The Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) in Boston, Massachusetts, is surrounded by world-class educational institutions. It is also in close proximity to the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center, affectionately known as NERD. As a result, the MTC Boston often hosts events related to education. The MTC staff enjoys engaging with curious minds and answering questions about technology and about how Microsoft is making an impact on people’s lives.

The MTC in Boston has hosted various educational events in the last few months, including:

  • An opportunity for middle school and high school students to explore engineering.
  • A Boston Globe interview session of an eight-year-old student who created the Windows Phone app Kids Zone.
  • An annual DigiGirlz event for 100 high school girls to explore careers in the field of technology.
  • A session for MBA students from Suffolk University led by their professor. The MTC team brought in experts from the Microsoft US Government Affairs group and the UK Counselor to the World Trade Organization based in Geneva to share insights about trade policy and organization design.
  • A visit to the MTC by more than 40 French scholars who are high-level executives from industry, public service, and research institutions on a learning expedition to the United States.

Adding Value
The MTC offers valuable learning experiences to young minds and seasoned brains alike. We intend to do for our local community what Microsoft intends to do for the world: make an impact on people’s lives. Below are a few ways we have tried to live this mission.

Offering Career Guidance Through Personal Experiences
One of the questions we often get is, “Do you have to be a technologist to work for a technology company?” The answer is, “no.” We are able to explain that answer by using our personal experiences. For example, the staff at the MTC Boston is a diverse team—we have folks with technical and business backgrounds. Some of our team has a wealth of IT experience and some have more experience with non-IT technologies (which are disparate worlds in themselves). You do not have to be an engineer to work at Microsoft, but you do have to love technology!

Another area we discuss when answering this question is around functional and industry relevance. No matter what industry a business is in, it is going to need expertise in other functional areas, such as marketing, sales, and business development, to be successful. Additionally, businesses need a good grasp on industry trends in order to stay ahead of the curve. What this means is that professionals with diverse skills sets (economics, machine learning, strategy, finance, etc.) can find exciting opportunities in a company whose core business is very different from their functional areas of expertise.

Finally, you can be a tech enthusiast and not be an engineer or work for a technology firm. Doctors are increasingly using technology to provide better, faster patient care, for example. There are many different ways in which you can have an impact on people’s lives while keeping technology in context.

The advice we often give is to follow your passion and you will find a path forward with it. More importantly, scrutinize things with a challenger mindset, for the beaten path isn’t always the best or most exciting one.

Providing Fun, Enjoyable Experiences
Technology does not have to be geeky; it can be fun and useful at the same time. We love to show off these seemingly disjointed aspects of technology. We enjoy immersing our young audiences in cool new projects released by Microsoft Research. When we demonstrate Photosynth, HDView, and Blink, we invariably get lots of “oohs” and “aahs.” But being cool does not have to end there. This video of how technology is improving the life of an NFL player with ALS definitely elevates the impact technology can have on someone’s day-to-day life.  

When we talk to younger students, we show them how modern apps can take learning to a whole new level. We suggest that they try the Windows 8 Bing Health and Fitness app. They can look at a heart and learn about it like they never have before. We explain that they can go digital and to the cloud and never worry about losing their valuable notes, which is helping to save trees at the same time. 

For adults, we show the value of real-time collaboration and communication. When we come out of this session, our audience agrees that technology is cool in ways that they had not thought of before. They have had fun and have learned something at the same time.

Students are the future, and the MTC Boston takes pride in investing our time in them.

 

Hitakshi Nanavaty is a Technology Solution Professional at the Microsoft Technology Center in Boston, Massachusetts. She is an engineer turned business professional with a passion for enabling people’s lives with technology.