Tag Archives: journey

Azure preparedness for Hurricane Florence

As Hurricane Florence continues its journey to the mainland, our thoughts are with those in its path. Please stay safe. We’re actively monitoring Azure infrastructure in the region. We at Microsoft have taken all precautions to protect our customers and our people.

Our datacenters (US East, US East 2, and US Gov Virginia) have been reviewed internally and externally to ensure that we are prepared for this weather event. Our onsite teams are prepared to switch to generators if utility power is unavailable or unreliable. All our emergency operating procedures have been reviewed by our team members across the datacenters, and we are ensuring that our personnel have all necessary supplies throughout the event.

As a best practice, all customers should consider their disaster recovery plans and all mission-critical applications should be taking advantage of geo-replication.

Rest assured that Microsoft is focused on the readiness and safety of our teams, as well as our customers’ business interests that rely on our datacenters. 

You can reach our handle @AzureSupport on Twitter, we are online 24/7. Any business impact to customers will be communicated through Azure Service Health in Azure portal.

If there is any change to the situation, we will keep customers informed of Microsoft’s actions through this announcement.

For guidance on Disaster Recovery best practices see references below: 

When you want that job, tell them your story – 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 feel like my résumé doesn’t really show the real me. How can I help people looking at my resume get a better idea of who I am?

Answer: Humans have relied on storytelling forever to share their experiences and journeys and to connect with each other. Not only does storytelling pass along useful information, but it conveys emotion and helps uncover universal themes that others will relate to. And you can even use the power of storytelling in your job search.

“Your story should reflect your truth, your authentic self, and the great work you’ve done,” said Chris Bell, an executive recruiter at Microsoft. “We’ve all had life and professional experiences that have helped shape our unique perspective on the world and our personal impact.”

Storytelling is a skill in and of itself, he points out. “Through your résumé, LinkedIn profile, and interviews, your communication and selling skills are demonstrated. Plus, when you tell a story, you’re displaying your ability to create an emotional connection.”

Here are Bell’s top recommendations for how to use storytelling techniques at every checkpoint (i.e., résumé, LinkedIn profile, interview) of your job hunt.

Infuse your résumé with narrative

When writing your résumé, don’t rely on keywords and jargon to tell your story. Think of using your skills and background as a starting point and then creating a narrative, Bell said. Avoid speaking in shorthand and relying on sentence fragments.

For example, he often sees experience statements such as, “Drove benefit packages, negotiating multiple options for benefits at a cost reduction of 29 percent.”

“What does ‘drove benefit packages’ mean?” he asked. “Was this person the benefits administrator or the individual selling or selecting benefits packages?”

Take a look at his expanded example, which adds context and answers an interviewer’s potential follow-up questions at first glance:

“I was responsible for the company’s benefit package selection process that entailed driving the RFP process with five vendors. I led a collaborative team that negotiated a multi-option benefit package that exceeded our employees’ needs while reducing benefit spend by 29 percent.”

By telling the job highlights narratively and focusing on impact, job seekers avoid vagueness and open the gates for a deeper conversation about how they approach their work and why it’s successful.

Don’t over-focus on résumé length, Bell said. While the standard recommendation is two pages, Bell believes that focusing first on storytelling will ultimately lead to the most readable version of your résumé. “Write what’s relevant; people will read,” he said.

Tell a story with your LinkedIn profile

Don’t be afraid to show your personality and call out your professional identity with your LinkedIn profile, Bell said. One place you can do this is with your profile headline. Bell shows a bit of personality with his own headline: Definitely a Recruiter | Leader and Learn-It-All.

When crafting your headline, consider the role you seek, relevant keywords, the type of company you see yourself working at, your personal brand, and the story you’d like to tell. Bell calls out that his field is recruitment and that he’s a leader who’s constantly learning and finding ways to improve his craft.

Next, consider the Summary section, which gives people a deeper snapshot of who you are, where your passions lie, and what you bring to the table. This is also a space where you can link to other places online where recruiters and hiring managers can learn even more about you, such as social media platforms, a podcast you run, or a blog that you manage. Keep your bio succinct, personable, and relevant, and continue to create the narrative with first-person phrasing. Tell the story of who you are.

The Experience section of your LinkedIn profile allows you to be more granular about your goals, learnings, and successes in each role. Bell advises that you steer clear of the résumé format in this section and take this opportunity to tell the story.

For instance, rather than say “I managed five events each year,” connect the dots between the work you did and who you are. Here’s an example:

I love processes and data. Yes! I admit it. Plus, I enjoy taking opportunities to train others.

At A-Z Event Planning, I made it a personal goal to create event strategy processes to make my and my colleagues’ lives easier while making our clients’ smiles bigger. While my charter was to run five events per year, I also took it upon myself to use my forecasting experience to develop a more “on the nose” event performance dashboard to predict attendance rates. This allowed us to plan better and make cost-saving recommendations to our clients. I also created an “event in a box” program that we rolled out to our international offices. This not only simplified the overall company’s processes, it also led to consistent, industry-leading programming across the board.

I absolutely enjoyed this job because it allowed me to tap into my hidden talents and learn more about international event planning. Since I spearheaded the programs, I was also asked to train my colleagues across the country and internationally.

In this example, the job seeker showcases their personality, drive, and skillsets. You want readers to feel your passion, enthusiasm, and knack for getting the job done.

Tell your story in an interview

“Everyone should be able to tell their own story,” said Bell. “And it is important to practice.”

When you are asked “tell me about yourself,” this is the moment to tell your truth, but keep it focused on what’s relevant to the job. For example, this is not the moment to explain that you were raised on a farm with five siblings—unless your farming background is relevant to the job you seek (maybe the company you want to work for creates technology solutions for farmers); if so, by all means connect those dots.

Keep your answer under two minutes, he said, but offer details about key roles, learnings, and personal experiences that tie into the role that you seek. Try to use a narrative arc to show your evolution as an expert in your space and to explain how you’ve built on your experience to get you to this point. Again, practice makes perfect.

Also have a narrative ready for anything recruiters or hiring managers might zero in on, such as short stints in a role or gaps in employment. “In any interview, you want to come across as polished, not stumped or appearing as though you have something to hide,” Bell said.

A popular question to anticipate and approach through storytelling is, “Tell me about a time when you failed. How did you handle it?”

“People fail,” said Bell. “But, many people don’t have a cohesive story to explain the situation.”

As with any behavioral question, he suggests that job seekers use the STAR method to talk through their answer. To make the story more interesting and relevant, Bell suggests that you also explain what you learned and what you would have done differently.

Don’t treat your responses as answers, but as stories that support the idea that your unique experiences, passions, and drive make you the best person for the job.

Bring the whole story together

Bell said that through storytelling, you can make an emotional connection that helps position you as memorable and indispensable.

“The right words and experiences help convey your story in a way that emotionally connects with others,” said Bell. “Remember, this is your story.”

American Wind Week: Creating a sustainable future with renewable energy – Microsoft Green Blog

We started our renewable energy journey in earnest with our first power purchase agreement in 2013 – Keechi wind farm, a 110 MW project in a quiet, rural county west of Dallas. Already wind energy was a growing force in Texas, with 12,000 MW online in 2013.

In the past five years, Texas has nearly doubled that generation, growing to 22,000MW of wind generation capacity, fueled in no small part by corporate demand from companies like Microsoft. We, too, have grown – from 110 MW in 2013, we now have a global portfolio of more than 1.2 gigawatts of renewable energy, and more than half of that is from wind.

This American Wind Week, we are celebrating the progress that’s been made across the nation in the past several years. This is a win-win-win story, as new wind projects generate clean power and new jobs and economic growth in communities from coast to coast, and every state in between, all while lowering the carbon footprint of the U.S. But there’s still much to be done. While some forecasts indicate that renewable energy could power 80% of the U.S. by 2050, as of today only 17% of the U.S.’s energy needs are currently met by renewables.

How do we close the gap between potential and production? This is a question we’ve been increasingly focused on as our portfolio has grown. Microsoft is a large energy consumer, a result of our growing cloud business and the increasingly digitized, connected world that relies on it. As a result, we’ve set corporate commitments to grow the percentage of renewable energy powering those operations. We’re well on our way to reaching our 60 percent target ahead of the 2020 goal.

This progress is important – but insufficient. Even as we and other large technology companies march towards 100 percent targets, our energy loads are still only less than one percent of total energy consumption in the world.

That means we need to do more than just buy renewable energy to get from potential to production. That is why our goal is larger than transforming our operations. We’re focused on how we can help transform energy markets and green the grids. That means where we buy matters. Our first deal was in Texas, a booming wind market. Since then, we’ve expanded both wind and solar purchases into less likely markets, like Ireland and Virginia. We have operations there, which gives us a seat at the table and a stake in the future greening of the market. It also means how we buy matters. We’ve created new deal structures that lower risk and/or lower costs for others to participate in the market. Finally, it means that we care deeply about energy transformation beyond procurement. We use our R&D, technology and operations to test new solutions, like integrated energy storage batteries in wind turbines, grid-integrated batteries and software and AI-enabled autonomous grids for utilities serving more renewable loads.

This regionalized strategy, focused on opening access to markets and enabling a transformation of grids, is where the future lies, for our business, sustainability and the economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wind turbine technicians and solar panel installers are the nation’s two fastest growing jobs in 2017. There are over 105,000 Americans working in wind power, and as wind becomes a more ubiquitous source of power it is expected to grow past its current bench marker of supplying over 6% of the U.S.’s electricity. The clean air benefits and the industry jobs make wind power an $8 billion dollar industry, and it has nowhere to go but up from here. Since 2009, there has been a 65% reduction in the cost of wind power, giving businesses added financial incentive to invest in wind power and setting the industry up to continue to grow.

We’re excited about the future of wind in the U.S. and around the globe. Learn more about our five-year journey in Illinois, Kansas, Wyoming, Ireland and the Netherlands, and stay tuned for updates on where the wind is blowing us next here at the Green Blog.

American Wind Week: Creating a sustainable future with renewable energy – Microsoft Green Blog

We started our renewable energy journey in earnest with our first power purchase agreement in 2013 – Keechi wind farm, a 110 MW project in a quiet, rural county west of Dallas. Already wind energy was a growing force in Texas, with 12,000 MW online in 2013.

In the past five years, Texas has nearly doubled that generation, growing to 22,000MW of wind generation capacity, fueled in no small part by corporate demand from companies like Microsoft. We, too, have grown – from 110 MW in 2013, we now have a global portfolio of more than 1.2 gigawatts of renewable energy, and more than half of that is from wind.

This American Wind Week, we are celebrating the progress that’s been made across the nation in the past several years. This is a win-win-win story, as new wind projects generate clean power and new jobs and economic growth in communities from coast to coast, and every state in between, all while lowering the carbon footprint of the U.S. But there’s still much to be done. While some forecasts indicate that renewable energy could power 80% of the U.S. by 2050, as of today only 17% of the U.S.’s energy needs are currently met by renewables.

How do we close the gap between potential and production? This is a question we’ve been increasingly focused on as our portfolio has grown. Microsoft is a large energy consumer, a result of our growing cloud business and the increasingly digitized, connected world that relies on it. As a result, we’ve set corporate commitments to grow the percentage of renewable energy powering those operations. We’re well on our way to reaching our 60 percent target ahead of the 2020 goal.

This progress is important – but insufficient. Even as we and other large technology companies march towards 100 percent targets, our energy loads are still only less than one percent of total energy consumption in the world.

That means we need to do more than just buy renewable energy to get from potential to production. That is why our goal is larger than transforming our operations. We’re focused on how we can help transform energy markets and green the grids. That means where we buy matters. Our first deal was in Texas, a booming wind market. Since then, we’ve expanded both wind and solar purchases into less likely markets, like Ireland and Virginia. We have operations there, which gives us a seat at the table and a stake in the future greening of the market. It also means how we buy matters. We’ve created new deal structures that lower risk and/or lower costs for others to participate in the market. Finally, it means that we care deeply about energy transformation beyond procurement. We use our R&D, technology and operations to test new solutions, like integrated energy storage batteries in wind turbines, grid-integrated batteries and software and AI-enabled autonomous grids for utilities serving more renewable loads.

This regionalized strategy, focused on opening access to markets and enabling a transformation of grids, is where the future lies, for our business, sustainability and the economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wind turbine technicians and solar panel installers are the nation’s two fastest growing jobs in 2017. There are over 105,000 Americans working in wind power, and as wind becomes a more ubiquitous source of power it is expected to grow past its current bench marker of supplying over 6% of the U.S.’s electricity. The clean air benefits and the industry jobs make wind power an $8 billion dollar industry, and it has nowhere to go but up from here. Since 2009, there has been a 65% reduction in the cost of wind power, giving businesses added financial incentive to invest in wind power and setting the industry up to continue to grow.

We’re excited about the future of wind in the U.S. and around the globe. Learn more about our five-year journey in Illinois, Kansas, Wyoming, Ireland and the Netherlands, and stay tuned for updates on where the wind is blowing us next here at the Green Blog.

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.

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.

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.”