What is The Garage?
As part of a competitive and fast-paced industry, we at Microsoft continually evolve the way we work. The Garage is a resource to Microsoft employees that supports and encourages problem solving in new and innovative ways, ultimately empowering people to achieve more. The Garage is a worldwide community of thousands of passionate employees who challenge convention, explore new technologies, and move their ideas forward. The Garage attracts people who are passionate about making a difference in the world. They are relentlessly curious and lifelong learners of the hands-on variety. By actively participating in the creative process, regardless of results, each person gets the opportunity to gain valuable insights, increase their knowledge, and take their experience back to their day job and have positive impact within their workgroup. The Garage has four interconnected programs that support different stages of personal and project development.
Spaces, Places, and People
The Garage provides spaces for hacking and making for all employees and interns. The Garage is growing exponentially to support more employee innovation in more locations. New Garage facilities with expanded capabilities and equipment are now open at all Microsoft Global Development Centers. These centers are hotbeds of engineering talent and innovation. Centers are located in Vancouver, B.C., Silicon Valley, Herzelia, Israel, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Hyderabad, India, and Beijing, China. The Garage team develops programming at each location tuned to the needs of the local community. Talks and workshops help hackers explore and cross-pollinate technology. These events cover new development platforms such as Xamarin, Microsoft Cognitive Services, and Microsoft Bot Framework. New technical communities have formed around wearables, drones, and mixed/virtual reality.
The Garage is a portal to hack culture at Microsoft. We believe hacking is for everyone, technical and non-technical. Everyone has unique skills, experiences, and interests to contribute. We recognize good ideas can come from anywhere. Regardless of role or discipline, everyone is challenged to give it their all, to experiment with technology and turn ideas into real projects, in a fun, supportive atmosphere. There is no shortage of good ideas, and with many dependencies on project viability, team motivation, and relevance, results vary. Some ideas end before there this a working prototype. Others are inspired to continue the journey and iterate on their solution, hoping to bring it to market. A smaller set take their idea all the way to a high quality working solution ready to test in the marketplace. The flagship //oneweek Hackathon attracts thousands of employees from around the world, offering a fast 48 hour event to team up, hack, and move an idea forward. Winning teams earn the opportunity to pitch to senior leaders, and many teams continue to work on their projects throughout the year. Projects are evaluated for patent potential, viability, and alignment to the business. Ideas and prototypes may be selected for further review or funded to continue development. While a two-day hackathon is an unlikely birthplace of the next billion-dollar idea, there are many great ideas that have the potential to delight customers and add value to our products. Internally facing projects may have great impact and improve existing policies, processes or services. Amazing synergies and connections across technologies and silos are made, and many return to their day job inspired and re-energized.
The Experimental Outlet
The Garage is Microsoft’s official outlet for experimental projects from small teams across the company to test a hypothesis, receive early customer feedback, and determine product market fit. Project teams get expert guidance with technical and go to market advisors, and a lightweight release process to help teams get their experiments out quickly. Teams move fast, connect directly with customers, and iterate based on feedback. The teams are as unique as the projects. Our profiles highlight each team’s story of motivation, challenges, and triumphs of taking an idea and moving it forward.
The Garage Internship Program
The Garage internship offers a small number of talented students a unique opportunity to work with each other in teams, hack on contemporary technology, conduct customer research, design, and develop a product. Microsoft product groups compete to have Garage interns select their idea and build a prototype in twelve to sixteen weeks. Projects that meet quality and readiness bars have the opportunity to ship as experimental projects for customer feedback.
These high impact programs offer opportunities for innovative people to unleash their ideas, follow their instincts, take risks, and exercise their creative muscle. They also offer opportunities to learn new technologies, work closely with people of all different backgrounds, and help foster a culture—on a team, in a division, and at the company—in which people are empowered, self-directed, and nimble.