Microsoft, BDPA Reach Out to Minority Communities

REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 1, 1999 — When Kristi Torgrimson started participating in a computer training camp at Microsoft in preparation for a national high-school computer competition sponsored by Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA), she was a pretty quiet kid. But it wasn’t long before her instructors began to see changes in Kristi. Over the course of two summer sessions, she became more outgoing, more confident, and she even obtained a high-school internship at Microsoft. Kristi has twice been selected to be one of four students on the team representing the Seattle BDPA Chapter at the national competition. She still keeps in touch with one of her Microsoft instructors — by e-mail, of course.

“Working with the kids was a highlight for me. If someone had helped me as I’ve been helping these kids, it would have inspired me to do even more,”
said Ian Heisser, a Software Test Engineer in Microsoft’s Office Fundamentals Test Group and a volunteer with BDPA. Heisser was one of six instructors at the computer training camp.

Black Data Processing Associates — Information Technology Thought Leaders is a 2000-member national organization that serves as a conduit between the information technology sector and local minority communities. Since 1993, Microsoft has been helping BDPA in its goal to educate and train minority students and professionals in the use of the latest computer technology.

Last year, Microsoft Corp. provided BDPA with over $600,000 in software products, including Microsoft Office Product Suites and Standard and Professional versions of Visual Basic. The company made available the use of its facilities across the country for BDPA workshops and seminars, and provided employees as volunteers to assist individual BDPA chapters in training and education.

“Microsoft as a corporation has been incredibly generous. But more than that, Microsoft employees have provided BDPA with a very precious resource — their time. We are truly grateful to the Microsoft volunteers who have spent countless hours with BDPA chapters,”
said George Williams, BDPA National President.

In recognition of its continuing assistance, BDPA recently awarded Microsoft its National Company of the Year award and declared August 21, 1999 “Microsoft Appreciation Day.” BDPA presents this annual award to the organization that has made the most significant impact on the majority of its chapters over the past year. According to Williams, Microsoft has enhanced BDPA’s efforts to educate minority communities about computer technology by providing the resources to make it happen.

“Microsoft’s goal is to expand the pipeline of minority candidates through extensive outreach programs that start at the K-12 level,”
said Microsoft Director of Diversity Santiago Rodriguez.
“In working with BDPA to achieve community-wide access to computer technology, we are laying the foundation for a diverse workforce, both at Microsoft and in the high-tech industry.”

Rodriguez and his team are working to further the company’s already diverse culture by making diversity issues a priority for every employee at Microsoft and by tying it into their everyday work. His group is committed to maintaining and increasing Microsoft’s diverse employee population through aggressive recruiting efforts and continuing community outreach programs. To do so, Rodriguez says he plans to tap the many professional and educational organizations, such as BDPA, that serve various diverse communities.

“Success, to me, is when diversity is not a program, but a process,”
Rodriguez said.
“It’s clear to me that the essence of Microsoft’s culture is amenable to this concept — much of what we value in the way that we treat our customers really deals with aspects of diversity.”

Microsoft has also established a number of educational initiatives designed to promote a diverse workforce in the high-tech industry. The company provides technical access, funding, and software to organizations such as The College Fund, The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, and the 41 historically black colleges and universities..

Microsoft’s Minority and Women’s Scholarship program provides full tuition awards, based on merit, to students of color and female students to assist them in pursuing technical undergraduate degrees. Microsoft’s National Minority and Women’s Technical Scholarship program consists of 10 $1,000 awards to students of color and female students studying computer science or a related discipline in any four-year degree program.

Last summer, in preparation for BDPA’s computer competition, members of the Seattle Chapter of BDPA brought students to the Microsoft campus on Saturday mornings, teaching them computer skills to help them create Web sites and solve business problems. Using Visual Basic and Microsoft BackOffice, students had the opportunity to write code to resolve business problems and develop and build Web sites.

“Watching the students grow and learn throughout the weeks of training — especially those with no computer background — was exciting for me. It was almost like watching them grow up right before your eyes,”
said Pat Coleman, a BDPA member and production manager in Microsoft’s Accounting Products Group. “Some great partnerships developed among the students and with us. We were able to share a piece of their lives.

“By working together, Microsoft and BDPA provide an opportunity for students and people from the community to recognize information technology as a viable career choice and also to recognize that information technology and computers are becoming a way of life,”
Williams said.

On a professional level, Microsoft has helped BDPA members stay abreast of the latest developments in the high-tech industry through various initiatives. At chapter meetings, BDPA members who are Microsoft employees often share the latest technology tips to help address business issues.

Through BDPA’s Senior Management Forum, Microsoft employees provide mentoring to members. And with the assistance of Microsoft employees, some BDPA members are even working toward becoming Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers.

According to Williams, one of the most important aspects of the work that BDPA and Microsoft do together is ensuring that there is a continuous stream of diverse candidates entering the technology workforce. Chester Grice, coordinator of BDPA’s high-school computer competition, agrees.
“We’ve brought computers into homes that ordinarily wouldn’t have had them. My daughter, for example, could not have cared less about technology until she got into this program. Now, she no longer has a fear of computers.”

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