Tag Archives: building

Don’t stop dreaming: you’ve got the job, now what? – Microsoft Life

Building your career is a journey filled with challenges, excitement, and forks in the road. And journeys are easier with maps. In this column, job experts answer your questions and deliver advice to help you take the next step.

Question: I landed an exciting job. Now that I’m settling in, I don’t want to lose my momentum. What should I do to keep my career moving in a positive direction?

Answer: You’re right—your career is a moving target, so it’s a good idea to be open and willing to develop yourself for what lies ahead. Whether you’re new to the workforce or have been with a company for years, one role probably won’t be the end of your journey.

Microsoft recruiter Heidi Landex Grotkopp believes that developing your career can be an illuminating trip into self-discovery, skill development, and building strong relationships. Here are some of her top recommendations for staying sharp and ready for what’s next, whenever it might come.

Give yourself time to settle in

It can take about a year to get fully ramped up in any role, Landex pointed out. Before you begin to set your sights on the next gig, give yourself time to get to know your work. Spend time with your peers and managers to learn more about the business, the expectations, and the customers.

As you build relationships in your role, ask for periodic check-ins—with managers as well as with peers—to ensure that you are on track with agreed-upon expectations or areas of improvement. This tactic helps you build a rapport, while gaining visibility within your team and organization.

Landex said that your ramp-up is the perfect window to gain insight from others—and yourself. In this ongoing process, consider what you’re doing in your work and how you’re doing it. This will help you notice how you are evolving in your role, reflect on challenges you have taken on, and figure out how to keep growing, she said.

“Ask yourself, if I had been a bit bolder, what would I have done differently?” said Landex.

Fill in your skill gaps

As you continue to gauge your strong suits and identify areas of development, focus on your strengths, but don’t be afraid to know and publicly acknowledge your areas of opportunity. Those may be the very areas that could lead you into something new and exciting, something unexpected.

“Let’s say you don’t have a specific skillset or it doesn’t come naturally to you, but you love 90 percent of the rest of your job. You might be in the right role, and you should get mentoring and training to ‘skill you up’ on the 10 percent that you are concerned about,” she said.

Go to your manager and have a conversation about the identified gap. Landex suggested communicating about your growth area but that you know it’s a skill you can improve. Then lay out a plan to execute that: a training, a long-term class, or help from a mentor.

“Your manager should be able to help you identify someone in the organization that would be a great help,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a local mentor. It could be someone in a different job or different location than you. The idea is to find someone who you can shadow a bit, in person or virtually, and ask questions about how you can improve within your specific scenarios.”

And remember, Landex said, “You might not be the strongest in a skill, but never look in a mirror and think you’re not good enough.” Everyone can improve once they set their target.

Build connections beyond your role

Landex also believes employees should seek a sponsor or champion.

“A sponsor is not a mentor but someone who can help you in your next career step,” she explained. “Let’s say you don’t have all the right skills or the right technology, but you have the right effort and capabilities to get there. With the right sponsor, they will help you connect with the right people and opportunities to get you to the next stage of your career.”

Be your best data keeper

Having a record of your career path can be surprisingly insightful. Landex said she does this in two ways: by documenting her accomplishments, and by asking colleagues to share their feedback about her.

The personal document is just for you. “It can be 10 pages or no limit,” she said. “Put in all the different roles you’ve had. Write in your achievements and how you managed. Keep it chronicled and make note of what’s relevant.”

Then revisit it about once a year or as your accomplishments happen. Continue to think about how your direction changes, and adjust your entries to showcase relevant details.

This personal document is a great way for you notice trends in your accomplishments and pinpoint new, in-demand skillsets that you’ve obtained. Also, by calling out how you got there, you’re making note of your way of thinking through a problem or project.

Landex also suggests collecting unsolicited feedback. Whether it’s a kind note from your manager about a project you rocked or an appreciative hallway chat with a peer about your work ethic, save it.

“I actually capture my feedback on LinkedIn,” said Landex who feels the Recommendations section of the platform is an underutilized tool. “When I get good feedback from someone other than my manager, I ask the person if they could share their feedback as a recommendation on LinkedIn.”

Understand that your career is evolutionary

With every great role, you’ll find great lessons and potential successes. By chronicling your experience, expanding your connections, and showcasing your well-earned accolades, you are setting a solid foundation to nurture your career development.

Never treat a new role as the “end all, be all.” It’s simply a milestone of your career evolution.

Manage APIs with connectivity-led strategy to cure data access woes

An effective strategy to manage APIs calls for more than just building and publishing APIs. It can enable API-led connectivity, DevOps agility and easier implementation of new technologies, like AI and function as a service, or FaaS.

Real-time data access and delivery are critical to create excellent consumer experiences. The industry’s persistent appetite for API management and integration to connect apps and data is exemplified by Salesforce’s MuleSoft acquisition in March 2018.

In this Q&A, MuleSoft CTO Ross Mason discusses the importance of a holistic strategy to manage APIs that connect data to applications and that speed digital transformation projects, as well as development innovation.

Why do enterprises have so much trouble with data access and delivery?

Ross Mason: Historically, enterprises have considered IT a cost center — one that typically gets a budget cut every year and must do more with less. It doesn’t make sense to treat as a cost center the part of the organization that has a treasure-trove of data and functionality to build new consumer experiences.

In traditional IT, every project is built from the ground up, and required customer data resides separately in each project. There really is no reuse. They have used application integration architectures, like ESBs [enterprise service buses], to suck the data out from apps. That’s why enterprise IT environments have a lot of point-to-point connectivity inside and enterprises have problems with accessing their data.

Today, if enterprises want easy access to their data, they can use API-led connectivity to tap into data in real time. The web shows us that building software blocks with APIs enables improvements in connection experiences.

How does API-led connectivity increase developers’ productivity?

Mason: Developers deliver reusable API and reusable templates with each project. The next time someone needs access to the API, that data or a function, it’s already there, ready to use. The developer doesn’t need to re-create anything.

Reuse allows IT to keep costs down. It also allows people in other ecosystems within the organization to discover and get access to those APIs and data, so they can build their own applications.

In what ways can DevOps extend an API strategy beyond breaking down application and data silos?

Mason: Once DevOps teams deliver microservices and APIs, they see the value of breaking down other IT problems into smaller, bite-size chunks. For example, they get a lot of help with change management, because one code change does not impact a massive, monolithic application. The code change just impacts, say, a few services that rely on a piece of data or a capability in a system.

APIs make applications more composable. If I have an application that’s broken down into 20 APIs, for example, I can use any one of those APIs to fill a feature or a need in any other application without impacting each other. You remove the dependencies between other applications that talk to these APIs.

Overall, a strong API strategy allows software development to move faster, because you don’t build from the ground up each time.
Ross MasonCTO, MuleSoft

Overall, a strong API strategy allows software development to move faster, because you don’t build from the ground up each time. Also, when developers publish APIs, they create an interesting culture dynamic of self-service. This is something that most businesses haven’t had in the past, and it enables developers to build more on their own without going through traditional project cycles.

Which new technologies come next in an API strategy?

Mason: Look at FaaS and AI. Developers now comfortably manage APIs and microservices together to break up monolithic applications. A next step is to add function as a service. This type of service typically calls out other to APIs to get anything done. FaaS allows you a way to stitch these things together for specific purposes.

It’s not too early to get into AI for some use cases. One use of machine learning is to increase developer productivity. Via AI, we learn what the developer is doing and can suggest better approaches. On our runtime management pane, we use machine learning to understand tracking patterns and spot anomalies, to get proactive about issues that might occur.

An API strategy can be extended easily to new technologies, such as IoT, AI and whatever comes next. These systems rely on APIs to interact with the world around them.

How thinking like a recruiter can open more doors in your job search – Microsoft Life

Building your career is a journey filled with challenges, excitement, and forks in the road. And journeys are easier with maps. In this column, job experts answer your questions and deliver advice to help you take the next step.

Question: I’m interested in a role that I found on a job site. I reached out to a recruiter at the company through LinkedIn, but I didn’t hear back. Did I go about this the wrong way?

Answer:  If you’ve spotted the perfect role on a job site, you may be tempted to run a quick LinkedIn search, identify a recruiter who works at that company, and reach out. Sometimes this approach works, but more often, you never hear anything back. Why?

While LinkedIn is a great way to connect with others during a job search, you may be going about your networking in the wrong way—or even with the wrong person.

Microsoft recruiter Mike Maglio offers a simple approach to using LinkedIn to increase your chance of getting a response and making a meaningful connection. His secret? Think like a recruiter.

It’s no surprise that recruiters use LinkedIn’s search tool to find potential candidates for their open jobs. The trick, Maglio says, is for job seekers to use the same search tool to find recruiters who might be hiring for the jobs you want.

“In their profile, a lot of recruiters will explain what they do and what organizations they cover to show up in searches more accurately,” he said. You can find them by doing your own search.

For example, if you are a software engineer who is passionate about working on Azure technology, search for “Azure AND recruiter AND Microsoft.” Maglio suggests job seekers use Boolean search logic with terms such as “AND” to yield more relevant results with a more accurate listing of recruiters in that space. “Use filters such as current company, location, etc. to get even more relevant results,” he added.

“Even within a product as big as Azure, you still want to get as specific with your search as possible,” said Maglio. “The more targeted you are, the better.”

Check out the profiles of the recruiters you found, and then choose a couple who work with your specific qualifications, such as software engineer, recent graduate, and Azure solutions.

Now that you’ve located the right recruiters, it’s time to introduce yourself. Craft a message that is concise, precise, and offers information that explains who you are. “Recruiters get many messages, so being direct and specific increases the likelihood you’ll get a response,” said Maglio.

Use a warm welcome, such as “Hello [Recruiter Name]” and then be clear about what you are seeking (e.g., referral for a role, connection to a team, information, etc.). A recruiter is going to look at your profile, so you don’t have to send a full resume or  write an introduction with all of your experience.

Do you have a mutual connection? Mention that person in your introduction—or better yet ask your mutual connection to make an InMail introduction between you and the recruiters, Maglio suggested. This gives you an automatic “trust boost” because the recruiters are familiar with the connection who’s referring you.

“If you are reaching out about a role, include the link to the job posting. Let the recruiters know that you’re interested and would like to be considered for the role,” he said. It will also help recruiters connect you with other recruiters or hiring teams, in case that specific role is handled by someone else.

If you are simply wanting more information, be clear about that. If the recruiters can help, they might potentially schedule time to chat with you or even refer you to someone in the organization.

Recruiters need to understand who you are beyond your resume and LinkedIn profile, so use your chance to show them what you can bring to the company or job.

“You should be able to demonstrate your value and show you are a knowledgeable applicant, but be concise,” said Maglio.

“You could briefly speak to a relevant article or press release that ties into your passion. Or—if possible—call out a patent, applications you’ve built, or a slideshow of projects that can be viewed,” he said.

These examples show your passions and interests, beyond just your resume. “But keep it short and sweet,” Maglio said. “The last thing you want to do is bury that kind of info.”

If you’ve followed these steps and haven’t been able to connect with the first set of recruiters you’ve identified, keep applying and refining these steps.

The right connection is out there, along with the role of your dreams.

The nine roles you need on your data science research team

It’s easy to focus too much on building a data science research team loaded with Ph.D.s to do machine learning at the expense of developing other data science skills needed to compete in today’s data-driven, digital economy. While high-end, specialty data science skills for machine learning are important, they can also get in the way of a more pragmatic and useful adoption of data science. That’s the view of Cassie Kozyrkov, chief decision scientist at Google and a proponent of the democratization of data-based organizational decision-making.

To start, CIOs need to expand their thinking about the types of roles involved in implementing data science programs, Kozyrkov said at the recent Rev Data Science Leaders Summit in San Francisco.

For example, it’s important to think about data science research as a specialty role developed to provide intelligence for important business decisions. “If an answer involves one or more important decisions, then you need to bring in the data scientists,” said Kozyrkov, who designed Google’s analytics program and trained more than 15,000 Google employees in statistics, decision-making and machine learning.

But other tasks related to data analytics, like making informational charts, testing out various algorithms and making better decisions, are best handled by other data science team members with entirely different skill sets.

Data science roles: The nine must-haves

There are a variety of data science research roles for an organization to consider and certain characteristics best suited for each. Most enterprises already have correctly filled several of these data science positions, but most will also have people with the wrong skills or motivations in certain data science roles. This mismatch can slow things down or demotivate others throughout the enterprise, so it’s important for CIOs to carefully consider who staffs these roles to get the most from their data science research.

Here is Kozyrkov’s rundown of the essential data science roles and the part each plays in helping organizations make more intelligent business decisions.

Data engineers are people who have the skills and ability to get data required for analysis at scale.

Basic analysts could be anyone in the organization with a willingness to explore data and plot relationships using various tools. Kozyrkov suggested it may be hard for data scientists to cede some responsibility for basic analysis to others. But, in the long run, the value of data scientists will grow, as more people throughout the company are already doing basic analytics.

Expert analysts, on the other hand, should be able to search through data sets quickly. You don’t want to put a software engineer or very methodical person in this role, because they are too slow.

“The expert software engineer will do something beautiful, but won’t look at much of your data sets,” Kozyrkov said. You want someone who is sloppy and will run around your data. Caution is warranted in buffering expert analysts from software developers inclined to complain about sloppy — yet quickly produced — code.

Statisticians are the spoilsports who will explain how your latest theory does not hold up for 20 different reasons. These people can kill motivation and excitement. But they are also important for coming to conclusions safely for important decisions.

A machine learning engineer is not a researcher who builds algorithms. Instead, these AI-focused computer programmers excel at moving a lot of data sets through a variety of software packages to decide if the output looks promising. The best person for this job is not a perfectionist who would slow things down by looking for the best algorithm.

A good machine learning engineer, in Kozyrkov’s view, is someone who doesn’t know what they are doing and will try out everything quickly. “The perfectionist needs to have the perfection encouraged out of them,” she said.

Too many businesses are trying to staff the team with a bunch of Ph.D. researchers. These folks want to do research, not solve a business problem.
Cassie Kozyrkovchief decision scientist at Google

A data scientist is an expert who is well-trained in statistics and also good at machine learning. They tend to be expensive, so Kozyrkov recommended using them strategically.

A data science manager is a data scientist who wakes up one day and decides he or she wants to do something different to benefit the bottom line. These folks can connect the decision-making side of business with the data science of big data. “If you find one of these, grab them and never let them go,” Kozyrkov said.

A qualitative expert is a social scientist who can assess decision-making. This person is good at helping decision-makers set up a problem in a way that can be solved with data science. They tend to have better business management training than some of the other roles.

A data science researcher has the skills to craft customized data science and machine learning algorithms. Data science researchers should not be an early hire. “Too many businesses are trying to staff the team with a bunch of Ph.D. researchers. These folks want to do research, not solve a business problem,” Kozyrkov said. “This is a hire you only need in a few cases.”

Prioritize data science research projects

For CIOs looking to build their data science research team, develop a strategy for prioritizing and assigning data science projects. (See the aforementioned advice on hiring data science researchers.)

Decisions about what to prioritize should involve front-line business managers, who can decide what data science projects are worth pursuing.

In the long run, some of the most valuable skills lie in learning how to bridge the gap between business decision-makers and other roles. Doing this in a pragmatic way requires training in statistics, neuroscience, psychology, economic management, social sciences and machine learning, Kozyrkov said. 

Big Switch taps AWS VPCs for hybrid cloud networking

Big Switch Networks has introduced software that provides consistency in building and managing a network infrastructure within a virtual network in Amazon Web Services and the private data center.

The vendor, which provides a software-based switching fabric for open hardware, said this week it would release the hybrid cloud technology in stages. First up is a software release next month for the data center, followed by an application for AWS in the fourth quarter.

The AWS product, called Big Cloud Fabric — Public Cloud, provides the tools for creating and configuring a virtual network to deliver Layer 2, Layer 3 and security services to virtual machines or containers running on the IaaS provider. AWS also offers tools for building the virtual networks, which it calls Virtual Private Clouds (VPCs).

In general, customers use AWS VPCs to support a private cloud computing environment on the service provider’s platform. The benefit is getting more granular control over the virtual network that serves sensitive workloads.

Big Cloud Fabric — Public Cloud lets companies create AWS VPCs and assign security policies for applications running on the virtual networks. The product also provides analytics for troubleshooting problems. While initially available on AWS, Big Switch plans to eventually make Big Cloud Fabric — Public Cloud available on Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure.

Big Switch Networks' cloud-first portfolio

VPCs for the private data center

For the corporate data center, Big Switch plans to add tools to its software-based switching fabric — called Big Cloud Fabric — for creating and managing on-premises VPCs that operate the same way as AWS VPCs, said Prashant Gandhi, the chief product officer for Big Switch, based in Santa Clara, Calif.

Customers could use the on-premises VPCs, which Big Switch calls enterprise VPCs, as the virtual networks supporting computing environments that include Kubernetes and Docker containers, the VMware server virtualization vSphere suite, and the OpenStack cloud computing framework.

“With the set of tools they are announcing, [Big Switch] will be able to populate these VPCs and facilitate a consistent deployment and management of networks across cloud and on premises,” said Will Townsend, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, based in Austin, Texas.

Big Switch already offers a version of its Big Monitoring Fabric (BMF) network packet broker for AWS. In the fourth quarter, Big Switch plans to release a single console, called Multi-Cloud Director, for accessing all BMF and Big Cloud Fabric controllers.

In general, Big Switch supplies software-based networking technology for white box switches. Big Cloud Fabric competes with products from Cisco, Midokura and Pluribus Networks, while BMF rivals include technology from GigamonIxia and Apcon.

Big Switch customers are mostly large enterprises, including communication service providers, government agencies and 20 Fortune 100 companies, according to the vendor.

Surface Go Is Microsoft’s Big Bet on a Tiny-Computer Future

Panos Panay is the betting type. You can see the evidence in Microsoft’s Building 37, where two $1 bills stick out from beneath a Surface tablet sitting on a shelf.

When I ask Panay about the dollars during a recent visit to Microsoft, he says it was a wager he made a few years back on a specific product. I ask if it was a bet on Surface RT, the very first Surface product Microsoft made, and he seems genuinely surprised. “I would have lost that bet, and I’m going to win this one,” he says. “It’s about a product that’s in market right now.” And that’s all he’ll volunteer.

Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, isn’t there to talk about the ghosts of Surface’s past, or even the present. Panay wants to talk about his next big bet in the Surface product lineup: the brand-new Surface Go. But to call it “big” would be a misnomer, because the Surface Go was designed to disappear.

Ian C. Bates

If you’ve followed the trajectory of the Surface product line, you might say that the Surface Go previously existed in some form, if not as a prototype then in sketches and leaks and rumors and in our own imaginations. But Panay insists that this new 2-in-1 device is not the offspring of anything else—not the Surface RT, not the Surface 3, and not the Surface Mini (which served as a kind of fever-dream notepad for Panay, but never shipped).

Instead, the new Surface Go is an attempt to bring most of the premium features of a $1,000 Surface Pro to something that’s both ultra-portable and more affordable.

Ian C. Bates

Like a Surface Pro, the Go is a “detachable”—a tablet that attaches to Microsoft’s alcantara Type Cover keyboard. It has the same magnesium enclosure; a bright, high-res touchscreen display that has a 3:2 aspect ratio and is bonded with Gorilla Glass; a kickstand in the back that extends to 165 degrees; support for Microsoft’s stylus pen, which attaches magnetically to the tablet; a Windows Hello face recognition camera, for bio-authentication; two front-facing speakers, an 8-megapixel rear camera; and on and on. It’s a veritable checklist of Surface Go’s external features.

But the Surface Go is tiny. It measures just 9.6 by 6.9 by .33 inches, with a 10-inch diagonal display. It also weighs 1.15 pounds. The first time I saw the Go, Natalia Urbanowicz, a product marketing manager at Microsoft, pulled the thing out of a 10-inch, leather, cross-body Knomo bag to show just how easily it can be tucked away. It’s light enough to mistake for a notebook; the last time I felt that way about a computer was when Lenovo released the YogaBook back in 2016.

Ian C. Bates

The Go also happens to be the least expensive Surface ever. When it ships in early August, it will have a base price of $399. That’s for a configuration that includes 64 gigabytes of internal storage and 4 gigabytes of RAM, and ships with Windows 10 Home in S Mode (the S stands for “streamlined,” which means you can only download apps from the Windows Store). You’ll also have to shell out extra for a Type Cover keyboard and stylus pen.

From there, specs and prices creep up: A Surface Go with 256 gigabytes of storage, 8 gigabytes of RAM, and LTE will cost you more, though Microsoft hasn’t shared how much yet. All configurations have a microSD slot for additional storage too.

The Surface Go is not the first 10-inch Surface that Panay and his team have shipped. The original Surface had a 10.6-inch display. And in 2015, Microsoft released the 10.8-inch Surface 3. It started at $499, and ran a “real” version of Windows, not Windows RT. But it was also underpowered; and, Panay admits now, it had an inelegant charging mechanism.

“To this day I regret the charging port on Surface 3,” Panay says. “I’d convinced myself that this ubiquitous USB 2.0 connector was going to solve the thing people asked me for: Can I just charge it with the charger I already have? And what I learned is that people want a charger with the device, they want a very seamless charging experience…I know that seems small, but I don’t think I can overstate that every single little detail can be a major difference maker.”

Panay says there’s been clear demand for a successor to the Surface 3, which would, by definition, have been the Surface 4. But “that evolution wasn’t right,” he says. “That would be too close to the original Surface Pro, and that’s not what this product should be at all.” Instead, he’s been noodling something like the Surface Go—codenamed “Libra”—for the past three years.

The new Surface Go benefits from all those learnings. It has the same Surface Connect port as the Pro lineup, along with a USB-C 3.1 port for data transfers and backup charging. It’s supposed to get around nine hours of battery life. It also runs on an Intel Pentium Gold processor. This is not one of Intel’s top-of-the-line Core processors, but it’s still a significant jump up from the Cherry Trail Atom processor in the Surface 3.

Pete Kyriacou, general manager of program management for Surface, says Microsoft has worked closely with Intel to tune the processor for this particular form factor. “If you compare the graphics here to the Surface Pro 3 running on an i5 [chip], it’s 33 percent better; and if you compare it to the i7, it’s 20 percent better,” Kyriacou says. “So we’re talking about Pentium processing, but, it’s better from a graphics perspective than a Core processor was just three years ago.”

A lot about the new Surface has been “tuned”—not just the guts of the Go, but its software, too. “We tuned Office, we then tuned the Intel part, we tuned Windows, we made sure that, in portrait, it came to life,” Panay says. “We brought the Cortana [team] in to better design the Cortana box—we went after the details on what we think our customers need at 10 inches.”

There’s usually a tradeoff when you’re buying a computer this small. You get portability at the expense of space for apps and browser windows. The Surface Go has a built-in scaler that optimizes apps for a 10-inch screen, and Microsoft says that it’s working with third-parties to make sure certain apps run great. There’s only so much control, though, you have over software that’s not your own. I was reminded of this when I had a few minutes to use the Surface Go, went to download the Amazon Kindle app in the Windows Store, and couldn’t find it there.

Making the Surface smaller was no small feat, according to Ralf Groene, Microsoft’s longtime head of design. Groene walks me through part of Building 87 on Microsoft’s campus, where the design studio is housed and where Groene’s team of 60 are tasked with coming up with a steady stream of ideas for potential products.

Ralf Groene, Microsoft’s head of design.

Ian C. Bates

Behind a door that says “Absolutely No Tailgating”—a warning against letting someone in behind you, not a ban on barbecues and cornhole—a small multimedia team makes concept videos. “Before products get made, we have a vision, we have an idea, and we express it in a video,” Groene tells me. If the video is received well by top executives, they know they have a winner. “Since there’s usually a timeline on how long processors are good for, we try to build as many iterations as possible of a product within that timeline.”

Once the Surface Go got the go ahead, Groene’s job became that of a geometrist: How do you fit all this stuff into a 9.6-inch enclosure? Going with magnesium again was an easy choice; it’s up to 36 percent lighter than aluminum, Groene says, and Microsoft has already invested in the machinery needed to work with magnesium. Some of the angles of the Go’s body are softer—Groene calls these “curvatures and radii”—making it more comfortable to hold close for extended time periods, like if you’re reading or drawing.

By far the biggest challenge was the Go’s Type Cover keyboard. The factor that always stays the same is the human, Groene says, and that includes fingers. Shrink a keyboard too much in your quest to make a laptop thin and light, and you’ll inevitably get complaints from people that their fingers are cramped, or that they land on each key with an unsatisfying thud. (Or worse, that the keyboard is essentially broken.)

The Go’s keyboard is undoubtedly smaller than the one that attaches to the Surface Pro. But it still has a precision glass trackpad, and a key travel that Groene says is fractionally less than the key travel on the Pro.

Ian C. Bates

Most notably, the Go’s keyboard uses a scissor-switch mechanism that was designed to give, as Groene describes it, the right “force to fire.” Each key is also slightly dished, a decision that Microsoft made after watching hours of footage of people typing, captured with a high-speed camera. The keys are supposed to feel plush and good under your fingers and not at all like a tiny accessory keyboard. (I only used the keyboard on the Go for a brief period of time, so I can’t really say what it would be like to use the keyboard to, say, type of a story of this length.)

I mention to Groene that Apple has long held the stance that touchscreens aren’t right for PC’s, something that Apple’s software chief Craig Federighi underscored in a recent WIRED interview when he said that they’re “fatiguing.” And yet, Microsoft is pretty committed to touchscreen PCs. What does Microsoft’s research show about how people use touchscreen PCs?

Groene first points out that the Surface laptop is the only one in Microsoft’s product line that has a classic laptop form factor and a touchscreen; the others are detachables, or, there’s the giant Surface Studio PC. But, more to the point, he says, “By offering multiple ways to get things done doesn’t mean that we add things. It’s not like the Swiss army knife, where every tool you put in makes it bigger.”

Sure, if you sit there for eight hours holding your arm up, it will get tired, Groene acknowledges. But that’s not the way people are supposed to use these things. “It’s the same thing with the pen. ‘We don’t need the pen because we are born with ten styluses,’” Groene says, wiggling his fingers, making an oblique reference to a well-known Steve Jobs quote about styluses. “However, having the tool of a pen is awesome when you want to go sketch something.”

“We are trying to design products for people,” he says, “and we don’t try to dictate how people use our devices.”

Ian C. Bates

So who is this tiny Surface Go actually made for? It depends on who you ask at Microsoft, but the short answer seems to be: anybody and everybody.

Urbanowicz, the product marketing manager, says Go is about “reaching more audiences, and embracing the word ‘and’: I can be a mother, and an entrepreneurial badass; I can be a student, and a social justice warrior.” Kyriacou, when describing the Go’s cameras, says to “think about the front line worker in the field—a construction worker, architect, they can capture what they need to or even scan a document.” You can also dock the Go, Kyriacou points out, using the Surface Connect port, which makes it ideal for business travelers. Groene talks about reading, about drawing, about running software applications like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Almost everyone talks about watching Hulu and Netflix on it.

Panos Panay initially has a philosophical answer to this. It’s his “dream,” he says, to just get Surface products to more people. “I mean, that’s not my ultimate dream. But there are these blurred lines of life and work that are happening, and if you collect all that, Go was an obvious step for us.”

The evening before Panay and I chatted, he went to the Bellevue Square shopping center with his son, and at one point, had to pull out his LTE-equipped Surface Go to address what he said was an urgent work issue. His son asked if it was a new product, and Panay, realizing the blunder of having the thing out in public, tucked the Go in his jacket. To him, that’s the perfect anecdote: The lines between work and family time were blurred, he had to do something quickly, and when he was done, he could make his computer disappear.

Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer.

Ian C. Bates

Panay’s team also has a lot more insight into how people are using Surface products than it did eight years ago, he says, when Surface was still just a concept being developed in a dark lab. To be sure, Microsoft has been making hardware for decades—keyboards, mice, web cameras, Xbox consoles. But when Microsoft made the decision to start making its own PCs (and ultimately, take more control over how its software ran on laptops), it was a new hardware category for the company. It was a chance to get consumers excited about Microsoft again, not just enterprise customers.

The first few years of Surface were rocky. The first one, known as Surface RT, seems to be something that Microsoft executives would rather forget about; I don’t see it anywhere in the product lineups that Microsoft’s PR team has laid out ahead of my visit. Its 2012 launch coincided with the rollout of Windows 8, which had an entirely new UI from the previous version of Windows. It ran on a 32-bit ARM architecture, which meant it ran a version of the operating system called Windows RT. Depending on who you ask, the Surface RT was either a terrible idea or ahead of its time. (Panay says it was visionary.) Microsoft ending up taking a massive write-down on it the following year.

Since then, Microsoft has rolled out a series of Surface products that, due to the company’s design ethos, a newer operating system, and plain old Moore’s Law, have only gotten better. In 2013 it introduced the Surface Pro line, which are still detachables, but are built to perform like a premium laptop and can cost anywhere from $799 to $2,600. There’s the Surface Book line; the Surface Book 2 starts at $1,199 and clocks in around 3.5 pounds, making it a serious commitment of a laptop. The Surface Studio is a gorgeous, $2,999, all-in-one desktop PC, aimed at creative types. The Surface Laptop is Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s MacBook Air. It starts at $799, and got largely positive reviews when it launched last year.

Even still, Microsoft’s Surface line has struggled to make a significant dent in the market for personal computing. HP and Lenovo dominate the broader PC market, while Apple leads in the tablet category (including both detachables and slate tablets).“From a shipment perspective, the entire Surface portfolio has been fairly soft,” says Linn Huang, an IDC research director who tracks devices and displays. “It was growing tremendously, and then the iPad Pro launched and Surface shipments have either been negative, year-over-year, for the past several quarters, or flat.”

Microsoft has new competition to worry about, too: Google’s inexpensive Chromebooks, which in a short amount of time have taken over a large share of the education market.

“Do I think about Chromebooks? Absolutely,” Panay says, when I ask him about them. “Do I think about iPads? Absolutely. I use multiple devices. It’s exhausting. But this product is meant to bring you a full app suite.” Panay is highlighting one of the drawbacks of lightweight Chromebooks: Their lack of local storage. Meanwhile, he says, Surfaces are designed to let people be productive both locally on the device, and in the cloud when they need to work in the cloud.

And, while Panay says he’s keeping an eye on Chromebooks, he insists that Microsoft didn’t build Go to compete with Chromebooks. That said, Surface Go will have a school-specific software option: IT administrators for schools can choose whether they want a batch of Go’s imaged with Windows 10 Pro Education, or Windows 10 S mode-enabled.

Panay wouldn’t comment on Microsoft’s plans for the future beyond Surface Go, although there have long been rumors of a possible Microsoft handheld device, codenamed Andromeda. If the Surface Go is something of a return to a smaller, 10-inch detachable, then a pocketable device that folds in half, one that could potentially run on an ARM processor, would be something of a return to mobile for Microsoft. Qualcomm has also been making mobile chips that are designed to compete directly with Intel’s Core processors for PCs.

For now, though, Panay is throwing all his chips behind the Surface Go, and making a big bet that this little device is the one that will make the masses fall in love with Surface. He tends to chalk up past Surface products, even the ones that didn’t do well, as simply before their time. Now, with the Go, he says, “it’s time.”


More Great WIRED Stories

How to ‘come out’ as an LGBTQ+ ally at work – Microsoft Life

Building your career is a journey filled with challenges, excitement, and forks in the road. And journeys are easier with maps. In this column, job experts answer your questions and deliver advice to help you take the next step.

Question: I want to help my coworkers feel respected for who they really are. But sometimes I’m not sure what to do or say to show that I’m an ally, and I don’t want to mess up or hurt anyone’s feelings. How can I be a better ally?

Answer: The first step to becoming a better ally is wanting to be one—so you’re on the path already! There are many ways to be an ally in your professional realm, including connecting with coworkers to learn what they face and care about, stepping in when someone isn’t being treated with respect, and educating others. These Microsoft employees, who are all allies or members of the LGBTQ+ community, have some advice.

Know what an ally is and why you should be one

An LGBTQ+ ally is someone who respects equal rights, gender equality, and LGBTQ+ social movements; stands up for members of the LGBTQ+ community; and challenges homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. Allies increase protection, safety, and equality.

“Coming out” as an ally in the workplace sends a powerful message of affirmation and support to LGBTQ+ employees, which can help them feel more respected and able to do their work.

Spend a little time thinking about why you want to be an ally—and think about why allies are needed and how you could make a difference, said Andrea Llamas, a senior human resources advisor.

Often, the motivation to be an ally comes from personal stories and connections.

“Everyone has a friend or family member that is part of the LGBTQ+ community,” Llamas said. “To make the world a better place for the people in that community, [we need to get to the place where] sexual orientation or gender identity is not important.”

Once you know why you want to be an ally and what you might want to accomplish by being one—whether it’s as simple as making another person feel comfortable or as big as becoming a vocal advocate for change—you can figure out how to do it.

Set out to learn more

Many people feel unsure of their role as allies in part because they aren’t familiar with the experiences or realities of LGBTQ+ people. Don’t worry if you don’t know what a term means or if you aren’t familiar with an issue. Research is where to start, Llamas said.

“If you don’t have the information you need and if you are curious, ask,” she said.

If you do ask a coworker who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, make sure that you pose your question in a respectful way and perhaps in private. First and foremost, communicate your openness and desire to learn so that you can support.

If you’re worried about saying the wrong thing to LGBTQ+ coworkers—such as using the wrong pronoun—respectfully ask them how they prefer to be addressed or how you should refer to something. You might also ask how they would prefer that people address mistakes when they happen, suggested Michael Tan, a Microsoft manager of a transgender employee.

But don’t rely on LGBTQ+ people to educate you on everything; do your own research. Morty Scanlon, a business program manager, suggests using resources from Straight for Equality, The Human Rights Campaign, and Outstanding to learn more.

Members of Microsoft’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group GLEAM, which stands for Gay and Lesbian Employees at Microsoft, have helped create resources and workshops for coworkers who want to be allies. Find out whether your company has similar resources, suggest that they be created, or even help compile them, said Scanlon, cochair of GLEAM.

“When people have resources at their disposal, they can see a path toward their own allyship to materialize,” he said.

As you do your research, look at your own assumptions. Take the opportunity to recognize and move past bias. Use these questions as guides:

  • What assumptions have you made?
  • Do you know if they are true?
  • How could you find out?

Show support and speak up

Some gestures by allies might seem small, but they can mean a lot. For example, Llamas said, “Don’t hide any relations you have to someone in the LGBTQ+ community, such as friends or family members.” Talking about your gay brother or transgender cousin the same way that you talk about any family member or friend shows that you value people equally regardless of their identities.

You can also communicate your support in simple ways, such as by putting stickers on your computer or signs at your desk, by attending LGBTQ+ support events, or by joining an advocacy effort. These actions show people who have faced challenges or who have previously not been accepted for who they are that they have your support in little and big ways.

“Remember that there are many ways to let people know that you are an ally,” said Llamas, who serves as the GLEAM Mexico lead.

Being an ally also means speaking up when some voices aren’t heard, when someone is excluded, or when something harmful is said. Listen fully to others’ ideas, contributions, and stories. Intervene when someone is being discounted or ignored or if harmful language is used. If someone has been treated with harm, approach them to see what they need and offer support.

And people who need allies themselves can also be an ally to others, Scanlon said.

“In the same way that allies are essential to the LGBTQ+ community, we also have a responsibility to be allies for others. The lessons I’ve learned in working to be a better ally to the transgender community are lessons that I can apply to evolve my allyship beyond my own community and apply more broadly to the workplace: examining my assumptions, listening to understand, identifying and addressing my blind spots, and being brave.”

Let empathy lead

When Michael Tan, director of strategy, learned that a member of his team was transgender and would be transitioning, he set out to determine how he could help.

“My first role was trying to make sure that the work environment would respond appropriately and that people were respectful,” he said.

But he didn’t immediately know how to be an ally.

“I was in the camp initially where you’re so afraid of saying the wrong thing. I saw other people also so afraid of saying the wrong thing or using the wrong pronoun that they took the path of least resistance and didn’t reach out at all.”

Tan invited the Ingersoll Gender Center to talk to his group. The speakers shared firsthand experiences, background about the transgender community in the workplace, common challenges transgender employees often face, and guidance on how to be supportive.

Listening directly to people’s experiences sparked empathy, Tan said. However you can, seek out others’ stories—they will help you feel connected.

Try to understand the emotional journey that someone else goes through, he said. It’s a powerful display of support “to find out, and then do, what they need to feel comfortable.”

What being welcomed at work looks like – Microsoft Life

Building your career is a journey filled with challenges, excitement, and forks in the road. And journeys are easier with maps. In this column, job experts answer your questions and deliver advice to help you take the next step.

Question: I’m part of the LGBTQ+ community, and it’s important to me to work at a place that accepts me for who I am. What’s the best way to figure that out, even before I apply?

Answer: When you choose a job, you’re choosing more than the actual work you’ll do. You’re becoming part of a whole culture: the environment around you, the coworkers and leaders, and the role the company plays in the broader world. Our workplace becomes a significant part of our lives. And how we feel there can influence our focus, our ideas, and our sense of well-being.

As Claudia del Hierro, a senior program manager at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, puts it, “You’re going to live that culture every single day.”

Whether you’re actively seeking a new job or casually curious about what other companies are like, how do you decipher if a workplace is somewhere all employees, including those who are LGBTQ+, feel supported? We spoke with a few employees who have sought that answer for themselves. Here are their tips and advice.

Investigate the company’s track record

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) releases an annual Corporate Equality Index, a national benchmarking tool that tracks corporate policies and practices pertinent to LGBTQ+ people. Checking that index is a good place to start, del Hierro said.

“Is the company you want to work for rated? What’s its score? That alone tells you a lot about the culture. Some companies have jumped on the LGBTQ+ train for marketing or to gain consumers but don’t really live those values,” she said. “HRC digs into policies so you can assess more deeply.”

Don’t stop there, said Sera Fernando, an assistant Microsoft store manager in Santa Clara, California, who identifies as a trans female. Fernando already worked at Microsoft when she made the decision to transition. At the same time, a transgender friend of hers was also interested in the company and was asking her about its culture. Fernando set out to learn more about how the company approached transgender people, employees, and issues. She began to research both internally, where she found Microsoft’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group GLEAM, which stands for Gay and Lesbian Employees at Microsoft and includes the entire LGBTQ+ spectrum and their allies, and externally, where she found helpful news coverage.

“Read news stories. Enter all the search terms. See what comes up. Do the research,” said Fernando, now the community codirector of GLEAM.

See how the company shows up

Supporting and participating in local and national Pride events and parades does not guarantee a welcoming workplace year-round, but it’s a clue, said Dena Y. Lawrence, a pre-sales manager for Microsoft in Dublin.

“When you’re out at a Pride parade, see which companies are showing up. You can see from a public corporate perspective which ones have embraced LGBTQ+ equality.”

Once you know whether a company lends its support publicly to the LGBTQ+ community, look closer, Fernando adds. Does the company advocate for equity, at events and in the public sphere?

“Are all LGBTQ+ groups being represented—nonbinary, genderqueer, transgender, intersex? Are those stories being shown and told? Are there signs that the company is in tune with the message year-round? Are they just rainbow-fying everything, or are there deeper commitments? What is the senior leadership team doing and saying—what is its involvement? Is it involved in the initiatives? How is the company amplifying efforts?”

See how it recruits

Beyond celebratory events, look at marketing.

Pay attention to how and where a company recruits, said Lawrence, who has served on Microsoft’s GLEAM board and has created a talk on how to assess how progressive a company is.

“Has a company taken the time and initiative to find advertising space in LGBTQ+ specific magazines or digital channels?” If so, she said, it’s an indication of a commitment to make those employees feel welcome and supported and to ensure that the company is recruiting all types of employees, she said.

See what it offers

Look as closely as you can at a company’s policies and benefits. Is there equity for LGBTQ+ employees? Are there family benefits and medical benefits that support the needs of LGBTQ+ employees?

“Go into the policies. Ask Human Resources for links to the benefits. Look closely at the language around leave, parental leave—does the language refer only to male and female partners? Updating that language means the organization has already done a lot of work internally to transform,” Lawrence said.

“If there are antidiscrimination policies that call out sexual orientation and—the holy grail—gender identity, then they have the core ingredients for inclusion.”

Talk to employees

If you have friends or networking connections who can put you in contact with employees—especially those who are LGBTQ+—grab the chance to talk with them.

“They live the culture every day. What’s on paper might not be the reality. Sometimes the reality is even better; sometimes it’s not,” said del Hierro, who serves as GLEAM’s Latin American director.

“Do they have an employee resource group that’s active? Could you be visible in that space if you wanted to be? Find people who are thriving; see what that looks like,” said Fernando.

See how the company responds to you

Don’t hesitate to ask directly in an interview about how the company supports diversity and inclusion. Take note of how those questions are received.

“There are so many companies embracing diversity and inclusion—you don’t want to work for a company where you can’t be who you are, in this day and age,” Lawrence said.

And if a company won’t support and welcome you, del Hierro said, you probably don’t want to work there.

“I was the cofounder for the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in Mexico, and I started my college’s LGBTQ+ alumni chapter. It’s on my CV because it’s important to me and relevant to my experience. If someone won’t consider me because of that, then I would not want the job.”

Introducing Evernote for Microsoft Teams

Over the years, Evernote has made teamwork easier by building integrations with a host of powerful apps, including Microsoft Outlook, Salesforce, Google Drive, Slack, and many others. Today we’re pleased to add another big name to that list.

Introducing Evernote for Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is the communication hub for productive companies, where teams can chat, share messages, and move projects forward. As part of the Office 365 suite, it enables colleagues to share emails, documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, and manage the flow of information.

Our latest integration brings Evernote into the context of your conversations in Teams so you can easily reference specific notes within a conversation, and access notes without having to leave the Teams experience.

With Evernote for Microsoft Teams, you can seamlessly share, pin, edit, and search your Evernote content—right from the Microsoft Teams app. This helps you work without interruption and keeps everyone on the same page.

We sat down with Mansoor Malik, Principal Product Manager for Microsoft Teams, and Leo Gong, Senior Product Manager at Evernote, to get their thoughts on this new integration. We asked them why the partnership between Evernote and Microsoft is so exciting, and what it means for customers and the future of teamwork.

Q: What does integrating with Evernote bring to the Microsoft Teams product, and how will users benefit?

Mansoor Malik (Microsoft): Microsoft Teams democratizes information. It makes it available, brings transparency to it, and ensures everyone has access to it.

With this integration, users can now access their Evernote content and share it with the whole team—in one place, and in the same channel. You don’t have to remember a URL or switch back and forth between Teams and Evernote. It’s all right there.

Leo Gong (Evernote): For a lot of our customers, Evernote is their second brain. It’s where they collect all their information and the ideas they’re working on. Combining these two places allows them to easily tap into that knowledge hub and share it with everyone.

Let’s say you’re trying to plan logistics around a product launch in Microsoft Teams. Being able to access Evernote allows you to keep a record of what people are agreeing upon, and what the current plan is—in parallel to the conversation.

Q: What is the problem that this solves for users?

MM: You may have to-dos that you want to add in Evernote, and you may want to start talking about them. You can either share a snippet of it in Teams and start a conversation that way, or you can pin it as a tab and have the conversation around that tab.

What’s cool is that the conversation you have, in context with the note that’s pinned, happens right there. It can also be persistent so it stays within the chat. So anyone from the team can either jump into that conversation in real time or, if they come in later, reply to it in the same thread, with the same context.

LG: Many people use Evernote as a repository for their business’s information. This integration helps them very easily share that information whenever they’re asked.

Also, the same questions often get asked again and again. The Pinned tab allows you to pin a note in the channel with answers to all those frequently asked questions, so it’s easily accessible for others.

Finally, there can often be 10 to 20 different messages that you need to consider when you’re making a decision. It gets unmanageable very quickly. So it’s good to have a tab, one place to keep a list of “What’s the decision we just made, and what are the next steps?”

Q. What do you think people struggle with the most when it comes to sharing information within a team setting?

MM: Before, if you wanted to share something, you’d have to open up your email and attach a Word document or a file, and send it to somebody—even your colleague who’s sitting in the next office. Then you’d have to wait for their reply, then revise it, and so on. This integration means that those conversations, those decisions, can be documented, edited, and captured in real time, so you don’t have to wait for the back and forth.

LG: I think it’s the friction around sharing information. Even beyond this initial launch, we’re interested in making that easier. How can we automate the sharing of information? That’s something we think about.

Q: In your experience, how have workflows evolved over time? Do you find that people are asking for integrations with their favorite tools often?

MM: Employees today are on twice as many teams as they were five years ago. The amount of time that employees spend engaging in collaborative work—in meetings, on phone calls, or answering emails—has increased about 50 percent. It takes up to 80 percent more of employees’ time. Notwithstanding that, productivity experiences are getting fragmented over time, leading to reduced productivity, change fatigue, and reduced employee sentiment and morale. This integration tries to reunify the experience to address these issues.

LG: Workplaces are evolving to include more specialized tools, so more than ever we see a lot of different teams, and a lot of individuals, wanting and expecting choice at work.

Even with note editing, which is a relatively simple use case, there are so many tools out there and each of them has different strengths. Integrations allow customers to use the tools that will make them effective, because they’re able to bring their own tools into their collaborative work.

Evernote integrates with all types of documents and helps people share notes very easily, so that they can choose the tools they need to make them effective. With Microsoft Teams, you don’t have to use a specific database or a specific task management tool. Teams becomes the glue that helps you and your team work together—even if they’re on different systems.

Q: When integrating with another product, is there a typical checklist you go through? What makes this partnership a good fit?

MM: We look at how we can add value to our mutual customers. Specifically, we look at common teamwork productivity scenarios and ways to make it easier for people to get their job done, to make their experience more valuable, and enhance it so that they feel like it’s easy.

Evernote is a great fit for Teams because people are already working together in teams. Having Evernote integrated there just makes sense, to help them get their job done faster.

The other thing we look at is shared vision with our partners around the digital and cultural transformation that’s happening in the modern workplace. We certainly have to snap to that.

LG: It’s the same for us. The top bar that we need to clear is: Is there a natural fit in the users’ workflows? Does this measurably make their lives better? And second, what do we have to offer Microsoft? How does this make Evernote users more successful as well? And lastly, it’s a feasibility consideration, which is: Can we build it and how quickly?

Q: From a strategic product perspective, how do you keep up with the needs of an increasingly demanding customer?

MM: We’re always listening to our customer feedback, whether it’s on Twitter, UserVoice, or within our end product feedback tool. We also look at the way people are working and features they’re asking for, whether it’s apps for mobile, or even desktop.

We’re also trying to envision what the future of work will look like on a longer-term horizon. As the workforce changes, as Millennials get on board, they definitely have new demands. We look into that, we prioritize it, and we put it in the backlog. Whatever is most asked for gets done first, and we go down the stack from there.

LG: One, it’s having an ear to the ground. We spend a lot of time talking to our customers, and often we’ll see opportunities for improvement.

Two, is doing pretty extensive testing with features that we want to launch, and making sure that we’re doing it in a way that’s actually helpful to our users. You don’t want to necessarily implement exactly what the customer is requesting because often it’s a symptom of a greater or undiscovered need. So we think about what they’re really trying to say, and what they’re really struggling with.

Q: I imagine that can be hard at times, like doing a bit of detective work.

LG: Exactly.

MM: Yep, totally agree.

Q: There has been a shift from having competitors to the idea of “playing well with others.” What is your view on adopting this approach from the technology standpoint?

MM: We’re building a product for collaboration, so we have to be collaborative. By working and playing with others, we help our customers and users get the most value. And in this particular case, it really helps increase their productivity, and users love it. So if we can increase productivity, if we can keep the user engaged, even if it’s working with a competitor or a partner, so be it. That’s why we are open and willing to let people use the tools they want to use. Because we believe that tools and technology facilitate productivity and enable customers to get more done faster.

LG: Playing well with others has always been a core value for Evernote. We help you capture your thoughts and information—wherever it comes from.

As to how we adopt it from a technology standpoint, it means building our product in a modular way so we’re not just supporting a single document type. We’re architecting the app in a way where it can accept any document type as a module, so you can plug-and-play additional ones in the future.

It’s a win-win because building a product in a way that supports integrations speeds up your own development. Your developers will thank you because when they’re trying to extend functionality into the product in the future, they will also benefit.

Q: Advancements in technology have made it possible for people to work anywhere, from any device. How can we keep up with the demands of such a highly connected workforce?

MM: Every team is different. Every individual is different, and they have their unique preferences and needs. As a platform, Microsoft Teams enables people to bring anything they want in terms of the apps and services they use the most. By doing so they can customize Microsoft Teams to fit their needs better for their increased productivity.

By allowing these types of integrations, by working well with other partners and competitors, we’re meeting the demands of a highly connected workforce. At the same time, we’re making sure, as Evernote is, that we’re cross-platform, cross-device, multi-screen. We want to make sure that wherever you are, however you’re connected, you can get your work done.

LG: In a way, the causation is a little fuzzy because having integrations enables you to work from anywhere and from any device. At the same time, integrations help you live better in a world like that.

I think where Microsoft Teams is really helpful is that it provides a hub for you to manage a lot of complexity. Because if everybody’s using 20 different apps, it becomes very difficult to manage. But if there’s some way for you to start centralizing your communications, with all of your sharing in one place, it helps people manage the overload of information.

Q: What do you see changing in the next five years with regard to the way people are working? And how are you looking to solve that with new product features and/or updates?

MM: Everybody is looking to get stuff done faster. What we are thinking, with these integrations, is how we can use machine learning or AI to help them do that.

For example, imagine you’re making a note that you need to send marketing materials for review and approval. It’d be cool if, as you’re typing or talking about it, an AI bot senses that this is actually a task that needs to be created and assigned to somebody, and then followed up on. Those are ways that we can improve productivity by doing things for people on their behalf.

Call recording, transcription, and translation is also something that we are looking into. All this stuff can get done automatically.

LG: I see there being two related trends. One is that there’s a rapid acceleration of the amount of information that people are consuming. Number two is that technology has gotten to a point where it’s actually possible to help users manage that overflow of information, so we’re at a really interesting time.

The first thing that will really help people is better aggregation and integrations. I see Evernote being the place that helps you manage your information by integrating with the tools you use to create information, and collecting all of that in one central hub.

The second piece of technology is, as Mansoor mentioned, AI and machine learning. The interesting thing that we’ll be able to do in the next five years is apply machine learning to help users make sense of information that they’re getting. Because it’s really important to be able to sift through it all and figure out what’s important.

The analogy I love to give is: If I walk into your kitchen, it might be really tidy, but I don’t know where anything is kept. Machine learning allows us to surface your items in your kitchen, in a context that makes sense with regard to how I organize and how I think.

Get started

To find out for yourself how much more your team can achieve, simply head over to the Microsoft App Store and install Evernote for Microsoft Teams today. For more information, check out this Quick Start Guide.

Microsoft making progress on quantum computer ‘every day’

Microsoft is “all-in” on building a quantum computer and is making advancements “every day”, according to one of the company’s top experts on the technology.

Julie Love (above), Director of Quantum Computing, called the firm’s push to build the next generation of computer technology “one of the biggest disruptive bets we have made as a company”.

Quantum computing has the potential to help humans tackle some of the world’s biggest problems in areas such as materials science, chemistry, genetics, medicine and the environment. It uses the physics of qubits to create a way of computing that can work on specific kinds of problems that are impossible with today’s computers. In theory, a problem that would take today’s machines billions of years to solve could be completed by a quantum computer in minutes, hours or days.

While Microsoft has noted that no one has yet built a working quantum computer, Love said the company has the right team in place to make progress and eventually create a system and software that can tackle real-world issues. Over the past decade, Microsoft has built a team comprised of some of the greatest minds in quantum physics, mathematics, computer science and engineering. It is also working with some of the leading experts in universities across the world.

“Quantum computers could solve a set of problems that are completely intractable to humans at this time, and it could do so in 100 seconds,” she said during a speech at London Tech Week. “Microsoft’s enterprise customers are interested in changing their businesses using this technology, and we have set our sights beyond the hype cycle. We have a good understanding of what’s needed.

“Microsoft is working on the only scalable solution, one that will run seamlessly on the Azure cloud, and be much more immune to errors. The truth is that not all qubits are equal; most are inherently unstable and susceptible to error-creating noise from the environment. Our approach uses topological qubits specifically for their higher accuracy, lower cost and ability to perform long enough to solve complex real-world problems.”

Microsoft is the only major company attempting to build topological qubits, which aims to significantly reduce any interference at a subatomic level that might affect the machine. With this approach, the computational qubits will be “corrected” by the other qubits.

“When we run systems, there are trade-offs in power, because they have to be very cold. However, we get higher compute capabilities,” said Love, who started studying quantum computing in the late-1990s.

Last year, Microsoft released a Quantum Development Kit, which includes its Q# programming language for people who want to start writing applications for a quantum computer. These can be tested in Microsoft’s online simulator. Q# is designed for developers who are keen to learn how to program on these machines whether or not they are experts in the field of quantum physics.

“We have released the Quantum Development Kit so developers can learn to program a quantum computer and join us on this journey,” Love added.

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