Originally published on aulonimagazine.com, where I am a Staff Writer and Editor
The Microsoft Reactor in Philadelphia hosted a meet and greet May 24, 2017 at the University City Science Centre. The event featured Microsoft Technical Evangelists and Most Valuable Professionals, known as “MVPs,” who talked to visitors about the role Microsoft and Microsoft Reactor can play in small business and the greater Philadelphia community.
One of only three sites throughout the country, the Microsoft Reactor on Market Street is a free community space open Monday through Friday to anyone from students to start-ups. The space features a private meeting room, phone booths, a speaking area and a virtual reality cafe where visitors can try Microsoft’s mixed reality HoloLens. There is also a variety of hardware on-site, such as Surface Pros, an Xbox, a 3D printer, and iPhone and Android smart phones available for anyone to come in and use.
But the main attraction was not Microsoft’s HoloLens, but as Microsoft’s Director of Modern Government Jeffrey Friedman said, how Microsoft Reactor could educate “our community on how to make the impossible possible using technology” in order to tell “the story…of the Philadelphia tech scene as a whole.”
Philadelphia is experiencing a technology drain, where individuals learn technological skills such as coding and or major in computer science and take that expertise to Silicon Valley and the west coast instead of staying in Philadelphia. To that end, Microsoft MVPs as well as Technical Evangelists took the stage to present Microsoft’s capability to aid the Philadelphia community and field questions.
The MVP title is awarded to individuals who actively work to share their technological expertise with others. With over twenty years of experience, Mahesh Chand has received the award a dozen times. He told the audience his job is to “listen to start-ups and be the ears to Microsoft.” Robert Keiser, another MVP, helps run the Philly.Net user group in Malvern, PA, which holds monthly meetups and hands-on labs for Microsoft technologies.
Amanda Lange and Dave Voyles serve as the Technical Evangelists — someone who promotes a particular product or technology and succeeds in building a large support base, ultimately establishing it as a technical standard in a market. As part of their role, they have monthly office hours where members of the community are free to drop in for technological help. Lange’s interest lies in the world of gaming, developing the HoloLens and apps which aid in health and science.
Voyles’ evolution represents how Microsoft Reactor aims to contribute to the community. He started as a construction worker, attending free networking and teaching events at Microsoft Reactor on the side. The events sparked his interest and he turned his passion into a career, becoming a Technical Evangelist with a background in web development, assisting startups, and high performance mobile applications.
Microsoft Reactor is searching for individuals with technological ideas it can help make a reality. Microsoft is interested in aiding entrepreneurs and innovators from the beginning, working alongside from product conception to investment.
For business owners who already have an established company and are interested in integrating technology, Voyles said he and other Tech Evangelists work on a case-by-case basis. They are best used as technical supports, helping businesses with analytics and Microsoft systems such as the Cloud. Tobias Wright is Philadelphia’s Tech Evangelist for start-ups, assisting businesses in using Microsoft’s platform and connecting a start-up to the larger Microsoft start-up community.