Microsoft Ignite interview with Executive Team on #ArtificialIntelligence, #Data, #OpenSource and #Cloud

There were a number of announcements across Azure Data + AI at Microsoft Ignite, and Im delighted to say that I had the opportunity to interview Rohan Kumar, Corporate Vice President, Azure Data at Microsoft, and Eric Boyd, Corporate Vice President, AI at Microsoft.

In the interview, Rohan Kumar and Eric Boyd give their opinions and thoughts to myself and Cathrine Wilhelmsen on the big picture across Data & AI.  I was super excited since it was the first time that these Microsoft executives had been interviewed together and I was particularly interested to see how Rohan and Eric cross-reference each other’s areas. It’s clear that they are working in orchestration as a team, and I’m glad to see that because I do see that data and Artificial Intelligence impact one another so much.

Rohan and Eric talk about the announcements that excited them both, and there was also a good discussion on the role of Open Source at Microsoft, and what role it plays in Microsoft’s Data and Artificial Intelligence story.

There was a great discussion on Eric and Rohan’s thoughts on its role in making insights, Artificial Intelligence and insight-driven analysis real for organizations. Every organization on the planet has got data, and Microsoft are carving a path for the organizations that want to make use of it.

I’m personally interested in Amara’s Law, which states that “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” So I was interested in Rohan and Eric’s perspectives on what aspects of AI are real versus hype. What is Microsoft doing to make AI real and actionable for customers?

amara

We wrapped up with a great conversation on the Microsoft and Facebook collaboration?, which I personally find interesting.

It was  real life-achievement for me to participate in the Microsoft Ignite Community Reporter team, and it was a real achievement for me to interview the Microsoft Executives. I’d like to thank Rohan Kumar and Eric Boyd for their time and for sharing their wisdom and insights.

I was also glad to be on board with Cathrine Wilhelmsen. Cathrine was a wonderful friend and support throughout the week and she’s not just an expert in her domain, but she’s a very giving person in terms of her friendship and support. So the interview holds special meaning for me since I was glad to have the opportunity to work with her.

Microsoft acquires Github – does it make sense?

img_0271-edit

Chris Wanstrath (left), Github CEO and co-founder; Nat Friedman, Microsoft corporate vice president, Developer Services; Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO; and Amy Hood, Microsoft Chief Financial Officer. Credit: https://blogs.microsoft.com/blog/2018/06/04/microsoft-github-empowering-developers/ 

Microsoft have to reach the future generations of coders and GitHub is a common denominator for coders. This shows that Microsoft believes in developers, and AI, for the long-term. This is visionary and I love the forward-looking aspect of development.

What will Microsoft get?

– VS Code
– TypeScript
– Electron
– GitHub

This is crucial, since it puts Microsoft running through the veins of modern development, for now and the future. Microsoft are meeting developers where they are.

This is also very forward thinking. I was mentoring at an AI Hackathon this weekend, and I noted that the teens weren’t using Visual Studio for AI. They were using JavaScript and tensorflow JS. All of the teens all had a GitHub account and they were happily checking code in and out. They were very proud of having repositories full of code since they felt that it was proof of their coding abilities.

Microsoft is the largest user of Github so it is largely invested in it already. It’s not just self-protection, however, it goes well with the best IDE ever: Visual Studio. I am excited about the opportunities that it brings for Microsoft and developers.

What will happen next?

Who knows, but here is my take. It’s a more subtle New, One Microsoft because they do seem to be leaving GitHub to run independently, rather than Microsofting it. LinkedIn accounts were not merged into Live IDs or Office365 accounts. I think that Github will take the same road. Nat Friedman will be CEO, so it looks like GitHub will run independently as normal. Why change something that works? That isn’t solving a problem.

To summarise, yes, it absolutely makes sense. Microsoft are looking at future generations as well as existing requirements. That’s true leadership, and it is a new Microsoft.

More reading:

 

Why Microsoft does not need to prove it’s another IBM: Work is what we do, not where we are.

Does Microsoft have to prove it’s not another IBM? I read this article from the Verge, which suggested that Microsoft would have to prove that it’s not another IBM. The article suggests that ‘Microsoft is increasingly focusing its efforts on businesses rather than consumers’, evidenced by the Windows demos being relegated to Day Two.

In the article, the author states that ‘Microsoft can’t afford to become the next IBM and lose any relevance it still holds with consumers, but if it’s not careful, that might be inevitable.’ I would strongly disagree with this assertion. Let’s take a look at where Microsoft are going.

Work is what we do, not where we are. That’s why the Alexa and Cortana integration is so important.

From the Build keynote, I got the real sense that Microsoft are paying attention to consumers with the Alexa and Cortana integration. I see the split quite neatly; Alexa for Amazon type of requests where I want to order something, or use an Amazon service such as Audible. I see the Cortana aspect of Alexa as ramping up the productivity, both personal and professional, for consumers. Microsoft remember their consumers and this view will help Microsoft in efforts to retain mainstream mass market success beyond Windows and Office. The reality is that our life boundaries between work and play are pretty blurred nowadays, and Microsoft understand that. Work is what we do and part of who we are; work is not a place to go, do work, and come back again. Our lives are way too confusing for that simplicity and those days are gone.

workandplay

Microsoft has the opportunity to show the world this week what it really stands for, and, for me, Microsoft seems to ‘get’ people and the mess that is our lives. Additionally, there will always be the diversity aspect that Microsoft brings to the table. In the Day One keynote, for example, it was inspiring to see work teams collaborating productively with a deaf team member, and ensuring that she was part of the team.

Another aspect of Microsoft Build is that diversity does not mean sticking pretty young women up on the stage in some sort of reverse move; sexism in the guise of diversity where organizations pretend to be diverse by showing ‘babes’ as presenters. The Microsoft Build stage was shared with real women leaders who have a passion for technology, as well as an inclusive message by showing how technology helped a techie who is deaf. Microsoft’s demo showed that her deafness was part of who she is, but it did not stop her from doing what she loves. As a female in technology, this means a lot to me. Having complained on booth babes in the past, I feel that diverse groups have a home at Microsoft and Microsoft are showing the way by example. That’s real leadership, and that’s why I don’t think Microsoft need to prove that they aren’t IBM in disguise at all; they are embedding this perspective in their DNA.

With Satya Nadella at the helm, there is a real care and concern, almost a love for people and the planet, which imbued Satya’s keynote.

During the keynote, Nadella talked about Microsoft’s impact on people and planet through opportunity and responsibility, and they were right at the front and start and centre of the keynote. For that, as someone on a Buddhist journey as well as a female in tech, that was a key takeaway for me. I felt that Satya’s keynote talked directly to me.

Microsoft are serious about open source, and making it a first-class citizen. Microsoft is single largest contributor to open source on GitHub. According to GitHub, Microsoft has the largest open source community in the entire world with Visual Studio Code. If this is a surprise, you weren’t paying attention and it shows a real commitment to the creativity of developers. IBM has a story for open-source too and they have shown themselves to be leaders in this area. Microsoft seem to be splattering open source everywhere and I get the impression that they are way more vocal about it than IBM are. In fact, I don’t think you can actually avoid it in many Microsoft products anymore. Take R, for example; it’s in everything from SQL Server through to Power BI, and you can even use R in Excel, which is, after all, the world’s favourite Business Intelligence tools and one of the most unsung inventions of the 20th century.

I don’t believe that the promises of AI are ‘vague’ at all, as suggested by the article. There are clearly many opportunities for intelligent drones, as evidenced by Microsoft’s forward-looking partnership with DJI. It’s important to note that IBM also have a partnership with Aerialtronics. In this sense, both organizations are going in the same direction. I’m not sure what’s vague about it from the Microsoft perspective; they’ve signed up with a manufacturing giant, and I think that’s good news. I also think competition is a good thing, but I also think that Microsoft are placing the opportunity in the hands of developers and that’s allowing freedom and creativity, being mindful of Satya’s commentary about ethical AI and its responsibilities.

MIcrosoft should not fear IBM at all.  I see Microsoft as having a consumer and business audience. Consumers will still be a focus for Microsoft between Windows, Mixed Reality, Xbox, Office and other services, along with new innovations such as the Alexa/Cortana piece mentioned earlier. Microsoft have clearly gone after enterprise as a focus, especially in the Cloud sector. Those bets have been paying off as the Azure business is growing, and going from strength to strength and the strategy is continuing to prove itself to shareholders, and that’s crucial as an independent barometer.

 

Being a Microsoft Regional Director: faith, trust and pixie dust for good

I’m still learning about being a Microsoft Regional Director and I’m figuring things out. I’d like to thank Microsoft here for this opportunity and I’d like to thank the great RD team at Microsoft for their seemingly-endless patience with my questions!

Here is my opinion. I don’t represent anyone other than myself, and this is in no way official. I am extremely honored to be a Regional Director and an MVP and I think that the RD role is worth exploring further. This is just an opinion, and that I’m still learning about the RD role since I am new to it. I might add that i’m still figuring out being an MVP as well. Actually, I’m still wondering what job I want to do when I grow up!

Let’s take an example. Recently, an email popped up in my mailbox from a senior executive and decision maker, who asked for a hiring strategy for Azure team members and a commentary about POs for Azure, including Power BI. So I made a huge impact at that customer site, which was a large organization and a big ship to steer around. In fact, it takes faith, hope and a little dash of pixie dust as well as joining hands with the team in order to make the jump in digital transformation; people, processes and technology. And then, I rinse and repeat at other organizations so that everyone has a good leap of faith in the direct direction.

Recently I was on the BBC, talking about a different client where I am helping with a data science for good project, which focuses on homelessness and other aspects of social care. I’ve put the video here, in case you’re interested:

You probably think that any one-woman-band projects mean much, but they do. In fact, it’s huge. I have been working with the first client for months, on and off, combining my time with other customers in an ad-hoc way. I am convinced that Azure is the right solution and the role was born out of the roadmap to Azure that I had worked with them to produce, as part of a larger strategy piece; and it’s just the first role and more will be added later.

For the second customer case, the work we are doing, using Microsoft technologies, is going to have a good impact on people’s lives. The data overrides your perceptions. When we think of homeless people, we think of the tramps on the street, right? Wrong. What about victims of domestic violence, who become victims of unexpected homelessness because they are in fear for their lives? What about their children? That’s how hard people have it in their lives, and in the tech world, we are so blessed, often. What are we complaining about, really?

I don’t think that the RD role or the MVP role are sales roles at all. I don’t benefit financially from these recommendations. I am entirely independent and, if I recommend a solution, it’s because I believe that it is the correct solution.

So I think an RD is partially about having that strategic impact that Microsoft can really see and feel, in a good way. There will be nothing to tie me to the purchase of Azure at all, because I didn’t receive anything and I don’t sell Azure, and I didn’t make anything from the sale. I’m an independent consultant so I get paid for my time, not the fruits of my recommendations. But people will feel the results; the new hires, for example.

So I think an RD is partially about having that strategic impact that other people can really see and feel, in a good way. In these digital transformation pieces, I’m making people’s work easier for them through better processes, great technology and mentoring, supporting and helping people. For the work I’m doing in data science for good, I’m using Microsoft Data Science technologies as part of an amazing, amazing team who are doing great things and making people’s lives better. I think that is it, really: about using your pixie dust to do good things. It’s not about ‘bigger is better’ – bigger business, higher github admissions, higher turnover, larger number of hires, bigger number of Azure VMs, bigger number of forum answers or bigger profile on Stackoverflow. I think it’s about having the same pixie dust as anyone else, but throwing it liberally on the right things.

Rule your mind or it will rule you – Buddha

I think it’s about personal growth. It’s also about striving to have a maturity of outlook and a cool head, and I am trying very hard to heal and be the clean person I’d like to be. I’m doing my MBA and it’s all about personal growth and development. It’s unlike any other course I’ve done, since it means I get really hard feedback about myself as a person as well as my work. Some of the feedback is great, and other feedback is uncomfortable and provokes cognitive dissonance, but the self-honesty means that I can work on it through reflexive and reflective leadership techniques. For example, I’ve written before about having Imposter Syndrome but now I am learning to watch my thoughts better (mindfulness and my Buddhist journey) which means I’m starting to understand better if it really is Imposter Syndrome, or perhaps it’s a reality check, or perhaps I am just being silly? I have grown so much in the past few years and my Buddhist journey tells me that I have a long way to go.

When others go low, you go high

Kirk D Borne, who is an immensely insightful gentleman, asked me a deceptively simple question: what does this actually mean for you? I’d like to thank Kirk here because his generous and insightful question provoked me to think of  for days. I love it when someone challenges me with a wise question and one that I hadn’t considered before, which was kind of the point! I’ve decided on an answer: what being an RD means for me is the opportunity to network, learn and share with people who are brilliant, mature, optimistic, knowledgeable, willing to share freely and with no reward in it, know when to speak and when to stay silent, experienced in business and in the tech sphere. I’m with a great set of people who I admire.

Accountability

Accountability is a very tough thing to learn and it’s something that I ask myself every day: who is accountable? Professionally or personally, you can’t shrug off personal accountability. To lead by example, you have to be accountable, which means that people can have faith and trust in you.

It’s about people you can have faith and trust in, and striving to be that person. The RD program inspires me to work towards being all of these things and to consider accountability.

It also means that I am working to make sure that nobody steals my pixie dust. Michelle Obama inspires me here: when others go low, I go high. Words to live by!

Don’t let anyone steal your Pixie Dust

Following on from accountability, it’s about being an authentic you and striving to be a better  you. On my office wall, I have a picture of Tinkerbell, as follows.

pixiedust

My onboarding to the RD Program has been incredible and people outside and inside of Microsoft have been amazing. So I’d like to thank everyone who has congratulated me and I can promise that I will do my best.

TIL: Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) for veterans

Now I’m part of the Regional Director Program, I’ve decided to learn more broadly about some of the great things that Microsoft do in order to be a diverse and conscious organization.

I was interested to read about the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), which is aimed at veterans with career skills required for today’s growing technology industry, as they progress from their military careers to their new careers.

The MSSA is aimed at all sorts of careers.  There are even Business Intelligence careers mentioned here, which I love. MSSA Programs are available at major military locations nationwide in the US, so it’s clearly something they’ve thought about, and are taking seriously.

You can read more here.

First week as a Microsoft Regional Director – what did I learn?

It’s been my first week as a Regional Director and I thought it would be useful to report back on what I’ve learned so far.

Firstly, many existing RDs and Microsoft team members have been in touch to welcome me and it’s been such a nice experience. They are all incredibly nice. I feel I’m joining a warm group of people. There has been no shred of animosity and I have not heard anyone say a bad thing about anyone else. That’s very important to me. They are exemplary models of being the ‘bigger’ person. I will learn to be more sharing and perhaps even more trusting as part of this group, and, on an individual level, some healing as well. I’m joining a group of people who will be good for me. Sometimes it’s hard to work out who is good for you and who isn’t, and I am inspired by them to work even harder at being someone who is good for others.

Secondly, I learned that some of my friends are joining the Program too – Stacia Varga and Reza Rad. I’m thrilled to be joining with them and very excited about the opportunity to work with them.

Strangely, I learned that a lot of people don’t know what an RD is. Some Microsoft team members didn’t know, either, but I was buoyed by their happiness that they thought I was joining them! So I’ve had to explain that it is a community role. Hopefully I can help to explain as I figure things out, too.

Any questions, please leave a comment.

 

Microsoft Regional Director and setting an example with diversity and inclusion

I am now a Microsoft Regional Director! I have a lot of people to thank and I’m still overwhelmed and digesting the news. I want to do a really good job of this role and it’s a real gift. I understand it’s a mark of people’s faith in me and I don’t want to let people down. As always, this is a personal opinion and I don’t represent anyone else.

Microsoft, particularly recently, have become champions of diversity and inclusion. I was always happy to see diverse group members taking centre spotlight on the stage at events, for example, and women like Lara Rubbelke, Rimma Nehme and Julie Lerman were women I admired very much as leaders in their own right, who happened to be female as well. In my field of data, there are a ton of very talented women that inspire me: Jen Underwood, Claudia Imhoff, Stacia Varga, to name a few.

I want to thank Microsoft for continuing their journey as leaders in Diversity and Inclusion. In doing so, Microsoft are really doing more than ‘democratizing data and AI to the masses’. They are redefining the future by striving to becoming impact champions for diversity and equality in the workplace globally, and they are setting an example. It’s part of their DNA; embedded and unfolding.  Women are a minority in IT, that’s for sure. But our clout is growing and it gives me hope for the future, and it’s companies like Microsoft who are leading the way.

cups

I’m not sure why I was awarded the Microsoft Regional Director Award. I’m hugely grateful. I’ll probably never find out. But I like to think that Microsoft are on a mission to ensure that diverse voices are given leadership roles and a place at the table. I don’t think I got it because I’m female; people forget I’ve done postgraduate work in Artificial Intelligence at a university in Paris. I’ve run my own business for 8 years, and my current customer list in my current projects have combined turnovers of nearly £25 billion. In terms of other collateral, I also have a customer who reports right into Whitehall. My customers don’t pick me because I’m female; they pick me because I can help them and I’m prepared to cut myself on bleeding edge projects. Not bad for a single mother from a deprived part of Scotland. I’ve had to work ten times as hard for everything I have, and it’s been hard work plus love and support of great people that has fuelled me to get me this far.

What is a Microsoft Regional Director?

I got a whole slew of messages on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to congratulate me, and I was overwhelmed. I did also get the question ‘what is an RD?’ so hence I’m writing this blog. What is an RD?

Taken from the official blog: The Regional Director Program provides Microsoft leaders with the customer insights and real-world voices it needs to continue empowering developers and IT professionals with the world’s most innovative and impactful tools, services, and solutions.

Established in 1993, the program consists of 150 of the world’s top technology visionaries chosen specifically for their proven cross-platform expertise, community leadership, and commitment to business results. You will typically find Regional Directors keynoting at top industry events, leading community groups and local initiatives, running technology-focused companies, or consulting on and implementing the latest breakthrough within a multinational corporation.

Regional Directors and MVPs are not Microsoft employees

I have had a lot of ‘Congratulations for joining Microsoft!’ messages – some of them from Microsoft team members – so I thought it was a good opportunity to clear up that RDs, like MVPs, are not paid. It’s an honour and a responsibility and there is no pecuniary advantage.

So what’s next?

I am not sure. But watch this space. I have ideas and things are bubbling. I look forward to your comments and thoughts; please leave a note below, if you like!

 

pumpkins