Coder, fashion blogger, and author Dona Sarkar is helping change the face of tech.

She's a technologist and a creative, and she's helping to bring internet to parts of the world that need it most.

Growing up in inner-city Detroit, Dona Sarkar was mesmerized by all of the changes taking place in technology.

It was the mid-'90s: The dot-com boom was taking off and legacy industries like publishing were being disrupted by new services like Amazon. Startup after startup was popping up. The reign of the barely legal CEO was starting. It seemed like technology was changing everything, and it was changing fast.

“I realized, from reading the Wall Street Journal with my dad every day, that the only way that innovation was really going to happen, no matter what industry we were in, was through the use of technology,” says Dona.


Dona and a colleague, Leo, kicking off Hour of Code at NASDAQ in 2015. All images via Dona Sarkar, used with permission.

But she noticed one thing that was off: The changes all seemed to be led by men.

That didn’t sit right with her.

Dona decided she wanted to be at the forefront of that innovation. She wanted to make sure there were women leading the charge too.

One problem: Dona grew up without much exposure to technology, and before college, she hadn’t really even touched a computer. But she wasn’t fazed.

In college, Dona signed up for a computer science class, ready to take on the tech industry. But she failed that class. Badly.

Dona could have packed her bags and retreated, but instead she reminded herself that things take time.

Dona showing an entrepreneur in Africa how to use HoloLens.

“The first time I rode a bicycle, I fell down,” she says. “The first time I tried to write a short story, it wasn’t very good. ... The first time you do something, you’re not very good at it ... but if I want to achieve my goal, I have to put in the work.”

So Dona signed up to take the class again. She got better. Whenever she ran into difficulty, she made it a point to give it her best. And with that mentality, she plowed forward.

Today, Dona leads the Windows Insider Program at Microsoft.

She builds holograms at work and makes Microsoft technology seamless and intuitive for the user. And she points out that technology is no longer a silo. It’s a part of everything we’re doing. We’re all “in tech” to a degree — we use technology to communicate with each other. Businesses use it to communicate with customers and to improve internal and external processes. There’s no escaping it.

Dona hard at work on one of her designs.

As a technologist and a creative — Dona also runs a fashion blog and has published four fiction novels and one nonfiction book — she has seen the way technology is ingrained into other industries firsthand.

Dona is also shattering stereotypes at work.

When she entered the tech industry, Dona was cautioned by other women not to speak about fashion or wear heels to work. They meant well, but Dona refused to change — not just for herself, but for the women who’d follow her.  

Putting the finishing touches on one of her designs.

“The height of my heels has nothing to do with my technical abilities. The only way to break a stereotype is to break the stereotype by doing it a lot. ... And if I change, then the next woman will have the exact same battle,” Dona explains. “But if I don’t change, now there’s two of us. If she doesn’t change, there’s three of us. If she doesn’t change, there’s four of us. Before you know it, whoever wants to wear heels can wear heels at work. ... So I won’t change.”

What’s next for the woman who, in spite of initial failures, has taken the tech world by storm?

Dona wants to make technology accessible to every single person on the planet, so she spends a lot of time traveling the world, using advances in technology to bring the internet to the places that need it most.

Dona, speaking at a fellowship in Nigeria in which she helps young entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable businesses.

She knows this last goal will probably be a lifelong one. But she thinks it’s important to give people the power to control their own destinies. And she believes that technology has helped to start leveling the playing field for women. There aren't gatekeepers in tech. A woman can go online and learn how to code in the privacy of her own home without anyone's approval or blessing.

In other words, access to technology means opportunity. And Dona is determined to be a part of making that possible. For everyone.

Dona is a testament to what can be accomplished through computer science skills. The options are limitless.

Yesterday marked the beginning of Computer Science Education Week, when millions of kids around the world will dip their toes into the world of coding. Microsoft is committed to ensuring everyone — especially young girls — has access to computer science education resources so they too can unlock the power to imagine and to create with technology.

Interested? Check out Microsoft's new Minecraft coding tutorial.  

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According to the Tampa Bay Times, Florida National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer spoke to state economists last week to explain why a proposed assault weapons ban would devastate gun manufacturers in the state. The proposed amendment, which is being led by the aunt of a student killed in the Parkland school shooting, would ban the future sale of assault rifles in Florida and mandate that current owners either register their guns with the state or give them up.

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via Blessing Manifesting / Instagram

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Capital One

Brian Olesen never imagined he would end up homeless.

The former U.S. Air Force medic had led a full and active life, complete with a long career in the medical field, a 20-year marriage, and a love of anything aquatic. But after hip surgery and chronic back pain left him disabled in 2013, he lost his ability to work. Due to changes in eligibility requirements, he couldn't qualify for federal veteran housing programs. His back issues were difficult to prove medically, so he didn't qualify for disability. Though he'd worked his whole life, having no income for five years took its toll. He got evicted from a couple of apartments and found himself living on the streets.

But in 2018, two things completely turned Olesen's life around. He was able to both qualify for disability and to move into an affordable housing community in Miami's Goulds neighborhood called Karis Village.

When people think of affordable housing, they don't usually picture a place like Karis Village. The 88-unit development is brand new, and built with an attention to design that is not always expected for developments that serve as home to people on limited incomes. The apartments have tile floors, marble countertops, and all new appliances and furniture, and the grounds are beautiful and well-kept, with a playground and common areas for residents to gather.

Brian Olesen in his kitchen at Karis VillageCapital One

Karis Village isn't just a housing development; it's a home and a community. Half of the units are set aside for veterans who have experienced homelessness, like Olesen. The other half are largely occupied by single-parent families.

"To me, this building was just a gift," says Olesen. "All of the different parties that got together to put this building together… making half the building available to veterans. We've got no place to go."

Addressing veteran homelessness was one of the goals of Karis Village, which was built through a partnership that included Carrfour Supportive Housing — a mission-driven, not-for-profit affordable housing organization in southern Florida — and Capital One's Community Finance team. More than just an affordable place to live, the community has full-time staff on hand to help coordinate services—from addiction recovery programs to transportation options to job search and placement. Also included are peer counselors who provide emotional and psychological support for residents.

Karis Village, an affordable housing community in Miami, Florida.Capital One

Carrfour President and CEO Stephanie Berman says the core function of the services team on site is to build a supportive community.

"Often when you think of folks leaving homelessness and coming into housing, you think of shelters or some kind of traditional housing," she says. "You don't really think about a community, and that's really what we build and what we operate. What we're really striving to create is community. We find that our families thrive when you create a sense of community."

The intention to create a supportive community at Karis Village was a priority from the get go. Fabian Ramirez, a Capital Officer on Capital One's Community Finance team, says the bank did a listening tour in southern Florida to explore community development and affordable housing options in the area and to hear what was most needed. After deciding to partner with Carrfour, the bank provided not only an $8 million construction loan and a $25 million low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investment to help build Karis Village, but it also kicked in a $250,000 social purpose grant to help fund the social support services that would be put in place for residents.

"It's not just all about providing the brick and mortar," says Ramirez. "It's about being able to contribute to the sustainability of the development and of the lives of the people who move into the building."


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Olesen says he and his fellow residents benefit greatly from the network of support services offered in the building. He says a counselor comes to meet with him once a month, sometimes right in his apartment. He also gets help maintaining a connection with the Veteran Affairs office. Other services include social workers and counselors for drug addiction and alcoholism.

Olesen loves being around other veterans, and he says hearing the sound of children playing keeps the community lively. He says anywhere else he could afford to live on disability wouldn't be nearly as nice and would likely involve shared kitchens and bathrooms and neighborhoods you wouldn't want to go out in at night.

If it weren't for Karis Village, Olesen says he doesn't know where he would be today: "I had nowhere to go and this is a safe, beautiful place to spend my retirement."

"I don't think they could have done a much better job of putting this place together and supplying us with what we need," he says. "I have so much appreciation for the ability to have a place to live. And then you add to that that it's beautiful and completely furnished and you didn't need to bring anything—I don't know what more you could ask for."

Karis Village and another development for veterans built the same year enabled the neighborhood of Goulds to meet the requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to declare an end to veteran homelessness in the area.

Ending veteran homelessness altogether is a complex task, but communities like Karis Village show how it can be done—and done well. When government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate funding programs come together to solve big problems, big solutions can be built and maintained.

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