Partners constantly inspire us with their innovative ideas and commitment to their clients and communities. In our latest episode of the Partner Philanthropy Spotlight series, we look at United Kingdom-based company GCI and their Kids in Technology program. GCI is an industry-leading IT services company with offices across the UK and a strong history of supporting women in tech. They focus on empowering women and children through greater access to technology - an amazing example of the impact partners can have in their local communities.

Creating opportunities and inspiring kids

Microsoft Alliance Director of GCI Margaret Totten said that while she had long been an evangelist for women in the technology industry, this program was actually inspired by a moment with her son. Margaret realized during a school trip that many of her son's female classmates weren't dreaming of their own future careers, but rather limiting themselves to dreams of marrying athletes. "All the little boys wanted to be football players," she said, "and all the little girls wanted to be the wives of football players."

This disheartening conversation quickly led her and a member of her team, Kimberly Totten, to think about how they could make technology more accessible to kids. Kimberly, who had a strong history of counselling teens and children, wanted to focus specifically on helping kids from economically-deprived areas. Together, they wanted to create a program where they could bring their experience and knowledge to the community, and show kids the many opportunities open to those interested in building a career in technology.

"We thought, why can't we do what we do for our clients but with kids instead?"- Margaret Totten, Microsoft Alliance Director, GCI.

The program was initially inspired by their client interactions, when they showed businesses how to use technology to be more productive and more impactful. They incorporated elements of the Hour of Code program to create the type of experiential learning that made technology and coding more approachable.

In the UK, coding is not seen as an important core skill for school children, but Margaret said they saw it as a great leveler and method to democratize technology.

Empowering kids through technology

The first Kids in Technology event was hosted at a local Microsoft Technology Center, teaching kids about the cloud and coding. While the first session received positive feedback, they decided to focus future events on the educational side of the program.

For example, during the second event they split the children into groups and had them apply for roles within an organization. From CEO to managing director, they had to learn the responsibilities of each role, then form their own mini-company. Next they were given the same treatment as a prospective GCI client, getting introduced to a variety of technology products and services that could benefit their companies. Then they went away to decide whether their companies were ready to move to the cloud.

"We're trying to show to the kids that a career in technology is about more than sitting at a table and working at a computer. It's about looking at about what things like HoloLens can do for the medical profession, or how big data and analytics can help communities in crisis." - Margaret Totten, Microsoft Alliance Director, GCI

The next event is planned for November, and will blend elements of HoloLens and other cutting-edge technologies with a traditional introduction to coding. It's inspired by the movie Hidden Figures and builds on a theme of inclusion and people from diverse backgrounds and abilities who have made a difference in the field of technology.

This program was created to empower kids regardless where they are from or what their background is, but it has quickly become much bigger than that. The conversation is now about how students can use technology to really make an impact in the world.

How have you made an impact in your own community? Please let us know below.