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Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend Microsoft Inspire 2019 in Las Vegas. This is my third year, so I am slightly less overwhelmed than I was in my first year, but the numbers are still astounding.
The Inspire conference is for Microsoft partners. It runs for five days, during which time we have the chance to attend some of the 400 sessions on offer, explore the showcase areas, sponsor and exhibitor booths and network with some of the 20,000+ attendees from over 130 countries. This, combined with the Ready conference for Microsoft employees means the number of combined attendees are around 40,000+.
The education and development from a professional and personal perspective is so valuable and the theme connect, collaborate & celebrate definitely resonated with my own personal goals and that of The Missing Link.
Microsoft announced a number of big changes to their suite of products and there were quite a few that will allow The Missing Link to better serve our clients – please reach out if you’d like to know how these can benefit your business. Some highlights include:
There is detailed accounts on the announcements on media for those of you that would like to read about these changes in more depth.
There were so many inspirational speakers, and I could happily talk for hours about the learnings from each keynote and session, but I’ve managed to cut it down to the five presentations that had the biggest impact on me.
Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft
Satya has the amazing ability to take complex ideas and present them in a way that allows me to see the possible. Whilst reaffirming Microsoft’s mission “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more”, the demonstrations and discussions on stage covered so many real world applications of everything from monitoring of autonomous vehicles using Azure SQL Database Edge to Minecraft Earth and the new service Azure Spatial Anchors, providing real world context to applications.
Dr David Kellerman, UNSW School of Engineering
Dave’s presentation was on how his class of 500+ students was enabled to learn better, in a more engaging way, using Microsoft Teams and AI. He spoke about the digitisation of the systems he used to teach his class, how he streamed lectures (allowing students on or off campus to ask questions in real time and see his response), and combined a number of Microsoft products to create a bespoke, almost living, breathing summary of all of the lecture and tutorial work on a week-by-week basis.
Students were enabled to ask questions more freely, with a question bot eventually built to match questions and answers to create a vast library of information that was accessible to students via a single sign on. This ensured questions weren’t missed and also saved tutors answering the same question multiple times.
For me, the most striking moment was how Dave and his team were able to use machine learning to provide each student with a set of practice questions that were uniquely built out to match their individual needs and perceived competency two weeks prior to exams. This is the kind of thing that makes me want to go back and study!
Simon Sinek, Optimist and Best-Selling Author
Simon is someone I find incredibly fascinating, his keynote and follow up session was genuinely thought provoking and has left me pondering his messages ever since.
He spoke of The Infinite Game, how businesses can be in it for the long haul or essentially to try and win in the short term, called ‘the finite game’.
There is so much that I’d like to share with you, so I will be talking more about Simon and The Infinite Game in a blog soon, but for now, the biggest takeaway - there are five vital pieces that he believes a business needs to have in order to successfully strive for an infinite game (a legacy that outlasts the founders of the business and todays employees). They are:
Julia White, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Azure
Julia posed a wonderful question What if distance nor language no longer mattered? She then went on to demonstrate technology that seemed futuristic. Mixed reality and Azure AI are combined to allow a hologram of Julia to appear in whichever country she needs to be in (in this case, it was shown on stage along with her real-life body) and translated what she’s saying into Japanese.
She used the HoloLens 2 to demonstrate what she was seeing – to start, a small hologram version of herself, and then a life-sized version of herself that was rendered on stage alongside her and was able to translate her keynote into perfect Japanese in a way that not only looked like her, but sound like her too.
The technology that allowed her to do this is called neural text to speech and is something that I can see changing the way in which organisations do business in the coming years. The ability to save time and money of on travel, along with the opportunity to speak to colleagues and clients in their native tongue will go a long way to making it easier to do business, further humanise business relationships and make the world feel smaller.
Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President for One Commercial Partner at Microsoft Corporation
Gavriella spoke about Microsoft’s culture being based on listening, learning and a growth mindset. They are the values that Microsoft staff live by and they resonated with me, as we too at The Missing Link are driven by these values and do our best to live by them each and every day.
Interestingly, Gavriella also addressed the recent, unpopular changes to their partner program and the overwhelmingly negative feedback from Microsoft partners. It would have been easy to sweep this under the rug and keep her message positive from the outset, but by calling out the issue and announcing that they were reversing the changes, it demonstrated that Microsoft is listening to the needs of its partner businesses.
She also brought Simon Sinek on stage to talk about the human side behind business relationships. It is always worth hearing people discussing the need for human skills such as listening, empathy, patience and the desire to do good for others. Telling the truth builds trust, even if it doesn’t benefit you in the moment, it may do so down the line.
He also said something that will stay with me for a long time and I think it’s a good way to end this overview of Microsoft Inspire 2019, leadership is not about being ‘in charge’ it’s about looking after those ‘in our charge’. How can we protect and support those in our teams and businesses so that they can be enabled to do their best? If we all thought and acted that way, we’d all be doing greater things in our personal lives as well as professionally.
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