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On every cohort, Jolkona aims to introduce our catalysts to mentors and other established industry leaders so that they can learn about new opportunities, and industry tips to empower their own projects. On May 20th, we drove our catalysts to visit Microsoft’s HQ in Redmond, WA. We all made it to the Visitor’s Center foyer, and got a chance to learn more about Josh Holmes’ experience as a Microsoft employee in his various roles at the company.

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Josh started off by introducing himself, and the roles he has played at Microsoft. Josh has worked as product evangelist, and now he is part of Microsoft Ventures Accelerator program. He has also worked from various locations, including Dublin and of course Seattle.

josh-holmes

Holo Lens and other Microsoft tools for entrepreneurs

It wasn’t long before Josh started talking a little bit about what Microsoft has been up to lately, especially when it comes to the Holo Lens. One of the catalysts’ projects is in fact about augmented and virtual reality as a means of education. She was quick to ask about how her project could leverage Microsoft’s Holo Lens or other products.

Josh not only mentioned how the Holo Lens is still in the works, and it will take some time for it goes to market, but he also mentioned other tools that social entrepreneurs can leverage, including Microsoft’s Azure. Social entrepreneurs can enjoy Azure for free.

Microsoft Ventures

Other catalysts were also very interested on how Microsoft Ventures is accelerating startups around the world. Josh mentioned there are 7 Microsoft accelerators around the globe, located in Seattle, Bangalore, London, Berlin, Beijing, Tel Aviv, and Paris. Each accelerator has a particular focus; John mentioned Beijing’s accelerator has a clear focus on hardware.

All accelerators accept international entrepreneurs and projects, and they offer a 3-6 month program, $25k on average per project, all equity free. Microsoft aims to make these projects successful, because the more successful you are, the more likely you are to use Microsoft’s products in the long run.

Corporate Culture

Jolkona’s executive director, Monica Mendoza, wanted the catalysts to learn more about Microsoft’s corporate culture, prompting Josh to speak a little bit more about it.

Josh responded that although Microsoft is a 200,000 employee behemoth where there is quite the number of processes to get things done, there is complete freedom to achieve goals, and cooperate with one another.

Josh recalled the times when Microsoft was more about competition and getting things done. However, Satya Nadella has been promoting more of a cooperative environment, one in which results aren’t the only things that matter, but how employees feel about their jobs and teams.

Tips on how to be more productive

Linked to this corporate culture, is the way you can break down your day and feel more productive. In Josh’s case, he mentioned how he is an early riser, and how his best and most creative work is done between the hours of 5:30am and 8:30am. After that, he answers all emails, and burns through his daily to-do list. In the evenings, he is very active, exercises, and wears himself down to get a good night sleep, and do it all over again the next day.

Josh also recommended the book “Career Superpowers” by James Whitaker to learn more on the subject.

Time for some fun!

After a hearty talk about all things Microsoft, the catalysts went on to have some fun with several of Microsoft’s best products, including: Skype, Xbox Kinect, Windows Phone, Emotion detectors, and giant screens.

Do you crave excitement, adventure, and the open road? Do you want to see Jolkona’s global partners in socially innovative action? If so, the first Jolkona Expedition of 2014 is just right for you!

This March, Jolkona will send a group to East Africa, to explore and see what inspires our nonprofit partners to do their work. By going on a Jolkona expedition, you take part in creating a global community of innovators, supporting high-impact organizations, and building a better world. Whether you’re new to Jolkona or a regular donor, this experience will be inspirational for all.

The expedition will be from March 16 to 30, visiting four organizations in Kenya and Tanzania. Afterwards, you are welcome to continue exploring on your own.  Check here for more information. If you sign up this month, you can take part in planning the trip and finalizing the itinerary. Be sure to do so soon, as spots are limited! If you have any questions you can contact expedition@jolkona.org.

For now, here is our projected itinerary:

We are excited to explore the world of social innovation with you. Sign on while spots are still available, and check out the expedition page for more updates!

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After two mind-opening weeks in West Africa, four of us from Team Jolkona headed north for some reflection and relaxation time in the Sahara desert.

We arrived hours too late to meet with our camels. Instead of sunset, it was moonlight as we rode into the sand dunes. The temperature plummeted dune after dune. The wind picked up and blew sand into our faces. Discomfort aside, we enjoyed our bumpy ride, the silence of the desert with just the sure steps of our camels, and the cloudless night sky filled with stars from one horizon to the other.

At night we stayed in a Berber tent with the “desert people,” as they call themselves. They poured us mint tea and taught us how to play their Moroccan drums.

One of the “features” of our trips to edges of the world is being off the grid. Be it a tent in the Sahara or a rural village like Ouesse, Benin, we were forced to be disconnected from Facebook, emails and other sources of digital distraction. Staying off the grid in a modern metropolis nowadays is nearly impossible. Short of going to a digital detox camp, there is always a commute or a Starbucks line prompting us to glance down to our glass slabs. So, despite the inconvenience and, let’s admit, the foreign sensation, the digital detox during our trip was good for us. It forced us to be present, to absorb and interact with our environment instead of tuning it out. It has filled me with a great sense of wonder, what I’ve learned from the people I met, and what I’ve seen in every stop we made. Did I miss out on all this back home, in my kaleidoscopic neighborhood, while tuned out behind my glass slab?

As we left our sand dunes behind, I asked our guide Hassan, a desert nomad converted to travel guide, if he missed his prior life.

“You would not believe it. You all think wi-fi, Facebook and YouTube is the life. It is not the life.”

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