Microsoft Reactor Field Trip with Cascade and Highland Middle Schools

On February 15, 2023, 98 students from Cascade and Highland Middle Schools visited the Microsoft Reactor in Redmond, WA for an IGNITE UX Design Field Trip! 

Senior Design PM Ninar Nuemah and Senior Designer Divya Srinavasan welcomed students to the event and led them through a discussion to better understand design and design thinking. Design can improve our lives, communication, and the world around us, and design thinking is a creative and iterative approach to problem-solving, of which UX design is a subset. Examples of design include smart watches, transit from Uber to airplane, and online platforms like Coursera.

Divya and Ninar guided students in small groups to identify problems they experience throughout the school day and design solutions for those problems. Students came up with a wide variety of challenges they faced during the day, including difficult-to-open lockers, short passing periods, infrastructure in their buildings, and the treatment of students with disabilities. 

Students’ solutions were just as varied and creative, including a rotating locker system, expanding hallways and installing escalators in school buildings, and building wheelchair-accessible playgrounds at local elementary schools. 

Ninar and Divya told students about the many jobs they could find that combine art and STEM, offering daily opportunities to be creative and solve problems: graphic designer, UX writer, UX researcher, and many more!

After the activity, students enjoyed a Panel of professionals, facilitated by Ninar:

Divya, Senior Designer, did not feel like she excelled at academics but connected with creative pursuits like art and dance, and from there, found design. She originally studied architecture in school, and pivoted to UX later after finding more stability in this field.

Natalie Seaton, Senior Manager and Product Manager at Microsoft IDNA, had no education in technical fields when she first started her role. She has avoided “painting [her]self into a corner” over the more than twenty years of her career, using her degrees in criminal justice, psychology, and marketing to try out eclectic professional roles. She is good at organizing people and getting things done, and this translates across fields!

Megan Trabun, Software Engineer, works on the front-end aspect of design that users interact with. It is important for her to have strong relationships and communication with designers, whose ideas she gets to bring to life through coding. She loves being able to show an interface to her friend and say, “I made that!”

Students asked questions, including:

  • How many years did it take to get into your tech career at Microsoft?
  • What inspired you to start working at Microsoft?
  • What’s your favorite thing about working here?

Panelists shared experiences and wisdom such as:

  • Careers may be different from what you intend. What you train for–internships, geographic proximity, and organization and communication skills can all help you learn about and get interesting, challenging, and rewarding work!
  • Work-life balance and the people at Microsoft are both amazing!
  • Having an impact on the world, from supporting hospitals to police body cameras to virtual communications data centers, makes even mundane work truly meaningful.
  • The compensation in STEM is a huge positive and allows for travel, a comfortable lifestyle, and supporting a family.

The event closed with a final round of advice from the Panelists – what do you wish you had known in middle school?

  • Divya: Don’t hesitate to try as many different things as possible!
  • Natalie: It’s OK to change our minds and figure out what we want to do and how we spend our lives.
  • Megan: Failing is an opportunity to learn and to learn how to do something better.

Thank you to the many Microsoft volunteers who made this event possible, including Megan Schumacher for organizing the whole day, Sunitha Muthukrishna, Megan Olsen, Liz Bander, and Casey Schaertl for logistical support, Ninar Nuemah for co-leading the workshop and facilitating the panel, Divya Srinavasan for co-leading the workshop and speaking on the panel, and Megan Trabun and Natalie Seaton for speaking on the panel. Thank you to IGNITE Volunteers Celeste Hernandez, Doanna Lopez, and Adilene Narciso for providing Spanish translation, and to lead IGNITE Educators Nadia Counter and Paige Wilson for leading their respective student groups.

After attending this event:

Take STEM Class


of students know more about STEM career choices and the benefits of working in a STEM field

Ask Teacher about Additional STEM Activities


of students feel more confident in pursuing STEM


of students gained perspective and feel more hopeful about the future

Here’s what the students thought of the event:

Meeting women in STEM made me think more about my future. Thank you for bringing us to your space and sharing kind words.” – 8th grade

Today’s event inspired me because I got to see a lot of women in STEM. It made me think that I could also do things like that, and pursue things that I enjoy. A big takeaway was that if I work hard, I can make change that helps and benefits others. I had a lot of fun today, so thank you to the volunteers and all the teachers that helped make it possible! – 8th grade

This event inspired me to think of joining STEM. I did not have courage before, but now I do. It was nice to learn about Microsoft.” – 7th grade

I learned how beneficial STEM is and how it could help you get a better scholarship at a good university. It was great learning how building and design are great for the community and I thank the staff and people for speaking to us and buying us pizza!” – 8th grade

“I’ve learned so much from this event, and I feel like this inspired me to pursue STEM. Microsoft helped me understand and pursue a STEM future. The big takeaway that I have from attending this event is that I learned life-changing things.” – 7th grade

Today inspired me to believe in myself.” – 8th grade

This event was very inspirational.” – 8th grade

This experience was great and the volunteers were kind.” – 8th grade

I liked hearing the volunteers’ stories about how they got to where they are now. I also liked seeing how people work at Microsoft.” – 7th grade

I was inspired by the speakers and their work. Thank you for the fun!” – 6th grade

“This event was cool and I thought it was interesting.” – 7th grade

It was amazing to hear all the stories from the panelists and what they working on. It reminded me to follow my dreams.” – 8th grade

This event was very fun and I liked doing it!” – 8th grade

“I felt inspired by the Microsoft building and how nice it was. I would think that it would be kind of boring, but today made me feel like STEM would be fun! STEM seems fun and the volunteers were nice.” – 7th grade

It was great to learn more about technology.” – 6th grade

It was more fun than I expected and I got the chance to make friends!” – 8th grade

“After this experience, I will feel more comfortable going into STEM.” – 8th grade

“This event made me exited and I got to make new friends!” – 8th grade

Me ayudo para enfocarme más en una carrera y más cosas Eso se me iso muy bueno para aprender , y me inspiraron , MUCHAS GRASIASS MICROSOFT!” – 7th grade

I liked how the panelists all talked about knowing or not knowing what they wanted to be and where they are now. We learned a lot, and I really do appreciate all that was shared.” – 7th grade

This event inspired me because I learned you don’t always need to go to a college or university to work at Microsoft. I also love that Microsoft pays really well. I liked how the volunteers said that they loved the people with who they work with.” – 7th grade

This event inspired me to realize that anyone can do anything and that your dreams can be so strong they come true.” – 7th grade

The volunteers were very descriptive and explained everything in detail – thank you, volunteers!” – 7th grade

This experience expanded my thinking about Microsoft. I thought it was only technology, but it is much more. I also met new very fun people.” – 8th grade

“This event expanded my thinking about Microsoft. I thought it was only technology, but it’s more than that. I met very lovely people, especially the volunteers. I also felt comfortable surrounded by girls only.” – 8th grade

“Today was full of entertainment and I liked the food.” – 8th grade

“It was inspiring to hear that even if you don’t know what you want to do, you still can be successful and love what you do.” – 8th grade

It inspired me to be hopeful for my future and can inspire others with STEM!” – 7th grade

“Microsoft is a nice place, and it made me interested in STEM.” – 7th grade

It was inspiring to hear the panelists’ stories about working at Microsoft and how they found their interests.” – 7th grade

Today’s event inspired me to pursue my dream job in STEM and look for internships. It was nice to learn my future isn’t set in stone.” – 8th grade

Today taught me that working hard leads to success. Thank you!” – 8th grade

Learning how the panelists started and where they are now was inspiring. Thank you so much!” – 7th grade

I love how the panelists talked about their careers and how they got to where they are now.” – 7th grade

This event inspired me to think that I could learn more about STEM. I also learned that the people at Microsoft work hard to make solutions.” – 8th grade

Today’s event inspired me by getting me interested in working at Microsoft.” – 8th grade

“This event taught me that you don’t always need to work directly in a STEM field to work at companies like Microsoft. I’m grateful for the opportunities I got today and for the free food and reassurance.” – 8th grade

Today inspired me because STEM can be one of my options for my future and it’s good to have options open. It also seems fun and pays well, which allows for opportunities to support myself, family, and friends.” – 8th grade

“This experience inspired me because the panelists talked about a lot of information I didn’t know before. It made me understand that there are a lot of different things you can do at Microsoft. I’m grateful for being here and talking about things that will help me with my future.” – 8th grade

“The people who work here at Microsoft inspired me by sharing their stories and the opportunities in STEM. – 8th grade

This event made me realize how some careers aren’t competitive and that I can prepare for a job earlier. It also made me feel relaxed that someone older than me had to learn computer science later. The software engineer explained how the course isn’t so intimidating and that I have opportunities to strengthen my skills overall.” – 8th grade

“Today inspired me by letting me know I can do fun tech stuff. I want to send a big thanks to the volunteers.” – 8th grade

The volunteers talking about the free time they get with these jobs inspires me. The brainstorming was also helpful.” – 8th grade

The panelsists talking about their careers in engineering and technology was inspiring.” – 8th grade

“The volunteers talking about how much they love working for Microsoft inspired me to pursue STEM.” – 8th grade

“Today’s event inspired me because the volunteers explained and showed their interest in STEM.” – 8th grade

Hearing people talk about how they want good people in the industry that made them confident, and it being creative and fun, inspired me. I learned there are tons of different types of designs. People here are fun to work with and they are supportive and they also make a lot of money.” – 7th grade

Now I know having more opportunities in things you don’t expect to like can shock you in the greatest ways. I want to thank all of the volunteers for inspiring kids to want to be staff members at Microsoft.” – 8th grade

Today helped me understand STEM more. It also gave me hope for my STEM future and school, and made me less nervous. STEM isn’t scary, it helps everyone and impacts the world a lot.” – 8th grade

Today’s event inspired me because after the Q&A, I think I now know what I want to be in the future. I’m really inspired because I could connect to the panelists. I’m really thankful for the volunteers who took their time to teach us to find ourselves.” – 8th grade

Today’s event inspired me to explore STEM careers that I wasn’t interested in before. My big takeaways from today are the stories of the people who work for Microsoft.” – 8th grade

I liked how they use STEM to help each other in everything. Thanks for the food, notebooks, and fun time.” – 8th grade

“Many volunteers shared about their experiences in this field of work. It showed me that STEM is different from what I expected and most employees said that they started software engineering in college.” – 8th grade

This experience inspired me to not be afraid to try new things out and to make new friends.” – 7th grade

Today made me realize STEM is more than what I thought it was, as well as gave me hope to join a STEM career. I also think there are a lot of opportunities in STEM.” – 8th grade

Today’s event really opened up my eyes and thoughts about STEM because I always thought it was a “smart student” subject and I’m not really good at anything that involves STEM. My big takeaway is STEM opens up career choices for someone who doesn’t realize what they want to pursue.” – 8th grade

The panelists made working at Microsoft sound fun and nice. Thank you all for the translators and for explaining more about Microsoft.” – 7th grade

Today showed me that all people can be interesting. Thank you for having us!” – 8th grade

There are many things the panelists said that inspired me to pursue STEM because it can be fun. Thank you for having me here and showing me what you do.” – 8th grade

I was inspired by the hard work the volunteers are doing, how much money they make in tech, and to try new things. I also talked to people I normally don’t talk to, like a couple of the other kids, volunteers, and staff. Everyone was pretty cool!” – 7th grade

I was inspired just hearing about how some them thought or didn’t think they would be here. Thank you for helping open my eyes to Microsoft, the salary you can make, and the community here.” – 7th grade

This experience made me consider working in STEM.” – 8th grade

Today inspired me to keep trying even if I can’t attend a particular program. It showed me you’ll always have another chance. I am thankful for volunteers telling us and talking about what made them successful so I won’t miss an opportunity. It helped me a lot.” – 8th grade

This event inspired me to have options in mind and to keep chasing dreams. The volunteers were awesome and shared good comments.” – 8th grade

“Today’s event inspired me because I’m not sure what career I want to do when I’m older, but this event helped me find out things I’m interested in. Also, the panelists talking about the benefits of their jobs inspired me. My big takeaway is to always be willing to try new things because you’ll never know if you’ll like it or not unless you do it.” – 8th grade

Hearing about women’s lives has inspired me because it shows how school really pays off. Working in tech seems amazing. One takeaway that I’m going to remember is one of the volunteers mentioning how much they make and how fun their job is. It was also nice to hear them say you aren’t going to stick to one thing you whole career.” – 8th grade

Today’s event inspired me because I got to know personally from STEM professionals how to pursue a STEM career. I got to know first-hand what it’s like having a STEM career.” – 7th grade

“Even if high school isn’t as great and you fail, you still have a chance in your future. The STEM professionals helped me feel confident about being successful. I thank each professional for explaining the benefits of STEM and for telling us that the future is created by us. We may still not know who we want to be and that’s okay!” – 8th grade

It was really fun and interesting listening to the panelists talk about their jobs and give advice. It was really neat and the food was great!” – 7th grade

This event taught me how STEM can change people’s lives and create new things. Thank you for today.” – 7th grade

Today’s event inspired me to try some new things and do what I want to do. Thank you for everything and working hard to get where you are at now!” – 7th grade

This event helped me want to try to pursue careers I want instead of what my parents want. Thank you for giving us advice on job options, like what to do and to follow your heart.” – 8th grade

“This event inspired me because a lot of STEM jobs have a schedule that is kind of flexible and you can start at the time you want. I learned that even if a career wasn’t what you originally wanted to do, it’s okay because it can be fun.” – 8th grade

This event motivates me more. It makes me want to follow my dreams. It taught me that exploring can help you figure yourself out.” – 8th grade

Today was very fun with all of the food and games.” – 8th grade

This helped me learn how Microsoft works. Learning how the volunteers do their work was inspiring. My takeaways were being able to talk to new people and getting to know how Microsoft works.” – 8th grade

This experience inspired me in a way I can’t even explain! Thank you!” – 7th grade