The past 24 months have brought major changes for Microsoft in Washington, D.C.
The software giant moved its local office to a new building on K Street NW, with double the square footage as their previous space. The company began partnering with the D.C. government to amp up interest in science and technology among local students, residents and businesses. And this month, the Redmond, Wash.-based company welcomed a new member to its in-house government affairs team, former Capitol Hill staffer Rebecca Mark.
Microsoft officials said the changes build on their longtime efforts to reach out to lawmakers. While the company’s local workforce is not growing in numbers — Microsoft has held steady around 1,000 employees in the region since 1995, about 40 of whom are policy experts in the downtown D.C office — the move into a new office put them in prime real estate across the street from the CityCenterDC development. And their recently completed tech center on the building’s 12th floor, which showcases the Surface tablet and Windows Phone 8, brings more visibility to their latest products.
Part of the 2011 move to a larger office was to have more space to bring together people in the education, technology and policy communities. The company hosts at least 200 meetings, events and receptions in the downtown space throughout the year, including launch parties for Xbox games and discussions on policy issues. The next event to be held there, part of a series called “@Microsoft Conversations” that was unveiled shortly after the move downtown, will focus on science, technology, engineering and math education — an issue Microsoft executives are vocal about promoting. The event will include a panel with leaders from the National Education Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers and Montgomery County Public Schools.
Microsoft is putting together additional events and partnerships with local businesses as part of a “strategic digital alliance” with the District. Last year, the company completed training for 10 local minority-owned businesses and hosted technology and computer courses for local students.
Mark, who joined Microsoft from the public affairs firm Glen Echo Group, is part of the company’s efforts to engage with lawmakers on technology policy.
She is the first member of the company’s federal government affairs team who has a blended communications and technology background on Capitol Hill. Mark has two press secretary stints under her belt — the first for Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) and the second for Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) — and worked on technology-related legislation for both. Her current role, manager of government affairs, is a newly created one at Microsoft.
“Members of Congress and their staff are looking to better understand how proposed legislation impacts jobs and competitiveness and how technology can optimize their goals. This role will allow Rebecca and our team the opportunity to connect these two objectives while providing us with additional outreach capacity on the Hill,” said Matt Gelman, Microsoft’s senior director of Congressional Affairs.
Mark is about two weeks into the new gig. She plans to reach out to newly elected members of Congress and their staff to “make sure people have a person to reach out to here.”
“I’ve always wanted to work on ... how to use technology to further messages with constituents and communicate with voters,” said Mark, who began her career as an ad account manager at MySpace in Los Angeles before moving to Washington in 2007.
Microsoft is a major lobbying presence in Washington. Last year, the company worked with 21 outside lobby firms and spent nearly $5.7 million to influence lawmakers on a wide range of issues including taxes, telecommunications and immigration.