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Microsoft DreamSpark: interview with Paul Lo
Posted on 26-Feb-2008 11:46 by Chakkaradeep | Filed under: Articles

Microsoft DreamSpark: interview with Paul Lo
With the announcement of DreamSpark, sudents are keen to know what it is and how to go about it. Chakkaradeep, one of the Microsoft Student Partners (New Zealand) discusses with Paul Lo from the Developer & Platform Strategy Group, Microsoft New Zealand, about the DreamSpark initiative.

Hi Paul, nice to meet you. Tell us about yourself and what you do at Microsoft New Zealand

I’ve been at Microsoft New Zealand for almost 4 years and my main objective has been to help New Zealand IT students connect with the industry and better understand Microsoft’s development technologies and platform with a number of training programmes and initiatives across the country.

What is DreamSpark?

Daily use of technology among today’s students is running at an all-time high. Yesterday’s “user” is today’s “creator.” Students create their own digital content, social networking pages and even applications as a normal part of their day. But for aspiring technologists that want to turn their passion for technology into a career, it can be a challenge to lay their hands on the latest professional-grade software development and designer tools.

With a growing IT skills shortage in the workforce, the need for qualified developers and technologists is greater than ever, but without experience using the tools and technologies found in business today, it can be challenging for students to break into the workforce.

Microsoft DreamSpark is a community-based program to provide students with free access to Microsoft’s industry-leading software development, gaming and design tools. We call it DreamSpark because every great technology breakthrough starts life as someone’s dream or idea.

How do you think this can help the Student Community in New Zealand?

We believe students can do amazing things with technology if given access to the right tools. This is a way to make sure that they have what they need to test the boundaries of what today’s technology can do and also prepare for a great career at the same time. The added benefit to industry is that we’re addressing one of the toughest challenges confronting employers today: attracting and developing qualified IT professionals. We’re trying to help close this gap by giving students the opportunity to get the tools they’ll need after they graduate and jump-start their careers to land that first job.

We hand-picked the products that make up DreamSpark with the current and future development of the IT industry in mind; so by design, the offering straddles three of the industry’s highest growth segments: development, design and gaming.

For starters, we’re helping students take their programming skills to the next level with Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition, the industry-leading development tool that gives them the ability to accomplish straightforward tasks like creating plug-ins for FaceBook or MySpace or gadgets for Windows Vista, to sophisticated projects like building a fully-featured website or coding entirely new applications from scratch.

At the same time, design is a real driving force in the industry as user experience becomes such a key factor in deciding what technology should be used on any given project. The Expression Studio suite helps students bring their creative visions to life with new design concepts and more impactful digital content.

One of the most exciting industries that make great uses of both development and design skills is gaming. There’s an intense sense of excitement that comes with creating cool new stuff and, reflecting gaming’s growing public profile; students will be able to flex their creativity and dream up new games for Xbox and the PC with the XNA Game Studio 2.0 and a 12-month academic membership to the XNA Creators Club.

Is this available immediately to New Zealand Students?

Not yet! We are aiming to provide the majority of the tertiary institutions access to this programme before the end of this year. We will be working with tertiary institutions around the country so stay tuned!

Which New Zealand Universities are eligible for DreamSpark?

All New Zealand universities and technical institutes will be eligible for Dreamspark. We’re also working to eventually provide access to secondary students in the near future.

Do only Computer Science and Information Science students are eligible for DreamSpark?

All tertiary students are eligible for Dreamspark, though those studying science, technology, engineering and math disciplines (STEM-D) are expected to be the first to jump on it.

What should New Zealand Students do in order to get their free software via DreamSpark and how will they be notified?

Watch this space! We are working towards a seamless process to enable student validation to access the software for New Zealand tertiary students. There may be a number of different options depending on your tertiary institute and region so we will work with your tertiary institute to let you know how you can access the software.

How different is DreamSpark from MSDN Academic Alliance?

MSDN Academic Alliance is an important program where Microsoft works with universities to put Microsoft software in the hands of students registered in a science, technology, math and/or engineering programme. It is a paid membership program for university departments that enables them to issue software to their students. DreamSpark will allow all university students to quickly download select developer and designer software directly from Microsoft, versus going through their university departments.

What do you think is the reason for Microsoft to announce DreamSpark?

Making sure there is a strong pipeline of technically skilled students is key to the future of our economy. The ability to create new software and services will be an essential part of the skill set of the next generation of workers. Technology is one of the chief drivers pushing economic development and job creation. As well as giving students important exposure to the tools they can expect to use in the workplace, DreamSpark is about putting professional-level tools in the hands of students to amplify the impact of their studies and fire up their imaginations about the power of technology.

Last but not the least, how do you find the Microsoft New Zealand Student Partners team?

Microsoft Student Partners are a great fantastic group of individuals that go out and help their fellow students better understand technology and connect with the industry! Student Partners – keep up the great work you’re doing!

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