The Skype call that inspired a student’s career

It’s not always obvious in the moment, but when we look back we can often point to meaningful conversations that brought us to where we are today. Let me tell you about one call that changed a student’s path.

During last year’s Skype-a-Thon, an event in which students across the world rack up virtual miles as they visit other classrooms through Skype, my class was given the opportunity to talk with Jamie Wylly, the General Manager of Public Safety and National Security for Microsoft Worldwide. Hang on: Public safety? National security? I’m an English and History teacher.

While I knew that such a discussion could potentially inspire any student, I thought the conversation would be much more meaningful for students studying programming or business. That’s why I offered the opportunity to business teacher Nancy Griffis, who accepted readily. Our programming teacher, Christopher Francis, sat in on the call; he was intrigued by the possibilities Skype offered and, following the call with Mr. Wylly, he decided to bring in other virtual guest speakers for his students.

Amy Vieira, a student in his class, had always like programming, but had no idea what she wanted to do. Part of her difficulties stemmed from the fact that she is so incredibly well rounded. It can be difficult to make career choices when you are good at lots of things. Still, Amy had little exposure to career possibilities connected to her studies. Amy knew she was university-bound, but unsure which path to take.

For Amy, that Skype call changed everything. Mr. Francis had arranged a call with a friend who works at a mobile game studio in London, Ontario called Big Blue Bubble. He hoped it would provide his students with a better understanding of careers available to young programmers. Clearly, the call had an impact on Amy.

I still remember Amy literally chasing me down at the end of the day to tell me about the experience. She told me she finally knew what she wanted to do: enrol in the Media, Information & Technoculture at Western University so she could work and produce ideas for a company like Big Blue Bubble.

Roughly a year has passed, and Amy is now in the MIT program at Western. She loves her program and looks forward to opportunities to create compelling content for audiences. The Holy Cross community looks forward to seeing what she can do.

Skype enables meaningful conversations and meaningful conversations can change lives. Whether it is a student who falls in love with a profession, or a class that learns that the kids in that faraway country are just like them, Skype provides the platform through which people from different communities and cultures can communicate. It allows students to learn from those protecting our environment, cultivating change, and programming our future.

If you are a teacher or an expert who has yet to join the Skype in Education community, visit the Microsoft Educator Community, talk to other educators through #MSFTEduChat, and join us for this year’s Skype-a-Thon on Nov. 28-29.