Visit to Microsoft: Inspiring Future Leaders and Innovators
One of the College’s priorities over the coming years is to develop links with the wider community, whether this is through opportunities to observe businesses at work, partnerships with other Suzhou schools or Service and Sustainability projects. With this in mind, we were very grateful for the invitation offered to us to visit the Microsoft Suzhou Campus by Mr Andrew Zhou, Partner manager for Microsoft 365 team, in Suzhou, China, and his team on 20 April.
Upon our arrival, the first thing that strikes you is the engaging nature of the staff and the wide-open foyer space with its atrium extended upward nine floors. A water feature on the wall reinforces a calm sensation and the bright colours of the balconies offer warmth.
As we toured the ground floor automatic doors opened with the wave of a hand – a feature designed to allow easier access for wheelchair users. We passed by large open spaces with tables where staff could congregate, a game room complete with a pool table, a table tennis room and a fully equipped gym. It really showcased a company that values and takes practical steps to ensure the wellbeing of its staff and members.
The Innovation Centre allowed students and other visitors to get an understanding of how Microsoft’s vision was propelling innovation across different areas. The students particularly liked the virtual reality headset which had built-in motion sensors precise enough to use a virtual keyboard to type on.
Following this we heard from three speakers from the company who gave insights into different aspects of the business culture and practice. The first speaker talked about their personal journey through academic education first of all at Tongji University in Shanghai before studying for a master’s at Yale in Connecticut which led her to work for a trading company in Chicago. However, even though she diligently set targets and achieved her goals she was left with a sense of unease in which successes just filled a void. The takeaway from this was that goals can be motivating in the short term but need to be part of a broader values-based framework if they are going to be longer-term motivators.
The second speaker focused on how Artificial Intelligence was being incorporated into the coming generation of Microsoft products. Starting with the reasons for thriving towards inclusion, diversity and productivity before looking at what that would look like and how they can be achieved.
Finally, Mr Zhou spoke about the company’s mission and how this guided practice. One key point from this was inclusion and diversity and how these should not be seen as constraints but as opportunities to drive innovation and progress – and indeed how Microsoft was using technology to achieve this.
Here is a quote from one of our Year 10 students, Yun-Yang Y:
“Regarding the Microsoft trip, it was indeed a wonderful opportunity for me and I also learned a lot from this experience. I had the chance to experience the cutting-edge technology products of Microsoft, witness the changes that AI brings, and have an understanding of the personal journey of Microsoft employees. All my expectations came true. I sincerely think it was the best trip I have ever had!”
Thank you, Microsoft!
For our students visits like this allow them to see how the things they are learning in school has practical applications in the workplace and to go beyond the curriculum.
It was a very enjoyable visit which we hope will be the start of further collaboration. Thank you to all at Microsoft.
Thanks to Mr Andrew Sheen, Head of Year 11, Teacher of Physics, International Award and Dulwich Challenge Leader, for his contribution to leading the tour and writing this article.