Minority Student Day: An Employee-Led Initiative to Empower a Future Workforce
On Friday, Feb. 9, employee resource groups, Blacks at Microsoft (BAM) and LinkedIn’s Black Inclusion Group (BIG), hosted Minority Student Day at our San Francisco offices and welcomed more than 200 Bay Area high school students from diverse ethnic backgrounds. United in their mission to inspire youth by sparking an early interest in pursuing technology careers, employee resource groups across both LinkedIn and Microsoft partnered for the first time to lead a community impact initiative in the region together.
The goal of this event, held in February every year, is to provide local area high school students from different ethnic backgrounds with information about the tools, resources and career opportunities that are available to them in the technology industry. Throughout the day, Microsoft and LinkedIn employees led students through hands-on technology labs as well as information sessions about building their personal brand. Employees also served as mentors, talking with students about the wide variety of career options in technology and diving into examples from their own career journeys.
Rune Jensen, general manager, HoloLens, kicked off the day by sharing his experience as a first-generation immigrant who is leading a Silicon Valley team in building a best-in-class mixed reality device. He also explained that within the technology sector lie many other job roles and alternate career tracks, such as marketing.
In smaller sessions, LinkedIn and Microsoft employees coached students about how they can amplify their digital presence to create a personal social brand. Students also toured the LinkedIn office for a peek into its contemporary and collaborative workspace. At the Microsoft Reactor space, students took part in a bite-sized Hour of Code session and experimented with virtual reality and mixed reality devices, like the HoloLens.
With dreams to “be as successful as Bill Gates or Jeff Weiner,” Jarschire Dennis, a senior at Kennedy High School in Richmond, has interests in coding, specifically in Python. “The augmented reality glasses were great, but learning the code that actually runs them is even better,” he said.
Jarschire said he especially enjoyed experiencing the “phenomenal” life at LinkedIn and Microsoft. “It’s most certainly a place I would want to be.”
The day ended with a speech from Dr. Joe Marshall, a radio talk show host and local community activist. He urged students to take advantage of all such opportunities available to them.
BAM and BIG employees plan to build and maintain relationships with these students to offer more educational opportunities not always offered to them at their schools. Alonzo Bozman, senior service delivery manager, Microsoft, and BAM chapter co-lead, has been organizing Minority Student Day in the region for 10 years. He’s built relationships with schools throughout the Bay Area, including this year’s attending schools — Oakland High, Kennedy High, Pittsburg High, Clayton Valley Charter, El Cerrito High, De Anza High, McClymonds High and Vallejo High.
Safiya Miller, account executive, Microsoft, and BAM chapter co-lead, says BAM and BIG plan to partner together again for next year’s event. “This was definitely representative of what our larger companies are trying to do,” she said. “We were so thrilled to give these students not only the experience of what it’s like to be a Microsoft or LinkedIn employee, but to be digitally enabled and empowered by technology to dream big.”
BAM employee resource group plays a key role in promoting career and leadership development among its members and helps recruit the best and the brightest to Microsoft. Learn more here.