Microsoft Leaders Laud UTEP at Centennial Lecture Speech
Last Updated on October 16, 2019 at 12:00 AM
Originally published October 16, 2019
By UC Staff
Microsoft President Brad Smith said that when he envisions a prototypical student from The University of Texas at El Paso, he imagines a person who is multiskilled, multitalented and very adaptable.
“Students who attend UTEP are from the area, so by definition, many of these students come from a bilingual, binational and bicultural background,” Smith said during his Oct. 14, 2019, Centennial Lecture in the University’s Undergraduate Learning Center. “That is a tremendous strength. We need employees who can navigate the world. We need employees who can work with other people who are different from themselves. People who have experienced this kind of cultural and linguistic differences growing up have a valuable strength (compared to) somebody like me who grew up in northeastern Wisconsin.”
Smith, who previously delivered a Centennial Lecture on March 19, 2018, told the audience that he is more impressed today with the numbers of UTEP students enrolled in computer science as well as their abilities and their accomplishments.
“At Microsoft, we discovered over the last few years just how talented the student body at UTEP is,” he said. “Our recruiting here has exploded. It used to be a handful of students, but this year we hired 28 UTEP student interns and full-time employees.”
Smith gave the speech along with El Paso native Carol Ann Browne, senior director of communications and external relations at Microsoft. Both authored the new book, “Tools and Weapons: The Promise and Peril of the Digital Age.”
“It’s always wonderful to come home,” Browne said. “I’m so glad people are excited and interested in the book. It was written for the tech community, but also for kids who are interested in getting into computer science to understand the issues and understand how we need to make changes with our government, with our tech sector and regulators to create a better world.”
Browne said she also was impressed with UTEP and its computer science and engineering students.
“I’m seeing more and more interns from UTEP coming to Microsoft,” she said. “But the key is to create jobs here so they can stay here and work in the area. I’m hoping that the TechSpark program can help create 21st century jobs where people like me can stay and work in the area.”
TechSpark is a Microsoft civic program designed to promote digital skills, increase access to broadband, and help locals thrive. Microsoft recently announced that it would invest $1.5 million in the Bridge Accelerator program in Juárez, Mexico, to help promote growth among expanding manufacturing companies in both countries.
Paulina Ibave, a senior mechanical engineering major, worked as an intern at Microsoft this summer in the Xbox hardware division.
“It was an amazing experience,” Ibave said. “It was something to get used to because of the ‘imposter syndrome,’ where you see all these talented people coming from universities like MIT and (the University of California) Berkeley and you are amongst them. In the beginning it was kind of tough getting that confidence and realizing that I am equal to these people and we all got here through the same process. It was definitely a confidence booster.”
Indeed it was. She not only belonged – she thrived – at the Microsoft corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
She will have a job there as a design verification engineer waiting for her upon graduation in May 2021.
“The Xbox group was male dominant but I was treated like everybody else,” she said. “I was one of the few mechanical engineering interns. They put a lot of trust in their interns and they treat you just like an employee. They aren’t going to guide you or hold your hand, they are going to tell you what you need to deliver.”
Smith said he enjoys his UTEP visits because the students are so passionate.
“The enthusiasm is contagious,” he said. “I’ve come to appreciate, over time, how wonderful it is to take a talented student from UTEP and make them one of our employees.”
Smith said this generation of college students is going to determine how the world will use technology.
“It is important to think about both the pros and cons of digital technology,” he said. “You’re a generation that is rightly to be considered digital natives. You have grown up with technology since your earliest years. Your lives are going to be spent in the balance of this century; you are going to be the generation, perhaps more than any generation, that defines what the 21st century becomes and how it will be remembered.”