Microsoft invokes magic of software for young creators

30 Mar 2009

A thriving knowledge economy is not as simple as suggesting to young adults that they consider a career in technology. It is fundamentally down to enabling them to discover “the magic of software”, said Paul Rellis, managing director of Microsoft Ireland.

“I do I think the big challenge is genuinely not about technology being the limiting factor, but about capturing people’s interest. Letting kids know that it’s a fun career,” added Rellis (pictured).

As with the start-up sector in Ireland, Rellis reckons that one big limiting factor is a confidence issue: “Software development can seem very daunting to a second-level student.”

Microsoft’s new DreamSpark

initiative, which was officially launched on Friday 27 March, will be providing free games, robotics and other software development tools for download to both second and third-level students in a bid to get affordable and accessible technology out there.

According to Rellis, the IT cause does not seem to be at the very forefront of the agenda for some schools, and this is where technology companies such as Microsoft can help foster interest.

“It’s an incredibly exciting industry. It has momentum with software as a service, everything going online. There is always something coming, so we’re trying to encourage people to get into the tech sector at a young age,” said Rellis.

And perhaps free software at their fingertips will help schools to actively encourage more girls to get involved in this space.

“I’m not talking about keeping a scorecard; I’m talking about diversity in the software space. The more diversity, the more interesting the developments,” added Rellis.

“Killer applications in the years to come are going to be in digital media, healthcare technology and lifestyle gaming, so getting the minds of female developers into this space is, in my opinion, one of the most important goals.”

This goal, Rellis said, is very achievable: “We’re the first generation where our children are growing up immersed in technology from the beginning; they get it quicker and faster than us.

“They don’t watch TV on an actual TV or even email because they IM (instant message) instead. Ten years from now, we will have kids – males and female – fully versed in the world of technology.”

While Microsoft’s BizSpark programme is about providing tools and funding to budding start-ups, Rellis explained that we need a steady stream of graduates in order to fuel this growth.

“To ensure that we have a ready pipeline of entrepreneurs to join that programme, we also need to look to our students and young people, helping to foster the spirit of innovation from as early an age as possible,” he said.

By Marie Boran

Pictured: Paul Rellis, general manager, Microsoft Ireland