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This week I had a wonderful opportunity to see the competition and to present awards at the Certiport Worldwide Competition on Microsoft Office in Park City, Utah. It was a fantastic experience. I got to see students with a deep passion for Office demonstrate their amazing skills, hear directly from them about how they are using those skills, and how those skills are helping build their confidence and their careers. While I have never been to the Olympics☺, the amazing atmosphere at the competition felt similar to what you would see there. While there was a sense of intense competition, there was also a wonderful feeling of community among the best of the best Office users from around the world. It was fascinating to see the passion and skills of these young competitors.
I often talk to press, partners or customers about some of the big numbers around the Office business – the fact that Office is installed on more than 1 billion PCs, the fact that we have over 750 million users, etc. However, for me personally, an event like this is where it all becomes real. It was so humbling and energizing to see each of the students in action with palpable enthusiasm for the product, and how they are intent on applying their skills to make an impact on the world.
The road to the worldwide competition isn’t easy for students. With more than one million certification exams delivered annually, our partner Certiport has worked with Microsoft and academic institutions around the world since 1997 to test and certify individuals who show proficiency with the features and functionality of the Office applications. They now do this in over 10,000 testing centers in 142 countries in all corners of the globe. The students I met this week represent the best scorers from amongst over 115,000 entrants into this year’s worldwide championship.
I had a chance to meet with quite a few of the participants here in Park City to talk about their experiences with Microsoft Office and how they’re using it to prepare for the future. One student competitor in particular, Adrian Mercado, stood out to me.
Chatting with Adrian, I learned about his story and path to the competition. Hailing from Chicago’s south side, Adrian did not have an easy upbringing. The streets are rough and negative distractions are not in short supply. Earlier on in high school, he didn’t have a lot of direction, so his grades suffered. However, last year he enrolled in George Washington High School’s computer software course and found his calling in software.
Here are some highlights from my conversation with this bright young man.
Takeshi: A year ago you said you didn’t have direction, but here you are as the U.S. representative for Microsoft Excel 2007. What changed? Adrian: When I enrolled in the computer course at George Washington, I didn’t know what to expect. My computer teacher believed in me, and gave me a book about Microsoft Office. During my sophomore year, Mrs. Ferguson worked me hard and encouraged me to take the Microsoft certification exams. I passed, and I got to go to the Microsoft Chicago where I met “Bill Gates” (not THE Bill Gates) who told the class about his journey of dropping out of school, going back to finish and finding his dream job at Microsoft. It was then that I knew I could be like him. He really inspired me. Takeshi: Congratulations on your success. As an Excel finalist this year, what can you tell me about your experience? Why do you love Excel?Adrian: This has been a great year for me. Certification turned my life around. I’m more enthusiastic about school, and it feels good to get A’s. People are proud of me, and I know this Excel certification was a big accomplishment for me. I know I have the ability and the skills to be successful, and who knows maybe I’ll work at Microsoft someday. Takeshi: As you know, being a part of this worldwide competition is a pretty big deal. What do you hope to take away from this? How has the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification benefited you? Adrian: I want to help break stereotypes – when you put your mind towards something you can be successful. This experience has provided me with opportunities that I would never have imagined. Everything has a reward as long as you try hard enough. I also know that my Microsoft Office certification will help me get jobs and is something that colleges and employers are looking for. Whether or not I’m a champion, I know being certified will help me in the long-term. Takeshi: You were inspired by someone with a similar life path as yours. What are you going to do to inspire others to follow your footsteps?Adrian: I want to be a teacher and I hope to inspire others like my computer teachers inspired me. I am also applying my skills as a volunteer at a community center to help younger kids finish their homework and become more familiar with these applications. The enthusiasm for the Microsoft Office products from people like Adrian is encouraging and inspiring. Check out the Certiport site for additional stories about the competition and the student competitors www.certiport.com/usofficecompetition. CNET’s Ina Fried also offered up a snapshot of the event on her blog.
-- Takeshi Numoto
Wow. Last week was absolutely inspirational and energizing. A few of us from Microsoft Learning had the
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