‘Ask Me Anything’ with Microsoft’s Jessica Tan and Rich Sauer

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We have lots of questions!
Video conference in progress at Microsoft Singapore with Citizenship Lead, Claire Deevy. All photos are taken from Citizenship Microsoft Asia Pacific.
Hello, Malaysia!
Hello, Malaysia!

It is not every day that one gets to meet the movers and shakers of the tech industry, but these enterprising students got their chance for a casual chat with Microsoft’s Managing Director for Microsoft Singapore, Jessica Tan, and Microsoft Corporation’s Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Legal & Corporate Affairs, Rich Sauer, at a one-of-a-kind dialogue session.

The “Ask Me Anything” dialogue session, held on 27th August 2013, is part of Microsoft’s YouthSpark program, and saw two senior executives, Ms Jessica Tan and Mr. Rich Sauer, share their work experience and answer questions posed by the participants, either in person or via Skype video conferencing in an approximately two-hour-long session. The 51 participants came from Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. They represent youths involved in other YouthSpark programmes such as Imagine Cup, Innovate4Good, Microsoft Student Partners, WOWZAPP (a Microsoft worldwide hackathon for Windows), or have been interning, or previously interned at Microsoft Corporation.

YouthSpark represents Microsoft’s continued efforts to provide platforms and tools for students to get more involved in the development and application of technology in their communities.

We spoke with several of the students at the Singapore live conference, where these lucky individuals met Ms Tan and Mr. Sauer in person.


We are from the Philippines!
We are from the Philippines!

Zane Chua, 3rd Year Diploma of Information Technology student at Singapore Polytechnic

Zane has been involved in a variety of Microsoft activities for the past three years, from Innovate4Good, to the more consumer-focused UCrew Ambassador Program. He is now the Student Partners Campus Lead at Singapore Polytechnic.

The Ridge (TR): What is the most beneficial thing about being involved in any YouthSpark program?

Zane (Z): I believe that for all the different student programmes that I am in, the most beneficial thing about all of them is the social connections you make as you get more involved.

Technology in itself has always been interesting to me and the effort it takes to keep up with the industry keeps it fresh. Microsoft Student Partners has enabled me to learn more about the technical side of the technology world whereas the UCrew Ambassador Programme allowed me to see it from a consumer and marketing perspective. Microsoft Innovate4Good has opened my eyes on how we can use technology to empower people in less developed nations, and Microsoft ImagineCup puts us in such a situation where we have to think about the next upcoming Innovation to build on the technological progress that our predecessors have already contributed.

I honestly believe that all of these programmes are possibly the best combination you can ever hope to have as they have had a significant impact on my character and social network. Networking in these programmes are possibly easier for students our age as it puts us together with like-minded individuals and that helps us connect faster and more easily.

TR: How did you find the question-and-answer session with Jessica and Rich?

Z: I personally feel that the question and answer session with Jessica and Rich was a nurturing experience for both the students in Singapore, overseas over Skype, and of course myself. It really gave us the chance to speak with people who are in a unique position and this really allows us to get a feel of what their thoughts are, in the hopes that the future generation will be able to live up to, or surpass their standards. I think everyone mostly enjoyed the responses given by both Jessica and Rich as they shared willingly about the experiences they faced throughout their lives, experiences we can all learn from or relate to. All in all, I had a wonderful time with both Jessica and Rich during the YouthSpark session and I would definitely be back for seconds if there was such an opportunity.

The video conferencing team from Vietnam
The video conferencing team from Vietnam

Jason Chee, 1st Year Diploma of Information Technology student at Singapore Polytechnic

Jason prefers to go by his online moniker, “ReignOfComputer”, is definitely a die-hard Microsoft fan, and likes (weird?) stuff like My Little Pony and Pokemon.

TR: What is the most beneficial thing about being involved in any YouthSpark program?

ReignOfComputer (ROC): I’m in the Microsoft Student Partners program and feel that this program is a definite life changer. The plethora of networking opportunities with like-minded individuals is extremely beneficial to me. It has provided me with the chance to speak with and learn from very bright people with loads of amazing ideas. Being a fan of Microsoft, it is exhilarating to connect and hear from the people behind the scenes and discover more about Microsoft, its inner workings and products. We are constantly updated on the latest in Microsoft technology, and sometimes on technology in general simply by conversing with fellow “techies” in the program.

In the Microsoft Student Partner program, we are encouraged to participate in competitions or rather, hackathons, and it does open us up to many exciting challenges and ideas. With many hackathons held at Microsoft each year, including prominent ones like Isobar Create, we are exposed to other technologies outside of Microsoft such as Samsung’s hardware and NFC technology. Above all, the friends and acquaintances made at such events tend to come in handy as the connections one has has the ability to shape his or her career path.

TR: How did you find the question-and-answer session with Jessica and Rich?

ROC: The question-and-answer session with Jessica Tan and Rich Sauer at YouthSpark was really enlightening and provided excellent insight as to how one can succeed in the tech-business or even in any kind of business. I found their advice in recovering from failure, creating work-life balance, and upholding moral values to be very valuable and applicable to myself now and the foreseeable future. The idea for such a teleconference between the countries is really brilliant and the questions asked by youths from the different nations felt really relevant to myself.

I only wish, and I’m sure others would echo my sentiments, that the session was longer so that more questions could be asked!


Group shot at Microsoft’s Singapore office

If you feel left out of these exciting opportunities because of a lack of programming background, why not pick it up as part of your university education? As an NUS student, did you know that you can register for a Microsoft DreamSpark account and get a tidy list of Microsoft development products for free? Of note are Visual Studio, a premiere integrated software development environment that usually markets for an estimated 500USD, and SmallBasic, a program meant to make computer programming accessible to beginners.

Also feel free to approach our very own Microsoft Student Partner (MSP), Kong Wen Bin (kong.bin@studentpartner.com) if you are interested in joining the MSP programme in NUS.

Finally, if you get the itch to code with a bunch of other like-minded individuals, NUS Hackers and the NUS Student Chapter of the ACM do hold regular hackathons per semester, usually hosted at the School of Computing. Do keep a look out on IVLE/email/poster for publicity!