November, 2010

  • Elevate America helps U.S. veterans to find employment

    The US elections are just over and the major concern and worry we all share is the economy and the future of our jobs. With the overall unemployment numbers still very high this anxiety is real. Often when I speak with colleagues about training programs they roll their eyes and ask me why start another training program when there are no jobs available.

    If we follow their logic there is nothing we can do. However, as I travel the country and meet people from all walks of life, I hear a different story. People still want new skills that will increase their opportunities for a job. A little while ago Linda Arellano tweeted after we launched our Elevate America program thanking us for this support. She has been unemployed for over two years and believes that training will help her.

    While the overall unemployment rate for the U.S. remains steady at 9.6 percent, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars return home to face an unemployment rate 20 percent greater than that of civilians. This got us thinking and just under a year ago Microsoft gathered a group of experts together to start a series of discussions about the issues and challenges facing our nation’s veterans, particularly concerning the transition to civilian employment. We wanted to understand how we could extend our Elevate America program to support them. We saw that in under two years after the introduction of the Elevate America program over 900,000 people signed up for training. We felt that for our veterans we need to have a different program and that there was a lot to learn. We were right on both counts.

    Last month, we reconvened this original group, plus six additional organizations at our headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to talk about how we could put what we’ve learned into action. It was both heartwarming to hear how these organizations are facing up to the challenge to support our returning veterans but also concerning when you hear the breadth of challenges they face. The discussion centered on what we could collectively do to support them in a manner whereby the benefits are tangible and real. The result is the Elevate America veterans initiative.

    The Elevate America veterans initiative builds on our Elevate America program to address our veterans - a community typically underserved with the support they need to make the leap from the military to civilian workforce. More than half of today’s jobs require some technology skills, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that will reach 77 percent in the next decade.

    We have been fortunate to work with an advisory group - the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), The American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, United Service Organizations (USO), and the Wounded Warrior Project – who were able to bring the benefit of their direct experience with veterans across the country into our planning around this program. The veterans initiative goes beyond our existing Elevate America programs because it couples technology skills training with ancillary services such as career counseling, job placement, childcare, transportation, and housing services.

    Today, we are proud to announce result of this work. There are six nonprofit recipients of our Elevate America veterans initiative grants who will provide new education, job training and placement programs to help give veterans and their spouses the skills and resources they need to be successful in today’s civilian work force. Through these grants, Microsoft is providing $2 million in cash and up to $6 million in software and information technology (IT) skills training curriculum to the following organizations:

    • Able-Disabled Advocacy, Inc., San Diego, CA; San Diego VetWORKS
    • Bellevue College, Bellevue, WA; Project Succeed
    • Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont Inc, Charlotte, NC; Elevate America's veterans initiative
    • Gulf Coast Workforce Board, Panama City, FL; Mission: 21st Century (M:21c)
    • Per Scholas INC., New York, NY; Microsoft Veterans Employment Project
    • Veterans Inc., Worcester, MA; Veterans Inc. Employment & Training Program

    Each of these organizations and their partners represent a unique program and service model, serving veterans and spouses across the country. Together, we hope that we can learn best practices, share models that work well and ultimately help scale these efforts broadly to meet the needs of the thousands of veterans and spouses who could benefit from this type of support.

    As we approach Veterans Day we hope that our work with these organizations goes a small way towards recognizing the contributions and sacrifices of our veterans. They deserve all the support we can provide.


    More veterans resources:

  • Benefits of Hiring a Veteran – Gulf Coast Workforce Board

    By: Kim Bodine, Executive Director, Gulf Coast Workforce Board

    Note: This post is part of a weeklong celebration of U.S. military veterans. You can find more stories and resources at the Microsoft Citizenship website.

    I’ve been working with employers in our area for more than 15 years and time and time again I hear businesses refer to those who have served in military as America’s best and brightest. I found that out first hand when I hired Joe Chavarria, a 20 year Air Force Vet.

    The first day on the job, Joe Chavarria showed up fifteen minutes early. He later told me that “in the military if you’re right on time you are considered late.” Not only did Joe make a great impression on that first day but he became a valuable team member, demonstrating great leadership and networking skills. In fact, people around the office jokingly call him Mr. 24/7.

    Joe is one of thousands of military veterans in our community. Today’s veterans bring unique skills and experience to the civilian workforce. Their advanced training and ability to adapt to new circumstances make them excellent employees, with a high rate of retention.

    John Ed McDanal, District Manager for the Gulf Power Company in Panama City, Florida told me that “Veterans bring leadership to the workplace.  They are dependable, disciplined and have a strong commitment to excellence.”

    Jeanette Deatherage, Veterans Employment Representative at our local one stop career center and a military veteran herself explained to me that the military trains people to perform. “They do their job, do it right the first time and do it in a timely manner. They are continuously setting priorities, meeting schedules and accomplishing their missions.”

    There are numerous skills and attributes that today’s veterans bring to the table. According to the US Department of Labor, here are the top five reasons to hire veterans:

    1. Accelerated Learning Curve - Vets have the proven ability to quickly learn new skills and concepts. They possess identifiable and transferable skills proven to achieve success.
    2. Leadership- Vets understand practical ways to manage and achieve goals even in the most trying circumstances. They are trained to lead by example as well as through direction, delegation, motivation and inspiration.
    3. Teamwork-Vets understand how genuine teamwork grows out of a responsibility to one's colleagues and how diverse individuals or groups can best work together to achieve overarching objectives.
    4. Diversity and inclusion in action-Vets have worked respectfully and cooperatively alongside others regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion or mental or physical capabilities.
    5. Efficient performance under pressure-Vets have the capacity to know how to accomplish tasks on time and in spite of stress or adversity. They understand the importance of dedication and perseverance.

    Not only does hiring veterans make good business sense, but it allows you to return the favor for their service and sacrifice. As an added bonus, businesses may even qualify for tax credits and incentives for hiring disabled vets. For more information on hiring veterans, please contact your local one stop career center or visit


    Kim Bodine, Executive Director, Gulf Coast Workforce Board


    More veterans resources:

  • Helping NGOs Crowd-Source Solutions from Students

    The Imagine Cup is Microsoft’s annual student technology competition that asks students from around the world to combine their creativity and passion for technology to help solve the toughest problems.  Personally, it’s one of my favorite events that Microsoft puts on for students. Every year I am blown away by the quality and sophistication of the students’ projects and the inspiration the competition evokes to improve lives around the world.


    The Imagine Cup 2011 competition is already in full swing. Students are beginning to assemble their teams and thinking about their projects and the problems they want to solve. 


    This year we are launching a new program called Imagine Cup Solve This” to provide additional inspiration for students looking for project ideas. “Imagine Cup Solve This” takes the concept of solving the world’s toughest problems a step further by connecting students with specific, real problems that inter-governmental organizations (IGOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) need help solving. Students can access a library of problems submitted by the organizations on to find issues that matter most to them and then put their ideas into action as they create technology solutions in several different categories of competition.


    For example, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is looking for technology solutions to promote and assist organizations and educators that foster early reading and literacy among young children, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) wants a knowledge management system, or “online campus,” with virtual classrooms that allows teachers to interact, collaborate and share information with their students. NetHope is also participating, and we plan to extend this program over time to include submissions from all IGOs and NGOs from around the world that are interested in participating.


    The Imagine Cup started in 2003 with only 1,000 competitors from 25 countries. In the first few years, interest grew modestly. As the competition developed, we decided a great source of inspiration would be to focus on solving societal issues. Leveraging the United Nations Millennial Development Goals as a guide, registration soared.


    In 2010, more than 325,000 students from 100 countries and regions entered the competition. It became evident to us that students care deeply about major issues such as improving education, combating diseases, and ensuring environmental sustainability, and want to do their part to save the world.



    Students can register their team today at

    What a better way to connect real-world problems with real-world problem-solvers. We see “Imagine Cup Solve This” as just the beginning of a new approach to how NGOs and other organizations can tap into students’ creativity and technology savvy.

  • Veterans: Win an Xbox 360 with the brand new Kinect sensor

    To celebrate the launch of our Elevate America Veterans initiative, which helps veterans to transition from military to civilian employment, we are launching a sweepstakes for veterans to win one of twelve Xbox 360 4GB consoles with Kinect.

    The competition will run from November 8th through November 23rd  2010 and the winners will be announced the second week in December.

    Kinect brings games and entertainment to life in extraordinary new ways without using a controller. Imagine controlling movies and music with the wave of a hand or the sound of your voice. With Kinect, technology evaporates, letting the natural magic in all of us shine. You can find out more about Kinect here.

    This competition is part of a weeklong celebration of U.S. military veterans.  You can find more veterans news and resources on the Microsoft Citizenship website.

    Entering the sweepstakes is straightforward.

    It is only open to U.S. military veterans, and to enter you will need a Twitter account. Please review the official rules below before entering.

    To enter:

    • Please read the official rules below
    • Follow @msftcitizenship on Twitter
    • To enter into the draw for one of the twelve Xbox 360 4GB consoles with Kinect tweet the following message:

    Honor US veterans with a chance to win an Xbox 360 and Kinect. View official rules here: @msftcitizenship

    Click Here to Tweet

    Not a U.S. military veteran?

    If you are not a U.S. veteran please help spread the word to your followers who are U.S. military veterans by Tweeting* the following:

    Help @msftcitizenship elevate america's #Veterans with a chance to win an Xbox 360 4GB Console with #Kinect:

    *Please note this tweet does not enter you into the sweepstakes, you must be a U.S. Military Veteran to enter

    Click Here to Tweet

    Prize Details:

    Each of the twelve winners will receive:

    • Xbox 360 4GB S Console
    • Kinect Sensor for Xbox 360
    • Kinect Adventures game - rated “E” for Everyone
    • Xbox 360 black wireless Controller
    • Xbox 360 composite A/V cable (standard definition)
    • One month Xbox LIVE Gold Membership
    • One year limited warranty on console


    More veterans resources:








    These are the official rules that govern how the Elevate America's veterans initiative sweepstakes promotion will operate. This promotion will be simply referred to as the “Sweepstakes” throughout the rest of these rules.

    In these rules, “we,” “our,” and “us” refer to Microsoft Corporation, the sponsor of the Sweepstakes. “You” refers to an eligible Sweepstakes entrant.


    This Sweepstakes starts at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time (PT) on November 8, 2010, and ends at 11:59 p.m. PT on November 23, 2010 (“Entry Period”). Entries must be received within the Entry Period to be eligible.


    You are eligible to enter this Sweepstakes if you meet the following requirements at time of entry:

    • You are a legal resident of the 50 United States (and DC), and
    • You are a United States Military veteran and can provide proof if requested; and
    • You are NOT an employee of Microsoft Corporation or an employee of a Microsoft subsidiary; and
    • You are NOT involved in any part of the administration and execution of this Sweepstakes; and
    • You are NOT an immediate family (parent, sibling, spouse, child) or household member of a Microsoft employee, an employee of a Microsoft subsidiary, or a person involved in any part of the administration and execution of this Sweepstakes.

    This Sweepstakes is void outside of the geographic area described above and wherever else prohibited by law.


    To enter, you must be a registered account holder in good standing on and must “follow” @msftcitizenship. Enter by signing in to the your Twitter account; if you do not have an account, visit to create one. Twitter accounts are free. Once logged into your Twitter account, follow the instructions to become a follower of @msftcitizenship. Then you will receive one entry when you tweet "Honor US veterans with a chance to win an Xbox 360 and Kinect. View official rules here: @msftcitizenship” from your Twitter account during the Entry Period.

    You must be a current follower up until December 10, 2010 to be contacted if you win.

    We will only accept one (1) entry per person. You may not create multiple Twitter accounts to fraudulently enter in excess of entry limits.

    We are not responsible for entries that we do not receive for any reason, or for entries that we receive but are not decipherable for any reason.

    We will automatically disqualify:

    • Any incomplete or illegible entry; and
    • Any entries that we receive from you that are in excess of the entry limit described above.


    On or around December 12, 2010, we or our agent will randomly select twelve (12) winners to receive a Grand Prize:

    (12) Grand Prize. An Xbox 360 with Kinect sensor. Approximate Retail Value (ARV) $299.00 ea

    The total Approximate Retail Value (ARV) of all prizes: $3,588

    We will only award one (1) prize per person during the Entry Period.

    If you are a potential winner, we will notify you by sending a message to the e-mail address, the phone number, or mailing address (if any) provided at time of entry within seven (7) days following the random drawing. If the notification that we send is returned as undeliverable, or you are otherwise unreachable for any reason, we may award the prize to an alternate, randomly selected winner.

    If there is a dispute as to who is the potential winner, we will consider the potential winner to be the authorized account holder of the e-mail address used to enter the Sweepstakes . If you are a potential winner, we may require you to sign an Affidavit of Eligibility, Liability/Publicity Release and a W-9 tax form or W-8 BEN tax form within 10 days of notification. If you are a potential winner and you are 18 or older, but are considered a minor in your place of legal residence, we may require your parent or legal guardian to sign all required forms on your behalf. If you do not complete the required forms as instructed and/or return the required forms within the time period listed on the winner notification message, we may disqualify you and select an alternate, randomly selected winner.

    If you are confirmed as a winner of this Sweepstakes:

    • You may not exchange your prize for cash or any other merchandise or services. However, if for any reason an advertised prize is unavailable, we reserve the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater value; and
    • You may not designate someone else as the winner. If you are unable or unwilling to accept your prize, we will award it to an alternate potential winner; and
    • If you accept a prize, you will be solely responsible for all applicable taxes related to accepting the prize; and
    • If you are otherwise eligible for this Sweepstakes, but are considered a minor in your place of residence, we may award the prize to your parent/legal guardian on your behalf; and
    • Unless otherwise noted, all prizes are subject to their manufacturer’s warranty and / or terms and conditions.


    Your odds of winning this Sweepstakes depend on the number of eligible entries we receive.


    By entering this Sweepstakes you agree:

    • To abide by these Official Rules; and
    • To release and hold harmless Microsoft,and its respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, employees and agents from any and all liability or any injury, loss or damage of any kind arising from or in connection with this Sweepstakes or any prize won; and
    • That Microsoft’s decisions will be final and binding on all matters related to this Sweepstakes; and
    • That by accepting a prize, Microsoft may use of your proper name and state of residence online and in print, or in any other media, in connection with this Sweepstakes, without payment or compensation to you, except where prohibited by law.


    This Sweepstakes will be governed by the laws of the State of Washington, and you consent to the exclusive jurisdiction and venue of the courts of the State of Washington for any disputes arising out of this Sweepstakes.


    If cheating, a virus, bug, catastrophic event, or any other unforeseen or unexpected event that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled, (also referred to as force majeure) affects the fairness and / or integrity of this Sweepstakes, we reserve the right to cancel, change or suspend this Sweepstakes. This right is reserved whether the event is due to human or technical error. If a solution cannot be found to restore the integrity of the Sweepstakes, we reserve the right to randomly select winners from among all eligible entries received before we had to cancel, change or suspend the Sweepstakes.

    If you attempt to compromise the integrity or the legitimate operation of this Sweepstakes by hacking or by cheating or committing fraud in ANY way, we may seek damages from you to the fullest extent permitted by law. Further, we may ban you from participating in any of our future Sweepstakes, so please play fairly.


    If you send an email to within 30 days of November 23, 2010, we will provide you with a list of winners that receive a prize worth $25.00 or more.


    Microsoft Corporation

    One Microsoft Way

    Redmond, WA 98052


    More veterans resources:

  • The Truly Global Nature of Washington State

    Is it our location on the fringe of the lower 48, our bustling ports, our proximity to Asia, or our inspiring natural surroundings that give the state of Washington such an orientation toward global development issues? I don’t really know, but there is no denying that something is in motion here.

    Last week, we sponsored the 2nd annual Global Washington conference on our campus here in Redmond, WA. Having supported Global Washington as an organization over the past three years, it has been great to see the organization gain such momentum in a relatively short time. With 450 registered attendees, the conference entitled “Bridges to Breakthroughs” focused on the role of partnerships and innovation in the rapidly-changing global development sector. The amazing level of interest, quality of speakers, and engaging hallway discussions further supported my theory that Washington State has become a nexus of international development second in the US only to the other Washington.

    Speaking of the other Washington, the conference was kicked off by Ambassador-at-Large for Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer, who also recognizes the unique confluence of organizations based on Washington state working on international development issues, many empowering women and girls in both direct and indirect ways. The Ambassador noted a recent visit to one of the Community Technology Centers Microsoft sponsors near Beijing that trains primarily young immigrant women who face unbelievable hurdles after arriving in the city. With new skills, including in the use of basic information technology, the odds of success for these women increase significantly. Noting this as just one example of great work being done by a Washington-based organization, the Ambassador spoke of the refreshing and inspiring atmosphere in the Pacific Northwest and that Washington DC might just have something to learn from this corner of the country.

    The conference also provided space for some of the smaller organizations who often struggle to make the speaking circuit. Through a video competition, organizations based in Washington submitted short videos highlighting the work they do, the partnerships they formed and innovations they have applied. The winners were highlighted during lunch on the first day of the conference, including a set up and pitch by a representative from each organization. But recognition of one special video was held until day two, when Jessica Markowitz and Grace Mutesi presented a video about Richard’s Rwanda. Both just 15 years old, these young women are simply amazing – Jessica, as the President of the organization, has more poise, presence and depth than most people three times her age. Grace, who was born as the genocide was just beginning, studies at Myamata High School in Rwanda and spoke of her dream to set an example for other young women and study medicine so that she can give back to her community.

    Throughout the conference there were many examples of innovation originating from our state, from health care to mobile banking. Concurrent panels on technology solutions, commercial strategies for development, women and girls, and environment were compelling in content and highly interactive. And all indications from social media and traditional press have been largely positive. At Microsoft we are proud to be a part of this community and to offer our resources as a meeting and collaboration space because we believe that only by working together can we solve some of the biggest problems faced by the world.

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