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Microsoft wants you to Dream Big!

Microsoft wants you to Dream Big!

I spoke to Lee Stott, Technical Evangelist at Microsoft UK, responsible for Faculty Connection and DreamSpark within the UK. Simple goal of making Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Design Academic curriculum interesting, exciting and modern.

who is responsible for the DreamSpark programme at Microsoft.  It is quite long but worth reading if you want to get a career in ICT, programming, web design, game develoment, xbox 360, kinect, app development, server management etc.. If you are still in education you can use the tools free!  Microsoft want you to Dream Big! Read on to find out more:


How important is it to have a knowledge of programming and how the technology we use every day works?

As you may be aware form the recent Royal Society review Shutdown or ReStart into the teaching of computing with the GCSE, has envision that computer programming will be taught in elementary school, just like reading, writing and arithmetic. We really mean computer programming, so traditional Computer Science not just computer use ICT (which is already being taught). Of course, most children won’t grow up to be skilled application developers, but reading and writing skills are useful for everyone, and so will be general programming skills. In addition to the goal of teaching how computers work, a course in computer programming will return to the curriculum an emphasis on logical thought which was once the main benefit of teaching geometry. If we are successful, non-experts will be able use their computers and other intelligent devices much more effectively, reducing their level of frustration and increasing their productivity and work satisfaction. Computer users will be able to solve their own computer problems more often, reducing the need for technical support.

Even if most users do not program regularly, a familiarity with programming and the structure of software will make them more effective users of computers. For example, when something goes wrong, they will be able to make a better mental model of the likely failure, which will allow them to fix or work around the problem. They will also be able to assess better when they can make the changes themselves and when they will need the services of an expert. They will be more able to converse with experts, since they will now share more of a common language.


The effort could also have a major impact on getting women and minorities into computer programming.

What has been then response from Dreamspark since it launched? DreamSpark is a World Wide program in over 149 countries We have over 66 million download since program started. We have had 22.7 million in 2011 -2012 alone. Over 8.1 million student actively use software from DreamSpark on daily basis. We have over 21,800 institutional subscriptions to DreamSpark premium to July 2012



Do the tools in Dreamspark lend themselves to each other?

Yes, Microsoft DreamSpark provides no-cost access to Microsoft designer and development tools for verified students and educators around the world, to support and advance their learning and skills through technical design, technology, math, science and engineering activities. DreamSpark gives students the professional-level developer and designer tools they need at no charge to build real sites, apps and games for Xbox Live(r)/360(r), Kinect(tm), Microsoft(r) Windows(r) Phone, and more. Now your hacks can help you get ahead, by creating powerful apps, developing the next big thing, and building a kickin’ resume to kickstart your job search. DreamSpark software subscription includes Microsoft platform, server and developer tools software as well as betas, new releases and tech support.



How can people get involved in Dreamspark? For example, maybe I am 16, I am at school studying ICT and I don’t find that I am being challenged or learning anything valuable, what can I do?

DreamSpark give you access to just about all of Microsoft’s most powerful products (okay, except Office Suite):

* Developer & Design Tools Visual Studio Expression Windows Embedded

*Windows Server

*SQL Server Server.

It gives you the opportunity to develop the technical skills which are driving the most valued platforms, like social media, cloud computing, enterprise software, and of course mobile apps, tools and games.

These tools are the leading tools in the market place that 1000’s of professionals use to build real apps, real games and real stuff.

The internet and development of mobile apps has created a fresh field for you to get noticed on Xbox Live, Kinect, XNA Game Studio, Win Phone, Windows 8 and more. So we are giving you the next generation of apps, games and tools and it up to you to unleash what’s inside that head and build your dreams. Don’t forget, a student named Bill started Microsoft, so we know the incredible potential that students have to offer.


Oliver: What can people that are not schools, Uni’s or colleges do to get involved with Dreamspark?

Lee: DreamSpark comes at no charge for students actively enrolled or educators currently teaching classes. You just need to get your academic status verified every twelve months

1. Go to

2. Find the first product you want to download

3. Follow the steps when starting the download in the verification wizard



There are several verification options, depending on your school or entry:

* Activation Codes are sometimes given directly to students and educators by a Microsoft representative or school administrator

* International Student/Teacher Identity Card (ISIC/ITIC) numbers may be entered for verification through the Identity Card Association

* Direct School Login offers verification according to processes set by our partner universities and schools around the world.


After you’re verified, pick your focus and start developing awesomeness.




Do I need to go to University to get a high end job in computing, what about Microsoft?

Interesting question, firstly Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison are two industry leaders and among the most successful people in business world, however neither of them has a University degree. Off course a degree definitely has its benefits in the business world, but it’s not the only path to a successful career.

While the educational requirements for many good jobs have risen, many occupations still don’t require a degree. Within the IT community a number of positions require vocational training or professional certification

Some even require some on-the-job training or an apprenticeship. In specific to Microsoft, we operate a dedicated Graduate and Intern careers website which details the requirements both technically and academically for each role see

In specific to student recruitment we have a dedicated resource

This is your chance to get a behind the scenes view. To get up close to some of the world’s most exciting technology.

To put your own stamp on what we do next. So if you have the same drive to create and innovate as we do, the stage is set for you to have an amazing career. Whatever your background, whatever your plans, Microsoft is an incredibly lively, inspiring place to build your career a place where you’re not just expected to push yourself, but to enjoy yourself along the way.


How long would Dreamspark work for me? Could I go from absolute beginner to Pro?  Do you provide tutorials and learning resources as well?

DreamSpark comes at no charge for students actively enrolled or educators currently teaching classes.

  • You just need to get your academic status verified every twelve months. In regards to tutorials and learning resource Microsoft offers a number of these specifically for students we have a vast estate of Web sites, blogs and social media resources see and
  • Additionally we provide resource aimed at improving technical skills these are Microsoft Faculty Connection Your source for curriculum resources and tools to help with your teaching needs. Visit the Resource Center to search for additional material and other educational content.
  • Microsoft Virtual Academy Improves your IT skill set and help advance your career with a free, easy to access training portal. Learn at your own pace, focusing on Microsoft technologies, gain points and get recognition.
  • MSDev –  To help you with developer training and advice.  Whatever you need, you can find someone in your area that can help you.
  • .toolbox Welcome to .toolbox, a fun online learning environment, where you will learn basic design concepts and how to apply them, as well as the fundamentals of creating Silverlight applications using the Expression Studio tools. .toolbox features two learning options: Courses and Tutorials.



Oliver:  Do the Pro’s really use all of your programmes to make AAA games and applications?

Lee: Again an interesting question if we take the Microsoft ecosystem so Windows Phone, Windows and Xbox then yes they will need to have skills and experience in the use if Microsoft developer tools. If you take a look at any game developer job adverts they all require similar skills and experiences.

Required Skills / Experience:

* At least 3 years’ experience working on large-scale codebases in C++.

* Experience in creating user interfaces and an understanding of content creation workflow for game development.

* Experience of writing small standalone tools for data conversion and batch processing would be highly advantageous.

* Experience of using database technologies and cloud services

* 1st class or 2:1 degree in Computer Science, Maths, Physics or other computing-related subject strongly preferred, those with relevant experience are also encouraged to apply.

* Strong C/C++ skills- GUI creation

* Ability to write clear and maintainable code

* Comfortable working with a large existing code base

* Good communication with developers from all disciplines

* Can-do attitude

* Web Development with HTML5 and SQL, and C# skills



Can you give me some real world examples?

Yes I have a great example, Mush. He was the first Dare to be Digital student game competition entry to get a commercial release, and was published by Microsoft for Windows Phone.

Angry Mango was a group of five enthusiastic second year students when they met in Newport, Wales, with a week to go before the Dare to be Digital entry deadline. They couldn’t have imagined that two years later, they would have a BAFTA under their belt, a game being showcased at E3 and an international release by Microsoft. Mush was one of the three winners from Dare to be Digital 2010 and won a BAFTA Cymru Award in 2011 in the new media category.

Henry Hoffman, Project Lead, said: “Some of us had worked together on a Windows Phone prototype at X48, but we hadn’t done anything like Dare to be Digital before, let alone built a full game. We certainly had no idea what a rollercoaster it would turn out to be! It’s been a huge learning curve, but the experience has been incredible.” Mush makes full use of the Windows Phone’s technology by allowing the player to change their character’s mood through intuitive touch and tilt inputs.  Each new emotion unlocks a quirky ability that can be used to progress: drawing a smile makes Mush float with happiness, while a frown causes him to sink in sorrow.  Shaking the phone will provoke a destructive rage and turning it upside down will cause confusion and turn physics on its head.

As well as original gameplay, Mush has already been praised for its art style, which uses a mixture of subtle textures and soft gradients, inspired by contemporary illustrators. Above all, it’s the distinctly relaxed atmosphere that really sets Mush apart from other casual games, and was a key aim throughout development. Despite the challenges of being a young, new company, Angry Mango are very excited about continuing development as an independent team.

Ahmed Zaman, Lead Programmer, said: “Working with Microsoft has been fantastic, and we are really keen to build on the relationship we’ve developed as well as the lessons we’ve learned. We do have some ideas in the pipeline, but for now we are just ecstatic to be releasing Mush!” For more information about the game, visit the Mush website.

For more information about the competition, and this year’s Dare ProtoPlay games festival in Dundee on 10-12 August, visit the Dare to be Digital website






What advice would you give to people that want to learn to programming or design to make applications but don’t enjoy one or the other.

If you don’t enjoy programming or designing or even simply using computers, you should not be considering this a career.

Any role within any technology discipline means, you need to re-train every few months, simply because the latest versions or a new technologies become available. I’m personally of the opinion you need to “love your job” but I may be in a very fortunate minority of people who love the work they do. I understand that most people aren’t so lucky and the very idea that you can “love your job” may be a modern concept.

But work isn’t supposed to be something unpleasant you do, to get money to do the things you actually like doing. Should people bother even if they don’t particularly like one side of software/game/web development? My three rules, as an individual you need

  1. Passion
  2. Tenacity
  3. Enthusiasm

If you are interested in a potential career in IT then I would say these are great sounding board for your motivation

1.  Learn how to write before graduating. The difference between a tolerable programmer and a great programmer is not how many programming languages they know, and it’s not whether they prefer C# or JavaScript. It’s whether they can communicate their ideas. By persuading other people, they get leverage. By writing clear comments and technical specs, they let other programmers understand their code, which means other programmers can use and work with their code instead of rewriting it.

2.  Learn about Economics.  Because a programmer who understands the fundamentals of business is going to be a more valuable programmer, to a business, than a programmer who doesn’t. That’s all there is to it.

3.  Don’t skip classes just because they’re boring. Why should I, as an employer looking for software developers, care about what grade you got in History? After all, history is boring. There’s boring stuff in programming, too. Every job has its boring moments. And many employers don’t want to hire people that only want to do the fun stuff.

4.  Take programming-intensive courses. If you’re lucky, though, you can find lots of programming-intensive courses in the CS department, those are the best classes to take. If you love programming, don’t feel bad if you don’t understand the point of those courses in lambda calculus or linear algebra where you never touch a computer. Look for the 400-level courses to be really stretched and understand if you do or don’t like this subject area.

5.  No matter what you do, get a good summer internship. If you think you enjoy programming or working in IT, the biggest mistake you can make is to take any kind of summer job or placement, part time, or otherwise that is not a job in the industry.

By the time you leave school or graduate, you really should have a CV that lists a whole bunch of programming or technical jobs. I saw on your Twitter,, seems interesting, are these videos all free? How might they help me? Again yes the resource on MSdev, and MVA are free and you should be looking at level 100 material for introductions to technologies or principles and looking at 400-level courses for advanced content, to be really stretched and understand if you do or don’t like this subject area. How many people have you helped with Dreamspark? Lots, 100,000’s of students within the UK use DreamSpark as part of their education or in their free times to build create and applications, services and solutions.


How does the Dreamspark software differ from any other free Microsoft software I may be able to get already?

DreamSpark is simply a hub/resource for all the professional Microsoft PROFESSIONAL developer and platform tools. DreamSpark give you access to just about all of Microsoft’s most powerful retail products (okay, except Office Suite):

* Developer & Design Tools Visual Studio Expression Windows Embedded

*Windows Server

* SQL Server Server These tools are the leading tools in the market place that 1000’s of professionals use to build real apps, real games and real stuff.


Can students/educators help shape Dreamspark in the future? If so how?

DreamSpark is simply a hub/resource for Microsoft professional commercial available tools, these tools are the leading tools in the market place that 1000’s of professionals use to build real apps, real games and real stuff. We simply want students to be aware of the Microsoft portfolio or technologies, be competent in the use of the tools and be able to demonstrate this by building applications, games and solutions with these tools.


I noticed that dreamspark as a sub-campaign to help Students get job’s in computing, what if I wanted to work for myself, is there support I can get?

The sub campaign I think your referring to is Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark: Is all about helping startups succeed with all the right resources. Microsoft BizSpark again is a global program that helps software startups succeed by giving them access to Microsoft software development tools, connecting them with key industry players, including investors, and providing marketing visibility to help entrepreneurs starting a business. Microsoft Students 2 Business

Developing the right skills will help you get a head start on your career. Microsoft Students to Business offers you a set of trainings and free software that will boost your potential in the eyes of employers. Student to business also provides visibility of internships and jobs which are offered from select businesses in the Microsoft community in many countries.


Where do you see ICT in schools in 5 years time?

As a result of the Shutdown or ReStart review by the Royal Society I think Computing in Schools looks very exciting for the next few years as new and exciting curriculum is developed the key points of the report included the following findings:

1.  The current delivery of Computing education in many UK schools is highly unsatisfactory. Although existing curricula for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) are broad and allow scope for teachers to inspire pupils and help them develop interests in Computing, many pupils are not inspired by what they are taught and gain nothing beyond basic digital literacy skills such as how to use a word-processor or a database.

This is mainly because:

  • The current national curriculum in ICT can be very broadly interpreted and may be reduced to the lowest level where non specialist teachers have to deliver it
  • There is a shortage of teachers who are able to teach beyond basic digital literacy
  • There is a lack of continuing professional development for teachers of Computing d.features of school infrastructure inhibit effective teaching of Computing

2.  There is a need to improve understanding in schools of the nature and scope of Computing. In particular there needs to be recognition that Computer Science is a rigorous academic discipline of great importance to the future careers of many pupils. The status of Computing in schools needs to be recognised and raised by government and senior management in schools.

3.  Every child should have the opportunity to learn Computing at school, including exposure to Computer Science as a rigorous academic discipline.

4.  There is a need for qualifications in aspects of Computing that are accessible at school level but are not currently taught. There is also a need for existing inappropriate assessment methods to be updated.

5.  There is a need for augmentation and coordination of current Enhancement and Enrichment activities to support the study of Computing. 6.Uptake of Computing A-level is hindered by lack of demand from higher education institutions.


How does Dreamspark live up to it’s name, and do you have any plans going forward to expand Dreamspark?


DreamSpark puts you where the action is: Games aren’t just being played-they’re being invented every day.

Social apps are constantly evolving. And that phone and slate in your hand is at the center of it all.

BECAUSE STUDENTS DREAM BIG: They’ve launched some of the world’s most amazing brands and services, like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Oracle, Napster, Dell, FedEx, WordPress, and more. DreamSpark puts all the power and creative potential of Microsoft development software behind you.


Everyone knows Microsoft, can you give me any secrets about working for Microsoft?

I love working for Microsoft’s, it’s clear to see our passion and tenacity are coming together in the products we are bringing to market in 2012. We have recently revealed Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Microsoft Surface, Skype, Yammer, Office 2012, Office 365, and Windows Phone 8.

We announced that we’re making entertainment more amazing with Xbox on the phone, PC, tablet and TV with the coming releases of Halo 4, Internet Explorer on Xbox and SmartGlass.

We shared our vision for a new era of cloud computing with Windows Server 2012 and important advancements to the Windows Azure services. So I’m incredibly proud of the work were doing and incredibly excited for what’s ahead for our customers.


Thanks so much for your time Lee!

Best wishes Lee



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Written by OIiver

Oliver is a 20 year old web-enthusiast and entrepreneur from the UK. He enjoys Marketing, SEO, Technology and Business.