As an intern at Microsoft, I’m lucky enough to work in an organisation that inspires us all to achieve more – not only in business but within the community too. Because they’re so passionate about this, part of my internship includes a ‘stretch project’. This is a project where we look for ways we can use our passion, skills, and knowledge to positively impact society.
The first step of starting a stretch project is to identify who you are and what kind of person you’d like to become. No stretch projects are bad by nature, nor any of them perfect by design. The most important thing is that most of them are empty vessels, moulded into something positive by your team. This gives room for you to make the change you’d like to see, step by step, and to begin flexing your leadership, collaboration skills, and creativity.
As part of Generation Z, I grew up alongside technology so working for Microsoft was an easy decision. But I have always been distinctly aware that not everyone gets to go on this same journey. Alongside a few others, we started Tech Pathways to ensure everyone can.
Tech Pathways is our stretch project. Our group of Microsoft interns work with young people to drive change. We help show that a career in technology is for everyone.
Bridge the gap
Our mantra is ‘bridge the gap‘. We want to ensure no one is left behind as the world embarks on a digital journey. This journey is as new to us—Generation Z—as it is to industry leads and those propelling this paradigm shift.
As I mentioned, the problem is that not everybody is invited on this digital journey. We have many fully capable young people who are seldom given the opportunity due to individual differences, including:
- Those who do not directly conform to mainstream education
- Families that fall under lower income brackets
- People who were not given the opportunity for behavioural reasons
- Those who are moving closer towards anti-social behaviour
- Those suffering from a debilitating physical or mental illness
As society begins to move forward and we rely more on digital technologies, it is important that we both personally and corporately give equal opportunity to all young people. We need to give them the confidence to adapt, rethink, and consider technology as a suitable industry to grow their skills and begin excelling in.
60 percent of future jobs haven’t been created yet. We should not underestimate the technology shift that is currently happening and how this might affect millions nationally. Nor should we underestimate how intimidating a corporate environment might be for someone who has never been in one.
How we drive change
Our aim is to turn young people’s notions of thinking a career in tech isn’t for them into something that’s possible – and exciting.
We run events through UK. They all have a fast-paced and action-packed agenda. It also includes plenty of chances for people to get hands-on with new technology. It keeps them (and us) as engaged as possible.
In past events, we’ve even held debates and product pitches that require creating inventive solutions. It’s plenty of fun, and that’s the point – a career in tech can be creative and exciting and we want to showcase this.
For those who are unable to visit us in person, we also use Microsoft social pages to livestream events. We aim to keep these as informal as possible, usually having a fireside chat about early-in-career routes or discussing technology myths.
One recent event saw a mixture of 16–24-year-olds enter our doors to learn all about apprenticeships. The idea of the day was not to only talk about Microsoft apprenticeships, but to speak objectively and remind young people that this career route is possible. In fact, it can be an even more effective route than university. The day included sessions on digital identity, a talk by Microsoft UK’s apprenticeship lead, experimenting with the HoloLens, and learning about the new digital revolution.
As a team, it’s important that we remind ourselves why we enjoy doing our work so much. It’s importance that young people find fulfilment in their work and, more importantly at their age, can envisage themselves enjoying work. Since I joined, I’ve enjoyed trying my hand at completely different roles within Microsoft. Everyone should be able to feel this way.
Would I have done anything different?
We live in a world where those who need help are often the hardest to get in contact with. My advice for anyone joining this team or any form of initiative would be to think creatively and try out some unique ways to drive the outcomes you are looking for.
No project will be without problems and the key word is communication. This has to be a core pillar when undertaking any project internally and externally. Set expectations, set ambitions, and work towards these whilst speaking up if you’re having problems and helping out others where it might be needed. Also, listen to what other people are saying when they talk to you, and take feedback and constructive criticism onboard.
Tech Pathways has helped me increase my skills in communication, collaboration, and creativity. I’ve immensely enjoyed working with a passionate group at Microsoft to help drive change in society and reach out to show young people that there are different pathways into exciting and fulfilling careers in technology.
A future for all
We need to ensure we all get involved in this journey to ensure we are all equally prepared for the future. This isn’t something that is only a stretch project. This is something we can all work together towards daily. By doing so, not only will we ensure everyone has the digital skills, but we’ll open up a career in tech to more people, creating a more diverse and innovative future for all.
If you want to get involved with Tech Pathways, drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to find more ways we can help bridge the gap and get more young people considering a career in technology.
About the author
Jake is currently an undergraduate studying Media and Communication at Bournemouth University. Taking a year out to support the Commercial Legal team, Jake has a passion for technology and envisages its use for social change. During his day-to-day, Jake manages Microsoft’s Legal and Compliance Community, ensuring that our customers trust Microsoft as we develop our cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity, and work around data in this post-GDPR period.