I’d never heard of Johnny Cupcakes until just recently. The other night I made the opening remarks and welcome at an event run by STEP that Microsoft hosted at the Microsoft New England Research and Development center (NERD for short). Johnny Cupcakes is a company started by an energetic, one might say frenetic, young man by the name of Johnny Earle whose nickname was the inspiration for a line of clothing, largely t-shirts, that often feature cupcakes in their designs. While not a hi-tech business it sure is an interesting one. And Johnny did keep mentioning Microsoft software that he had used in the setting up and running his business. So students did hear the message that computers are everywhere.
As I said the event was put on by an organization called STEP that has as a primary role taking high school students on field trips to local businesses – both large and small. The idea is to give young people a look into the possibilities and the realities of what a job looks like. Microsoft has hosted a number of these tours at the NERD center but students in the program have visited retail operations, architectural practices, media companies, and many more. These can be eye opening experiences. And inspiring experiences. The student participants I met Monday night were excited, were motivated, and were looking to a future where they could succeed based on their own brains and hard work. And inspired by a very creative Johnny Cupcakes. I may have to buy one of his shirts now.
Speaking of field trips, last week I helped host a tour and learning session at our local Microsoft Technology Center in Waltham MA for a group from Year Up Providence (RI). This is the fifth year that the MTC has hosted a group from Year Up.
Year Up's mission is to close the Opportunity Divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education.
They do this through internships, training and yes field trips like their visit to the MTC. On this visit I talked about career skills such as networking, interviewing, and the like. But I also talked a little bit about careers in technology. The rest of the visit included some great technology displays and more talk about technology careers. It is important to expose students to new horizons and give them an expanded career horizon. Field trips can do this. I know that field trips sometimes get a bum rap but I hear a lot of excitement and renewed energy for learning from students after these field trips. While not all students will be inspired to study for a STEM career I think enough of them will to make it all worthwhile.
At Microsoft, locally in New England at the MTC and at NERD but also facilities around the country, we have hosted tours by groups like Year Up and STEP but also from local high schools and middle schools. It’s one of those ways we participate in the local community and help to encourage students to stay in school, learn math and science, and perhaps one day enter the computer or other STEP field. It gives many of our employees a chance to share their enthusiasm for technology careers and to show students that there are multiple paths and opportunities. And its fun.