Year in review

So another fiscal year ends at Microsoft and instead of having a New Year’s Resolution on January 1st, I like to create my Microsoft New Year’s Resolution on July 1st! This year I have committed to my family, friends and close colleagues:

  • To travel less and be around more
  • Continue to be committed to changing the world but take it on in manageable pieces
  • No working on weekends
  • Disconnect when on vacation and  to take more vacations
  • Become a better paddle boarder and kayaker
  • Blog more regularly
  • Volunteer at a manageable level
  • Have more ladies weekends
  • Better tell the Microsoft Research story around the world and what we are doing and how folks can better work with us

In addition, I have gotten a haircut and it’s a new Rane, what do you think?

 

I think you can see a theme here. So after ten years at Microsoft and closing my first year with Microsoft Research, I continue to be drinking the cool aid as my husband says. As I tell all my family and friends, I feel like I have the best job in the company and who can go to bed every night knowing you are doing something that will make impact in the world and possibly change lives. It is so exciting to be working for an organization that is finding the cure for HIV through anti-spam algorithms, using the power of computer science to map the sugarcane gnome and using technology how can we better enable citizen science when it comes to endangered species and the environment. So many cool discoveries and innovations. It is almost unbelievable to me that I get to work with the top academic experts around the world to build a tool that bridges the gap between sciences and humanities and helps students all over the world to understand the history of everything better. Check out http://chronozoomproject.org if you haven’t yet. In addition, having the ability to create the strategy and how we as an organization outreach and grow the pipeline of women innovators in technology there is never a dull day. You can see this new strategy and what we are doing at http://research.microsoft.com/diversity. As part of this work, I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with famous social scientist and Microsoft researcher Dr. danah boyd and six top researchers on how we look at technology and the human trafficking of minors in the United States, see my blog post below and this video: http://research.microsoft.com/apps/video/?id=169416.

This year I have had the opportunity to meet and work with the most amazing people with the most amazing backgrounds and stories. Just a couple of ladies who are changing the world, if you don’t know I must tell you about:

  • Lucy Sanders, CEO of the National Center for Women in Technology is one of the busiest women I have ever met. She has had the most amazing career and is doing everything possible to grow more women in technology and she knows everyone!   She is a Bell Labs Fellow with 5 patents, has been inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame and recently was named by the U.S. secretary of Commerce to serve on the department’s Innovation Advisory Board. Her energy and passion is contagious.
  • Telle Whitney, CEO of the Anita Borg Institute and was the co-founder of the amazing Grace Hoppers Conference (the largest conference for women in computing in the world).   She has moved Anita Borg Institute from a small NGO of a few employees on grant funds to more than 25 employees being self-sufficient and thriving!  She serves on the advisory boards of Caltech’s Information Science and Technology, California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, and Illuminate Ventures. She has won so many awards similar to Lucy and I have to highlight that she was named in 2011 to the Fast Company Most Influential Women in Technology List. She constantly keeps me on my toes!
  • Just recently I have had the pleasure to get to know Catherine Didion. She is a Senior Program Officer at the National Academy of Engineering, where she is responsible for      Diversity of the Engineering Workforce program.  She is the driving force behind the efforts to enhance the diversity of the engineering workforce at all levels including the diversity of those being prepared to enter the future workforce. In March of 2007, she became the Director of the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine. Just like the ladies above her she has won so many awards and sits on so many committees and is constantly growing my knowledge and capabilities.

I wish I had the time and space to list the hundreds of amazing men and women in NGOs, academia and government I have worked with this year and will continue to work with in collaboration in 2012-2013. I truly hope we can move the dial this year in exciting more girls into the field of computing. If you were not aware, there are only 1800 women graduating with a BS in Computer Science in the United States every year with a total of approximately 10,000 total.  While today there are 200,000 more degrees being handed out to women than men in US colleges, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4654635.

Why is this such a big problem, some people ask me?  Let’s think about it for a second, technology influences all aspects of our daily lives and every discipline under the sun.  If it is healthcare, environment, finance, education, manufacturing, retail, volunteering in the community, and the list goes on there is some type of technology component.  There have been thousands of books written on the differences of men and women.  How we manage differently, think differently, are wired differently, this list too goes on and on.  If you are a fan or not we have to admit a lot of what is stated in “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” is true.  So given that, how can we truly be innovating if there are not enough women helping build the future innovations and technologies that will make our lives better, more efficient and more effective.  If there are not women in teams to ask different types of questions and look at making the solutions in different ways and understanding the needs of their audience that they belong to?   There is so much we can go and I hope to do with the best minds around the world to make a dent in this area.

Jumping subjects, what has been much amusement for me this Summer is my two fantastic PHD interns, Katie and Meagan.  I had the opportunity to meet Katie at the CRA-W Grad Cohort where she gave a fabulous poster session that excited me to her potential.  Katie hails from University of North Carolina at Charlotte and is very passionate about computing and education, what is dear to my heart!  She joined our ChronoZoom team to investigate if data visualization of BIG DATA can be a better teaching and learning experience for students and help them to better conceptualize data and information and learn 21st century skills better.  She will also partner with me and Microsoft researcher Steven Drucker to examine more longitudinal use of a visualization within a classroom setting. While Meagan come from University of Wisconsin-Madison will be here for a 6 month internship, working with me and in partnership with  Alex Games from IEB.  Meagan will be focusing on studies of youth learning with 2 Way-TV, and of studies of student engagement  in STEM with Dakota.  In both cases, she will also do a deep investigation on Girls and Learning and helping us better reach Girls in STEM through XBOX, Kinect and Kodu. These ladies are brilliant, fabulous and will definitely change the world!

Katie has taken the bull by the horn and has helped me (really took the lead) in supporting two great programs that will enable young women and minorities to pursue careers in computing.  Katie organized two days at Microsoft for these young computer scientists to experience what it is like to pursue a career in technology and what is possible with computer science.  The students met with interns, heard from executives and visited the Microsoft Home of the Future.  The first group was sponsored by Pacific University, G2CS: Girls Gather for Computer Science (http://www.g2cs.org/) excite young girls across the state of Oregon to computing.  The young women learn about computer science careers, learn to code and do several different types of computing activities.  The second group came from University Washington where they have a great program called the Math Academy (www.uwmathacademy.org) where they help high school students get the math skills necessary to be able to pursue a degree in computer science and have the skills necessary to be able to apply to universities.

So as you can see it has been a fabulous year and I look forward to sharing with you the amazing people, stories and activities to come in 2012-2013.  Stay tuned and please share any stories, articles, publications and information you think I would be interested in to make a difference in education and growing young women in computing!

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