Autism Doesn’t Come with a Manual: Celebrating Determination and Innovation at the Financial Services Autism Hackathon

Over 200 people came in person and virtually, and participated on the 7th annual Financial Services Autism Hackathon, held in the Microsoft Garage. Contributors from many financial companies (Morgan Stanley, UBS, Willis Towers Watson, JPMorgan Chase, Mastercard, Wellington Management, Deutsche Bank, State Street Bank) and technology companies (Microsoft, Accenture, Avanade) joined therapists, university professors, enthusiastic individuals, and more, to create amazing solutions, selected by a panel of experts for this year, to be tackled. We were blessed with a set of amazing panelists for the judging ceremony too – individuals from Morgan Stanley, Microsoft, Mastercard, Accenture and Avanade provided feedback on the solutions – which got infused with AI fully this year; every solution ended up using a version of AI, Copilot, etc somehow. Whether it was In-Session Copilot, Program Development Copilot, On-Boarding Copilot, Friendly Neighborhoods Copilot, Metaverse for Job Support, or Metaverse for Social Practice, we pulled all breaks and did something groundbreaking in just mere 48 hours – most of the participants never dealt with C#, AI, Azure, HoloLens, etc ever. But what is this whole thing about, actually?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) presents unique challenges and opportunities, both for those who live with it and for their families. Unlike many conditions, there’s no instruction booklet for autism; it’s a journey of discovery, persistence, and, often, incredible creativity. This spirit of unwavering commitment and innovation was vividly showcased at this week’s Financial Services Autism Hackathon.

Understanding Autism

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects communication, behavior, and social interaction in various ways. While it’s characterized by certain common features, such as difficulties in social interaction and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, autism manifests uniquely in each individual. This variance makes the role of parents and caregivers particularly challenging, as they often need to become experts, advocates, and inventors all rolled into one.

The Role of Parents: A Never-Giving-Up Attitude

Behind every child with autism is a parent or caregiver who embodies resilience and perseverance. These parents don’t have a standard manual to guide them; instead, they learn to adapt to the specific needs of their child, often becoming adept at creating custom solutions to help their children thrive. Their journey is one of constant learning, advocacy, and unconditional love. They are the unsung heroes in the lives of children with autism, tirelessly working to ensure their children have every opportunity to succeed.

Financial Services Autism Hackathon: A Testament to Innovation

This week’s Financial Services Autism Hackathon is a prime example of how challenges can fuel innovation. This event brought together tech experts, financial professionals, and autism advocates to develop practical solutions that cater to the needs of individuals with autism, particularly in the realm of financial services.

One of the major challenges for people on the autism spectrum is navigating financial systems, which can be overwhelming due to their complexity and sensory demands. The hackathon focused on creating tools and services that make financial management more accessible and less stressful for those with autism.

Success Stories and Breakthroughs

The hackathon witnessed the development of various groundbreaking tools. These included apps designed to simplify financial planning, platforms offering sensory-friendly banking experiences, and educational resources tailored to help individuals with autism understand and manage their finances effectively. These innovations not only represent technological advancement but also a deeper understanding and inclusivity towards the autism community.

Conclusion: A Hopeful Future

The success of the Financial Services Autism Hackathon is a beacon of hope and a testament to what can be achieved when we channel our challenges into creative solutions. It underlines the importance of inclusivity in all sectors, particularly in areas as crucial as financial services. Moreover, it celebrates the relentless spirit of parents and caregivers of children with autism, who are the true catalysts for change and inclusion.

As we move forward, the learnings and innovations from this hackathon will undoubtedly pave the way for more accessible and autism-friendly financial environments. This event is not just a milestone for the autism community but a guiding light for how empathy, understanding, and technology can come together to create a more inclusive world.

The Arch of Microsoft: Celebrating 49 Years of Innovation

As Microsoft commemorates its 49th birthday, I reflect on its journey from a small startup to a global technology powerhouse. Founded on April 4, 1975, by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Microsoft has been a key player in the evolution of personal computing and digital technology.

The Humble Beginnings

In the 1970s, Microsoft began with a vision to put a computer on every desk and in every home. The company’s first product was a version of the BASIC programming language for the Altair 8800 microcomputer. This step marked the beginning of an era of software development that would transform the way people interact with technology.

The Rise of Personal Computing

The 1980s were a defining decade for Microsoft with the launch of its groundbreaking product, MS-DOS, followed by the first version of the Windows operating system in 1985. Windows revolutionized the software market with its user-friendly interface, setting the stage for widespread adoption of personal computing.

Expanding the Horizon

In the 1990s, Microsoft solidified its position in the industry with Windows 95, which became immensely popular. The company also ventured into the world of internet browsing with Internet Explorer and expanded its portfolio with Office Suite, becoming indispensable to businesses worldwide.

The Era of Diversification and Cloud Computing

The 21st century saw Microsoft diversifying into gaming with the Xbox console, enhancing the digital entertainment experience. Under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella, starting in 2014, the company made a significant shift towards cloud computing and AI, introducing Azure, a cloud computing service, and further refining its AI capabilities.

Challenges and Controversies

Microsoft’s journey hasn’t been without challenges. The company faced antitrust lawsuits and criticism over business practices. However, it has continually adapted, focusing on innovation, open-source development, and ethical technology use.

Philanthropy and Social Responsibility

Bill Gates, post-leadership, has focused on philanthropy, and the company has been involved in various global initiatives focused on education, healthcare, and the environment. Microsoft’s commitment to sustainability, with its pledge to be carbon negative by 2030, reflects its recognition of corporate social responsibility.

The Future and Beyond

As Microsoft enters its 49th year, it stands at the forefront of technological advancement with a focus on cloud computing, AI, and quantum computing. The company continues to push the boundaries, promising a future where technology enhances every aspect of life.

Conclusion: A Legacy of Innovation

Microsoft’s 49th anniversary is more than a milestone; it’s a testament to its enduring vision and ability to adapt in an ever-changing technological landscape. Microsoft has not only witnessed but also actively shaped the digital revolution, and its journey from a small startup to a tech giant is a remarkable story of innovation, resilience, and transformation. Happy Birthday, Microsoft! Here’s to many more years of innovation and success.

FSI Autism Hackathon – second day!

Second day of the FSI Autism Hackathon is underway, this time in the Microsoft Garage! Today will be filled with coding, deck building, demo recording, and more. We’re thrilled to welcome a set of esteemed guest judges who will be determining the best hack – Jennifer Seidel from MastercardAlisha Lehr from Morgan StanleyCorey Sanders from MicrosoftLuke Thomas from MicrosoftMichael Lavelle from Accenture and Alyssia Walowski from Avanade.

May the best team win!

#FSIAutismHackathon #MicrosoftGarage #Hackathon #Coding #AutismAwareness

The Value of a Like: Navigating Quantity vs Quality in Digital Interactions

In the age of social media, the concept of a ‘like’ has evolved into a digital currency of sorts, a simple yet powerful tool that signifies approval, agreement, or enjoyment. At its core, the value of a ‘like’ is inherently tied to human psychology and the social dynamics of the internet. This article delves into the multifaceted nature of likes and why, in our digital interactions, there seems to be an incessant chase for quantity over quality.

The Psychological Impact of Likes

A ‘like’ on social media is more than just a click; it’s a form of social validation. Psychologists have linked the pursuit of likes to the brain’s reward circuitry, akin to the gratification one feels from other forms of social approval. The receipt of a like can trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. This instant gratification, however, can also lead to a dependence on digital validation, steering users towards a quantifiable measure of their social worth.

The Economics of Attention

In the digital realm, attention is a scarce commodity. Social media platforms are designed to compete for this attention, utilizing algorithms that prioritize content with higher engagement. As a result, users are incentivized to garner as many likes as possible to increase their visibility. This system naturally skews towards quantity, as a higher number of likes can equate to broader reach and influence.

The Illusion of Popularity

The chase for likes is often driven by the desire for social standing and visibility. Likes are seen as an easy metric to gauge popularity or success, creating an illusion that quantity is an accurate reflection of quality. This perception can lead to a distorted view of one’s social presence, where the focus shifts from genuine interactions to numerical milestones.

The Quality Conundrum

While likes provide an easy way to express acknowledgment, they lack depth. This simplicity, though appealing, does not foster meaningful interactions or discussions. The preference for quantity over quality can result in a superficial engagement, where the nuances of communication are lost. In contrast, fewer but more meaningful interactions can lead to stronger connections and a more authentic online presence.

Redefining Digital Success

The challenge lies in redefining what success looks like in the digital world. Instead of focusing solely on the number of likes, users can strive for meaningful engagement, prioritizing quality interactions over quantity. This shift in perspective involves understanding the transient nature of likes and recognizing the value of genuine connections and conversations.


In conclusion, while likes serve as a convenient barometer of approval in the digital age, their value should not be overemphasized at the expense of genuine interactions. The pursuit of likes, driven by a complex interplay of psychological needs and the economics of attention, often favors quantity over quality. However, a balanced approach that values meaningful engagement can lead to a more fulfilling and authentic digital experience. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, it becomes increasingly important to navigate these interactions with a discerning eye, understanding the true value behind a simple ‘like’.

Kicking off the FSI Autism Hackathon

Today marks the exciting kickoff of the FSI Hackathon for Autism 2024, a pivotal event that brings together bright minds to innovate for autism services. Held as a hybrid event, this hackathon is unique in its commitment to harnessing Microsoft technologies for creating impactful solutions. Participants, including developers, therapists, and families (nearly 200 people!), will collaborate on open-source projects to address real-world challenges faced by those with autism. The event promises an engaging blend of technology, creativity, and community spirit, aiming to make a tangible difference in the lives of individuals affected by autism. For more in-depth details, visit the FSI Hackathon for Autism website.

From RAG (Retrieval Augmented Generation) to Riches: The Evolution and Impact of Advanced AI Systems

In the ever-evolving landscape of artificial intelligence, the emergence of Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG) models marks a significant milestone. These models, which blend traditional deep learning techniques with sophisticated data retrieval capabilities, have revolutionized how AI systems process and generate information. This article delves into the journey of RAG models from their conceptual inception to their transformative impact across various industries.

The Birth of RAG Models
Retrieval Augmented Generation models originated from a quest to enhance the depth and accuracy of responses generated by AI systems. Traditional models, based solely on pattern recognition and prediction from large datasets, often lacked contextual grounding and real-world applicability. RAG models addressed these limitations by integrating a retrieval mechanism that pulls in relevant information from extensive databases in real-time, enabling more informed and accurate responses.

The Mechanism Behind RAG
At its core, a RAG system operates in two key phases: retrieval and generation. During retrieval, the model queries an external knowledge base to fetch relevant information based on the input query. This information, often in the form of textual data, is then fed into a generative model. The generative model synthesizes this data with its pre-learned patterns to produce responses that are not only contextually rich but also grounded in factual accuracy.

Applications and Industry Impact
RAG models have found applications in a variety of fields:

  1. Customer Service: AI-powered chatbots using RAG technology provide more accurate and context-aware responses, enhancing customer satisfaction.
  2. Healthcare: In medical diagnosis, RAG models help in offering more precise information by referencing up-to-date medical research and data.
  3. Finance and Economics: For market analysis and forecasting, these models analyze vast amounts of financial data to provide deeper insights.
  4. Education: RAG-powered educational tools offer students tailored learning experiences by accessing a broad range of educational materials.

Challenges and Ethical Considerations
Despite their advantages, RAG models pose certain challenges. Data privacy concerns arise as these models access vast information repositories. Additionally, there is an ongoing debate about the ethical use of AI in decision-making, especially in critical domains like healthcare and law.

The Future: Towards a RAG-Rich World
As technology continues to advance, the potential for RAG models seems boundless. The integration of RAG systems with other emerging technologies like quantum computing and edge AI promises even more powerful applications. The journey from RAG to riches, metaphorically speaking, is not just about the technological advancement but also about the wealth of possibilities and improvements these systems bring to our lives and industries.

In conclusion, Retrieval Augmented Generation models represent a significant leap in the field of AI. By effectively combining retrieval mechanisms with generative capabilities, they offer more accurate, context-aware, and reliable outputs. As we continue to explore and refine these models, they hold the promise of not only transforming how machines learn and interact but also enriching human experiences in unprecedented ways.

🚀 Join Us at Microsoft Build 2024 – Where Innovation Meets Opportunity!

Are you a Tech Enthusiast?

🌟 Reminding everyone, that Microsoft Build 2024 is just around the corner, and it would be amazing for you to be a part of it! This is your chance to dive into the latest developments in tech, network with industry leaders, and shape the future of innovation.

📅 Date: May 21-23
📍 Location: Seattle & Online
🔗 Register Now!

Why Attend Microsoft Build 2024?

  • 🤖 Explore Cutting-Edge Technologies: Be the first to see Microsoft’s newest innovations in AI, cloud computing, and more.
  • 💡 Interactive Sessions & Workshops: Engage with hands-on sessions led by Microsoft experts.
  • 🌐 Networking Opportunities: Connect with like-minded professionals and industry leaders.
  • 🗣 Inspiring Keynotes: Hear from top tech visionaries about the future of technology.
  • 👨‍💻 Exclusive Access: Get insider knowledge and early access to emerging Microsoft technologies.
  • See me presenting: Yes – you read well, if all stars align, I will have a small speaking part, see below the recordings for my practicing 😀

Whether you’re a developer, a tech professional, or just passionate about technology, Microsoft Build 2024 is the place to be. You’ll leave inspired, informed, and ready to create the future.

🎟 In person spaces are Limited – Secure Your Spot Today!

Can’t wait to see you there!

#MicrosoftBuild2024 #TechInnovation #FutureIsNow #MSBuild2024

Understanding the “NinjaCat” Phenomenon at Microsoft

In the realm of corporate cultures, symbols and mascots often emerge as embodiments of a company’s spirit and values. Microsoft, a titan in the technology sector, is no exception. In recent years, a quirky and intriguing symbol has captured the imagination of both its employees and fans alike: the NinjaCat.

Origins of NinjaCat

The NinjaCat first appeared as an internal meme within Microsoft, around the time of the development and release of Windows 10. It began as a humorous visual, initially created by a Microsoft employee, which combined a cat and a ninja – two internet-beloved entities. The cat was depicted riding a fire-breathing unicorn, symbolizing both power and whimsy.

Symbolism and Popularity

NinjaCat quickly gained popularity within Microsoft as a symbol of both the fun and innovative spirit of the company. It represented a departure from the traditional corporate image, showcasing Microsoft’s willingness to embrace a more playful and imaginative side. The image resonated particularly among the developer and tech communities, symbolizing the agility, strength, and stealthiness of a ninja, coupled with the curiosity and independence of a cat.

Usage and Variations

Microsoft embraced this grassroots symbol, incorporating NinjaCat into various internal and promotional materials. It has appeared in numerous variations, often reflecting different aspects of Microsoft’s technology. For instance, NinjaCat has been depicted riding different animals or vehicles, each representing different Microsoft products or services.

Impact on Corporate Culture

The adoption of NinjaCat reflects a broader shift in corporate culture at Microsoft. Under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella, the company has moved towards a more open, collaborative, and playful work environment. NinjaCat has become an unofficial mascot, embodying this new ethos and fostering a sense of community and shared identity among employees.

Merchandising and Fan Base

Due to its popularity, Microsoft has created official NinjaCat merchandise, including T-shirts, stickers, and other items. The mascot has amassed a fan base both within and outside of Microsoft, with tech enthusiasts and fans embracing the symbol.


The rise of the NinjaCat at Microsoft is more than just the adoption of a quirky mascot. It symbolizes a significant cultural shift within the company – towards openness, creativity, and a bit of fun. This reflects the evolving nature of the tech industry, where innovation is not just about technical prowess but also about fostering an engaging and inclusive environment. NinjaCat, in its small way, represents this new spirit at Microsoft.

“Everyone Has a Photographic Memory – Some Just Don’t Have Film”

The phrase “everyone has a photographic memory, some just don’t have film” is a whimsical way of suggesting that while all humans possess the capability for detailed memory, the capacity to recall those memories vividly varies greatly from person to person. In this article, we will explore the concept of photographic memory, also known as eidetic memory, and delve into the reasons why memory recall can differ so widely among individuals.

The Concept of Photographic Memory:

Photographic or eidetic memory refers to the ability to recall images, sounds, or objects in memory with high precision for a brief period after being exposed to them. It is often depicted in popular culture as the ability to remember pages of a book word-for-word or details of a scene with perfect clarity. However, in reality, this phenomenon is quite rare.

Neurological Basis:

Memory is a complex process that involves various parts of the brain. The hippocampus, for instance, plays a crucial role in the consolidation of information from short-term to long-term memory. Some individuals might have more efficient pathways or a larger hippocampus, enabling them to store and retrieve information more effectively.

The Role of Attention and Perception:

Attention and perception are critical in forming memories. People who are more attentive to details are likely to recall them better. This is often mistaken for having a ‘photographic memory,’ but in essence, it’s about how some individuals are more observant and process information in a more detailed manner.

Training and Techniques:

Some experts argue that memory can be improved with practice. Techniques like mnemonic devices, memory palaces, and consistent rehearsal can enhance one’s ability to recall information. These methods don’t necessarily lead to a photographic memory but can significantly improve memory retention.

Emotional and Psychological Factors:

Emotions play a vital role in memory. Emotional events are often remembered more vividly and accurately, a phenomenon known as emotional memory. This implies that memories tied to strong emotions, whether positive or negative, are more likely to be recalled accurately.

Cultural and Environmental Influences:

Cultural factors also influence memory. Societies that rely more on oral tradition, for instance, might develop better memory techniques. Environmental factors, like exposure to toxins or nutrition, can also affect cognitive functions, including memory.

The Metaphor of Film:

The analogy of not having film represents the idea that some individuals might lack the tools or the conducive environment to develop sharper memories. Factors like educational opportunities, stress levels, and even genetics play a role in shaping our memory capabilities.


While the idea of a photographic memory is more of a myth than a reality, it’s undeniable that memory capabilities vary widely among individuals. This variance can be attributed to a combination of neurological, psychological, emotional, and environmental factors. Understanding these elements can help us appreciate the unique ways in which we all perceive and remember the world around us. Just like a camera without film, some individuals might possess the potential for sharp memory but require the right circumstances and training to fully develop this ability.

Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it

One of the most paradoxical yet insightful sayings about life’s learning curve is, “Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.” This statement, often attributed to various thinkers, encapsulates a fundamental truth about human growth and understanding. It suggests that the most valuable lessons are often learned through direct engagement and, unfortunately, after the moment when they would have been most useful. This article delves into the nuances of this quote, exploring its implications in personal development, professional growth, and the broader context of learning and adaptation.

The Paradox of Experience

The primary charm of the quote lies in its paradox. Ideally, one would like to have all the necessary experience before facing a significant challenge. However, the reality is quite the contrary. Often, it’s only after navigating a situation, making mistakes, and reflecting upon them that one truly gains wisdom. This catch-22 is a fundamental aspect of the human experience, emphasizing the importance of learning from mistakes and being adaptable.

Implications in Personal Development

In personal development, this saying underscores the value of resilience and adaptability. Life is an uncharted territory with numerous unforeseen challenges. People often find that the trials they face are those for which they were least prepared. It’s only after facing these challenges that individuals acquire the experience and insight needed to handle similar situations in the future. This process encourages continuous learning and highlights the importance of not being too hard on oneself for not having all the answers upfront.

Relevance in Professional Growth

In a professional context, this quote resonates profoundly. Careers are often rife with unexpected twists and turns. Young professionals may find themselves in situations where they feel inadequately prepared. The wisdom here is recognizing that on-the-job learning is a critical component of professional development. It suggests that embracing challenges, even when one feels unprepared, is a necessary step towards gaining experience and expertise.

Learning and Adaptation

The quote also speaks to the broader theme of learning and adaptation in life. It suggests that learning is an ongoing process, and true understanding often comes from experience rather than theoretical knowledge. This perspective encourages a mindset of lifelong learning, where individuals are always open to new experiences and the lessons they bring, even if those lessons come a little later than desired.


“Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it” is a powerful reminder of the nonlinear path of learning and growth. Whether in personal life, professional development, or continuous learning, this quote encourages individuals to embrace the unknown, learn from their experiences, and understand that sometimes, wisdom is gained just a little after it was needed. This acknowledgment doesn’t diminish the value of these experiences; rather, it enhances their importance as stepping stones in the journey of life.