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Announcing the winners of the 2018 Microsoft Research Dissertation Grants

Research shows that diverse teams are more productive teams. Diversity, particularly in the area of computing research, means including unique perspectives that otherwise might not have a voice, fueling innovation. These are some of the key reasons that Microsoft is committed to diversity. One aspect of demonstrating that commitment is that, for the second year in a row, we are awarding Microsoft Research Dissertation Grants to talented PhD candidates from groups that are under-represented in computing. The goal of these awards (up to $25,000 each) are to widen the narrow pipeline of women, African-Americans, American Indians, Latinos, Pacific Islanders, and those with disabilities who earn PhDs in computer science or related fields. These awards are given to students in the “last mile” of their PhDs, where a little money can push them over the finish line by helping them to complete their dissertation research.

I am pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 Microsoft Research Dissertation Grants:

  • Cynthia Bennett, University of Washington, “Toward Disability-Informed Human-Centered Design”
  • Eric Corbett, Georgia Institute of Technology, “Trust, Technology and Community Engagement”
  • Ryan M. Corey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “Array Signal Processing for Augmented Listening”
  • Maria De-Arteaga, Carnegie Mellon University, “Quantifying and Mitigating Risks of Algorithmic Decision Support”
  • Jane E, Stanford University, “Artistic Vision: Providing Context for Capture-Time Decisions”
  • Sahar Hashemgeloogerdi, University of Rochester, “Computationally Efficient Modeling and Audio Enhancement Algorithms for Reverberant Acoustic Systems Using Orthonormal Basis Functions”
  • Francesco Pittaluga, University of Florida, “Privacy Preserving Computational Cameras”
  • Ramya Ramakrishnan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Human-Guided Reinforcement Learning in Real-World Environments”
  • João Sedoc, University of Pennsylvania, “Hierarchical Approaches to Improve the Flow, Style, and Coherence of Conversational Agents”
  • Mina Tahmasbi Arashloo, Princeton University, “Programmable Network Monitoring and Control”
  • Sarah Tan, Cornell University, “Methods in Interpretability and Causal Inference for Better Understanding of Machine Learning Models”

From the almost 200 research projects submitted, these PhD candidates were selected as grant recipients based on review by scientists at Microsoft Research of the quality of the students’ dissertation research, the potential impact of their research, and the uses toward which they would put the grant monies awarded.

For example, Ryan Corey’s grant proposal included funds for purchasing high-quality recording equipment to capture and separate sources of audio to prototype products that augment people’s ability to hear, and also to fund outreach efforts for him to go into community schools to demonstrate his research. Ramya Ramakrishnan will use her grant to hire undergraduate women as research assistants, so she can further amplify the mentoring she receives from this award. Cynthia Bennett, who has a visual disability, is using her grant to increase the ability of people with disabilities to design products that other people with disabilities will use.

There were interesting themes running across this year’s set of awardees, including the ethics and sociological impact of their research. Eric Corbett’s research on using technology to increase public trust and Maria De-Arteaga’s research on mitigating risks of algorithmic decision support in the criminal justice system are two such examples.

In addition to monetary grants, each award comes with an all-expense paid trip to a two-day Microsoft Research workshop in Redmond, Washington, in the autumn of 2018. There, the awardees will present their research, meet with researchers in their field, and receive career coaching.

For a complete list of awardees and their projects, visit our Dissertation Grant Program page.

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How REWIND is using HoloLens to take Red Bull Air Race fans closer to the action

Leila Martine, Director of Product Marketing at Microsoft, sees first-hand the excitement HoloLens is causing. “HoloLens is helping companies to work better by empowering staff. Every day we are seeing that workers from a range of sectors can easily collaborate to make complicated problems simple to solve. It really is taking human experiences to the next level.”

Virtual, augmented and mixed reality is becoming increasingly important to companies across the globe. According to market intelligence firm IDC, “worldwide revenues for the augmented reality and virtual reality market will grow … to more than $162 billion in 2020″.

REWIND is at the cutting-edge of that market. The company, which is based in St Albans (Rogers: “We’re only 2.5 miles outside the M25, so we’re London”), was only founded in 2011 but has grown quickly, boasting a team of more than 50 people. The group has already created a multi-award-winning virtual reality spacewalk for the BBC, as well as experiences with Jaguar, Lexus, Nissan, Rolls-Royce, Nike, Stella Artois, Savills and singer Bjork, among many others.

That level of technical experience led to REWIND being added to Microsoft’s HoloLens Agency Readiness Partner programme, which means the company will help other businesses use the mixed-reality headset to transform how they work. Rogers is excited by the possibilities.

“HoloLens is the first device humans have ever had that can augment human intelligence in real time. We have the world’s knowledge at our fingertips with one of these [he holds up his smartphone] but it’s a layer away, a search algorithm away. We have laptops, but what if the second screen is a HoloLens screen? If I can make this [he points to my laptop] as good as talking like we are now, as though I’m really here in the same space as you [when I’m really somewhere else], then why do we need to commute in the way we currently do, why do we all need to be compacted down this end of the country? What if you don’t like the weather so you change it to something else? That’s a little far away, but it’s not that big a leap. HoloLens has some amazing stuff, which is just the tip of the iceberg of what mixed reality can do.”

However, rather than see what he can do with HoloLens in the commercial sector, where the device has been predominantly used since its launch in 2016, Rogers wants members of the public to get their hands on the technology, too.

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E3 2018: Gaming for everyone, a conversation with Phil Spencer

E3 is always an incredible time to come together to appreciate the breadth of creative energy that abounds in our industry and to celebrate what’s ahead for gamers. At this year’s E3 Coliseum series, Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox sat down with Tina Summerford, Head of Programming at Xbox, to discuss Microsoft’s approach to gaming, his perspective on E3 and to hear why the industry has a responsibility to make gaming for everyone.

Other topics discussed during the panel were the unique games Xbox is looking to bring to the ID@Xbox program, insight into the creation of the Xbox E3 2018 Briefing, from matching thematic elements to creating an engaging experience, and the creation of the Xbox Adaptive Controller. The discussion also included insights from Phil on his conversations about gaming with CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, his appreciation of and participation in the gaming community. Spencer also took a variety of questions from the audience, ranging on bringing more games to Xbox created by Japanese developers and growing the Women and Gaming initiative.

You can watch the full interview with Phil Spencer above from the E3 Coliseum.

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Updates to Adobe Document Cloud bring integrated PDF services to Office 365

Last September, we expanded our strategic partnership with Adobe to focus on integrations between Adobe Sign and Office 365 products such as Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Outlook, and more.

We’ve seen our customers make great use of the combination. For example, the State of Hawaii saved a significant amount of employee time while also improving document status versus paper-based processes—providing a double win over previous paper-based processes.

Building on this success, today the Adobe Document Cloud team announced new capabilities that deepen the integration with Office 365 and can save you and your team time. PDF services integrations provide new fidelity when working with PDF documents as part of Office 365. Once integrated by your administrator, PDF services provide rich previews of PDF documents right within OneDrive and your SharePoint sites.

A screenshot displays a non-disclosure agreement in the Adobe Document Cloud.

In addition to many reporting, sharing, and collaboration scenarios, PDF files are frequently used to create final or archived versions of content spanning across many different files. With PDF services and the newly introduced Combine Files by Adobe functionality, you can select several files and pull into one PDF with just a couple of clicks within SharePoint document libraries.

A screenshot displays a launch team group in SharePoint.

PDF services are now available in the ribbon for online versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint—making the creation of high-quality, full fidelity PDFs from these applications even easier.

PDF servicesalong with capabilities as part of Adobe Sign and upcoming Adobe Reader enhancements—are all part of Adobe Document Cloud. All share a commitment to productive integrations across Office 365—and we hope to see your team benefit from these integrations as well.

If you are an administrator, with Adobe Document Cloud, get started integrating with Office 365 with this guide. Adobe Document Cloud and Office 365 provide great complementary functionalities, and you can learn more about this and Adobe Sign integrations with Office 365. We look forward to seeing continued productivity improvements across the millions of joint customers that Adobe Document Cloud and Microsoft Office 365 share.

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Microsoft expands commitment to military spouse community

Today in San Francisco, Microsoft Military Affairs will join our partners from LinkedIn to each share new commitments to the military spouse community.

Military spouses are an integral supporting force for members of our military, but face staggering 18 percent unemployment and 53 percent underemployment due to moves every two to three years, according to a 2016 study from Blue Star Families on the social cost of unemployment and underemployment of military spouses.

As part of our commitment to the military spouse community, Microsoft will launch a pilot program to provide spouses with technology skills training beginning in September.

Microsoft has successfully opened a technology career pipeline for transitioning service members and veterans via the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) program, which has expanded coast-to-coast and has a graduation rate of over 90 percent. We are excited to explore how to expand and tailor these opportunities to military spouses, which represent a diverse talent pool that is adaptable, resilient and highly educated and ready to take on new and exciting opportunities to further their professional and personal goals.

The U.S. government estimates information technology occupations are projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Because there are 500,000 open technology jobs annually, we know that career programs are needed to help close the technology skills gap.



“Microsoft is excited to work with technology leaders and other organizations committed to supporting military spouses, and to find avenues that lead to meaningful career opportunities for active duty military spouses,” said U.S. Marine Corps Major General (Ret.) Chris Cortez, Vice President of Microsoft Military Affairs.

LinkedIn also announced today that it is expanding its military and veterans program to include military spouses through a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program. Beginning this July, LinkedIn will provide one year of LinkedIn Premium to every military spouse during each of their moves to new installations to facilitate their career transitions, and once again upon conclusion of military service. This will include free access to LinkedIn’s online library of more than 12,000 LinkedIn Learning courses, including its newly-launched learning path designed to help military spouses succeed in flexible, freelance or remote-work opportunities.

The Microsoft Military Affairs team is working closely with military spouses and nonprofit organizations to understand firsthand the unique challenges this community faces as we build out and learn from our pilot program.

We are thrilled to begin our pilot program in the fall and to continue our support of military spouses and their community by providing the skills they need to enter technology careers.

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Microsoft and Flipgrid unite to bring social learning to students around the world

If you want to see what a movement looks like, search #FlipgridFever on Twitter, or walk into any classroom that’s using Flipgrid. The enthusiasm radiating from Flipgrid’s community is a reflection of how the product began – in the classroom.

Back in 2015, Dr. Charlie Miller, Jim Leslie and Phil Soran came together to envision a world where educators could recast the role of video in the classroom, from a passive experience to a tool that empowers and amplifies every student’s voice. Flipgrid does just that, now supporting more than 20 million Pre-K to PhD educators, students and families across 180 countries. But the success isn’t simply in the numbers, it’s in how students tap into Flipgrid to define their voices, share their voices and respect the diverse voices of others.

This is just the beginning of Flipgrid’s inspiring story. Today, I’m thrilled to announce the Flipgrid team will be joining Microsoft and embarking on its next exciting chapter. To bring the power of video-based social learning to everyone, we’ll be making Flipgrid free for all educators and offering prorated refunds to everyone who has purchased a subscription from Flipgrid in the last year.

Plus: I’m not the only one who is excited.

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Just as we’ve seen with products like Teams, social interaction in learning can help deepen students’ understanding of curricula and help build their collaborative, social and emotional skills. The recent Class of 2030 research illustrates how social and emotional skills will be required in 30 to 40 percent of the fastest-growing occupations. With social learning, students are not only more employable, but they are more likely to become responsible, confident digital citizens.

Teachers, like Lucretia Anton (@lantonha) from the Arcadia Unified School District in California, are saying Flipgrid helps their students develop their communication skills, increase self-awareness and grow from failure, setting them up to contribute positively to the world.

Fans of Flipgrid can rest assured the Flipgrid they know and love, in joining Microsoft, will continue to grow and thrive across the Microsoft, Google and partner ecosystems, all while retaining its distinct brand, culture and team. Furthermore, Flipgrid will continue to be a safe, secure place for students and teachers to communicate in alignment with Microsoft’s GDPR, FERPA and COPPA compliant privacy architecture.

‘Fans of Flipgrid can rest assured the Flipgrid they know and love, in joining Microsoft, will continue to grow and thrive across the Microsoft, Google and partner ecosystems, all while retaining its distinct brand, culture and team.’ #FlipgridFever Click To Tweet

If you’re eager to learn more, new Flipgrid updates will be livestreamed from Minneapolis on August 1 at Flipgrid’s annual educator conference, #FlipgridLIVE. You can learn more about refunds for Flipgrid classroom by visiting blog.Flipgrid.com/refund.

So, yeah – we caught #FlipgridFever!

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GeekWire: ‘Inside the private event where Microsoft, Google, Salesforce and other rivals share security secrets’

Speaking this week on the Microsoft campus, L-R: Erik Bloch, Salesforce security products and program management director; Alex Maestretti, engineering manager on the Netflix Security Intelligence and Response Team; David Seidman, Google security engineering manager; and Chang Kawaguchi, director for Microsoft Office 365 security. (GeekWire Photos / Todd Bishop)

REDMOND, Wash. — At first glance, the gathering inside Building 99 at Microsoft this week looked like many others inside the company, as technical experts shared hard-earned lessons for using machine learning to defend against hackers.

Ram Shankar Siva Kumar, Microsoft security data wrangler, spearheaded the event.

It looked normal, that is, until you spotted the person in the blue Google shirt addressing the group, next to speakers from Salesforce, Netflix and Microsoft, at a day-long event that included representatives of Facebook, Amazon and other big cloud providers and services that would normally treat technical insights as closely guarded secrets.

As the afternoon session ended, the organizer from Microsoft, security data wrangler Ram Shankar Siva Kumar, complimented panelist Erik Bloch, the Salesforce security products and program management director, for “really channeling the Ohana spirit,” referencing the Hawaiian word for “family,” which Salesforce uses to describe its internal culture of looking out for one another.

It was almost enough to make a person forget the bitter rivalry between Microsoft and Salesforce.

Siva Kumar then gave attendees advice on finding the location of the closing reception. “You can Bing it, Google it, whatever it is,” he said, as the audience laughed at the rare concession to Microsoft’s longtime competitor.

It was no ordinary gathering at Microsoft, but then again, it’s no ordinary time in tech. The Security Data Science Colloquium brought the competitors together to focus on one of the biggest challenges and opportunities in the industry.

Machine learning, one of the key ingredients of artificial intelligence, is giving the companies new superpowers to identify and guard against malicious attacks on their increasingly cloud-oriented products and services. The problem is that hackers are using many of the same techniques to take those attacks to a new level.

Dawn Song, UC Berkeley computer science and engineering professor.

“The challenge is that security is a very asymmetric game,” said Dawn Song, a UC Berkeley computer science and engineering professor who attended the event. “Defenders have to defend across the board, and attackers only need to find one hole. So in general, it’s easier for attackers to leverage these new techniques.”

That helps to explain why the competitors are teaming up.

“At this point in the development of this technology it’s really critical for us to move at speed to all collaborate,” explained Mark Russinovich, the Microsoft Azure chief technology officer. “A customer of Google is also likely a customer of Microsoft, and it does nobody any good or gives anybody a competitive disadvantage to keep somebody else’s customer, which could be our own customer, insecure. This is for the betterment of everybody, the whole community.”

[Editor’s Note: Russinovich is a keynoter at the GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit, June 27 in Bellevue, Wash.]

This spirit of collaboration is naturally more common in the security community than in the business world, but the colloquium at Microsoft has taken it to another level. GeekWire is the first media organization to go inside the event, although some presentations weren’t opened up to us, due in part to the sensitive nature of some of the information the companies shared.

The event, in its second year, grew out of informal gatherings between Microsoft and Google, which resulted in part from connections Siva Kumar made on long-distance runs with Google’s tech security experts. After getting approval from his manager, he brought one of the Google engineers to Microsoft two years ago to compare notes with his team.

The closing reception for the Security Data Science Colloquium at Microsoft this week. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

Things have snowballed from there. After the first event, last year, Siva Kumar posted about the colloquium, describing it as a gathering of “security data scientists without borders.” As the word got out, additional companies asked to be involved, and Microsoft says this year’s event was attended by representatives of 17 different tech companies in addition to university researchers.

The event reflects a change in Microsoft’s culture under CEO Satya Nadella, as well as a shift in the overall industry’s approach. Of course, the companies are still business rivals that compete on the basis of beating each other’s products. But in years or decades past, many treated security as a competitive advantage, as well. That’s what has changed.

“This is not a competing thing. This is not about us trying to one up each other,” Siva Kumar said. “It just feels like, year over year, our problems are just becoming more and more similar.”

Siamac Mirzaie of Netflix presents at the event. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

In one afternoon session this week, representatives from Netflix, one of Amazon Web Services’ marquee customers, gave detailed briefings on the streaming service’s internal machine learning tools, including its “Trainman” system for detecting and reporting unusual user activity.

Developing and improving the system has been a “humbling journey,” said Siamac Mirzaie from the Netflix Science & Analytics Team, before doing a deep dive on the technical aspects of Trainman.

Depending on the situation, he said, Netflix uses either Python, Apache Spark or Flink to bring the data into its system and append the necessary attributes to the data. It then uses simple rules, statistical models and machine learning models to detect anomalies using Flink or Spark, followed by a post-processing layer that uses a combination of Spark and Node.js. That’s followed by a program for visualizing the anomalies in a timeline that people inside the company can use to drill down into and understand specific events.

“The idea is to refine the various data anomalies that we’ve generated in the previous stage into anomalies that our application owner or security analyst can actually relate to,” Mirzaie said.

The stakes are high given the $8 billion that Netflix is expected to spend on content this year.

But the stakes might be even higher for Facebook. The social network, which has been in the international spotlight over misuse of its platform by outside companies and groups, says it uses a combination of automated and manual systems to identify fraudulent and suspicious activity.

Facebook, which held a similar event of its own in April, was among the companies that presented during the gathering at Microsoft this week. Facebook recently announced that it used new machine learning practices to detect more than 500,000 accounts tied to financial scams.

Mark Russinovich, Microsoft Azure CTO, in his conference room on the company’s Redmond campus this week. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

During his keynote, Microsoft’s Russinovich talked in detail about Windows PowerShell, the command-line program that is a popular tool for attackers in part because it’s built into the system. Microsoft’s Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection is designed to detect suspicious command lines, and Microsoft was previously using a traditional model that was trained to recognize potentially malicious sequences of characters.

“That only got us so far,” Russinovich said in an interview.

After brainstorming ways to solve the problem, the company’s security defense researchers figured out how to apply deep neural networks, more commonly used in vision-based object detection, for use in PowerShell malicious script detection, as well. They essentially came up with a way to encode command lines to make them look like images to the machine learning model, Russinovich explained. The result surpassed the traditional technique “by a significant amount,” he said.

At the closing panel discussion, David Seidman, Google security engineering manager, summed up the stated philosophy of the event. “We are not trying to compete on the basis of our corporate security,” he said. “Google is not trying to get ahead of Microsoft in the cloud because Microsoft got compromised. That’s the last thing we want to see.”

“We are fighting common enemies,” Seidman added. “The same attackers are coming after all of us, and an incident at one company is going to affect that customer’s trust in all the cloud companies they do business with. So we have very much aligned interests here.”

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Director of Quantum Computing Julie Love: Microsoft making progress on quantum computer ‘every day’

Microsoft is “all-in” on building a quantum computer and is making advancements “every day”, according to one of the company’s top experts on the technology.

Julie Love (above), Director of Quantum Computing, called the firm’s push to build the next generation of computer technology “one of the biggest disruptive bets we have made as a company”.

Quantum computing has the potential to help humans tackle some of the world’s biggest problems in areas such as materials science, chemistry, genetics, medicine and the environment. It uses the physics of qubits to create a way of computing that can work on specific kinds of problems that are impossible with today’s computers. In theory, a problem that would take today’s machines billions of years to solve could be completed by a quantum computer in minutes, hours or days.



While Microsoft has noted that no one has yet built a working quantum computer, Love said the company has the right team in place to make progress and eventually create a system and software that can tackle real-world issues. Over the past decade, Microsoft has built a team comprised of some of the greatest minds in quantum physics, mathematics, computer science and engineering. It is also working with some of the leading experts in universities across the world.

“Quantum computers could solve a set of problems that are completely intractable to humans at this time, and it could do so in 100 seconds,” she said during a speech at London Tech Week. “Microsoft’s enterprise customers are interested in changing their businesses using this technology, and we have set our sights beyond the hype cycle. We have a good understanding of what’s needed.

“Microsoft is working on the only scalable solution, one that will run seamlessly on the Azure cloud, and be much more immune to errors. The truth is that not all qubits are equal; most are inherently unstable and susceptible to error-creating noise from the environment. Our approach uses topological qubits specifically for their higher accuracy, lower cost and ability to perform long enough to solve complex real-world problems.”

Microsoft is the only major company attempting to build topological qubits, which aims to significantly reduce any interference at a subatomic level that might affect the machine. With this approach, the computational qubits will be “corrected” by the other qubits.



“When we run systems, there are trade-offs in power, because they have to be very cold. However, we get higher compute capabilities,” said Love, who started studying quantum computing in the late-1990s.

Last year, Microsoft released a Quantum Development Kit, which includes its Q# programming language for people who want to start writing applications for a quantum computer. These can be tested in Microsoft’s online simulator. Q# is designed for developers who are keen to learn how to program on these machines whether or not they are experts in the field of quantum physics.

“We have released the Quantum Development Kit so developers can learn to program a quantum computer and join us on this journey,” Love added.

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Profiles in Pride: Michelle Chen’s journey to live more freely in her own skin

Surrounded for the first time by a supportive culture and a community of LGBTQ+ friends, this software engineer is unlocking the key to self-acceptance

By Candace Whitney-Morris

Michelle Chen knew she was gay long before she came out. Growing up, she found it hard enough to admit to herself, let alone to say it out loud for others.

In high school, people would tease her with questions like, “Are you sure you’re straight?” Ever since grade school when she had to defend her choice to wear “boy’s” clothes and keep her hair short, she had to be quick on her toes, ready with reassurances. She’d reply, “Oh yeah, I’m straight! I have a crush on so-and-so. Don’t worry.”

Chen wasn’t ready to come out in high school, and the small town she grew up in wasn’t ready for her to come out, either. Neither were her traditional, Chinese parents.

“Any sexuality that isn’t straight is not accepted at all,” Chen explained of her family’s beliefs. “You have to conform to what everyone else looks like. You have to find a husband, have kids. That’s just your purpose.

“Even my parents believed that female children were lesser than male children. Navigating that space was really difficult for me growing up, because not only were they like, ‘Oh you have to have kids,’ but they were like, ‘You have to marry a Chinese man.’”

Chen decided to take her time before telling them that she was gay; she’d move away and get a job first.

In the meantime, the hiding was taking its toll: deep down Chen grew full of self-loathing, hating that she couldn’t conform to people’s expectations and suspicious that something was wrong with her.

The first taste of self-acceptance came during college where she met and befriended other lesbians. One summer, she traveled to New York City and experienced her first Pride parade.

“I saw everyone dressed however they wanted to dress; no one felt ashamed of anything,” she said. “I knew right then that I wanted to live my life this way, that I wanted to be as happy as these people.”

A fellow college student encouraged Chen to think about interning at Microsoft and then referred her and helped coach her through the interview process. The same year that Chen decided to come out, she got the internship and headed to Seattle for the summer.

“I was so excited, partly because I knew Seattle was super gay,” she said, laughing. She hoped that meant she could live more out in the open.

“When I came to Microsoft, I felt like I had found my place,” she said. Right away, Chen joined GLEAM, the LGBTQ+ employee resource group at Microsoft that, among other things, provides mentorship to new interns who identify as LGBTQ+.

She interned again the next summer, and now one year later, she works at Microsoft as a software engineer. Although Chen didn’t originally know anyone in Seattle, she quickly made friends through GLEAM and in her neighborhood of Capitol Hill. “Now, almost all my friends are queer, and I see most of them every day.”

“When I came to Microsoft, I felt like I had found my place.”

The same year she started at Microsoft, she decided it was time to come out to her mother. As she dialed the phone, she gave herself a pep talk: “OK, Michelle, now’s the time. You are going to come out.”

Chen’s mom answered with, “I heard you got a septum ring.”

Michelle ChenTaken off guard, Chen said, “What? Who told you that? How do you know these things?”

Her mom responded that she had her sources. “There are people in this town that tell me things.”

Chen was so frustrated that she just blurted out, “Oh, did they tell you I’m gay, too?”

“Wait, what?” her mom said, shocked. It took a minute for the news to sink in.

Chen recalled, laughing, “I mean, it was kind of nice because it took the focus off the septum ring.”

But then her mother said something Chen will never forget: “Oh, no, no, no. You should change. I can’t believe it. This must’ve been something I did wrong.”

Although Chen was not expecting an approving response, “it was still pretty shocking to hear from my own mother,” she said.

It has been a few months since that phone call, and while Chen and her mother maintain contact, she told her mom that she can’t visit her in Seattle until she’s comfortable with her daughter’s sexual orientation.

“It’s not something I can just sweep under the rug anymore,” she said. “I’d rather be happy than hide my true self.”

Chen doesn’t regret waiting to tell her parents, and she hopes to encourage others to take their time.

“I had to get outside of my small town and see that being LGBTQ+ is not a bad thing. It’s not shameful. There’s nothing wrong with dressing the way that you want to dress.

“There’s nothing wrong with who you are.”

Meet more Microsoft employees who are changing hearts and minds and advancing human rights.
https://news.microsoft.com/life/topic/pride/

See how Microsoft is celebrating Pride 2018 and how you can be an ally.
https://www.microsoft.com/pride/

Learn how Microsoft and its LGBTQ+ employees push for change across borders.
https://news.microsoft.com/life/pride/

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Watch the ForzaRC 2018 Series 1 Playoffs live this weekend

This weekend, June 16 – 17, Series 1 of the Forza Racing Championship (ForzaRC) 2018 heads into its final lap with the ForzaRC 2018 Series 1 Playoffs. Broadcast live from Seattle, home of Turn 10 Studios, some of the best drivers from around the world will compete for the title of Series 1 Champion, a $75,000 prize pool and the opportunity to move a step closer to the Forza Racing World Championship 2018 this October.

We’ve got an exciting weekend of racing lined up with competition beginning tomorrow, June 16 at 9 a.m. PDT with the first day of playoffs. Throughout the day, drivers will race their way through the quarterfinals and into the semi-finals, with the field narrowed to just 12 drivers by the end of the day. The playoffs will continue for these drivers on Sunday, June 17 at 11 a.m. PDT as they head into the finals. Tune in all weekend to catch the action live, unlock in-game rewards and influence the day’s races through in-stream voting on our Mixer stream at watch.ForzaRC.com.

In addition to the weekend’s racing competition we’ve got even more excitement lined up for those tuning in:

Celebrating 24 Hours of Le Mans

As many racing fans will know, this week is host to the Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s (ACO), 24 Hours of Le Mans. In celebration, we’ll be putting a spotlight on the famous track during our Series 1 Playoffs. Famed for its raw speed and punishing effects on drivers in the world’s most famous endurance race, Le Mans will prove to be a test for all of the ForzaRC competitors. For those not familiar with the track, we have a special introduction hosted by legendary motorsport broadcaster, ForzaRC guest commentator, and “Voice of Le Mans” John Hindhaugh as well.

Special Guest Panel

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to have a career in esports or to be a professional streamer? How about starting your own streaming or esports career? Tune into our Mixer stream at watch.ForzaRC.com on Sunday, June 17, as special guests Celeste Anderson, Trisha Hershberger, and Steve “SuperGT” Brown join us, live on stage, to speak to these questions and more.

Voting and Rewards

Tune in to the playoffs livestream at watch.forzarc.com and you’ll have the chance to directly impact which cars and tracks are used during the event. Will you choose day or night? Sunshine or rain? The Ford or the Audi? The choice is yours (and the rest of chat) to make!

Anyone tuning in during the livestream at watch.ForzaRC.com will also have the chance to unlock awesome in-game rewards for Forza Motorsport 7. Just log into your account and participate in the in-stream quests to unlock a variety of in-game gear, including the new ForzaRC 2018 Series 1 Playoffs driver suit!

For those tuning in to ForzaRC for the first time and looking to catch up on all the excitement before the playoffs, check out the Series 1 recap on the official ForzaRC YouTube channel.

Participate in ForzaRC 2018

Interested in joining the competition? It’s not too late! Visit ForzaRC.com to register and you’ll be ready to compete when ForzaRC 2018 Series 2 begins on July 9! Not quite ready to compete at the ranked level? No problem, we’ve got activities for drivers of all skill levels in Forza Motorsport 7 with more to come all season long.

Catch every minute of this action-packed event beginning tomorrow, June 16 at 9 a.m. PDT and Sunday, June 17 at 11 a.m. PDT on our Mixer stream at watch.forzarc.com. For more information, head over to ForzaRC.com and follow us on Twitter for the latest news and updates. We hope to see you there!