DigiGirlz Day 2014

What does 3D printing, light up greeting card making, video game designing and a digital tour to the Sphynx all have in common?

They’re all activities a group of Massachusetts high school girls participated in at the Microsoft event, DigiGirlz Day.  Held last Friday at the company’s Cambridge, MA offices, DigiGirlz Day is a one day program Microsoft hosts in conjunction with Women’s History Month with the aim to show young women what a career in technology could look like.

I had the privilege of shadowing all the sessions and sat in on a lessons including how to make video games, a 3D printing workshop, a circuit making class as well a ton of other cool* tech demos.

(*I learned from some of the girls that you don’t say “cool” anymore – it’s “clutch.”)

The day began with a keynote address from Cathy Wissink, Director of Technical Community Outreach. Wissink covered topics from binary coding to career lessons and shared personal takeaways, like saying yes to everything – especially when it pushes you out of your comfort zone.  With a vision focused on the future but a concentrated attention on the young women before her, Wissink addressed her audience as the next technology directors, Chief Marketing Officers and innovation leader.

Imagining the future of technology in everyday experience was a resonating theme throughout the day.  For example, at the 3D printing workshop, Allison Knight from Microsoft Retail asked the girls to consider ways 3D printing can impact the world and business.  Insightful answers included printing human bones, building a restaurant and one girl suggested even making hair.  The young girl elaborated that between the high cost of weaves and constantly changing celebrity style, there is an opportunity in the marketplace for a salon specializing in printing affordable 3D ’dos. Hashtag genius!

In addition to learning about 3D printing, participants also saw live demos from Technical Solutions specialist, Hitakshi Nanavaty, in the company’s Envisioning Center, a room showcasing the seamless integration of devices to our lives.  Nanavaty showed ways that technology can help in the classroom, at home, work, play and even its use during your morning commute (the Envisioning Center boasts a mock MBTA stop – if only all subway stations had such awesome, excuse me, clutch toys).

The day also included a lesson in developing computer games from Microsoft’s tech evangelist Michael Cummings and a panel discussion with interns from The Foundry, Microsoft’s boot camp for college students.

What was evident from my day with the DigiGirlz is how focused on the future Microsoft is. I saw first hand how the company constantly thinks forward.  And with these smart and savvy young women firmly in the picture – the future of technology looks very bright indeed.

The simulated Kendall Square T stop inside Microsoft's Envisioning Center
The simulated Kendall Square T stop inside Microsoft’s Envisioning Center
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