Technology

Fellow Profile: Louise Lai

Where are you from? I was born in Malaysia, grew up in Australia, and now live in New York. I also lived in London and Shanghai. Cue the weird accent.

School/grad year/major: Junior at New York University, double majoring in business & political economy and computer science.

Last thing you searched on Bing“How to download Microsoft Azure for Mac”

Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program? It’s truly a one-of-a-kind program. I chose this over a pure software engineering role because it speaks to my diverse interests in politics, business and computer science. I was in the Microsoft data science summer school last year, and after my project presentation, John Paul Farmer, who I currently work under, came up to me and we started talking about civic tech. The rest is history.

What’s your favorite civic project in the New York? Retrofitting old payphones for WiFi. I like it for its simplicity and what it represents – scrapping the antiquated and moving onto the future.

Who is your civic tech mentor/idol? Obama. Many people don’t realize this, but he was the first president to bring in a team of techies to rebuild the digital infrastructure of Washington, which is now a permanent part of the U.S. federal government. He also created the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. Read this article ‘Obama and his geeks’ and prepare to be impressed.

What excites you about civic tech? The fact that civic tech is just in its infancy excites me. It feels like a startup that is about to take off. Traditionally, government has been resistant to big changes in technology, but now, people are truly seeing the benefit of using big data and cloud services which will only create a brighter future for all.

What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities? Creating more efficient and inclusive public engagement.

A Letter to Elizabeth Stewart (From Elizabeth Stewart)

As part of Microsoft’s commitment to diversity and empowerment, we’re thrilled to celebrate Women’s History Month with our newest spotlight series. We’ve asked local women leaders to write a letter to their teenage and college-aged selves to recall a moment in time when they felt empowered by technology. Throughout the month of March, we’ll be spotlighting this series on our blog. We hope these stories uplift you and inspire you to #MakeWhatsNext.

What I would tell my younger self:

My first movie theater experience was watching Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi. I was five years old. It’s my earliest memory of feeling awe struck by a person. I left the theater wanting to be just like her. For the next five years I was Princess Leia in all my pretend play. I would spend hours directing imaginary characters for new storylines in my own version of Star Wars, channeling the bold, strong-willed, and sometimes-vulnerable woman I saw on screen. Through that play, I naturally explored parts of her character that resonated with my own. It even affected how I played with the boys in my neighborhood. Riding my bright pink dirt bike, I simply expected that I should ride out in front of the pack with the oldest boys and set the direction for our adventures.

Arriving at my teenage years, I lost that bold, confident, and defiant self I had cultivated in my early childhood. I retreated into the insecurities that come with the transition from child to teenager to college age (and this was before Facebook!). I became more quiet, unsure, and cautious as I navigated the emotional ups and downs of relating to boys and then men personally and professionally. I even forgot about Carrie Fisher’s influence as Princess Leia until 15 years later.

The last 15 years, in many ways, has been a journey to rediscover the bold, confident, defiant, and vulnerable parts of myself, and learn how to express them. With that journey in mind, I’d like to tell my younger 20-something year old self these four things:

  • Find time to remember how you saw and interacted with the world as a child. That person, in many ways, is the most authentic and honest version of yourself. Find that voice and cultivate it alongside the wisdom that comes from getting older.
  • Learn to identify feelings of awkwardness and emotional or mental discomfort and ask why. Don’t distract yourself with busyness to avoid these feelings. It’s in these moments that you will grow the most individually and in your relationship with others.
  • Live from a place of inquiry rather than judgment. Have bold ideas and strong opinions, but focus even more on nurturing empathic understandings and insights in your relationship with yourself and others. You will be more effective sooner in life if you do.
  • Play more. Play is an important part of exploring self-expression and seeing how comfortable you are in your own skin. For some it comes naturally, but for some it needs to be practiced. Either way, the older you get, the more life becomes about work, and having this as a practice early on leads to a more well-rounded self.

Best,

Elizabeth

For the last fifteen years, Elizabeth’s career has focused on strategy, fundraising, and cross-sector partnerships that advance social innovation. She is cofounder of Impact Hub Los Angeles, a for-profit social enterprise that offers physical space, professional and cultural programming, and community for a diverse array of Angelenos working to create positive impact. As the founding CEO, for four years she advised a variety of social and civic startups ranging from clean tech to community-oriented technology enterprises, and advanced the field of impact investing in Los Angeles. During that time she launched Civic Innovation Lab in partnership with the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office and Microsoft, a three-part lab harnessing citizen ingenuity to solve pressing civic and social issues culminating in a city accelerator program. Prior to Impact Hub LA, she founded Causemopolis, a boutique consulting firm focused on economic development and environmental sustainability in cities. She has also worked abroad in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America on poverty reduction and women’s empowerment programs. Elizabeth holds a BA in International Relations and an MA in Urban Planning from UCLA, where she pioneered the Graduate Leaders in Sustainability Certificate. Her board service includes Liberty Hill Foundation, Advisors in Philanthropy LA, and Concerned Capital. She is one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People for 2013, and was profiled on Forbes.com as “a woman changing the LA entrepreneur landscape.” Find her @elizinmotion.

A Letter to Hanna Wallach (From Hanna Wallach)

As part of Microsoft’s commitment to diversity and empowerment, we’re thrilled to celebrate Women’s History Month with our newest spotlight series. We’ve asked local women leaders to write a letter to their teenage and college-aged selves to recall a moment in time when they felt empowered by technology. Throughout the month of March, we’ll be spotlighting this series on our blog. We hope these stories uplift you and inspire you to #MakeWhatsNext.

Dear 14-year-old Hanna,

This is 37-year-old Hanna. I’m writing to tell you a little bit about your future – who you are and how you got there.

Right now, you think you’re not very smart; you think that studying is tedious, and you haven’t had much encouragement from others about your intelligence. You’re mostly focusing on quantitative subjects and think that you’re going to become an engineer – not because you particularly want to, but because others have told you to do so – but you’re really most interested in questions about people and society. Guess what: you’re actually really smart. Twenty-something years later, you have a PhD in machine learning, a subfield of computer science – from Cambridge, no less! – and you’re a Senior Researcher at Microsoft. Your research is in the interdisciplinary area of computational social science – i.e., the study of social processes using fancy math and fast computers.

You think that computers are only used for word processing and creating spreadsheets, and are therefore really boring. But computers are actually awesome. There’s this thing called the Internet that’s only been around for a couple of years. You don’t know this yet, but it will transform day-to-day life. It will enable people all over the world to communicate with each other. It will mean that computers and society are inextricably linked, and you will be able to use computers to study all kinds of social phenomena. This will change your life. You will end up working with computer scientists and social scientists to answer questions about how people interact – how they communicate, how they influence one another, and how this changes over time. In a few years, you’ll read an article by one of your now colleagues about the science of small-world networks. This article will blow your mind. For the first time, you’ll realize that you can combine your (soon-to-come) interest in computers with your interest in people and society.

At the moment, you’re surrounded by people who believe the following: “Either you’re initially good at something, in which case you should pursue it, or you’re not, in which case there’s no point in trying.” As a result, you are rebellious and you feel as if you don’t fit into the neat boxes set out for you by your teachers and parents. But, as a girl, the very act of studying computer science is a rebellion – and a far more exciting and constructive and fulfilling one than listening to Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins until 4am. In addition, over the next few decades, there will be a considerable amount of research indicating that adopting a “growth mindset” (believing that ability is something that can be cultivated via effort) rather than a “fixed mindset” (believing that ability is something that one is born with and cannot control) leads to increased perseverance and, eventually, success. Soon, you will learn about this research and you will adopt a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. It will make life much more fun 🙂

Because of your growth mindset, you will fail and fail repeatedly. But failing (and learning from these failures) is the one of the best ways to improve at anything you’re trying to learn; in order to succeed, you first need to learn how to fail. It turns out that “grit” (a combination of passion and perseverance) is the single personality trait that best predicts success. Although you don’t realize this yet, you have this trait. You’ll see this in practice when, at ages 16 and 17, you’ll fail many of your A-level exams. Ultimately, you’ll study to retake these exams, and this will become a pivotal moment for you – you’ll realize that if you’re passionate about something and you persevere, even when it’s really hard, you’ll eventually succeed. You’ll discover how you learn best, and that everyone learns differently.

It will take you a while to find your path, but when you do, you’ll totally crush it. Right now, you have yet to discover and embrace your intelligence and perseverance, but as this happens, everything will start to fall into place. You will end up becoming a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research New York City and an Adjunct Associate Professor in the College of Information and Computer Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. And in your “spare” time you’ll even play competitive roller derby and do parkour (which, guess what, exists). Finally, one last thing: you don’t know it yet, but you’re a total badass. Seriously. Keep that in mind, and you’ll do just fine.

Love,

Hanna

National Entrepreneurship Week helps small businesses reach their big dreams

Every small business starts with a big dream. To help any company’s accomplishments mirror its ambition, Microsoft is sponsoring National Entrepreneurship Week. Five days of online and in-person events running Feb. 20‒24 are designed for entrepreneurs and business owners, including a Women in Entrepreneurship event in New York City.

Empowering business creators to thrive matters because small businesses play a crucial role in America’s economic success. They account for 55 percent of U.S. jobs, according to the Small Business Administration. And America’s 28 million small-business owners and entrepreneurs are at the forefront of innovation, fueling growth and creating jobs.

National Entrepreneurship Week will feature free workshops, content, webcasts, events and more, offered by event supporters including Dun & Bradstreet, LinkedIn, Wix and Yelp.

The Women in Entrepreneurship Panel will highlight the triumphs and tribulations faced by women from all walks of life who run small businesses. Ramon Ray of Smart Hustle Magazine will moderate as women entrepreneurs detail tips on how to get a business off the ground and growing. It takes place Thursday, Feb. 23, 6‒8 p.m. ET, at the Microsoft Store (677 5th Ave., New York, NY 10022). The event is free but seating is limited, so RSVP now.

Also live in New York (and live on Facebook), Microsoft’s Cindy Bates — who leads the Small and Midsized Business and Distribution group — will discuss how modern technology can transform your small business. She will advise on best practices for launching a brand and outline the latest affordable tech tools for connecting with customers. RSVP now for Bates’ presentation on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 6‒8 p.m. ET at the Wix Lounge (235 West 23rd St.).

Here are additional in-person and online events and content to experience throughout the week. Visit the Microsoft Small and Midsize Business Blog for details:

To boot, many National Entrepreneurship Week supporters are offering specials and discounts to boost your business productivity. For example, Microsoft is offering 10 percent off select Surface and Windows 10 Pro devices. To find out more, visit your local Microsoft Store from Feb. 20‒26.

Check Entrepreneurship Week for regular updates, resources, new content and special offers throughout the week. And join in the conversation on Twitter by following #WININBIZ.

We look forward to engaging further and learning more about how these activities help small-business owners accelerate their success.

Announcing A New Way to Watch Presidential Debates

WatchTheDebates.org

Election season is in full swing!

With our two 2016 major-party candidates gearing up for debates, we’re excited to announce the newest venture between PBS NewsHour and Microsoft: WatchTheDebates.org, expanding on an existing civic education partnership between PBS and the Commission on Presidential Debates. This interactive civic education and voter engagement site provides access to every general election debate since 1960, allowing visitors ability to screen entire debates and highlights, track how specific issues over the years, and interact with the content using online voting tools from Microsoft Pulse.

Since the first televised presidential debate in 1960, these events have been integral to the American democratic process and the leading forum for serious discussion of current affairs. Today, for the first time, these debates are being organized and made available in one place for the American public in an online forum.

On WatchTheDebates.org, users can access various content and engagement tools, including:

  • Livestreams of the four 2016 general election debates
  • Full debate footage from 39 previously broadcast debates
  • Online rating and audience engagement of previous & this year’s debates, powered by Microsoft Pulse
  • Highlight reels of memorable moments from all televised debates between 1960-2016
  • Issue-based reels looking at the evolution of key policy and political issues through the years

Experience WatchTheDebates yourself — head to watchthedebates.org.

Microsoft Empowers the 2016 Republican & Democratic National Conventions

Microsoft Surface screen at RNC 2016

Regardless of your political stripes, Microsoft’s mission is to empower everyone to achieve more. This year, Microsoft is playing a significant role in the election process. We believe technology, and our teams, can create a more secure, accurate, and efficient elections process. After starting in Iowa, we continued onto Super Tuesday, and this past July, we were vital to the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

Republican Convention 2016 stage

Microsoft Surface screen After all the balloons dropped, and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had been officially nominated at their respective parties’ conventions, the entire Microsoft community can proudly say they helped make these significant events in our democratic process a success. Teams across the company, from Washington state to Washington, DC, coordinated over the past year to engage with the political parties, the planning committees, the host cities, and local organizations and businesses to provide access to Microsoft technology and services. From the earliest planning stages, we worked with the RNC Committee on Arrangements and the Democratic National Convention Committee to empower those people and organizations running the conventions to address challenges and provide solutions.

From Azure to Skype to O365 to Surface, Microsoft became integral to two weeks of conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia, viewed by millions of people around the world.

Just as important, we aimed to leave a lasting legacy in each host city. In Cleveland, we partnered with Cuyahoga County on an Azure-based, mobile app to help solve some of the areas on-going challenges. In Philadelphia, we partnered with local organizations to launch the Microsoft Reactor, where entrepreneurs and developers can have a home to innovate into the future.

We will continue supporting the next steps in the 2016 election (bookmark WatchTheDebates.org and check out bing.com/elections throughout the election cycle), and are committed to being a vital part of the democratic process for years to come.

The Elections newsroom on Microsoft News Center provides an ongoing reflection of the company’s work as the election cycle continues.

The Nitty Gritty: keys to transformation personally and as a leader

Molly finishing

This weekend I participated in the Microsoft Challenge at the New York City Triathlon. This was an event sponsored by Microsoft for executives from across commercial business to train and compete in the triathlon while also networking and learning about Digital Transformation. It was a great experience and allowed me to reflect on the tools that leaders need to draw on to achieve personal and professional goals.

As I completed the triathlon yesterday and pushed to the finish these words came to mind:

“Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Angela Lee Duckworth

It stands out to me that GRIT can serve as a foundation for leaders to personally transform by maintaining passion and perseverance for their goals around optimal health and fitness. We can also apply that same discipline to stick to a long-term goal despite setbacks as we lead our businesses to digitally transform.

STUDIES SHOW…

When psychologist Angela Duckworth studied people in various challenging situations, including National Spelling Bee participants, rookie teachers in tough neighborhoods, and West Point cadets, she found: One characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ.  It was grit.  

After relying on my grit to prepare for the triathlon, I noticed that it’s the same source I pull from when leading teams to transform and advising other business leaders for how they can pursue change over the long term. Grit is essential, not only in academics or athletics but in business.

Grit can be taught through some of the following exercises:

Develop a Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck from Stanford University teaches us that people who have a growth mindset are more successful than those who think that intelligence is fixed.

Grit Takes Time

Commit to have grit today, but give it time to grow. Practice Grit in both personal and professional circumstances and keep a journal of how you have relied on Grit over time and then look back on how you have grown your ability to apply grit and stay gritty.

The ever changing technology landscape and business that moves at a breakneck pace requires grit now more than ever – in both our personal and professional lives. As you think about digital transformation for your business consider how Grit will play a role of getting your organization to the goals you have.

Molly WINNING MC Challenge Female category

Molly McCarthy wins the Microsoft Challenge Female Category at the NYC Triathlon

It isn’t Grit alone that will propel you to your goal, but teamwork is also essential. Building a team, you can rely on with a foundation of trust, encouragement and mutual respect also leads to great outcomes. In preparing for the triathlon, I came to recognize how much I rely on my support team both personally and professionally for the encouragement and “push” I sometimes needed to get me to my goal.

As you work toward your goals I recommend you prioritize Grit and Teamwork to fuel your personal best.  To learn more about Digital Transformation and other ways you can prepare as a leader check out our ebook to take digital to the core of your business: https://info.microsoft.com/Enterprise_EN-US_ITDM_DTebook_RegistrationPage.html

#MicrosoftChallenge

Sources: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/true-grit-measure-teach-success-vicki-davis

Microsoft announces teacher-inspired updates for Windows, Office, ‘Minecraft’

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At Microsoft, we’re all in on education!

Our company mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. In education, it’s to empower every student. Today, we’re proud to share the latest on what’s coming to New York for Back-to-School 2016/2017.

Introducing Microsoft Classroom and Microsoft Forms, OneNote Class Notebook now with Learning Management System (LMS) integration, new experiences for Windows 10 and the dawn of “Minecraft: Education Edition” – Get ready!

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First, we are announcing all new education features coming in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, features specifically inspired by teachers and focused on students.   

Faster, easier set-up:

Shared devices in the classroom are the norm – in the U.S., nearly 90 percent of schools report using shared devices. We also know that nearly 50 percent of teachers serve as their own tech support in their classroom. Until now, setting these devices up has been complex and getting students productive often takes too long.  

With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update we are introducing a ”Set Up School PCs” app that allows teachers to set up a device themselves in a simple three-step process in minutes. We’ve also made significant performance improvements for affordable devices. We expect the average first login to take 26 seconds, with subsequent logins of 6 seconds when the student uses that machine again.   

Secure assessments:

Testing is going digital — teachers consistently tell us they want a simple way to set up quizzes or standardized tests digitally. The Windows 10 Anniversary Update brings a new ‘Take a Test’ app – simple and more secure standardized testing for the whole classroom or the whole school, where teachers or IT can lock down the testing environment, or enable simple quizzing.

Education-ready Windows Store:

Nearly 60 percent of teachers purchase and load apps themselves. With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the Windows Store will enable teachers to access thousands of apps, and schools can purchase and deploy them in bulk.

Free upgrade and affordable devices:

More and more, educators are asking us about affordable devices. We have a great portfolio of affordable, durable and innovative Windows 10 devices starting at $199, designed for the demands of education.  

So you can see, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update brings a huge range of education-specific features that teachers and students are going to love. Learn even more about these new updates, and more, over on the Windows blog!

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Second, we are announcing some big improvements to Office 365 Education. 

Today we are announcing Microsoft Classroom a new experience in Office 365 Education. Microsoft Classroom is designed to be the one place students and teachers come to manage their day from Class Notebooks, assignments and grades to conversations, calendars and to announcements!

We’re piloting this with Omaha Public Schools in Nebraska. Let me just share with you what they had to say . . .

“It simplifies our digital classroom management and frees up our teachers so they can spend more time with students and less time managing administrative access to class materials.” Rob Dickson, Executive Director, Information Management Services of Omaha Public Schools.

A key piece of Microsoft Classroom is OneNote, a tool currently used in classrooms around the world to provide students with an immersive and inclusive learning experience. Visit here to learn how OneNote is transforming a special education classroom at Holly Springs Elementary School in Georgia.

Today we are also announcing Microsoft School Data Sync (SDS) – a powerful complement for Microsoft Classroom. SDS connects Microsoft Classroom to a School Information System (SIS), so teacher, student and classes information is automatically populated in Microsoft Classroom and OneNote Class Notebooks. School Data Sync will be included in Office 365 Education.  Think of it as a super simple process that quickly provisions a set of classes and rosters from many School Information Systems already used.

Also being announced: Microsoft Forms – a simple way to quickly assess student progress and get feedback with easy-to-create surveys and quizzes. It’s in public preview starting today for Office 365 Education here.

OneNote Class Notebooks are the heart of our education experience and they just keep getting better and better. We have seen incredible momentum – with millions of student notebooks created just this school year – and currently running over 10,000 a day!

To hear one educator describe it: “It’s your whole classroom (lesson plans, materials, assignments and student work) in a digital binder with tools for communication and collaboration!” 

We’re also announcing Class Notebook assignment and grading integration is now available with more than 25 Learning Management System partners – including leaders like Canvas, Edmodo, Schoology, Brightspace and Moodle. Learn more here.

We’re really excited about all of these improvements for Office 365 Education coming for the new school year! Learn more about all of the updates to Office happening for education – check out the Office blog here.

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Finally, we’ve got some great news about “Minecraft: Education Edition! June begins an early access program of “Minecraft: Education Edition.” It will be available for any educator to download and try for free on Windows 10 and OS X El Capitan.    

This program is a great way for educators and administrators who are interested in “Minecraft: Education Edition” to give it a test run in the summer months and give us more feedback and suggestions.  

If you are new to “Minecraft” in the classroom, check out education.minecraft.net for resources to help prepare, including lesson plans and a new “Minecraft” mentors program to connect with amazing teachers already using “Minecraft.”

What’s the next step? Upgrade your devices to Windows 10 or OS X El Capitan, and sign up for an Office 365 Education account.

To learn more about “Minecraft: Education Edition” and the upcoming early access program, check out our blog.

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The culture at Microsoft is customer-obsessed and we’ve been hard at work listening to teachers and students. We hope you love what’s coming this summer and we look forward to your continued feedback and hearing about the amazing things happening in your classroom. Let me know what you think on Twitter – @microsoft_edu @tony_prophet #MSFTEDU.

New York-based Undercare, Inc. set to compete for grand prize in nationwide InnovateHER Challenge

InnovateHER_Logo_banner

There are approximately two million small businesses in New York, and collectively they make a significant impact on the state’s economy. On March 17, one standout New York entrepreneur will compete in a nationwide competition that could net her cash and prizes that will take her business to the next level.

Susan Leary Shoemaker from Undercare, Inc. is one of 10 finalists competing in the 2016 InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge, put on in partnership between the U.S. Small Business Administration and Microsoft. At the event, being held in Washington, D.C., Susan will pitch Undercare, which offers innovative undergarments that accommodate persons who have difficulty dressing. A panel of expert judges will select three winners from the field, with $70,000 in prizes at stake.

Now, in its second year, the InnovateHER competition seeks to uncover products or services that will fill a need in the marketplace and have the greatest potential for commercialization. Last year, the SBA and Microsoft engaged over 100 organizations and reached over 1,000 entrepreneurs across the nation through InnovateHER.

For more information on the competition and to keep up with developments, including the winner announcement, visit www.sba.gov/innovateher. Good luck to all of the entrepreneurs pitching their innovations!

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.