Tech Trailblazers

Tech Trailblazers: Amanda Jolliffe

  • Name: Amanda Jolliffe

    Role: DreamSpace Lead, Microsoft Ireland

    What does your typical day look like?

    Busy but fun! Typically, I arrive at Microsoft’s campus at 8am to prepare our education and innovation hub, DreamSpace, before our first school arrive at 9.30am. Every day, we have two schools join us in DreamSpace - one at 9.30am, one at 2pm. They both undertake a 3-hour immersive digital skills experience with us here on site.

    What are you currently working on?

    I lead DreamSpace from a teaching and learning perspective. DreamSpace is our €5m education and innovation hub at our campus at One Microsoft Place in Dublin which was opened in April 2017. Microsoft has committed to providing 100,000 primary and Transition Year students from across the island of Ireland with a DreamSpace experience over four years.

    On a daily basis, I work on engaging with young people and their teachers in a hope to spark their interest in STEM subjects and ensure they can participate fully in today’s digital age. In recent times, we’ve been working to expand DreamSpace in Northern Ireland with our digital skills experience due to be rolled out in a new Digital Learning Centre opening at W5 in Autumn 2020. Through this new facility, we will be able to reach over 15,000 students from across the region each year.

    What inspired you to join this company in particular?

    Microsoft’s mission is to “empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more” so I think that sums up not just the ambition that the company has, but also the ambition that most educators have. Through the DreamSpace experience, we want to show young people and educators that digital technologies, when used alongside our very human talents, can help us achieve more and make the world a better place for everyone.

    Did you always want to work in this industry (tech)?

    Working in the technology sector was not something I planned. However, when I taught in my secondary school, I saw firsthand how technology could be a great enabler for students was very impressed by how much Microsoft cared about their tools being suitable for schools. Now, I have also received a higher diploma in computational thinking and coding so I love how impactful technology can be.

    What’s your favourite part about your work?

    Like any teacher, my favourite part of the role is the potential positive impact you can have in a young person’s life. We have had numerous students from Ireland and Northern Ireland say that they have discovered a skill and subject (coding) that they never knew they liked.

    Others who have visited DreamSpace have thought more seriously now about studying STEM subjects in a university or have ambitions to work with technology into the future. To think that 3 hours with the Microsoft team at DreamSpace can inspire them to have more confidence in themselves and their future certainly invigorates you for your work every day!

    What would you say to other people considering a job in this industry (tech)?

    I would say firstly to find a part of the industry that you feel you would be passionate about. Secondly, I would advise people to disregard any pre-conceived notions you may have about the industry such as “I’m not techy” or “I couldn’t code”. If you remain open to returning to education (even part time) and show a willingness to learn, most tech companies will help train and educate you as you go too.

    How do you see this technology impacting on our lives?

    Working in Microsoft has opened my eyes to technology that I didn’t know much about beforehand. Now that I know more, I am SO excited about how people using technology (such as AI and quantum computing etc.) can help us solve some of the world’s biggest problems like climate change, inequalities and access and more. DreamSpace is not only about young people learning about the power of technology, but how technology can empower them to create, innovate, engineer and shape their own future.

    Who inspired you to work in this field?

    Other educators - my colleagues and leaders in the school I was lucky to teach in, who showed that when we care about young people and provide them with opportunities, they can achieve more. And, my colleagues on the Microsoft Ireland Education team, who truly believe in the power of technology to empower our young people, educators and parents on this island to not only do more, but also to achieve more within their communities.

    What do you consider to be the most important tech innovation or development in recent years?

    Tough one but I would say Artificial Intelligence (AI). With AI and Machine Learning, we are seeing incredible innovations that are completely changing how we live, communicate and do business. We are yet to understand the true impact it can have, but if democratised and well engaged with, it could solve some of society’s most pressing challenges. We are already seeing its profoundly positive impact in helping to transform healthcare, agriculture and accessibility.

    What tech gadget could you not live without?

    My Surface Pro and I am not just saying that! It is like an extension of my arm.

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