Project Managing Hour-of-Code across MS UK

Oliviero Iurcovich

Role – Public Sector Marketing Intern

University: Surrey University – International Business BSc


Oliviero

Hi everyone!

I am a Public Sector Marketing intern. This means that on a daily basis, I manage and organise different marketing activities across the Education, Health, National Security and Government sectors. It is an industry-based rather than product-based marketing.

As part of my job I had the chance of project managing a large internal event: the Microsoft UK Hour of Code (HoC). HoC is an initiative organised by code.org, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting Computer Science Education.

What is the Hour of Code?

The initiative asks schools, teachers and parents across the world to help introduce students of all ages to computer programming during Computer Science Education (CSE) week, December 8-14.

With young people today facing unparalleled levels of unemployment, supplying them with the right level of digital training can open doors to interesting and exciting careers!

Microsoft is sponsoring the initiative to emphasise its pivotal role in the Education market, and has a dedicated Hour of Code global page to allow employees to participate supporting this cause.

My role in the initiative

We took this opportunity to encourage the whole community of Microsoft UK employees to participate all together on the 8th of December. The role of project manager for this task was assigned to me.

I basically had to get as many people as possible to take an hour of their precious time to do some basic coding tutorial on the internet. Not quite easy, right?

How we got people on board

It was decided to dedicate a room in each office in the UK (we managed to involve 8 out of 11 offices) on the 8th of December to allow employees to drop in at the time most convenient for them, to do the HoC with the rest of the UK subsidiary. This was achieved by setting up a video call in each room.

A competition was introduced to incentivise people to participate. Employees were challenged to upload a “selfie” of them doing the HoC on Yammer, an internal Facebook for collaborating, communicating and minding other people’s business (literally!). By using the hashtag #msukhourofcode people could enter the competition. The most creative picture won a Lumia 735 phone.Oliviero HOC1

The first step was to find the right stakeholders in each location to lead from a logistic and communication point of view the event. Using both mine and my mentors’ network, we found a potential lead in almost every office.

Some were easy to identify and convince, both because in a senior position (being able to take internal decisions and to involve large number of people to do a task) and already passionate about education. Some others needed a bit more of time to convince.

Explaining the bigger picture and scope of your need turned out to be a powerful technique to persuade individuals to get them involved. Likeability and reputation also had an impact on this outcome. Interns were more likely to help knowing that I am a reliable person, who is active in interesting projects. This is an acquired asset that I will keep all along my career.

Oliviero HOC2

Challenges

We started working on this project less than a month before the CSE week (CSE). At the same time, we all had to keep delivering our day to day roles. Time was a big restriction. To overcome this, I had to write down weekly detailed plans, giving ownership of the tasks to do to different individuals and delegating the workload. As the nature of the project and the people involved changed throughout time, it was necessary to keep high level of communication with all the stakeholders.

Often it was necessary to differentiate the call to action in the emails: when reaching out to senior managers, I had to keep information less logistical/operational and focus more on the overall impact of the actions that had to be done. Differentiating wording and messaging for different stakeholders is important to keep operations efficient. Senior managers are not interested in the operational details (once they trust your abilities) and have time only to read about the impact and final outcome of the these in order to take decisions.

Lastly, a challenge that I had to deal all along the project, was to cover a project manager role being an intern.
In the end the day was a blast! We had many employees bringing their kids to work to the Hour of Code together with us. Different offices got in touch with their local schools to invite a class in for the day and everyone had great fun! Some other during the week went to their kids’ school and delivered an Hour of Code there

What I have learnt

If I could have done things differently, I would have spent more time to give more clear guidance to each stakeholder. Being the first time we as a company organised this event trying to involve the whole subsidiary and being my first managerial experience, this was not delivered at its best.

More time would have helped as well. Some feedback received from the leads, was that with more time to plan and promote, a bigger involvement from the employees community could have happened.

Was the Hour of Code successful?

Given that 1039 Microsoft UK employees managed to get involved in such a short period of time, the initiative was a fantasticachievement; and the result of great communication and team work from everyone who was involved!

Over4.38M people in the UKhave completed an Hour of Code – this equates to roughly 900,000 additional people and 1,183 Hour of Code events took place in UK schools happened during Computer Science Education week. We were the company that distinguished itself the most among others (BBC, Barclays etc..) in a real joint effort conducted in the spirit of One Microsoft!

Oliviero HOC3

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