Microsoft’s mythbuster tech camp for teens

22 Aug 2008

With Xbox gaming sessions, demonstrations of cool new technologies and classes in movie-making, Microsoft’s DigiTeenz event held at its Leopardstown campus on 8 October will dispel myths of mundane or maths-heavy careers in technology, which may be part of the reason why the number of students enrolling in IT courses in Ireland is dropping each year.

“The perception held by a lot of young people is that a career in technology means a career as a programmer,” said Microsoft employee and DigiTeenz organiser, Sarah Stafford.

“We intend to dispel this myth by introducing them to all kinds of interesting people in all areas of the industry and also showing them the cool technology they could be working with.

“We also hope to show their teachers (who will attend all the sessions) the types of cool technology they could be teaching in schools and how easy it is to use.”

Interestingly, DigiTeenz originated in the US as DigiGirlz, an all-girls event aimed at promoting IT careers amongst young women, but Stafford said it was decided to change the format because the decline in interest in IT was not a gender specific problem.

Across the board for male and female students the uptake in IT courses has dropped by a staggering 30pc between 2005 and 2007, so it was decided to have a 50/50 attendance at the DigiTeenz event and introduce the students to both men and women with successful and fulfilling careers in technology.

“This is a worrying trend and is causing concern not for only Microsoft but all technology companies in Ireland and throughout the western world, where uptake on technology courses is steadily declining.

“There may be any number of reasons for this, but we’re hopeful DigiTeenz will help play a part in reversing this trend by educating and inspiring teenagers, while breaking down the stereotypes typically associated with careers in technology.”

This one-day event is free to attend and will give the students a chance to get to grips with some of Microsoft’s new technologies, including Popfly and Silverlight, as well as treat them to an Xbox gaming competition, along with talks on games developments and even film-editing skills.

An important aspect of this day event is that there will be a 1:4 Microsoft staff to student ratio, so all attendees will get a chance to chat with their mentors and ask questions.

When it comes to choosing a career, most students are not sure what their course will lead to and may be afraid to commit to IT because of a restricted career path, but according to Stafford, this is not the case.

“Like a lot of students finishing second level, I was completely confused about the next step I should take. All I was certain of was that I had a passion for technology.”

After graduating from computer applications at DCU, Stafford started on the graduate programme at Microsoft: “This suited perfectly as they were able to place me into a role that combined the two.

“One of the major advantages to working in a large IT company is the opportunity to move along different career paths as your interests change.”

By Marie Boran