technologists for an evening of live demos from companies developing great technology in New York, followed by a networking afterparty.

January 11

Women in Tech Panel

Calling all women in tech!

Come out for a fun night of networking and candid discussion about women in leadership.

January 12

NYC BigApps 2017 Launch Event

We are thrilled to launch NYC BigApps 2017 with a public event at Grand Central Tech! We encourage designers, developers, entrepreneurs, students, and New Yorkers at large to participate by joining us. Come for NYCEDC’s official announcement of this year’s challenges and stay for an interactive workshop to jumpstart ideas and team formation.

January 13

Microsoft Civic Tech Fellow Demo Night

Come join Microsoft’s Technology & Civic Innovation team as we showcase our latest work and the progress we’re making in using technology for public good right here in NYC. Our team is passionate about creating and deploying useful tools and programs to support the growing civic tech movement. Come see what we’ve been up to, have a drink, and connect with other civic technologists as 2017 heats up.

You’ll hear from:

  • Rebecca Garcia and Natasha Scantlebury, Tech Jobs Academy
  • Briana Vecchione, Civic Graph
  • Ross Dakin, Microsoft Translator
  • Matt Stempeck, Campaign Technology and Civic Engagement
  • John Paul Farmer, Director of Technology and Civic Innovation at Microsoft

Doors (and the bar) will open at 6:00pm, with presentations beginning at 6:30 pm.

January 13-15

Debug Politics: 1st NYC Hackathon

The first NYC Debug Politics Hackathon will happen the weekend of Jan 13-15. You can RSVP to attend here.

Debug Politics Hackathon is also coming to LA and will happen the weekend of Feb 3-5. Details are here.

If you want a better political process for this country, and really any country, and you want to hack on that desire, then consider attending one of these events.

January 17

Machine Learning & Big Data Project Demo Day

During this event you will see some of the best machine learning and big data projects created by NYC Data Science Academy 12-week Data Science bootcamp students.

You will also have an opportunity to meet our bootcamp students and find out more about what it is like to be a student at NYC Data Science Academy and gain an overview of the program. Join us for data wrangling tips, fun facts and in-depth discussions.

January 18

How can innovative park planning create a more seamless public realm?

NYC Parks is excited to host the first discussion of the new series by welcoming park leadership from across the country for a conversation about the public realm and how innovative park planning is changing the face of cities for the better.

Speakers:

  • Kathryn Ott Lovell, Commissioner, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation
  • Jayne Miller, Superintendent, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board
  • Jane Rudolph, Director, Department of Parks and Recreation for Arlington Virginia
  • Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, Commissioner, NYC Parks
  • Moderated by:
    Lynn B. Kelly, Executive Director, New Yorkers for Parks

January 20

Playcrafting + Microsoft 2017 Global Game Jam!

Join us for a weekend of game-making plus free talks and workshops, refreshments and prizes! Stay tuned to this page as we confirm speakers, workshops and prizes in the coming weeks! Want an idea of what’s in store? Check out this recap from last year presented by Xbox’s own Major Nelson (Larry Hyrb)!

NYC Port & Logistics Hackathon

You heard it before, software is eating the world. There is plenty of eating to do in the Ports and Logistics sectors. Ports America, the Port Authority of NY/NJ and the world’s largest shipping line, Mærsk Line, are backing a hackathon focusing on Ports and Logistics.

100+ participants with multiple backgrounds – developers, business people, designers, domain experts, and yes even lawyers – will gather for 48 hours of building prototypes, rapid fire market validation and business model invention.

The event will be hosted by the Manhattan Cruise Terminal and will take place from 5.30pm Friday January 20th to 6pm Sunday January 22nd.

January 23

Smart City Panel Discussion for Australian Trade Commission

During this panel discussion the EDC, MOTI, and GFG will talk about the current status and future of the Smart City environment in NYC, their current projects, and how the International Trade and Urban Tech divisions meet. There will be an opportunity for companies to do pitch presentations of their projects.

January 24

She Geeks Out Happy Hour Sponsored by BounceX

Join She Geeks Out and BounceX for a Happy Hour at their space in the New York Times Building! We are thrilled to return to NYC, and what better way to ring in the New Year than spending some time meeting and mingling with other geeky awesome women? Expect wonderful company, delicious food and plenty of drinks. We’re looking forward to kicking off 2017 with you!

Please note that this is a women-only event that intends an inclusive definition of women. We are welcoming and respectful of trans women and any others who identify as a woman in a way that is significant to them.

January 25

Rotary Club of Wall Street

The Rotary Club of Wall Street NY was chartered on January 23, 2010. Join them on January 25 to celebrate our 7th birthday & learn more about the club!

January 26

LMHQ Women’s Breakfast: Build Your Dream Network with Kelly Hoey

Join us at LMHQ for our first women’s breakfast of 2017 where we’ll host author, connector, and networking expert Kelly Hoey to speak about her new book, Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships in a Hyper-Connected World (Penguin Random House). Moderated by author, executive coach, and motivational speaker Colette Ellis, Kelly will pull back the curtain on how to “stop committing random acts of networking” and create a modern roadmap for cultivating meaningful connections.

January 27

Actualize NYC January Showcase Lunch Hour

Join Actualize for the Actualize Showcase Lunch Hour in NYC!

The Showcase is an open-house style event where our graduates present their individual Capstone projects – web apps created from scratch using our full stack of frameworks and languages. There’s also networking and, as always, hot food and cold beer!

January 30

Disruptive Technologists: Augmented Reality Experience

HoloLens, the first fully self-contained, head-mounted, holographic computer, developed and manufactured by Microsoft. . HoloLens gained popularity for being one of the first computers running the Windows Holographic platform under the Windows 10 operating system. Developer Nick Landry will present the latest along with four other AR experts.