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Accenture fosters inclusive workspace to empower employees with Microsoft 365 – Microsoft 365 Blog

Today’s post was written by Stephen Cutchins CIO and accessibility lead at Accenture.

Headshot of Stephen Cutchins, CIO and accessibility lead at Accenture.Diversity at Accenture is a source of strength; the wealth of different perspectives and skillsets that our employees bring to the table keeps us leading in our field. Achieving more as a company starts with addressing the needs of every single employee in our workforce. I am passionate about accessibility. I grew up with two cousins with disabilities and it shaped my outlook on the whole idea of inclusion in the workplace. Accessible technology is about one thing—fitting the tools to the humans who use themand I’m fortunate to work with a company that shares my vision. I wanted to create an accessibility practice at Accenture, and to that end, I started as the first employee in the CIO’s Center for Excellence, where we look at finding the right tools for an inclusive workplace. And when it comes to business tools, we see Microsoft as a leader in inclusive technology and a great partner, a perfect match for our goals to put technology to work empowering every one of our employees. In fact, we now take it for granted that the experiences within Microsoft 365 are going to work well for our employees.

As a human-centric company, our workplace initiatives are designed to bring the conversation about accessibility to the forefront, encouraging an open dialogue about how we can support employees’ needs in the workplace. Accenture runs on Office 365 productivity services that include a wealth of built-in accessibility features. The Microsoft approach of “accessibility by design” matches our philosophy that accessibility is not an add-on or an afterthought, but an inherent part of the technology we use to communicate and collaborate as an organization.

The ability to collaborate effectively with your colleagues to get work done is the baseline of any productive organization. A lot of credit goes to accessibility features in Office 365 ProPlus applications—such as Skype for Business, Word, and Outlook—for helping us tap into the incredible resources in our company. Daily Skype voice and video calls become transformative when people who are blind or motor-disabled can participate by using JAWS screen reader for Windows or voice dictation software. Even minor changes can have an enormous impact. I was excited to see that when Microsoft moved the Accessibility Checker front and center in Word, near the spell check, it raised awareness of both the feature itself and the need to use it. We are all of different abilities, and learning to consider the full range of situations across the disability spectrum means employees will use the tools at hand for better communication and collaboration with everyone.

It gives me enormous satisfaction that our inclusive workplace, with Microsoft technologies, engages our employees to do their best work and to help them realize their true potential and grow as human beings. Everyone benefits.

—Stephen Cutchins

Read the case study to learn more about how Accenture is empowering its workforce with the intuitive accessibility tools built into Windows 10 and Office 365.

Mastercard disrupts payment industry with innovation driven by Microsoft 365

Today’s post was written by Ron Markezich, corporate vice president for Microsoft.

Disruption in the payment industry is all about simplification, expedience, and secure global connections. Mastercard is leading the charge to a “world beyond cash,” creating products and services such as the company’s new digital wallet, Masterpass, and tokenization solutions that improve the security of digital payments. These advances continue the company’s long history of innovation, rooted firmly in its culture and people. That’s why it’s so exciting that Mastercard uses Microsoft 365 to incentivize and engage its employees through highly secure, modern workplaces—where creative collaboration happens as quickly and seamlessly as any Mastercard payment.

Here’s what Ed McLaughlin, president of Mastercard Operations and Technology, has to say about the company’s adoption of Microsoft Cloud solutions:

“Mastercard connects people, financial institutions, merchants, and businesses across the globe. As one of the largest technology companies in the payments space, we give our employees the tools they need to deliver continual innovation to our customers and do it securely. We selected Microsoft 365 to support a modern workplace for our 11,900 employees, giving them the capability to collaborate on the fly and deliver their best work.”

I like to think of how we are amplifying the ingenuity and creative thinking that goes on every day at Mastercard through continuous improvements to the Office 365 platform. For example, we are weaving Microsoft machine learning and AI capabilities throughout Office 365 apps. One new feature, Insights in Excel, automatically highlights patterns, outliers, and trends in data, so employees see different perspectives on their business information to spark new ideas.

I’m looking forward to seeing the next iteration of Mastercard’s take on disruption in the global payment ecosystem!

—Ron Markezich

New to Office 365 in January—enriching teamwork across devices

Today’s post was written by Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team.

We’re launching into 2018 by bringing great new value to Office 365 subscribers, with updates that enhance how teams work together and unlock new ways to create and manage content across devices. Read on for details.

Get more done in Microsoft Teams

New features for Microsoft Teams enable you to interact with apps in new ways, customize your personal workspace, and take quick actions.

Find and use apps in new ways—Now you can include interactive cards from apps in conversations the same way you would add an emoji or GIF. With one click, you can bring important information, like a task from Trello, into a channel conversation or chat. Finding new apps and services in Teams is now easier with the new Store, where you can search for apps by name or category, such as “Project management” or “Analytics & BI.”

Command apps and take quick actions across Teams—We also introduced the new command box in Microsoft Teams, a single point of entry that integrates your search and command experiences. Now you can quickly interact with apps, perform tasks, and navigate throughout Teams directly from the command box, in addition to searching across people, messages, files, and apps.

A view of the apps available for Microsoft Teams from the Store dash.

Work together more effectively with updates to iOS and Mac

New Office 365 capabilities for iOS and Mac enhance how teams create content together, make it easier to produce advanced documents, presentations, and spreadsheets from anywhere, and introduce new ways to search, preview, and interact with files.

Co-authoring for iOS and Mac—We made it easier for individuals to work together across devices with the general availability of co-authoring in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel for iOS and Mac. Now, whether you work on a Mac, PC, or mobile device, you’ll know who else is working with you in a document, see where they’re working, and view changes. Co-authoring is already available on the Office desktop applications for Windows, Office for Android, and Office Online. Learn more at the Microsoft Tech Community.

Automatically save your work on Mac—Today also marks the general availability of AutoSave in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on Mac for Office 365 subscribers who store their documents in OneDrive and SharePoint. Whether you’re working alone or with others, your latest changes are now automatically stored in the cloud, so you never need to worry about hitting the Save button again. You can also view and restore content from earlier versions of the document at any time with support for version history.

Image of a laptop open, displaying a financial report in Excel.

Drag and drop content and files on iOS—The Office and OneDrive iOS apps now support drag and drop for content and files. One of the most common and powerful tasks when creating content is integrating photos, graphs, and other objects from a variety of sources. Now Office 365 subscribers on iPad and iPhone can easily drag and drop content into documents, presentations, and spreadsheets from other Office apps or OneDrive. Support for drag and drop for iOS also enables you to move files to and from OneDrive and other sources—such as SharePoint or iMessage—making it easier to organize content scattered across different apps and services.

Animated image shows the drag and drop capabilities in Office and OneDrive for iOS.

Access OneDrive files from more iOS apps—OneDrive for iOS now natively supports the new iOS 11 Files app. This means iPhone and iPad users can upload, access, edit, and save content to OneDrive or SharePoint from any iOS app that supports File app integration—a top requested feature. Users can also tag their favorite OneDrive and SharePoint files from within the Files app, making it easier to find and use the content that matters to you.

Preview more file types with OneDrive for iOS—We redesigned the OneDrive for iOS app with a more detailed list view, making it easier to scan file names, see relevant information, and sort files by specific attributes. The updated OneDrive for iOS app also creates crisp thumbnails and supports previews for over 130 file types, including Adobe Photoshop and 3D objects, so you can open, view, and share the right content without leaving the app.

Search across your organization with Outlook for iOS—The new search experience in Outlook for iOS leverages the Microsoft Graph to surface results from your top contacts, upcoming travel itineraries, package deliveries, recent attachments, and more. Together with proactive search suggestions and a unified design, it now provides consistent, personalized results that enable you to discover information from across your organization faster.

Improve reading skills with Learning Tools for Mac—Word for Mac now supports Immersive Reader and Read Aloud, tools previously available in Word for Windows and mobile apps. These tools enable content to be viewed in ways that are optimized for learning differences and allow documents to be read back with simultaneous highlighting. These features make it easier to recognize and correct errors as you write, improving reading and editing accuracy for everyone—especially users with learning disabilities such as dyslexia.

Additional updates

  • New ways to share on YammerEarlier this month, we introduced new ways for users to share engaging company-wide content from wherever they are with the Yammer mobile app. Users can now post announcements to groups, add animated GIFs, and more.
  • Powerful inclusive learning tools—Last week at Bett, we introduced a range of powerful new tools that make teaching and learning in schools more inclusive and collaborative, including built-in dictation across Office 365 and the expansion of Learning Tools to Mac and iPhone.

Learn more about what’s new for Office 365 subscribers this month at: Office for Windows desktops | Office for Mac | Office Mobile for Windows | Office for iPhone and iPad | Office for Android. If you’re an Office 365 Home or Personal customer, be sure to sign up for Office Insider to be the first to use the latest and greatest in Office productivity. Commercial customers on both Monthly Channel and Semi-Annual Channel can also get early access to a fully supported build through Targeted Release (Clients, Services). All updates in this blog have reached general availability and are beginning to roll out to Office 365 subscribers. Microsoft Teams updates are rolling out automatically and you can expect to see them in your Teams desktop client soon. For iOS and Mac updates, check for updates on your device. Some devices may receive these updates later than others.

Digital transformation on a global scale—Accenture runs its business on Microsoft – Office Blogs

Logo for Accenture.

Today’s post was written by Ron Markezich, corporate vice president for Microsoft.

I have known Andrew Wilson since he became Accenture CIO more than four years ago, and I continue to be impressed by what a strong IT organization he has built. Andrew not only motivates the IT organization, but he also takes a strong leadership role across the company, encouraging everyone to adopt new technology to transform the business. Just look at the stats. More than 420,000 Accenture employees in 120 countries embody the digital transformation experience. One of the first global corporations to migrate to Office 365, Accenture has 484,000 Exchange Online mailboxes. Consultants work in creative teams and stay engaged with the company through 20,000 SharePoint Online sites, and more than 25,000 employees are enthusiastic early adopters of Microsoft Teams. Cloud-first file storage is the norm, with employees enjoying mobile access to 900 million files or 2.2 petabytes of corporate data in OneDrive. And with employees racking up more than 309 million minutes of Skype for Business Online conferencing every month, it’s clear that they’re empowered to communicate on any device, when and where they need to. Mobility at this level does not come at the expense of security, because Accenture has the world’s largest deployment of Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security to manage approximately 450,000 identities and 104,000 mobile devices.

At Microsoft Ignite 2017, Brad Nyers, managing director at Accenture, walked us through the company’s global rollout of Windows 10. This will be the world’s largest Windows 10 deployment—comprising 450,000 users by the end of 2018—and it also includes Office 365 ProPlus and OneDrive. It was fascinating to hear about this latest example of Accenture using Microsoft technology to boost its own agility and productivity, so it can help drive its customers’ digital transformation stories.

To streamline the Windows 10 deployment, Accenture built the In-Place Upgrade Tool (IPU), which checks for adequate disk space and whether security tools are up to date. Employees with Windows 10–ready computers are notified via email. They follow a link to get the IPU package from OneDrive and perform the installation themselves. For employees whose devices are not ready, Accenture automatically generates remediation lists and points people to documentation that explains how to migrate their files to the cloud.

Storing data in OneDrive also helps employees who receive a new Windows 10 device. Because their data is in the cloud, when they get a new device, all they have to do is authenticate to access their information and get back to being productive. Accenture created a streamlined imaging process that layers its security tools and Office 365 ProPlus to achieve huge time savings for the company.

I’m excited to hear about the value that Microsoft technologies provide Accenture as it leads the way with a digital transformation that’s truly changing how its workforce—now 75 percent millennial—enacts the company’s mission. For a deeper dive into how “Accenture runs on Microsoft,” read the full story.

—Ron Markezich

We’re all in this together: Miri’s brand of being herself – Microsoft Life

I grew up in the slums (Barrio Unión) of Caracas, Venezuela. My parents were missionaries who taught my siblings and me the importance of kindness and service to those who were less fortunate.

We didn’t have much growing up, but whatever we had we always shared with others. We set out to be that family that helped out, making compassion one of our key core values.

Kindness—the value of serving others, being aware of who has less than me and helping them—was cemented in who I became. It has become one of my two key staples of my “personal brand” and has been passed down to my kids.

My brand is also feminine. When you look up the word feminine, you see words such as gentleness, empathy, caring, sensitivity, and sweetness.

My mom raised me as a feminist and wanted to make sure that I became a strong, self-sufficient woman who—for example—didn’t even let men open doors for me.

I’m all for gender equality. And I also believe that we depend on other humans, and that we will always need to depend on others to achieve our success. I am meant to thrive with those around me, and femininity empowers me to say that I’m going to be dependent on my tribe.

I have two teenage boys, and my intent is to raise gentlemen. Yes, I can open my door, but I love when my sons or husband does it for me. Femininity is not about capability. I am guided by the philosophy that we shouldn’t do it alone.

Miri Rodriguez

“If you can’t love yourself, you can’t be in this harmonious place to share your brand.”

In my first role at Microsoft, I came in as a force to show I was a strong woman. However, I was always open to the idea of serving others and letting them serve me, which is a part of being both feminine and kind. This combination was confusing to people at times, but ultimately it was all about me staying strong to keep my brand evolving and staying my course.

Now—on my current team and as a storyteller for IT Showcase—my brand is received as refreshing. I can look at every relationship very methodically and see how my personal branding impacts and influences because we are always impacting one another, everywhere we go and especially at work.

This is something I talk about with those I coach for personal branding. I have 15 mentees across the world, including some Microsoft employees. It has been a transformative experience for me to help them find their authentic selves.

I’ve found that it has been helpful for my mentees to approach their journey through three milestones.  The first is learn yourself, which is a combination of three personality tests (i.e., Love Languages, Myers-Briggs, and Emergenetics) and a self-assessment of how you spend your time.

Then there’s liking yourself, which is aspirational of who you want to be in your brand. This can help you move from accepting to actually appreciating who you’re becoming.

And last there’s loving yourself. If you can’t love yourself, you can’t be in this harmonious place to share your brand. This milestone is truly the culmination of the process.

My goal is to make an impact and leave a positive legacy. I go into work constantly asking how I will make an impact. Did I make someone smile today?

Are you a Microsoft employee with a journey to share? Drop us a line from your work email at MicrosoftLife (at) microsoft.com.

TalkTalk Telecom Group outthinks the competition by empowering employees with Microsoft 365 Enterprise

Today’s post was written by Gary Steen, chief technology officer at TalkTalk Telecom Group.

Profile picture of Gary Steen, chief technology officer at TalkTalk Telecom Group.TalkTalk Telecom Group is a value provider of telecom services in the United Kingdom. We believe that reasonably priced, reliable telecom services should be available to everyone, and we provide both businesses and consumers with landline, mobile, broadband, and many other services.

However, because we’re a value provider, we need to be creative when it comes to spending on advertising, infrastructure and other items. We win by outthinking and outmaneuvering the competition. This means enabling our people to think creatively and differently about how they approach problems.

That’s why we’re rolling out Microsoft 365 Enterprise to all our 2,500 employees. We are rethinking our entire culture of work—how decisions are made and how people work. In the past, all decisions went through our London office, and all work happened in the office. But we can’t move quickly enough with this location-bound paradigm, and we can’t attract the best people with an old-school, office-based mentality. People do their best work when they work when, where, and how they want.

So we designed and opened a brand new office in Manchester, England, where two-thirds of our U.K. employees now work. We got rid of all offices and replaced them with open collaboration spaces with Wi-Fi. We’ve made it easy for people to work together and self-form into teams to make the best decisions and make them quickly.

By deploying Microsoft 365, we’ve also made it possible for employees to be fully functional, productive, and engaged when outside the office. With Microsoft 365, working at home or in another remote location is completely on par with working in the office.

And that’s been transformative for us culturally. People can leave the office early to avoid traffic and dial into meetings from home. They can bounce out at midday to pick up their children and still review documents. This freedom is critical to employees feeling that they can be themselves and fit work into the rest of their lives.

With tools such as Skype for Business Online, we can grab one another instantly and easily. We can open documents during calls and review content in real time. We can also work more nimbly with our customers, which range from mom-and-pop shops to multinationals. We’ve federated Skype for Business Online with many of our customers, so we’re more multichannel; we can not only talk on the phone with them or send an email but also send instant messages and connect straightaway. Our customers have noticed that we’re a faster moving organization.

The fact that Microsoft 365 includes so many integrated services simplifies the workload for my team. By standardizing on Windows 10 Enterprise, we get rid of the myriad versions of Windows that we were previously supporting. Before, we were buying new systems that came with Windows 10 and downgrading the operating system to make them consistent with the rest of our estate! With Windows 10 being part of our Microsoft 365 license, we can roll it out faster and ensure that all our systems have up-to-date security, which is critical with more remote and mobile work styles.

Security is always a key consideration. Using Windows 10 in conjunction with Microsoft Intune and the other Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security services gives us the confidence that all our devices are secure. The fact that we have a multilayered approach to security with Microsoft lets us implement security patches much faster.

There is such a rapid rate of change in telecom services that we have to move quickly to stay ahead. Microsoft 365 is a critical part of our strategy to outthink, outmaneuver, and outpace our competition by empowering every one of our employees.

—Gary Steen

Read the case study for more on the TalkTalk modern workplace.

KC Lemson: maestro of fun, mastermind of memes – Microsoft Life

KC Lemson is socially awkward. That’s not my observation; she told me that about herself in an email. “Don’t forget, I’m totally socially awkward so that should totally come across in the story. Because the best way to overcome being socially awkward is to announce it and just own it so that people understand when I’m weird.”

Lemson is the mastermind behind Microsoft’s ninja cat meme—a beloved grassroots movement that unified employees—as well as many other company moments and memorable missives. The day I met with her, she stood hunched over her desk, typing rapidly. “Firing off one last email,” she tossed.

I get the sense that standing at her sit-down desk, racing to tackle just one more thing, is par for Lemson’s course.

After 19 years and roughly 10 roles at Microsoft, Lemson is a visionary, a kind of social instigator, and a tech artiste—something of a corporate pioneer who blazes her own trail. “More like a bull in a china shop,” she said, laughing.

KC Lemson

Lemson started as a tester on the Outlook team and then moved to program management for Microsoft Exchange Server. She later moved over to the mobile division, then operating systems, and now is a senior director of program managers in Surface. She’s crazy busy and yet somehow radiates a steady energy. She’s not frenetic and doesn’t keep busy just for the sake of it.

“I get passionate about whatever it is,” she explained, her face flushed. “I am not obsessive; I’m excitable.”

It’s apparent that Lemson hates the limelight. Her endearing jitters manifested throughout our interview, with several dropped pens and frequently shifting body postures: legs crossed, legs propped on a box, sitting on legs.

She’s funny, and, frankly, a little hard to keep up with. Puns, internet memes, historical references, tech jargon, and sci-fi references all fly out of her mouth, rapid-fire. It seemed best to just play along and pretend I knew what she was talking about.

“Oh, just let me move that,” she said, grabbing a stuffed animal off a chair in her Redmond office. A gift from a coworker, the toy is more than office decoration: it’s ninja cat, the character Lemson created in 2014. Since then, ninja cat—with its message of playfulness, unity, and pride—has been embraced as an unofficial mascot by many Microsoft employees.

Ninja cat riding a T. rex

Ninja cat rides T. rex, Lemson’s favorite of all the ninja cat steeds. Lemson created ninja cat in 2014, and it has been affectionately named Microsoft’s unofficial mascot.

The stuffed ninja cat in Lemson’s office is mounted on a Tyrannosaurus rex, one of the many steeds the character can be found riding on in toy form, on stickers, emblazoned on other gear, and even in desktop themes for Windows.

The original ninja cat rode a unicorn, but Lemson explained why the T. rex is her favorite of all the steeds.

“If you are depressed, just imagine a T. rex making a bed,” she said. “You’ve seen that meme, right?” (I hadn’t.)

But if you put grabby arms on a T. rex, “it effectively becomes unstoppable,” Lemson said.

The whole ninja cat buzz was kind of accidental, Lemson explained in a blog post. Drawing inspiration from the viral Welcome to the Internet meme by Jason Heuser, Lemson created a graphic for a PowerPoint presentation that showed the cat (which Lemson says is a female) on a unicorn holding a flag adorned with the Microsoft logo.

It was “a visual that spoke to a sort of zeitgeist about where we were headed,” she wrote. Ninja cat helped spread the message that Microsoft was united and committed to collaboration.

Ninja cat riding a unicorn

Ninja cat waves the banner of the Microsoft culture of playfulness and unity among the ranks. Its many steeds include a unicorn, shark, T. rex with grabby hands, and many more—often created by employees all over the company.

That PowerPoint slide morphed into requests for T-shirts, which morphed into stickers on laptops, which sparked a fire with employees. Soon, the symbol became shorthand for the company’s culture change and was popping up everywhere. Even CEO Satya Nadella has been spotted in his ninja cat T-shirt.

Now, it seems like employees don’t wonder about its origin story. Ninja cat just is.

“I first saw the ninja cat on screen at an engineering conference and, like everyone else, loved it,” said Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for communications. “One of the topics at the time was how the engineering teams had to work better together and break down silos. A few days later, a ninja cat T-shirt showed up on my desk. That creativity and speed and willingness to have fun—that’s a piece of our culture worth building on.”

Lemson’s superpower is a sixth sense for finding zeitgeist moments at Microsoft, time and time again, somehow without even trying. Her antics and adventures have helped rouse employee spirit and cultivate social media intrigue. Even so, she’s less interested in being on trend than she is in having a “helluva lot of fun.”

Even the maestro of fun has a hard time keeping up with all the cool things she’s done. Never fear, she can check her ongoing list, saved in her OneDrive under “All the fun things I’ve done.”

There’s squeaky lobster, MAPI makes me HAPI T-shirts, and social media blasts asking “What would Dracula’s Windows Phone look like?” She even designed some of the swag for Windows Phone store and Exchange (a result of what she calls knowing “just enough Photoshop to be dangerous”).

She also helped organize 7,000 Microsoft employees into the shape of the number 12 as an ode to the Seattle Seahawks football team—an event that was covered by GeekWire. Lemson orchestrated the time-lapse video of the whole ordeal.

Then there’s Bedlam, the card game Lemson made that was inspired both by the dark-humored Cards Against Humanity game and also a Tumblr site Lemson follows called Ladies Against Humanity, a site that seeks to fight misogyny through irreverent humor. (Confession: many hours were consumed in the writing of this story between that Tumblr site and Lemson’s Twitter account.) It all started when Lemson and her teammates joked that it would be funny to do a Microsoft version of Cards Against Humanity.

Whereas most folks have an idea and usually just leave it at that, Lemson obsesses about following through. She doesn’t just want to do something fun with no purpose. To hook her, there’s got to be a product, something to show at the end.

Cards from the Bedlam game

Lemson got some wine and a few coworkers—one of whom is her husband, David—together, and they came up with the cards. Later, Lemson spent hours testing to see if the game was playable. It was. The questions hinge on inside jokes, company trivia, and corporate lore.

Questions like “Satya has called on all of us to reinvent _____” can be combined with silly answers like “meetings where the first 10 minutes are spent getting the projector to work.” One card says, “True culture change starts with _____.” Its potential answer: “being the first one to start a ‘reply all’ storm.” Another detail Lemson loves: Satya’s name shows up on the cards with a red squiggly line underneath—to indicate misspelling.

Employees can buy their own copies of the Bedlam game at the internal Microsoft company store, and close to 700 copies have been sold. Lemson also used the game to raise money through the company’s employee giving program—with Microsoft employee matching, she raised close to $40,000 for charity.

“Making fun of ourselves, it’s just literally fun,” Lemson paused, realizing her own epiphany. “Huh. I hadn’t thought of that before I just said it. But if we can’t joke about the stupid stuff we all live with, what’s the point? It’s all about a cultural appreciation for making fun of ourselves.”

In a company of tens of thousands of employees that stretches across multiple countries, Microsoft’s ability to poke fun at itself is culture building, a way to preserve and share company lore. (And speaking of company lore, the story behind why Lemson named the card game Bedlam is about as “you had to be there” as it gets. This blog post sort of explains it.)

“When I was interviewing for this job on the Surface team, I remember my current boss asking what motivates me,” she said, stopping for a rare breath and shifting again in her swivel chair. “I knew I was supposed to say, ‘having an impact,’ but instead what I said was, ‘having fun.’”

Ninja cat scuba diving

“Making fun of ourselves, it’s literally fun. . . . It’s all about cultural appreciation.”

“But impact should always include fun. I get passionate and interested in stuff, and I like nerding out on things,” Lemson said. “My adult ADHD kicks in [Lemson was recently diagnosed] and I’m like, ‘Oooh, how does that work? And what about that thing over there, would that work too?’ Seeing maybe two disconnected things and being able to connect them, it’s just really fun.”

Lemson also has an uncanny ability to be in the know about everything, according to her longtime coworker and friend, Evan Goldring.

“KC is one of those people that gets you excited about coming to work,” he said. “She will fill all the time before meetings and hallway conversations with incredibly relevant, timely, and interesting conversation—either related to current work challenges or incredibly hilarious techie or pop culture stuff. And you’re left wondering how you hadn’t heard those things yet or how the heck KC knows about stuff so fast.

“It’s like she can listen to everyone’s conversations happening in parallel,” Goldring said.

Always in hot pursuit of that next fun thing, Lemson needs constant change and gets bored easily. And it’s taken her some painful soul searching to accept these qualities as strengths.

Quite a few years back, Lemson had a review that gutted her. “KC surfs on chaos,” one coworker wrote. She realized how right that description was—how she processes out loud and loves to juggle a lot of things at once.

“Some people give birth to this well-planned thought when they speak,” Lemson said, “but me—I just let it fly.” That hasn’t always gone over well.

“It took me a while as a manager to realize that I was frustrating some of my coworkers because of this way of expressing,” Lemson said, pausing thoughtfully. “It’s funny, you can take any statement and look at it from two sides. Ten years ago, I would have taken that feedback and thought, ‘I don’t fit here; what’s wrong with me?’”

But Lemson soon realized that instead of beating herself up for who she was, she would try to explain herself better. “I realized I need to tell people, ‘hey—I don’t need you do this. I am just thinking out loud right now,’” she said.

While surfing on chaos is a cool skill, Lemson knows it’s decidedly uncool for her to expect others to do the same.

She’s also constantly told she’s too aggressive and loud. But she doesn’t worry about criticism that is about the natural qualities of who she is. “I am aggressive and loud,” the self-labeled “staunch feminist” said, rolling her eyes. “You don’t have to like me. That’s life.”

Only, Lemson is undeniably likable. She’s honed the skill of cracking jokes about her foibles, which seems like a different side of the same coin when it comes to accepting and implementing feedback: keep what makes sense for personal growth, laugh off what feels wrong, and move forward.

While Lemson and many people who know her embrace her bull-in-a-china-shop-who-surfs-on-chaos persona, she can remember when she hated those things about herself. Her defining moment came after a severe struggle with clinical depression at age 19. Lemson called the experience “fundamentally changing” because it taught her that she needed to learn to accept herself, get help for her mental state, and live large. It was time to learn to follow her passion: have real fun, wherever you are.

KC Lemson

“Ten years ago I would have taken that feedback and thought, ‘I don’t fit here; what’s wrong with me?’”

Boasting something like 40 office moves, Lemson knows when it’s time to do something new. So far, Microsoft has been able to hold her ever-wandering interest.

“We have such interesting problems to work on,” she said. “Changing jobs at Microsoft is like moving to a different house in the same neighborhood. Your grocery stores don’t change, but the layout of your living room does.”

Right now, Lemson’s interesting problem on the Surface team is obsessing about building products with the right balance of software, hardware, and the human. Seeing customers as more than enterprise users or consumers is key.

“It comes down to seeing that we are all humans. There are individual human beings behind everything, including at Microsoft.”

“Technology has the potential to be so cool, but if I don’t want to use it, if it’s not going to change my habits, then I don’t care,” she said. “Technology has to benefit human beings, and this company has the will and the DNA to do that.”

“Microsoft is one of the very few companies in the world where you can make that impact,” she said. “I don’t want to work on a thing that five people use. I want to work on a thing that lots of people use. It’s just way more fun and interesting.”

To wrap up my time with Lemson, I had to ask about her favorite meme of all time.

She sat in her chair, quiet. Finally, Lemson said, “I’m stumped. That’s just a really important question. Can I get back to you?”

New to Office 365 in December—extending human ingenuity with everyday AI – Office Blogs

Today’s post was written by Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team.

Earlier today in San Francisco, Harry Shum, executive vice president of Microsoft AI & Research, demonstrated how Microsoft is infusing intelligent technologies across our core products to make artificial intelligence (AI) available to everyone, with the simple goal of helping people deliver their best work.

Office 365 is built on Microsoft’s powerful platform for AI that makes advancements in machine learning and AI accessible to every developer and organization. From document translation to intelligent threat detection, AI is already enhancing the productivity experience of over 120 million commercial Office 365 users.

New Office 365 AI capabilities this month help subscribers discover insights from data, leverage organizational knowledge, arrive on time for events, and more. Read on for details.

Automatically unlock rich insights with AI (preview)

Every day, millions of Office 365 subscribers rely on Excel to perform complex analysis and derive value from their organizations’ data with intelligent tools like Flash Fill and advanced data transformation. For many, however, extracting key insights from a new data set can be intimidating. Today, we’re announcing the preview of Insights in Excel—a new service that automatically highlights patterns it detects, which makes it easier for everyone to explore and analyze their data. Powered by machine learning, Insights helps identify trends, outliers, and other useful visualizations, providing new and useful perspectives on data. Insights begins rolling out in preview to Office insiders this month.

An animated screenshot demonstrates Insights in Excel.

Excel will provide automatic insights.

Master company lingo with machine learning

Every workplace is unique, and understanding the internal acronyms in use across an organization can be essential to success. Today, we announced a new Microsoft Word feature called Acronyms. Powered by machine learning, Acronyms helps people understand shorthand that is commonly used in their own workplaces by leveraging the Microsoft Graph to surface definitions of terms that have been previously defined across emails and documents. Acronyms will begin rolling out to Word Online for Office 365 commercial subscribers in 2018.

A screenshot shows the Acronyms feature used in Word Online.

Master company acronyms in Word Online.

Get to events on time with Outlook

In 2017, we rolled out several new capabilities in Outlook that help users automatically detect trips and deliveries, triage email, schedule meetings, and more. Today, we’re expanding this set of AI-powered tools by bringing Cortana to the Outlook mobile app to help users stay on top of their day. When it is time to leave for appointments, Outlook will now send a notification—with directions for both driving and public transit—taking into account current location, the event location, and real-time traffic information. Time to leave in Outlook is rolling out to iOS users this month in markets where Cortana is available.

An animated GIF demonstrates the

Outlook will notify you when it’s time to leave for your next event.

Bring people, ideas, and content together with Microsoft Whiteboard Preview

This month, we also announced the preview of Microsoft Whiteboard for Windows 10 devices—a freeform digital canvas where people, ideas, and content can come together. Microsoft Whiteboard Preview is built for teams who ideate and work together across multiple devices and locations. Unlike traditional whiteboards, the app uses AI to recognize freeform drawings and turn them into standard shapes, so it’s easier to create great-looking tables, diagrams, and flowcharts using only a pen. Users can work together in real-time on shared content and automatically save to the cloud to pick their work up later from another device. Microsoft Whiteboard is now available in preview from the Windows Store.

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Find text in images with intelligent search

Earlier this year, we introduced the ability for OneDrive and SharePoint to automatically recognize the content within images and detect whiteboards, screenshots, receipts, and more. Today, we are expanding this capability to automatically extract searchable text from those images, making it easier to find a wide range of content, including receipts and business cards, using memorable search terms and without needing to know where the images are stored. Text in image search is currently rolling out and will be available to all Office 365 commercial subscribers by the end of December.

Three smartphones display intelligent search in images.

Search for text in images stored in Office 365.

Learn more about what’s new for Office 365 subscribers this month at: Office on Windows desktops | Office for Mac | Office Mobile for Windows | Office for iPhone and iPad | Office on Android. If you’re an Office 365 Home or Personal customer, be sure to sign up for Office Insider to be the first to use the latest and greatest in Office productivity. Commercial customers on both Monthly Channel and Semi-Annual Channel can also get early access to a fully supported build through Targeted Release (Clients, Services). This site explains more about when you can expect to receive the features announced today.

—Kirk Koenigsbauer


  • Insights in Excel is starting to roll out in preview to Office 365 commercial subscribers enrolled in Office Insiders, in the United States this month. Because this feature is powered by machine learning, it will provide increasingly advanced analysis as usage of the feature grows over time.
  • Acronyms will be rolling out to Word Online for Office 365 commercial subscribers enrolled in Office Insiders in 2018.
  • Time to leave is rolling out to Outlook for iOS users in our Insider program this month, and then to all Outlook for iOS users in coming months. We also plan to make it available in Outlook for Android 2018.
  • Microsoft Whiteboard Preview is now available for Windows users in the Windows Store.
  • Text in image search is currently rolling out to Office 365 commercial subscribers and will be available worldwide by the end of 2017.

Teaming up on a hack to help girls – Microsoft Life

It’s human nature: we respond to stories, not generalizations.

Devika Mittal, a corporate strategy manager at Microsoft who grew up in New Delhi and now lives in Washington, DC, knew that child trafficking and violence against women in rural areas in India was a growing human-rights crisis. But for a long time, the fate of at-risk Indian girls far away from her, while distressing, was something she felt helpless to change.

“You know that these problems exist, and you want to help,” she said. “But you also feel lost and like you can’t truly engage or help drive real impact when you’re living far away in DC.”

That all changed when Mittal flew to Microsoft’s Hyderabad office to meet Franz Gastler, the founder of Yuwa, a nonprofit soccer and school academy for girls in Jharkhand, India, whose students face the terrifying reality every day.

Gastler told Mittal the story of a student who had come to his soccer program every day for weeks. She appeared to be blossoming in the supportive environment that emphasized self-worth and self-determination. But then one day, she didn’t show up to the academy. She was gone the next day, and the next; she never came back. He had no idea what happened to her; it wasn’t until later that program leaders discovered that the girl had died, allegedly at the hands of an abusive family member.

Mittal was stunned. “Learning about this girl’s story in a real context motivated me to contribute whatever skills I could to help Yuwa’s mission. The work they’re doing is incredible, and I wanted to be a part of the tangible impact they’re making on young girls’ lives in India.”

She got that opportunity to make a difference when Yuwa partnered this year with Microsoft’s annual Hackathon, a three-day, global event for employees. Microsoft Hackathon teams have fun mad-sciencing new projects and ideas, using Microsoft technology to help solve some of the world’s greatest societal challenges.

To help nonprofit organizations such as Yuwa act on their own missions and find solutions, Microsoft invites them to hack alongside Microsoft employees. That’s how Mittal and 15 other employees from five countries came together to work with Gastler to build a tracking and predictive app that would help Gastler in his quest to keep girls progressing through Yuwa’s program and focused on their futures.

Yuwa’s central mission is to empower girls to break the cycle of poverty and abuse they inherited and instead help them discover their worth, through education and team sports, in rural India where more than half the women and girls are illiterate. Gastler had successfully started the organization but now needed more-sophisticated digital tools to help it and girls succeed.

“Jharkhand is a dangerous place to be a girl,” said Gastler. “If you don’t know your self-worth, you’ve got no defense against all the things that might come at you. But when girls know their worth, they’re limitless.”

The statistics do not bode well for girls and young women in the region. Fifty percent of Jharkhand’s girls become child brides, and thousands are trafficked each year as laborers or sex workers.

Two young girls playing soccer in a dirt field in rural India

“When girls know their worth, they’re limitless.”

Madhura Phadke, Mittal’s Hackathon teammate who works at Microsoft in Redmond and grew up in India, said that girls are stripped of their very right to have a dream. In Jharkhand, where poverty is high and education is low, girls often lack the opportunity to further their schooling, and some are at risk for child marriage. These factors make many girls easy targets for criminals.

Through soccer and school, Yuwa helps girls find their purpose and provides a place where they are expected to be every day, somewhere that their absence will be noticed. They learn to read and write and understand their fundamental rights. Yuwa has connected some girls to other programs that have helped them travel outside of their villages to continue their education. But the success of Yuwa depends heavily on the girls’ consistent attendance.

The quicker Yuwa can respond to an absence, the more likely program managers are to bring a girl back if she’s at risk. Before the Hackathon project, Yuwa staff members were recording attendance onto 25 spreadsheets. The time it took to identify who was missing was time that an absent child likely didn’t have to waste. Yuwa staff members also wanted a way to better organize and track other needs, such as soccer shoe sizes, learning materials, and necessities for the school.

In addition to wanting to more easily track students, Gastler thought that the data being captured on their spreadsheets—limited to whether girls were present or absent on any given day—wasn’t as useful as it could be. Maybe, for instance, data could reveal patterns about how the girls’ levels of risk for child marriage and human trafficking might correlate to their attendance. Armed with those kinds of big answers, Gastler couldn’t imagine the impact that Yuwa could make.

Gastler and his Yuwa team knew that any technology they implemented would need to be adaptable for many kinds of devices, as well as take into account that internet connection and electricity in rural India can be sparse and unreliable.

While Gastler had been sitting on the idea to build an app for tracking students for four years, and even had a rendering, he had never found anyone with enough expertise to build it out.

Until he partnered with Microsoft employees at the Hackathon.

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In June 2017, Gastler, a Minnesota native who worked in the corporate world before moving to Jharkhand to teach English, flew from the small village of Jharkhand to Microsoft offices in Hyderabad. For the next three days, he worked alongside Mittal and others to make the app.

Many of the Hackathon members felt a special pull to the Yuwa project because they are from India themselves. “I just knew I wanted to also add my skills to bolster the project, to see if there was anything I could do to help,” said Mittal.

Working via Skype and spanning three time zones, the team produced a prototype to send home with Gastler. The app helped Yuwa staff quickly see how many students were present or missing and could drill down to identify the individual girls and take action if needed that same day.

The Hackathon was just the beginning. Months later, the team is still extremely engaged, said Mittal. It is building out phase two of the app, which has more complex functionality, such as using machine learning to collect and interpret data.

Mobile phone showing how the new app filters information

“With layering Power BI and other analytical capabilities, it could function as a prototype for other organizations.”

And Mittal said the team believes the project could be applicable for other organizations and nonprofits and could scale, especially in rural areas. “With layering Power BI and other analytical capabilities, it could function as a prototype for other organizations.”

Working on the project has changed Mittal. She’s always been passionate about education for women, especially in India, but the issue now hits home in a new way.

“Now that I have seen what a lack of education does to girls in the country and have seen an organization that is making a tangible difference for girls who never thought they would get outside their villages, I am personally connected to it,” she said.

“I’m thankful that I have that opportunity working here at Microsoft.”

Visit yuwa-india.org for more information about how to be a part of Yuwa’s mission.

Accelerating business in a digital financial market—KeyBank trusts Microsoft 365 – Office Blogs

Today’s post was written by Ron Markezich, corporate vice president for Microsoft.

Profile picture of Ron Markezich.

KeyBank logo.

To say that KeyBank is growing is an understatement. The bank just announced that it ranks ninth in the U.S. according to the Small Business Administration. This represents a 43 percent jump in dollar volume from 2016 levels, more than doubling its loan commitment since 2015.

KeyBank accounts for this success by focusing on serving small businesses that help to build prosperous communities across the country. This financial services company is also banking on the Microsoft Cloud platform to provide employees with the highly secure, modern workplace they need to deliver the responsive service that customers expect in today’s digital business environment.

Here’s how Keith Silvestri, chief technology officer of KeyBank, describes his company’s decision to work with Microsoft:

“At KeyBank, meeting our clients’ business needs is our primary focus. Key grows by building enduring relationships through client-focused solutions and great service. To meet those needs and to ensure our competitive edge, we have begun our journey to both private and public cloud platforms for select applications. Having met our strict compliance, security, and risk requirements, Microsoft was our choice as a strategic partner in this journey. With its alignment to our digital-first approach, adopting Microsoft 365, which includes Office 365, Windows 10, and the Enterprise Mobility + Security Suite, and moving to the Azure cloud platform, will position us to achieve our technology goals faster. We look forward to offering our clients new possibilities and enhanced capabilities through our partnership with Microsoft.”

It’s great to know that KeyBank trusts Microsoft Cloud services to empower employees, meet its regulatory obligations, and safeguard its customers’ financial data with comprehensive, intelligent cloud protection services.

—Ron Markezich