More than 50 students from REAP, a multicultural youth leadership program dedicated to igniting, elevating and engaging the next wave of leaders, joined the Microsoft Education team and others on April 29th at Microsoft’s Redmond campus to discuss careers in the technology industry.
The students, representing schools from Portland, Oregon, are part of a year-round program for seven through 12th graders who represent the most at-risk student population. The program is designed to help these students achieve personal and academic growth through civic engagement, entrepreneurship and cooperative management. Participants were selected for their exceptional achievement and progress in the past school year.
The Microsoft experience was designed to both inspire these future leaders, and to show them what’s possible for a career in the tech industry – from gaming, to coding, to Internet of Things, to marketing.
Students were encouraged to follow their passions, and one shared, “I really was inspired to attend Microsoft today with REAP. Learning from all the Microsoft staff who shared their personal backgrounds and how they came to work for Microsoft was inspiring. My eyes were really opened and I am more inspired to follow my passion. I really felt special meeting so many amazing people, and to top it off, the food was good and I got to shop at the employee store. I can’t wait until next year.”
Gaming, and particularly Minecraft, were hot topics throughout the day, with students getting the chance to learn first-hand from the Minecraft Education team about what a career in gaming looks like. Microsoft Minecraft Executive Producer, Michelle Dauphiny Becker, shared how many different skills and roles go into making a game, starting with an idea and going through art, design, production, engineering and testing, business development and legal, marketing and PR, and ending in community management.
“I liked how Michelle was very open about what she did and wasn’t strict on one path to get where she is in computer programming,” shared one REAP student. “I liked the educational part too, how Minecraft is broadening gaming in education.”
Microsoft leaders also shared hands-on learning, with tools ranging from OneNote to Micro:bit. Students were audibly excited by the results of coding changing the Micro:bit design in front of their eyes.
One fourth grader was particularly inspired by the Micro:bit, saying, “I would say my favorite part of today was the Micro:bit. You can code it and I’ve done coding before, like with Angry Birds, but this took it to a-whole-other level. People who can’t speak could even use it if they’re trying to communicate with somebody. People could read it.”
Rounding out the day’s activities, REAP students heard from some recent college graduates who are now working at Microsoft. These employees shared their early tech career experiences and answered questions.
“Have confidence in sharing your perspective with others and allow your unique experiences with technology to enhance your experiences at work,” said Rachel Park, a business planning and strategy PMM. “Diversity of thought allows teams to tackle hard challenges in creative ways.”
REAP program lead Mark Jackson summed up the day by saying, “What Microsoft is doing for REAP students is critical to the future landscape of our region. Our students continue to be tremendously impacted by their annual visit to Microsoft. The amount of exposure to diverse talent and career expertise within Microsoft is helping REAP fulfill its mission of developing the next wave of innovative leaders. Our visit today at Microsoft helped fuel our students’ dreams of a brighter future. Without such opportunities, our students would have a narrow view of their potential. It is my hope that this partnership continues.”
You can learn more about REAP at www.reapusa.org. For more career-readiness resources for students, visit YouthSpark. Microsoft latest Education information can be found at www.microsoft.com/education/.