Tag Archives: journey

Shin’s story: Using technology to break down the barriers of disability in Japan – Asia News Center

Shin’s journey hasn’t been an easy one, but thanks to his parents lobbying a local education board – which once suggested Shin go to a special needs school – he has always been studying at regular schools.

Since elementary school, he studied with the help of computer software, such as Microsoft Word and OneNote. He uses a small, special mouse to draw graphs.

“By using Windows’ on-screen keyboard and moving the mouse, I can use my PC for study and communicating with my friends,” he explained.

Since 2013, Microsoft has assisted his learning, including preparation for the tough university entrance exam, by providing IT tools, such as the on-screen keyboard and a cursor control system that uses eye movements.

Shin is now trialing a new eye tracking software that enables him to move the mouse cursor with his eyes

“I have faced lots of challenges like everyone else, but we often need help too,” Shin said. “I’m currently trialing the new eye tracking software that enables me to move the mouse cursor with my eyes. This is one more example of how technology will help people like me work more efficiently.”

“My dream is that one day these kinds of functions will not be listed under accessibility but will be an integral part of how we all work to make a better future,” he added.

In 2016, Shin successfully passed the entrance exam for Tokyo University after spending a year at a preparatory school together with other students who aimed to enter the country’s competitive universities.

Now as a university student, Shin continues to study on his electric stretcher with assistance and support from helpers and the school. Since April this year, he lives on his own with assistance when he needs to move.

The entrance exam for Tokyo University is one of Japan’s most competitive assessments. Before the exams, Shin submitted a request to the exam authority, the National Center for University Entrance Examinations, notifying them that his physical condition required more attention.

During the exam, Shin sat in a separate room with more time to take the paper, and was assigned an assistant to write down his answers. Shin was also allowed to use a computer, especially when an answer required a graph.

Shin’s favorite quote by Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosopher he admires, is “Man is something that shall be overcome.” The feisty student is often led by these words when reflecting his own physical disability.

Shin, now 21, studies Western Philosophy at Tokyo University

“I believe that we need a new inclusive philosophical framework because technology is now empowering people to become independent beyond any physical barriers,” he says.

Learning from those with disabilities to improve their opportunities

One of those working with people with disabilities, such as Shin, is Microsoft Japan employee Tomoko Ohshima.

Gathering their comments, requests and feedback, she passes those to the tech giant’s developers to create tools to help people with disabilities.

Ohshima was encouraged to take on this project by Microsoft Japan some ten years ago, inspired by her interactions with a colleague, a programmer who is blind. “Technology is so helpful for people!” she says.

Meanwhile, Japan’s entrance exam system is also improving to accommodate students with various disabilities. A consensus has been established to allow students with disabilities to use tools approved by the authorities, such as computers, and to extend the test time depending on each student’s condition. Ohshima’s commitment of the last ten years coincides with this improvement, and has allowed her to witness the transition.

Challenges still remain for students with disabilities. For example, having a computer read out exam questions is rarely permitted in Japan. Instead, a reader is assigned to read the questions aloud for the examinee. This does not always work well for the students –– some students might want to read important parts more slowly, and others might want to have questions read out repeatedly to better understand them.

One of the reasons computer reading has not been approved is because examiners need to create extra exam papers by digitalizing them. This may be avoidable with optical character recognition (OCR).

“We are willing to provide any useful help and technology to create a society in which anyone can have the opportunity to take the entrance exams and be judged fairly regardless of one’s physical condition,” says Ohshima.


To read more about Microsoft Philanthropies’ work to build future ready generations in Asia, click here.

Airtel CIO targets cutting-edge tech

A major part of every digital transformation is exploring how cutting-edge tech can facilitate the journey. Some companies, like Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel Ltd., are more capable than others of experimenting with new technologies, affording them a wealth of opportunities for innovation.

In this video from the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, Harmeen Mehta, global CIO and head of digital at Airtel, discusses some of the cutting-edge tech she’s employing at her company — everything from advanced mapping techniques and network digitization to voice computing technology and AI-driven customer offerings.

Editor’s note: This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

What kind of cutting-edge tech are you using to speed up your company’s digital transformation process?

Harmeen Mehta: Lots of pieces. I think one of the biggest challenges that we have is mapping the intricacies and the inner lanes in India and doing far more than what even Google does. For Google, the streets are of prime importance [when it comes to mapping]. For us, the address of every single house and whether it’s a high-rise building or it’s a flat is very important as we bring different services into these homes. So, we’ve been working on finding very innovative ways to take Google’s [mapping] as a base and make it better for us to be able to map India to that level of accuracy of addresses, houses and floor plans.

Another problem that I can think of where a lot of cutting-edge tech is being used is in creating a very customized contextual experience for the consumer so that every consumer has a unique experience on any of our digital properties. The kind of offers that the company brings to them are really tailored and suited to them rather than it being a general, mass offering. There’s a lot of machine learning and artificial intelligence that’s going into that.

Another one is we’re digitizing a large part of our network. In fact, we’re collaborating with SK Telecom, who we think is one of the most innovative telcos out there, in order to do that. We’re using, again, a lot of machine learning and artificial intelligence there as well, as we bring about an entire digitization of our network and are able to optimize the networks and our investments much better.

Then, of course, I’m loving the new stream that we are creating, which is all around exploring voice as a technology. The voice assistants are getting more intelligent. It gives us a very unique opportunity to actually reach out and bring the digital transformation to a lot of Indians who aren’t as literate — to those whom the reading and the writing part doesn’t come to them as naturally as speaking does. It’s opening up a whole lot of new doors and we’re really finding that a very interesting space to work in and we’re exploring a lot in that arena at the moment.

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How to muster the troops

A digital transformation journey, make no mistake, is no walk in the park. It involves major course corrections to technology, to business processes, to how people do their jobs and how they think about their roles. So, how does a company make something so radical as digital transformation part of its DNA?

Gail Evans, who was promoted in June from global CIO at Mercer to the consulting firm’s global chief digital officer, believes an important first step is getting people to see what’s in it for them, “because once you see the value, you’re all in.”

In this video recorded in May at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, then-CIO Evans provided some insight into how she musters the troops at Mercer, explaining that a digital transformation journey is, by nature, long and iterative, requiring people to see value all along the way.

Editor’s note: The following was edited for clarity and brevity.

What can companies do to get started on a digital transformation journey?

Gail Evans: Actually, I think there are a couple of things. I think digital transformation, at its core, is the people. At the very core of any transformation, it is about how do you inspire a team to align to this new era — this new era of different tools, different technologies that can be applied in many different, creative ways to create new business models or to drive efficiencies in your organization.

So, I think the leaders in the enterprise are ones who understand the dynamics of taking your core and moving it up the food chain. Where does it start? I think it starts with creating a beachhead, creating a platform of digital, and then allowing that to grow and swell with training and opportunities, webinars, blogs so that it becomes a part of a company’s DNA. Because I believe digital isn’t a thing — it’s a new way of doing things to create value through the application of technology and data.

Which departments at Mercer are in the vanguard of digital transformation? Who are laggards?

Evans: One would argue that marketing is already digital, right? I mean, they are already using digital technologies to drive personalized experiences on the web and have been doing that for many years. I would say that it starts in, probably, technology. Technology will embrace it, and also it needs to be infused into the business leaders.

I think the laggards are typically … I guess I wouldn’t necessarily call them ‘laggards.’ I think I would refer to them as not yet seeing the value of digital, because once you see the value, you’re all in.

Pockets of resistance

[Digital transformation is] humans plus technology and new business models. That is what digital transformation is all about and it’s fun!
Gail Evansglobal chief digital officer, Mercer

Evans: There are teams or pockets of folks who have done things the same way for a long time and there is a resistance there. It’s kind of the, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Those are pockets, but you’d find those pockets in every transformation, whether it’s digital or [moving into the] information age, whatever — you’ll find pockets of people who are not ready to go.

And so, I think there are pockets of people in our core legacy who are holding onto their technology of choice and may not have up-skilled themselves, so they are holding on and they are resisting.

And then there are business folks who have been used to one-to-one relationships and built their whole career — a very successful career — with those one-to-one relationships. And now digital is coming from a different place where some of what you might have thought was your IP in value is now in algorithms. What will you do differently and how do you manage those dynamics differently?

I think there’s education [that needs to happen] because I think it’s humans plus technology, it’s not just technology; it’s humans plus technology and new business models. That is what digital transformation is all about and it’s fun! It is a new way to just have fun. It will be something else two, three, five years from now.

Speaking to ‘hearts and minds’

What strategies do you have for getting people to sign on for that ‘fun’ digital transformation journey?

Evans: At Mercer, what I’ve done was, first, you have to create, I think, a very strong digital strategy that is not just textbook strategy, but one that speaks to the hearts and minds from the executive team down to the person who’s coding, that they can relate to and become a part of it. Many people believe, ‘What’s in it for me? Yeah, I get that technology stuff, but what is it in for me?’ [Showing that] then what is in it for the business and bringing that strategy together and having proof points along the way [is important].

It’s not a big bang approach; it’s really very agile and iterative. And so, as you iterate and show value, people will become more open to change. And as you train them, so build a strategy and inspire your team, inspire your executive leadership team because that’s where all the money is. You need the money, so they need to believe in the digital transformation [journey] and the revenue aspect and the stakeholder value that it would bring.

Basically, create a strong vision that applies to the team, create a strategy that is based on efficiencies and revenue and also create what many call a bimodal [IT approach] because you need to continue to drive the core legacy systems and optimize. They’re still the bread and butter of the company. So, you have to find a strategy that allows both to grow.

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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.”

What it means to really be seen: Clark Ly fights for transgender visibility – Microsoft Life

One employee uses the lessons he learned from his own journey becoming his authentic self to insist that others who feel invisible are seen and heard

By Candace Whitney-Morris

Eight years into his career at Microsoft, Clark Ly, who identified as a woman at the time, decided to transition to being male. His friends and support system seemed surprised when he told them he was going to stay at the same company, in the same department, and on the same team.

“When you decide to transition, it’s not just you transitioning,” Ly said. “It’s everyone around you. You have to take that into consideration. Many people leave; they want a fresh start.”

But Ly loved his job helping Xbox publishers get their games out, so he decided to remain at his job as he transitioned to living openly as a man.

In January 2015, with the help of his manager, an email was sent to the team, rewelcoming Clark Ly. He knew the group was open and accepting, but he still wondered how this would affect everyone.

“The response was really great. I had grown adults crying in my office because they were so happy for me.”

Born in Vietnam to a father who was in the military, Ly grew up with an inclination toward law enforcement. After he moved to and grew up in the United States, he decided to become a police officer “to do some good in the world.” Though he moved on to Microsoft after a few years of patrolling the streets of Portland, his desire to do good in the world never waned. These days, that instinct powers his advocacy and support for those who are afraid to be who they are.

Ly is a big part of Microsoft’s efforts to help LGBTQ+ people and advocate against the kind of inequity that contributes to an unemployment rate among trans and gender nonbinary workers that is nearly twice that of the overall US working population.

As an active member in the LGBTQ+ employee resource group GLEAM, Ly helped cofound a subgroup of GLEAM called Gender Expression and Transgender* (GET*—the asterisk signifies inclusion of all who don’t identify under the term transgender) with two other transgender employees at Microsoft.

GET* members meet regularly to support each other and help influence inclusive policies in the workplace. The group is working on creating a “how to come out at Microsoft” recourse guide that helps transgender and nonbinary employees navigate their health benefits and anticipate what to expect if they decide to transition—for example, how to deal with people’s reactions and behaviors and what to do if coworkers accidentally call them by their old name or use the wrong pronouns. The group also shares personal stories to help prepare for some of the surprising things people might say out in the world.

Clark Ly“As the world continually changes and people become more visible, you’ll get more people who feel like they can just ask you anything,” Ly said. “Sometimes I get asked some of the most inappropriate questions from perfect strangers.”

Ly and GET* are chronicling these experiences so other transgender people can learn from them and to maybe make transitioning a little bit easier.

Ly said that GET*’s latest and most pressing focus is consulting with the Microsoft facilities team on designing new and renovating existing restrooms for all-gender use.

“While we’re transitioning, many of us don’t present as masculine or feminine. It’s important that we have restrooms where we don’t have to justify why we’re going into them, because we don’t look the way that people assume we should look,” Ly said.

Being asked “are you going into the wrong restroom?’” isn’t something anyone should have to face, he said. “Not when all they are trying to do is take care of a basic human need.”

Ly remembered responding with, “Well, I would rather go into the men’s restroom, but unfortunately, I am still presenting as a woman.” Or he would find a single-stall restroom somewhere just to avoid the conversation.

GET* also holds separate meetings just for allies of transgender and gender nonconforming employees. Microsoft has several parents of transgender kids who come to the ally meetings to connect with and support each other.

“It’s been really wonderful to have this resource,” Ly said. “We are building a community within Microsoft. Since creating GET*, we’ve had more people come out, whether they decide to transition or want to say ‘I identify as nonbinary’ or ‘I want people to know that they/them are my pronouns.’”

And just by walking around in the world, visible and empowered, Ly and others in his community are furthering acceptance and helping others to be seen for who they are. More acceptance, he said, means less time worrying about what others think or explaining yourself. It means more focus on work and creativity. It means hope.

“By being who I am, by being visible, other people, especially within the trans community, can see someone like me working at Microsoft and think, ‘I can do that. I can work at Microsoft, too.’ They will know that Microsoft values diversity and inclusion. Microsoft values people who want to be and bring all their authentic self.”

Ly believes that the more people who advocate and push for trans visibility, the easier it will get for transgender people to come out, both at work and in the community.

“At Microsoft, I don’t have to hide who I am.”

Meet more Microsoft employees who are changing hearts and minds and advancing human rights.
https://news.microsoft.com/life/topic/pride/

See how Microsoft is celebrating Pride 2018 and how you can be an ally.
https://www.microsoft.com/pride/

Learn how Microsoft and its LGBTQ+ employees push for change across borders.
https://news.microsoft.com/life/pride/

Offering the largest scale and broadest choice for SAP HANA in the cloud

Microsoft at SAPPHIRE NOW 2018

Enterprises have been embarking on a journey of digital transformation for many years. For many enterprises this journey cannot start or gain momentum until core SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) landscapes are transformed. The last year has seen an acceleration of this transformation with SAP customers of all sizes like Penti, Malaysia Airlines, Guyana Goldfields , Rio Tinto, Co-op, and Coats migrating to the cloud on Microsoft Azure. This cloud migration, which is central to digital transformation, helps to increase business agility, lower costs, and enable new business processes to fuel growth. In addition, it has allowed them to take advantage of advancements in technology such as big data analytics, self-service business intelligence (BI), and Internet of Things (IOT).

As leaders in enterprise software, SAP and Microsoft provide the preferred foundation for enabling the safe and trusted path to digital transformation. Together we enable the inevitable move to SAP S/4HANA which will help accelerate digital transformation for customers of all sizes.

Microsoft has collaborated with SAP for 20+ years to enable enterprise SAP deployments with Windows Server and SQL Server. In 2016 we partnered to offer SAP certified, purpose-built, SAP HANA on Azure Large Instances supporting up to 4 TB of memory. Last year at SAPPHIRENOW, we announced the largest scale for SAP HANA in the public-cloud with support up to 20 TB on a single node and our M-series VM sizes up to 4 TB. With the success of M-series VMs and our SAP HANA on Azure Large instances, customers have asked us for even more choices to address a wider variety of SAP HANA workloads.

Microsoft is committed to offering the most scale and performance for SAP HANA in the public cloud, and yesterday announced additional SAP HANA offerings on Azure which include:

  • Largest SAP HANA optimized VM size in the cloud: We are happy to announce that the Azure M-series will support large memory virtual machines with sizes up to 12 TB. These new sizes will  be launching soon, pushing the limits of virtualization in the cloud for SAP HANA. These new sizes are based on Intel Xeon Scalable (Skylake) processors and will offer the most memory available of any VM in the public cloud.
  • Wide range of SAP HANA certified VMs: For customers needing smaller instances we have expanded our offering with smaller M-series VM sizes, extending Azure’s SAP HANA certified M-series VM range from 192 GB – 4 TB with 10 different VM sizes. These sizes offer on-demand and SAP certified instances with flexibility to spin-up or scale-up in minutes and to spin-down to save costs all in a pay-as-you-go model available worldwide. This flexibility and agility is something that is not possible with a private cloud or on-premises SAP HANA deployment.
  • 24 TB bare metal instance and optimized price per TB: For customers that need a higher performance dedicated offering for SAP HANA, we are increasing our investments in our purpose-built bare metal SAP HANA infrastructure. We now offer additional SAP HANA TDIv5 options of 6 TB, 12 TB, 18 TB, and 24 TB configurations in addition to our current configurations from 0.7TB to 20 TB. This enables customers who need more memory but the same number of cores to get a better price per TB deployed.
  • Most choice for SAP HANA in the cloud: With 26 distinct SAP HANA offerings from 192 GB to 24 TB, scale-up certification up to 20 TB and scale-out certification up to 60 TB, global availability in 12 regions with plans to increase to 22 regions in the next 6 months, Azure now offers the most choice for SAP HANA workloads of any public cloud.

Microsoft Azure also enables customers to derive insights and analytics from SAP data with services such as Azure Data Factory SAP HANA connector to automate data pipelines, Azure Data Lake Store for hyper scale data storage and Power BI, an industry leading self-service visualization tool, to create rich dashboards and reports from SAP ERP data.

Our unique partnership with SAP to enable customer success

Last November, Microsoft and SAP announced an expanded partnership to help customers accelerate their business transformation with S/4HANA on Azure. Microsoft has been a long time SAP customer for many of our core business processes such as financials and supply chain. As part of this renewed partnership, Microsoft announced it will use S/4HANA for Central Finance, and SAP announced it will use Azure to host 17 internal business critical systems.

I am very pleased to share an update on SAP’s migration to Azure from Thomas Saueressig, CIO of SAP:

“In 2017 we started to leverage Azure as IaaS Platform. By the end of 2018 we will have moved 17 systems including an S/4HANA system for our Concur Business Unit. We are expecting significant operational efficiencies and increased agility which will be a foundational element for our digital transformation.”

Correspondingly here’s an update on Microsoft’s migration to S/4HANA on Azure from Mike Taylor, GM Partner; Enterprise Applications Services at Microsoft.

“In 2017 we started the internal migration of our SAP system that we have been running for over 25 years, to S/4HANA. As part of that journey we felt it was necessary to first move our SAP environment completely onto Azure, which we completed in February 2018. With the agility that Azure offers we have already stood up multiple sandbox environments to help our business realize the powerful new capabilities of S/4HANA.”

As large enterprises, we are going through our business transformation with SAP S/4HANA on Azure and we will jointly share lessons from our journey and reference architectures at several SAPPHIRE NOW sessions.

Last November, we announced availability of SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) with Azure, to offer customers an accelerated path to SAP HANA. We see several customers, such as Avianca and Aker embark on their business transformation by leveraging the best of both worlds, SAP’s managed services, and the most robust cloud infrastructure for SAP HANA on Azure.

“In Avianca, we are committed on providing the best customer experience through the use of digital technologies. We have the customer as the center of our strategy, and to do that, we are in a digital transformation of our customer experience and of our enterprise to provide our employees with the best tools to increase their productivity. Our new implementation of SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud on Microsoft Azure is a significant step forward in our enterprise digital transformation,” said Mr. Santiago Aldana Sanin, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Digital Officer at Avianca. “The SAP and Microsoft partnership continues to create powerful solutions that combine application management and product expertise from SAP with a global, trusted and intelligent cloud from Microsoft Azure. At Avianca, we are leveraging the strengths of both companies to further our journey to the cloud.”

Learn more about HEC with Azure.

Announcing SAP Cloud Platform general availability on Azure

The SAP Cloud Platform offers developers a choice to build their SAP applications and extensions using a PaaS development platform with integrated services. Today, I’m excited to announce that SAP Cloud Platform is now generally available on Azure. Developers can now deploy Cloud Foundry based SAP Cloud Platform on Azure in the West Europe region. We’re working with SAP to enable more regions in the months ahead.

“We are excited to announce general availability for SAP Cloud Platform on Azure. With our expanded partnership last November, we have been working on a number of co-engineering initiatives for the benefit of our mutual customers. SAP Cloud Platform offers the best of PaaS services for developers building apps around SAP and Azure offers world-class infrastructure for SAP solutions with cloud services for application development. With this choice, developers can spin up infrastructure on-demand in a global cloud co-located with other business apps, scale up as necessary in minutes boosting developer productivity and accelerating time to market for innovative applications with SAP solutions,” said Björn Goerke, CTO of SAP and President of SAP Cloud Platform.

Microsoft has a long history of working with developers with our .NET, Visual Studio, and Windows community. With our focus on open source support on Azure for Java, Node.js, Red Hat, SUSE, Docker, Kubernetes, Redis, and PostgreSQL to name a few, Azure offers the most developer friendly cloud according to the latest development-only public cloud platforms report from Forrester. We recently published an ABAP SDK for Azure on GitHub, to enable SAP developers to seamlessly connect into Azure services from SAP applications.

SAP application developers can now use a single cloud platform to co-locate application development next to SAP ERP data and boost development productivity with Azure’s Platform services such as Azure Event Hubs for event data processing and Azure Storage for unlimited inexpensive storage, while accessing SAP ERP data at low latencies for faster application performance. To get started with SAP Cloud Platform on Azure, sign up for a free trial account.

Today, we are also excited to announce another milestone in our partnership. SAP’s Hybris Commerce Cloud now runs on Azure as a “Software as a service” offering.

Customers embarking on digital transformation with SAP on Azure

With our broadest scale global offerings for SAP on Azure, we are seeing increased momentum with customers moving to the cloud. Here are some digital transformation stories from recent customer deployments.

  • Daimler AG: One of the world’s most successful automotive companies, Daimler AG is modernizing its purchasing system with a new SAP S/4HANA on Azure solution. The Azure-based approach is a foundational step in an overall digital transformation initiative to ensure agility and flexibility for the contracting and sourcing of its passenger cars, commercial vehicles, and International Procurement Services on a global basis.
  • Devon Energy: Fully committed to its digital transformation, Devon Energy is pioneering efforts to deploy SAP applications on Azure across all its systems. The Oklahoma City-based independent oil and natural gas exploration and production company is strategically partnering with Microsoft on multiple fronts such as AI, IT modernization, and SAP on Azure. Learn more about Devon’s digital transformation at their SAPPHIRE NOW session.
  • MMG: MMG, a global mining company, recognized that existing SAP infrastructure was approaching end-of-life, and that moving to the cloud would deliver the lowest long-term cost whilst providing flexibility to grow and enable new capabilities. Immediate benefits have been realized in relation to the overall performance of SAP, in particular, data loads into Business Warehouse.

For more on how you can accelerate your digital transformation with SAP on Azure, please check out our website.

In closing, at Microsoft, we are committed to ensuring Azure offers the best enterprise-grade option for all your SAP workload needs, whether you are ready to move to HANA now or later. I will be at SAPPHIRE NOW 2018 and encourage you to check our SAPPHIRE NOW event website for details on 40+ sessions and several demos that we’ll be showcasing at the event. Stop by and see us at the Microsoft booth #358 to learn more.

Democratizing technology, according to Nate – Microsoft Life

To understand Nate Yohannes’s journey, you must start in Eritrea.

In the Horn of Africa, the country’s evolving political climate fueled a struggle for democracy in the 30-year Eritrean War for Independence. Taking up arms to break down social injustice, a young peasant herder named Tes Yohannes, Yohannes’s father, became a freedom fighter in 1978. As he walked alongside compatriots with similar fates, Tes Yohannes stepped on one of the region’s innumerable landmines and was blinded in one eye as a result. Despite this life-changing injury, Tes Yohannes held strong to his belief in democracy, equality, and self-autonomy. He passed these values to his son, who would grow up to put them to work lessening disparities between the haves and the have-nots.

Born and raised in the United States during the 1980s, Yohannes wanted to be Ronald Reagan or a lawyer when he grew up. In that order. “I would hold a broom and give these speeches as if I was Reagan, and my parents knew that their son was (a) a dork and (b) a little too ambitious for his age,” he said.

Yohannes’s lawyerly ambitions were more grounded in reality, as his family’s entry to the United States was sponsored by a lawyer named Peter Oddleifson. Upon arriving, the Yohanneses lived with Oddleifson for weeks and remained close for years to come.

“He became a second dad to me. He’s our family superhero. He’s the one that led the legal agreements and helped us establish life here in the United States,” Yohannes said.

Early in youth, the guidance of mentors began to shape Yohannes’s conscience. What he didn’t know is where that guidance would one day lead him.

Yohannes’s childhood held the imprints of a fellow human’s generosity, a gift that followed him to the University at Buffalo School of Law in New York, where he studied human rights and immigration. During his studies, he received the Barbara and Thomas Wolfe Human Rights Fellowship to clerk at the Monroe County, New York, Public Defender’s office. Later, he went on to clerk for the chief justice of the New York Supreme Court, Eighth District. His public service was underway.

Near the end of his post-graduate work, he received some interesting advice from a Buffalo law alumnus—a former advisor to former US President Jimmy Carter. The advisor told Yohannes that although his aspirations to support the disenfranchised were well founded, Yohannes might make more of an impact by taking a different route to advocacy. The advisor saw in Yohannes the potential for big success equaled by a propensity for deep compassion—a combination that could position him well for a career in the private sector. Through that career, he could lift up individuals into opportunity.

It’s a rare person who can champion others with the same fervor as they do themselves, but Yohannes knows no other way.

“Help others—professionally and personally. The ability to learn and perform will eventually cap you, [so] you have to be able to work with other people. That will enable you to rise professionally,” he said. “We are in a people business. Life is personal.”

After he graduated law school, Yohannes set off for Washington, DC, where he became the assistant general counsel of the Money Management Institute, a trade group that represents the financial industry. There, Yohannes reestablished a nonprofit called Gateway to Leadership, designed to recruit the best and brightest undergraduate women and minorities to take internships at big investment banks.

“Although we were working in the securities space representing the Goldman Sachs of the world, that compassion of continuing to help was through a different route, by economic empowerment—by bringing those who are not at the table to lucrative industries and uplift folks,” he said.

In the coming years, Yohannes took opportunities that led him to some of the bedrock names in finance, industry, and entrepreneurial ventures. Always searching for ways to outsmart systematic barriers to social equality, in 2016 Yohannes found himself in a chance Uber ride that proved providential.

At the time, Yohannes was working for former US President Barack Obama’s administration as senior advisor to the head of the Office of Investments and Innovation. A work trip took him to San Francisco, where he was tasked with promoting women venture capital opportunities at the NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center. He used a rideshare app to carpool to an engagement and met Ana White, general manager of Human Resources at Microsoft.

What followed was an unexpected conversation between the Uber driver, White, and Yohannes—an organic connection that turned out to be Yohannes’s gateway to a job at Microsoft. White wasn’t the first leader to recognize Yohannes’s singular depth of character and his ability to adapt and grow. Yohannes, too, was intrigued by conversations with Sarah Richmond, senior director of Business Development, and Priya Priyadarshini, director of Human Resources, and was drawn to the cultural shift that was occurring at Microsoft.

Employee Nate Yohannes

Even when he didn’t come to work at Microsoft right away, Nate Yohannes said people he met at the company stayed interested in what he was doing and continued show him what Microsoft’s culture was like.

After those interactions, Yohannes went through a series of Microsoft interviews where he met like-minded people who, Yohannes says, “advocate for economic equality through the use of technology.”

It wasn’t an immediate life change, though. Even as Yohannes decided to pursue other work, he kept thinking about the energizing meetings he had and couldn’t get Microsoft out of his mind. Meanwhile, the people he had met at Microsoft stayed connected with him and were interested in what he was up to. It was clear to him that Microsoft believed in Yohannes and his value, shaped by all the experiences he had and the drive to effect change that kept him moving forward.

Finally, inspired by the thought leadership and impressed by how Microsoft had engaged and followed up with him, Yohannes joined the company nine months later as director of business development on the Office and Artificial Intelligence team. In part because of Microsoft’s unique culture and the ways that he says employees evangelized for the company and the opportunities he could pursue there, Yohannes found his calling in the world’s next platform for freedom: technology.

Democratizing technology, according to Yohannes, originated in Microsoft when it brought computing to the individual level, not just the enterprise level. Today, it has evolved into a pivotal tool for the marginalized. In this new era of digital redlining, there are blockers to connectivity around the globe. In some parts of the United States, students who rely on technology to complete homework assignments sit outside of fast food restaurants that offer internet connection. In response, Microsoft just launched its Rural Broadband Initiative, offering rural connectivity at affordable prices. Freedom comes in the form of access to knowledge and access to technology, something Yohannes never loses sight of.

Yohannes champions transparency for every citizen—through shared media, language translation, medical technology, educational resources, and communication. Democratizing technology, says Yohannes, means “empowering human beings from the human rights level to the e-commerce level. It’s allowing tech to hit every corner of Earth to uplift society.”

He knows personally the roadblocks that language barriers can bring; he says his parents’ potential wasn’t unleashed until they could speak English in their new country. Currently, he’s delivering services to an AI product called MS Language Translator, which allows people to speak in their native language and have it immediately translated in real time. This is the type of work in tech that amplifies human ingenuity and improves livelihoods.

Connectivity, education, and diverse representation in the digital world are now the focus of the industry’s humanitarian goals. However, in a relatively short time, there will be a different kind of disparity in society—a gap between those who are trained in tech and the demand for those workers. Yohannes sees this deficit as another opportunity to level the playing field. Through a connection from his White House days, Yohannes’s office just hosted a nonprofit called Code2040, which empowers women and minorities to code with the goal of narrowing the gap by 2040.

What started as a concrete battle in Eritrea has paved the way for an abstract, yet equally relevant, defense of the have-nots. In Yohannes’s vocational coming-of-age, he discovered his responsibility in the new world order. With a profession built upon the foundation of his parents’ ethos, he says “I am most proud of having them as my parents.” For a family that radiates this ethos of equity for all, it’s hard to believe that they are banned from returning to their homeland because of his father’s vocal stance against the dictator in power—a former comrade. Yohannes hadn’t met his extended family, trapped in Eritrea, until adulthood, when technology reunited them through Facebook and Skype. Ultimately, there is justice in knowing that individuals will connect and opportunity will increasingly arise from the cloud.

Yohannes nurtures this hope, his family’s hope, for “moral integrity, humility, that passion to make everything human.”