October, 2012

  • Hurricane Sandy - Northeast Coast, USA (October 29, 2012)

    Molly Bull, Senior Communications Manager, Microsoft Disaster Response

    As has been widely reported, Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on the U.S. East Coast, with extensive shut-downs and evacuations from Washington D.C. to New York. 

    Microsoft is closely monitoring the situation, and has already taken several actions including publishing its disaster response ReadyReach information portal. This site provides information on updates & projections from experts, preparedness recommendations from FEMA, and links to more information on what you can do to help. A number of nonprofits are actively responding to the storm, including:

    • American Red Cross – Mobilized more than 400 workers, 200,000 ready-to-eat meals shipped, six shelters in Virginia and North Carolina.
    • AmeriCares – Assessing needs with over 130 response partners, positioned stock of supplies and medicine ready for immediate shipment.
    • Save the Children – Using U.S. Emergencies Fund to help prepared to distribute aid, psychosocial support, and more.
    • World Vision – Ready to dispatch flood clean-up kits, working with local partners to bolster emergency supplies, and more.

    Latest Information

    For all the latest news and information on storm developments follow NBC News and the Storm Tracker map. Another great resource is the American Red Cross’s Hurricane App. It provides great information about hurricanes, what to do immediately afterwards, and location-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) alerts. It will provide the information you need at your fingertips.

     

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  • Do you know what cats have to do with employee giving at Microsoft?

    Editor’s Note: As we come to the end of the 2012 Microsoft employee giving campaign we took some time up to talk to Susan Bunch and Karen Easterbrook the founders of one of the more unique and prominent campaigns that take place every year, the “Cats of Microsoft” calendar.

    MSFT Citizenship: What’s your role at Microsoft and how did you get involved in the “Cats of Microsoft” calendar?

    Susan Bunch (SB): I am a Global Program Manager in Microsoft Customer Service and Support, and have spent most of my career in the Services Organization. I love being a program manager, because even when it’s not the Give campaign I still feel like I am ‘herding cats’.

    Having been friends with the people who started the Dog Calendar for the giving campaign at Microsoft, I always wished there was something like that for cats.

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    So in 2007 a group of us got started. But there is no way this calendar could have happened without a team – Karen Easterbrook, Kristi Minietta, David Sullivan, and many others helped shape the calendar. To me, the calendar is a labor of love and represents the work of people who care about the cats, the shelters, and each other. We’re friends.  

    I want to add how important Microsoft employees are to the calendar – we are so lucky to have so many resources.

    Karen Easterbrook (KE): I am a Principal Program Manager Lead in the Microsoft Research Extreme Computing Group.  Our group does targeted research on security and cryptography projects.  When we succeed, our ideas and technologies transfer into Microsoft products and services.

    MSFT Citizenship: How did the “Cats of Microsoft” calendar get started?

    KE: Susan sent out an email to the internal group for people who love cats asking who wanted to start a calendar. Subsequently, myself, and Kristi Minietta joined Susan as the founders.

    We started with three goals:  1) have fun, 2) build the community at Microsoft, and 3) raise enough money for animal shelters to make it worth doing again next year.  That approach hit a chord and our community and the scal of the calendar has grown every year. 

    MSFT Citizenship: The Cat Calendar has tremendous support across Microsoft. How do you get the word out?

    KE: We rely on the community of cat people at Microsoft to take on everything from hanging posters, staffing tables at events, etc.  An Army of Cats, as we call ourselves, do the work and I think that has both helped us get the word out and has kept the energy going. While raising money for the shelter is a matter of life and death to the animals we are supporting, we try not to take the calendar part of it (or ourselves) too seriously.

    By far the biggest promotion that we have had is the badge posters across campus. Last year, we had 1,157 photos submitted, which turned into 588 unique posters for this campaign – every cat submitted was on at least one, sometimes multiple. That makes it fun for everyone:  there’s lots of chatter about who is in your building.

    SB: We do have some great event volunteers who have tables at Give agency fairs and occasionally other events when time permits. Emily Hoffman leads this group and is amazing with her enthusiasm and willingness to wear cat ears in public.

    MSFT Citizenship: How much did the calendar raise in the last year and what organization(s) benefit?

    KE: Last year, counting matches, we raised over $77,000. Out of that, we have to pay for printing of the calendar and the shelter has fees for PayPal, etc., but that’s pretty good.

    For the first four years of the calendar, we have been working with Forget Me Not Animal Shelter.  Forget Me Not is located in Republic, WA, and supports all of Ferry County. When we started with them, they were a hardworking shelter, making do with a donated single-wide trailer on land they’d purchased. Volunteers brought water every day to the shelter. Many/most animals had to be fostered at volunteer homes. But they were doing great work. We picked them in part because of where they were, and because of the difficulty of raising local funds:  Republic was hit particularly hard by the economic downturn.

    Now, we are working with the Forget Me Not shelter to both help fund their ongoing operations AND to start building-up other shelters. This year, funds will go to support the Colville Valley Animal Sanctuary.

    MSFT Citizenship: How do the shelter(s) use the funds?

    KE: Over four years, we have raised over $250,000 for Forget Me Not. This has funded:

    • Construction of two “Meow Manor” cat buildings
    • The septic system, water, electricity
    • The office
    • Fencing for the entire shelter
    • Washer/dryer and other necessary infrastructure (medical & microchip, etc.)
    • Sponsorship of their cat adoption program, funding the spay/neuter, care, and transport for 275 cats as of July 2012
    • Support for their “Fear no Feral” program:  223 cats/kittens have been helped. Adoptable animals have been put into the adoption program, true feral cats have been spayed/neutered, treated for medical conditions, and returned (TNR). Thirty feral colonies have been TNR’d as of July 2012
    • Support for “stop the cycle” spay & neuter

    MSFT Citizenship: How many cats have benefited from the Cat Calendar?

    SB: We know of the hundreds that have been rescued, hundreds more who have received free spay/neuter, and dozens who are returned when lost because the shelter can now microchip. Calendar funds also supported the control of 32 feral colonies. Forget Me Not does spay/neuter and adopt out kittens.

    MSFT Citizenship: How many photos do you receive?

    KE: The number of photos received has been growing every year:  for the 2011 calendar, we nearly outgrew one calendar, so for 2012 we went to two versions of the calendar. We received 1,157 photos. 

    MSFT Citizenship: How do you pick the cover cat?

    KE: We don’t. Thank goodness! This is one of the tasks that Forget Me Not does for us.

    MSFT Citizenship: If someone is interested in supporting this effort, but is not a Microsoft employee, what can they do to help?

    KE: We are open to all members of the Microsoft Community, which includes alumni. For a brief window in December, our calendar will be available for sale in the Microsoft Company store on the Redmond campus. 

    Beyond that, I’d recommend that people look for a great local shelter or animal welfare group, and make a small donation. In tough economic times, all charities take a hit, but animal charities are hit particularly hard. 

    SB: Volunteering is also great – shelters often lack resources with computer skills to design websites, assist directly with the animals, or even foster an animal. If you have a barn or safe outdoor area, you can adopt a barn cat.

     

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    Susan Bunch (left) and Emily Hoffman at a Microsoft giving campaign event.

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    Bandit, one of the stars of the Cat Calendar

  • Video: A special event for employee giving at Microsoft

    Yesterday we held a very special employee event here in Redmond, Washington.  Moderated by Brad Smith, the event included our CEO Steve Ballmer, our Founder Bill Gates, Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire and Jon Fine, CEO, United Way of King County to mark the 30th employee giving campaign at Microsoft.

    As well as celebrating the giving campaign, which takes place throughout October, we also announced that our employees’ giving efforts have reached a significant milestone.  Since 1983 Microsoft employees have raised $1 billion, with corporate match, for over 31,000 nonprofits working around the world.  It’s a fantastic illustration of the passion and enthusiasm of our people in getting out there and helping others both through monetary donations but also through giving their time and expertise.

    We wanted to share the event for those interested in finding out more about both the history of the future of the Microsoft employee giving campaign.

    Here’s a short clip with some quotes from Steve and Bill, you can find the full event here.

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    Microsoft Founder Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer at the Employee Giving event

  • Bidding for a good cause (no bull)

    As we near the end of the 2012 Microsoft employee giving campaign we thought we’d give you a glimpse at one of the most popular giving initiatives: MS Auction.

    MS Auction is an internal only auction site that gives employees the opportunity to submit and bid on a range of different items ranging from collectibles (e.g. an actor’s shirt), experiences (e.g. craft distillery tasting), electronics, food & drink (e.g. six months of homemade cookies) and many many more.   Presentation1

    The auction takes place as you’d expect with people bidding (and auto-bidding) all through the month and the prize going to the highest bidder.

    MS Auction grows every year and this year looks like being yet another record breaking year.

    There’s an amazing range of items from getting your face on the front page of Microsoft.com to a trip in a Formula One car and a Caribbean getaway.

    However, there was only one choice for our favorite item this year.

     

    Bull (2)

    We’re not sure if there’s a steak dinner included.

     

    A big thanks and congratulations to everyone who contributed to another incredible year of employee giving this year!

  • Expanding Computer Science Education in High Schools

    By Lori Harnick, General Manager, Microsoft Citizenship & Public Affairs

    It’s estimated that by 2018, there will be 1.5 million computer science related jobs available in America, but only 29% of those jobs will be met by U.S. graduates.

    At a time when five of the top ten fastest growing jobs will be in a computer-related field and two of the top three top bachelors’ salaries are in computer science and engineering, it’s concerning that only 0.6 percent of the nation’s 1.06 million public high school teachers have “Computer and Information Sciences” as their primary teaching assignment. There currently are just over 42,000 high schools in the United States but only 2,100 of them were certified to teach the Advanced Placement computer science course in 2011.

    And, we see the impact on our students. Last year in the United States only 21,139 of 16 million students across the United States took the computer science Advanced Placement test – only 0.6% of all AP tests taken (about 3.4 million) that year.

    As part of the recently announced Microsoft YouthSpark initiative - which aims to create opportunities for 300 million youth around the world - we are announcing the expansion of the Technology Education And Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program, which directly addresses the shortage of Computer Science teachers with a novel and highly successful approach.

    The TEALS program recruits, mentors, and places high-tech professionals into schools that are struggling to provide strong computer science offerings on their own. Partnered with an in-class teacher, TEALS brings computer science expertise to students and teachers, without any training or development costs to schools. As preparation, TEALS volunteers go through an intensive three-month-long program in teaching philosophy, curriculum development, and classroom management.

    The key to the success of the program is the in-class partnership between the teachers and the volunteers as discussed in a New York Times story on TEALS that appeared earlier this week:

    “We are taking the kids farther than I could do,” said Michael Braun, a teacher at Rainier Beach High who is working with Microsoft volunteers.

    The TEALS program was created in Washington State in 2010 by a Microsoft engineer, Kevin Wang, and has produced great results thus far. So, we decided to expand the program this year to California, Utah, North Dakota, Minnesota, Virginia and the District of Columbia. At this point in time, the program has 110 volunteer teachers in 37 schools reaching over 2,000 students and it’s poised for even greater growth. This could not happen without the tremendous partnership we’ve found in school districts across the country.

    Through these partnerships and many others, we’re looking hard at how to address the problems facing young people today. It’s why we kick started a discussion last week about the need for a national talent strategy for the United States. Take a look and let us know what you think of our ideas….

    Through partnership and creativity we can empower youth to change their world.

    Looking for more information?

    What's participating in TEALS like for the volunteers?

    Microsoft employees who participate in the TEALS program share their experiences.

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