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Hiring Tech Talent? Tap this Overlooked Pipeline


Over the past decade, and even more so in our current economic state, more areas of life have become increasingly digitized. That evolution has certainly affected hiring practices. Applicant training systems, for instance, can collect, sort, and rank thousands of résumés, automatically surfacing top candidates for any given role. Chatbots can engage, source, and screen candidates based on a set of predetermined metrics like skills and education.

But with all of these advancements in recruiting and hiring, one thing has remained relatively stagnant: credential requirements. Most companies still require candidates to have a college degree. But in industries like technology, where the way people learn new skills is rapidly evolving, that requirement is creating a barrier.

Traditional hiring practices simply can’t keep up with the tech industry’s increasing talent needs. Sure, some aspiring tech workers are still taking the conventional education-to-job pathway by obtaining computer science degrees. But fewer than 60,000 computer science graduates enter the market each year, and that’s a tiny talent pool for companies to compete over.

Still, many qualified, talented technologists who took different routes to learn their skills are screened out of the hiring process due to companies’ outdated hiring criteria. Employers would do themselves a favor by opening up their minds and candidate criteria to other options.

Alternative Talent Pipelines

On top of producing a low supply of workers for a field with high demand for talent, many traditional colleges and universities are often hamstrung in evolving their curriculums. They just can’t do it fast enough to keep up with the evolving skills employers are looking for. It’s simply not feasible to change course curriculum as quickly as computer programming languages change.

Take JavaScript, for example. It’s become an extremely popular language for web development over the past couple of years. To secure a job in the field, you need to know not only JavaScript, but also frameworks like Angular or React. Yet these frameworks are changing almost every year, putting colleges and universities with inflexible curriculums at a huge disadvantage. It often takes more than a year to get the approvals necessary to change the curriculum.

Other tech training programs, however, like online courses or in-person boot camps, can more quickly pivot their curriculum to match changes in industry trends, equipping students with the right skills to meet employer needs. For this reason, alternative skilling programs can also produce talent much quicker than two- or four-year degree programs.

Alternative skilling programs have the flexibility to accelerate curriculum and churn out qualified programmers in mere months. They give students the basic skills they need to jump into a tech role. Then, employees are expected to learn on the job — a huge advantage to any company looking to shape unique skill sets, especially when 87% of IT executives are struggling to find skilled technology professionals today.

On top of developing relevant skills from a more agile learning environment more quickly, many alternative training graduates possess additional capabilities that can benefit employers. Here are a few:

Broader Life Experience

Graduates from nontraditional backgrounds often bring unmatched life experience into their new careers. Alternative coding students often enter programs with a breadth of different backgrounds — both vocational and educational. In fact, many already have college degrees in nontechnical fields and have enrolled in tech training programs to explore a career change.

Whereas two- or four-year college graduates likely just left home to go to college and then went straight into job searching, nontraditional students have had different life experiences that grant them additional perspectives and soft skills to bring to the table.

For example, a single mother who graduates from a coding boot camp is likely to be an excellent multitasker, as she’s raised her child while coordinating her education on her own. Or a former restaurant manager who joined an alternative training program to explore an interest in tech is likely to have strong leadership and managerial skills that a recent college grad may not possess.

Built-in Tenacity

Graduates from an alternative training program have already proven themselves by finishing the course. Many alternative training programs remove barriers such as high tuition costs. This means that the training becomes accessible to a wider pool of tech-interested people. It also means anyone who joins a program can drop out with fewer financial consequences than they could in a two- or four-year degree program — resulting in individuals who’ve demonstrated immense drive and hard work.

That presents a built-in vetting process. People who successfully complete free or low-cost training programs prove their grit and tenacity — especially considering that many are taking care of children or working full-time on the side. These kinds of traits are important in tech job candidates.

Many of these learners are also career-changers. They left one career to pursue a true interest in technology, which means they’ve demonstrated drive simply by taking the risk to enter a new career field.

Industry-Relevant Skills

Graduates from nontraditional learning pathways are often equipped with specific, industry-relevant skills. Because alternative training programs tend to be more nimble when it comes to curriculum, they can easily adapt to teach the specific skills employers are looking for. Many programs even ask companies what skills they’re in need of — both current and future — to ensure students learn the proper ones.

For example, our organization recently switched the core language taught in our flagship LC101 course, moving from Python to JavaScript after assessing the skills needed by our hiring partners. We’re also able to train a cohort of students specifically for a company experiencing difficulty hiring those hard-to-find skill sets. Given that 33% of companies report problems in finding qualified candidates to fill open tech positions, alternative training programs may be the answer for sourcing talent.

Of course, college graduates with relevant skills should always be a part of the eligible hiring pool. But with the demand for entry-level talent being so much greater than what traditional pathways are producing, it’s time for hiring managers to diversify their recruitment strategies to give other talented technologists a shot. They’re likely to be pleasantly surprised by the talent and promise candidates from a variety of education and experience backgrounds can bring to their businesses.



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Five Industries Poised to Thrive Post-Pandemic


The spread of Coronavirus has sent shockwaves across the global economy. With such a devastating human cost to the pandemic, the imposition of lockdowns has successfully limited the spread of the virus, albeit at the cost of production. 

In the coming weeks and months, the world will return to varying degrees of ‘normality,’ but is the same true for various industries? It’s certain that different sectors will recover at different rates, with some needing more time to regroup and return to operations. 

For other industries, the opposite could be true. Certain technological fields have been experiencing unprecedented growth even in this time of isolation, and both history and current trends indicate that other industries may be set to boom in the months after COVID-19 as well. 

While many of us will remember the crash of 2008, the circumstances behind the current market crash will be unprecedented for the vast majority. So let’s take a look at what industry recoveries may look like after the pandemic, and explore which sectors might thrive following the return to ‘normality’. 

Collaboration Technology

Since the arrival of Coronavirus, shares in Zoom, a video conferencing app, have leaped over 120 percent. Elsewhere, Slack’s collaborative platform has experienced a seismic rise of 25 percent in share price. 

As global lockdown measures have forced the world to work from home (WFH), remote collaboration tools have experienced a profound rise in popularity. Given the circumstances, some may assume that the collaborative technology industry is experiencing a bubble that will inevitably burst once governments allow workers to return to their offices. However, for many companies, the pandemic has acted as a large-scale road test for WFH readiness — which, for many decision-makers, will have proved that a transition towards more remote work is possible. 

The benefits of WFH are far-reaching: companies can save money on in-house supplies, servers and utilities, while workers can eliminate their commute and work in a more comfortable environment. 

With future developments in the fields of augmented reality and virtual reality promising to make remote collaboration even more immersive, it’s reasonable to expect more businesses to embrace technology to enable WFH initiatives after the virus. Collaboration technology is undoubtedly set to flourish over the coming years. 

Healthcare

The pandemic has also prompted widespread investment in global healthcare. $120 billion pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly recently joined forces with a biotech startup in a bid to fight the threat of Coronavirus. “We’ve never moved at this pace before,” explained Eli Lilly’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dan Skrovonsky.

The COVID-19 outbreak has reaffirmed the need for investment in both healthcare equipment and pharmaceuticals. While the industry is understandably volatile as world health services struggle to keep up with demand, it’s a safe bet that many governments will look to secure their future against future pandemics faster. 

Expect to see plenty of investment in life-saving protective equipment and vaccinations in the months and years following Coronavirus. 

Online Gaming

With millions of people unable to work due to the outbreak, it’s not surprising to see that online gaming has surged in terms of usage. With very few alternative ways to kill time while in isolation, more money is being spent on buying and accessing video games. 

In China, the first nation to experience widespread isolation measures, players spent over two billion yuan (around $280 million) on one of the nation’s leading mobile games, Glory of the King, in a single day, marking a 50 percent increase year over year.

Coronavirus has caused the world to slow down somewhat, allowing time for people across the world to discover, or recapture, an enthusiasm for online gaming. With reports of Nintendo Switch sales more than doubling in March compared to the same time last year, along with increases in Playstation and Xbox sales, it’s fair to expect the burgeoning user base to continue to find time for video gaming long after the end of international lockdowns. 

Remote Learning

Online learning is another industry that’s flourishing during Coronavirus-enforced isolation. In March, over 27.5 million hours was spent on Cornerstone Learning  — indicating that users are choosing to invest their newfound free time wisely. 

Online education platforms will be widely used after the Coronavirus pandemic, thanks to a widespread transition among businesses to offering more WFH options for employees. It’s also fair to expect more usage from employees who have found themselves between jobs due to the crisis, and are looking to pick up new skills as they re-enter the job market. 

Automakers

Counterintuitively, car manufacturers could perform exceptionally well following coronavirus as well. It’s reasonable to expect sales to fall following such a disruptive event, but Seeking Alpha notes that following the 2002 SARS outbreak, it was actually the automotive industry that recovered fastest.

The logic behind the rise in car sales is relatively straightforward. When the public believes that commuting on public transport isn’t safe, the demand for automobiles will rise. 

The months following Coronavirus could see a rise in road traffic as people return to work reluctant to put themselves at risk of infection. It may also be some time before people fully regain their comfort with taking public transportation — and sharing their space with other commuters — following a prolonged period of isolation.



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Microsoft Build 2020: Empowering developers to deliver impact today and tomorrow


For the past several years, developers from around the world have gathered here in Seattle, the original “Cloud City,” to meet, exchange ideas, hone or learn skills, build community. This year, we won’t be meeting in person, but the spirit of the event will continue as we move online – and the response we’ve received from our community of developers looking to learn, connect and code at Microsoft Build 2020 has been overwhelming, and quite frankly, humbling. This will likely be our biggest event ever … not just for Build, but for all the events that Microsoft holds. Wow.

The title of our show is a fitting mantra to this unprecedented era we find ourselves in: Build.

Socrates (not the Greek philosopher; the gas station attendant) once said: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” We believe the developer community is the next wave to join the ranks of those who will build and re-build organizations, industries, communities.

This week, we celebrate the critical role of developers and their tireless efforts to rally during this time of crisis. We’ve unveiled a range of new tools and services to meet their needs to provide immediate impact and value, empowering innovations that help organizations and individuals achieve more.

As work environments evolve, you’ll see how we’re creating solutions to help companies build, rebuild and thrive, including new tools that enable developers to design and deliver artificial intelligence (AI) applications in an ethical and responsible way, as well as help them build connected productivity experiences.

You’ll see an emphasis on impact and value, delivering solutions within Azure, M365 and Windows – from tools to help developers be more collaborative and productive at work, to services that give customers the flexibility to deploy AI capabilities in any environment – and with no prior coding experience.

And finally, you’ll see a nod to technical excellence, and how we’re looking to help developers achieve more in the future through AI and other technology advancements.

Key news highlights:

  • We’re introducing Azure Synapse Link, bringing operational database services and analytics together in real-time. Launched initially in Azure Cosmos DB, but coming soon to all operational systems, Azure Synapse Link helps customers lower costs and reduce time to gain valuable insights without managing data movement.
  • Platform enhancements to Microsoft Teams include a streamlined experience for developers to build and publish Teams apps from Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code; the ability for IT admins to evaluate and deploy line-of-business and ISV applications for their users in Teams; and new ways for people to discover and engage with apps in Teams.
  • We are announcing updates to Fluid Framework, including making it open source to developers, and introducing the first way for end users to experience Fluid with the upcoming availability of Fluid components and Fluid workspaces in Office.com and Outlook for the Web.
  • We’re delivering new Responsible ML tools in Azure Machine Learning and our OSS toolkits to help customers deploy AI models more responsibly by improving model interpretability, reducing unfairness while ensuring data privacy and confidentiality.
  • To help unify app development across 1 billion Windows 10 devices we’re introducing Project Reunion: our vision for evolving the Windows developer platform to make it easier to integrate across Win32 and UWP APIs and build great apps that work across all the Windows 10 versions and devices people use.
  • We’re further investing in bringing comprehensive low-code Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology into Power Automate with the acquisition of Softomotive, a leading provider of low-code, easy-to-use RPA development environments. Softomotive’s technology will complement UI flows to streamline how our customers get work done.
  • We’re announcing one of the world’s most powerful AI supercomputers built in Azure. Developed in collaboration with and exclusively for OpenAI, this supercomputer is purpose-built to train massive distributed AI models, giving it all the benefits of a dedicated appliance paired with the benefits of Azure’s robust modern cloud infrastructure.
  • We’re highlighting pitches from six finalist teams in this year’s Imagine Cup, and unveiling the 2020 champion as part of Microsoft’s commitment to helping students develop big, bold ideas by providing tools, programs and technology to learn the skills they’ll need to create. Top ideas include solutions that help improve treatment of youth living with mental illness; tools that help battle misinformation in the media; and technology that better enable physicians to detect early onset Parkinson’s disease and track patient progress throughout treatment plans.
  • And lastly, we’re introducing Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, our first industry-specific cloud offering, which brings together capabilities for customers and partners to enrich patient engagement, connect caregiving teams, and improve collaboration, decision-making and operational efficiencies. Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare will support capabilities such as the new Bookings app in Teams, now generally available to customers across industries to help schedule, manage and conduct business-to-consumer virtual appointments. Teams supports HIPAA compliance and is HITRUST-certified.

Thanks for joining us this year as we try something – and build something – new together.

Be sure to check out all the highlights on our Microsoft Build site – including key segments from Microsoft executives – and other session content available virtually.

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Skills for the future start today — new resources for students


Our CEO Satya Nadella references a term from the education field that I think is particularly fitting and important during this unprecedented time in history. Satya talks of the importance of being a “learn-it-all” instead of a “know-it-all.” Learn-it-alls are curious, resourceful and willing to fail, understanding that insights from failure lead to future success.

Learn-it-alls see adversity as a challenge to be overcome, and they work toward the future with focus and determination.

Right now, we’re all working toward the future in different ways. And the future itself is evolving rapidly as we work and learn together to fight and defeat COVID-19 across the globe. Work is changing, learning is changing, life is changing. Every person on the planet will need new skills to be successful tomorrow, one year from now, and one decade from now. This is particularly apropos for students (and the educators teaching them), with the World Economic Forum predicting that two-thirds of students today will work in jobs that do not yet exist. Likewise, LinkedIn continues to report cloud and artificial intelligence as top emerging jobs.

Today’s students are the innovators and inventors of the future who can use technology as a bedrock to help find solutions to the types of problems we’re facing today — and those we can’t predict. Educators are key enablers of this ability, and that’s why I’m excited to announce a new set of opportunities and resources for educators to teach Microsoft technical skills aimed at supporting students to continue learning during this pandemic and beyond.

Introducing Microsoft Learn Student Ambassadors

Microsoft Learn Student Ambassadors help their peers learn about things they care about most, from social issues to new technologies. Ambassadors get a first look at new Microsoft technologies, gain leadership skills, and receive mentoring from professionals in the industry, and their peers benefit from their knowledge, which can now be shared via the Microsoft Learn platform. All our incoming 2020 interns are invited to join the Student Ambassadors and it’s open to any higher ed student who wants to apply.

We are aiming to help skill millions of students in the coming years — helping tomorrow’s leaders gain knowledge in areas spanning topics like responsible AI, Internet of Things (IoT), and building cloud-native apps, among so much more.

New hub on Microsoft Learn for educators and students

Students are natural continuing learners — it’s in their DNA. And to make it easier for them to both acquire and transfer knowledge, Microsoft Learn now has a new home just for educators and students, including our Microsoft Learn Student Ambassadors.

Infographic on tech skills

We’ve partnered with universities to create new learning paths based on their popular courses in data science, cloud development, and AI engineering, all tailored for the students that want to build in-demand job skills and educators that want to teach them:

We’ve also added a new series of learning paths to inspire and challenge students to build with social impact and responsibility in mind. These take a solution-driven, project-based approach to learning:

We continue to offer foundational developer paths designed especially for students that faculty can easily teach in the classroom. These include:

Educators play a pivotal role in empowering students for future success. At Microsoft, we’re committed to enabling and supporting them in their mission. Microsoft Learn for Educators curates online learning paths and supporting instructor-led training materials into the classroom. Eligible educators and faculty members at universities, community colleges, polytechnics and secondary schools can access Microsoft ready-to-teach curriculum and teaching materials aligned to industry-recognized Microsoft certifications. These certifications augment a students’ existing degree path and validate the skills needed to be successful across a variety of technical careers. Provided Microsoft curriculum and instructor-led training materials will cover:

  • Azure Fundamentals
  • Azure Data Fundamentals (coming soon)
  • Azure AI Fundamentals (coming soon)

Python for Beginners on YouTube expands

Last fall, we launched a 44-part video series called Python for Beginners, consisting of short lessons aimed to help students learn Python and then build AI apps on Azure. People kept asking for more, so we’ve expanded on it with 50 additional new videos that dive deeper into the popular Python libraries like NumPy, Pandas, and Scikit-learn. If you’re looking to try Python for the first time or brush-up your skills, begin here!

Python class promotion

Students at Microsoft Build

Microsoft’s annual developer conference, Build, is set to bring the developer community — including student developers and our 2020 class of interns — together virtually May 19-21 to learn, connect and code together. In the spirt of connecting students and professional developers, the Imagine Cup World Championship will be held during Build where teams will compete for the $100,000 grand prize and a mentoring session with Satya Nadella.

The Imagine Cup is perhaps one of the most visible ways we encourage students to address real problems through teamwork and technology. Much like a sports bracket which requires repetitive wins to advance to get the World Championship, teams must win their regional competitions — an impressive feat by itself. This year, tens of thousands of competitors from more than 170 countries participated, culminating in 16 students representing six teams that made it to the championship.

Beyond the excitement of Imagine Cup, the Student Zone at Build will have content tailored to and appropriate for students. Speakers include a variety of top influencers in the digital learning spaces, with content available for each skill level (13-21 years-old) attending our sessions virtually. And, special guest NASA Education Specialist Matthew Wallace will demo a machine learning tool that introduces students to process for analyzing images of Earth taken from the International Space Station, like our astronauts do.

Azure for Students

We believe strongly in providing access to the most current technology, and that’s why we’re providing free Azure accounts, plus a $100 credit, for qualifying students. With their accounts, students can develop in Visual Studio to create custom apps, explore AI through Cognitive Services and smart APIs, and build and train machine learning models faster with the latest open source technologies. Free developer tools are included, as are free learning paths and labs.

I hope you’ll take advantage of all the free content that interests you and join us as learn-it-alls.

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Connecting During Crisis: Engaging Your Frontline Workforce


Over the last few months, there’s been a lot of talk about the current situation of forced remote work and its impact on employee collaboration, productivity and engagement. This is a legitimate concern and one that I myself, as a CEO, am tackling. But the discussion has largely been focused on desk-based employees, who typically sit in front of a computer and can perform their jobs from anywhere in the world as long as they have a laptop and WiFi connection. 

Frontline workers, however, are in a completely different boat. They don’t sit in front of a computer all day; they often work long shifts (sometimes 12 hours or more); they’re the first and last points of interaction with customers. Most importantly, frontline workers aren’t accustomed to interacting and communicating with their managers and HQ leaders via face-to-face meetings. 

With COVID-19 leading to country-wide lockdowns and social distancing rules, the entire world is dependent on frontline workers for essential services, such as stocking groceries, shipping online orders, providing healthcare and transportation. That means longer work shifts, more uncertainties about their roles and more stress for frontline workers. As this happens, staying informed and getting regular feedback will be essential to navigate through these uncertain times.

Subpar Onboarding Experience Can Prompt Early Turnover

According to a recent article on the Muse, companies like Kroger, Unilever, GSK, Wells Fargo, UnitedHealth Group, Instacart, Deutsche Bank and Asana are still continuing with their hiring plans amidst the current crisis. This is due in large part to the fact that these businesses provide ‘essential’ services and goods. But what happens once these frontline workers are hired? What will their onboarding look like? How prepared are HR teams to digitally adapt their onboarding processes? 

When we asked HR professionals to cite their biggest challenge with onboarding remote and distributed employees, the top two responses were ‘making them feel like part of the team’ (17 percent) and ‘providing clarity and context about role expectations and career growth’ (17 percent). Following close behind, 15 percent cited ‘integrating into company culture’ as the biggest challenge, while 13 percent struggle to establish communication norms. If you look at these responses, it’s clear that onboarding plays a major role in employee satisfaction, career development, fulfilment, engagement and retention. But for most employees, being able to physically interact with managers, colleagues and leaders can go a long way in making them feel like part of the team and forge relationships with coworkers. So, if virtual onboarding sessions are too drawn out, dull, uninspired, new hires could end being early leavers. 

Turnover is not a new problem for organizations. Early turnover, however, is even more troublesome, with 20 percent of employees leaving with their first 45 days of employment. Our study’s findings indicate that HR teams, who are faced with onboarding thousands of employees virtually, could see an increase in early turnover. And the culprit could very well be HR’s inability to virtually onboard new employees in a way that’s just as informative, interactive and engaging as it would be if it were conducted in-person. 

More Direct Feedback Supports Better Job Stability

As our study found, it can be tough to communicate and engage with remote and distributed workforces. For example, a mere 8 percent of the surveyed HR professionals said they keep a regular cadence of one-to-one meetings with remote workers, while only 12 percent commit to a communication charter. On top of this, 15 percent of HR professionals said they struggle to provide regular feedback on performance and career development.

These findings are troubling for a few reasons. First, frontline workers are currently being pushed to the limits. As the pressure mounts, it will be more important than ever to provide a safe space for frontline workers to vent their frustrations, voice their concerns and ask important questions related to their roles and responsibilities. But if their managers and HR teams don’t make themselves available for these one-to-one conversations, you can bet it will manifest itself in lower productivity, less cross-team collaboration and potentially worse performance. So managers need to carve out time in their schedules and virtually meet one-to-one with their teams on the frontline. Even if it’s a 10-minute check-in twice a week, this could help frontline workers feel less stressed and get clarification about their role and tasks. The more clarity they get, the better they’ll perform their jobs, which will lead to better customer satisfaction, loyalty and future sales. While these are positive outcomes for the businesses that employ frontline workers, it will also help frontline workers prove their value and maintain job stability during unstable times.

Digital-First Culture Engages Frontline Workers

According to Stephen Redwood, principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP, “At digital-first organizations, people, processes and structures are all focused on optimizing digital so companies can be more productive.” I agree wholeheartedly. And this is especially true for frontline workers, who rely on mobile devices, communications apps, productivity apps and collaboration apps to stay connected, get relevant updates about the business and their roles, schedule meetings with their managers, among other things. 

What does a digital-first culture look like? For one, it’s one that isn’t reliant on face-to-face meetings. For example, companies with a large number of frontline workers should hold virtual all-hands meetings twice a week at least. Reserve one of the two weekly all-hands meetings solely for Q&A with the staff. Let your frontline workers ask any questions they want — be it about how the coronavirus outbreak may impact job stability (i.e. layoffs, furloughs), plans for hiring, or anything else. Don’t make the virtual all-hands meetings excessively long — keep them to 30 minutes maximum so that you can keep your frontline workers engaged, without interrupting their work too much. 

Another way to help frontline workers integrate with the company culture (especially in the midst of a crisis) is to have managers share a weekly message of motivation. By posting this type of message into designated Slack channels, teams can start their days with a positive attitude and still feel a sense of connection to their fellow colleagues, teams, managers and leadership. 

To make a digital-first culture work, it has to come from the top down. Leadership needs to believe in the value of digital tools for driving employee collaboration and engagement. Beyond that, getting buy-in from the C-suite will require proving how digital tools will help maintain business continuity, increase customer satisfaction (and repeat purchases) and drive revenue growth.



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Looking back on an unprecedented quarter: customers embrace technology to advance industry innovation, respond to COVID-19 and plan for the future


It is predicted that by 2030, there will be a $4 trillion opportunity focused on new mobility services, as the automotive and transportation sectors converge.

This year has been unlike any other. As we welcomed the new decade, we witnessed industry-leading innovations by our customers and partners at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and National Retail Federation (NRF) conferences in January. We announced ambitious new sustainability initiatives and how we plan to help our customers reduce their carbon footprint. Then COVID-19 changed everything, disrupting business as usual and forcing organizations across industries to navigate a new landscape. As we work through the effects of the pandemic together, it is incredible to see how technology is enabling our customers to be agile and maintain business continuity. We are also seeing them adapt and scale to sustain critical products and services — all while preparing for a post-pandemic comeback and the new normal.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivers the opening keynote at NRF 2020

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivers the opening keynote at NRF 2020, sharing his thoughts on the future of retail and how technology can help the industry transform.

Groundbreaking innovation across industries

The first quarter of calendar year 2020 began with a strong focus on what is next in automotive and our participation at CES, a global technology event. The industry is transforming at an incredible speed, quickly shaping the future of mobility and the automotive experience by using cloud, edge, IoT and AI services. Faurecia, a leading automotive technology company is using the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform, Teams and Project xCloud to help people stay connected, productive and entertained while in the car. LG Electronics is working to build its automotive infotainment systems with our Azure cloud and AI services, and ZF is transforming into a software-driven mobility provider using Microsoft’s cloud services and developer tools.

At NRF, the world’s largest retail conference, Satya Nadella delivered the opening keynote, sharing ways we are working with retailers to help them better understand their customers, empower employees with digital tools, create a more intelligent supply chain through co-innovation and ultimately reimagine their businesses. During the event, Walgreens Boots Alliance announced it is piloting an immersive mixed reality training program for its employees using HoloLens 2. IKEA shared how it is deploying Microsoft Teams to more than 70,000 workers (including first-line employees) to increase productivity, and H&M shared how Azure IoT is helping propel its continued work toward a more sustainable future for the fashion industry by offering smart garment recycling bins in select stores around the world. Canada Goose, one the world’s largest makers of luxury performance apparel, showed how the company is building on the principle of the endless aisle using Dynamics 365 Commerce software to offer its entire range of products to customers without any physical stock in the store, and Home Depot bet on Microsoft PromoteIQ to help maximize the nearly 170 million monthly visitors on its e-commerce site with the PromoteIQ end-to-end commerce marketing platform. Samsung announced a new smartphone with a push-to-talk button that will leverage the new Walkie Talkie feature available in Microsoft Teams, providing first-line workers like retail employees easier ways to communicate on the job.

In February, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Bosch Group and ZF Friedrichshafen signed up as steering committee members of the Open Manufacturing Platform — founded by Microsoft and BMW in 2019  — to help manufacturing companies accelerate innovation at scale through cross-industry collaboration, knowledge and data sharing.

Lab technician with vial of blood

The emergence of a pandemic

As the fight against COVID-19 continues, I am encouraged by how customers are using technology to respond.

On the frontlines, care teams are using technology to scale their triage process to address the overwhelming number of patients needing care and to ease volume in the system. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a COVID-19 assessment bot, powered by Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service running on Azure, to help organizations screen patients for potential infection and care options. These bots use artificial intelligence to help pre-screen patients and provide guidance on care plans, reducing the burden on medical professionals. Swedish Health Services built a mobile app to help hospital staff and administrators monitor resources, protective gear and ventilator use. The app syncs with hospital dashboards powered by the Power Platform emergency response solution to help manage bed count and inventory of critical supplies while sharing the information across the region to help other health professionals prepare their facilities.

Telemedicine is also enabling healthcare providers to continue delivering treatment. For example, Microsoft Teams has allowed doctors at St. Luke’s University Health Network to safely perform more than 75,000 virtual visits with patients vulnerable to the virus, while minimizing direct exposure and preserving valuable resources like masks and gloves.

In education, we are working with schools around the world to enable a remote learning system that fosters a culture of learning outside the classroom — as schools, universities, students and parents adopt the tools necessary for distance-learning models. That includes making Teams available for free for students and educators. The University of Bologna moved 90% of courses for its 80,000 students online to Teams within three days. AI is also playing a critical role in keeping students engaged and learning. The University of Sydney built an AI-infused bot using Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services that responds to students’ questions about COVID-19, providing instant answers and access to additional resources. At Case Western Reserve University, medical students are using Microsoft HoloLens to continue immersive remote learning without falling behind in classwork. In a larger-scale effort to support educators, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is launching a global e-learning initiative to minimize educational disruptions and maintain social contact.  Microsoft has joined this coalition to contribute resources and technology expertise to ensure #LearningNeverStops.

In response to the COVID-19 National Emergency Declaration, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) directed the majority of its workforce to work remotely and created the Commercial Virtual Remote (CVR) Environment to provide secure teleworking capabilities to millions of users across the entire department. Our continued work with the DoD will lead to the single largest tenant of Office 365 and Microsoft Teams in the coming weeks, with the speed of deployment exceeding anything before it.

Quiet Microsoft campus during COVID-19 outbreak

A quiet Microsoft Commons in Redmond, Washington as employees work from home in the time of COVID-19.

We are working across industries to accelerate research for a cure for COVID-19 and recently announced our participation in a new consortium alongside C3.ai and top universities to apply AI toward this pandemic challenge. The institute’s work aims to slow the spread of COVID-19, speed the development of medical treatments, predict its evolution and improve public health strategies. Additionally, Microsoft joined the White House-led consortium to provide COVID-19 researchers worldwide access to the most powerful High Performance Computing resources to significantly accelerate the pace of scientific discovery. As we strive to support our customers through technology, we are also doing our part to ensure our employees remain safe while contributing to efforts to protect public health and the well-being of our communities.

City skyline overlaid with points on a graph

Planning for the future

In recent weeks, we have shared details about groundbreaking new partnerships in the financial services sector, major league sports and consumer goods and services. BlackRock is moving its Aladdin platform to Microsoft Azure, the NBA is redefining and personalizing the fan experience through Azure and its AI capabilities, and last week, as part of our deep partnership with the NFL, Microsoft Teams and Surface were part of the technology solution that brought the first-ever virtual NFL Draft to life. Just today, The Coca-Cola Company announced it is standardizing business operations on Microsoft’s cloud to modernize how the company engages with employees and customers. In addition, in late March, we announced an agreement to acquire Affirmed Networks, a leader in fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network solutions. This acquisition, which closed last week, will allow us to evolve our work with the telecommunications industry, building on our secure and trusted cloud platform for operators, while we continue to focus on interoperability and strong partnerships with suppliers, emerging innovators and other stakeholders to extend cloud-based, software-defined networking into the world of 5G connectivity.

I am deeply inspired by how our customers and partners across every industry are harnessing digital tools to navigate an uncertain landscape. While COVID-19 has disrupted lives, the resilience we see today gives me confidence that we will be prepared to build a new normal together, full of opportunity and powered by innovation and ingenuity.

 

 

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#WorkTrends: Culture That Counts Right Now


Now more than ever, the culture of a company matters. From values to purpose to behaviors, culture is what crosses through every level of an organization and connects its people together. This week on #WorkTrends, Meghan M. Biro and Organizational Culture Strategist Josh Levine got into the power — and the importance — of work cultures today.

As companies have transitioned their workplaces to remote, grappling with new policies and tough decisions, it’s the leaders who have the power to transform and unify, said Josh. Leaders turn micro moves into macro shifts — and if they convey true intentions, mission, and expectations, employees will make the connection.

But it’s the managers who do much of the heavy lifting, Meghan noted — and Josh agreed, adding that it’s up to organizations to set their managers up for success. “Organizations need to empower managers to reward and recognize value-driven behaviors, so that people inside can understand values as more than words.”

Meghan and Josh concurred that within a great company culture lie tremendous meaning and opportunity — especially now. In these real (and unreal) times, an authentic culture can sustain an organization for the long haul — through this crisis, and to what comes next. And the bottom line has to be people: a culture’s true value should be helping other humans be better at their jobs, and better to each other. More than anything else, that’s what counts right now.

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. 

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why are some organizations struggling with company culture? #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can improve company culture now? #WorkTrends
Q3: What can leaders do to help create better company cultures? #WorkTrends

Find Josh Levine on Linkedin and Twitter



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Helping survivors become heroes – The Official Microsoft Blog


The world is searching for ways to fight COVID-19, leading to a surge of research efforts to create effective therapies. Thankfully, as the human immune system learns to fight off the disease and people recover, we see some very promising ways that people’s naturally produced antibodies, which are present in convalescent plasma, can be used as treatment for others. The use of convalescent plasma is a technique dating back to the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic and was effective more recently during the SARS outbreak. Today, there is mounting clinical evidence that plasma collected from those who have recovered from COVID-19 can be used to treat ill COVID-19 patients.

There are two core approaches to using convalescent plasma to fight COVID-19 – each serving a different need. First and most direct is the approach of gathering convalescent plasma donations and making transfusions available to patients, for either therapeutic purposes or, more frequently, as part of research studies and clinical trials. This is a pragmatic and meaningful effort and we applaud all the organizations involved.

A different approach is to use the plasma in larger scale to make a potential therapy called a polyclonal hyperimmune globulin (H-Ig). Through the product manufacturing process, multiple plasma donations are pooled together and the antibodies are concentrated to consistent and reliable levels, meaning the medicine can be delivered in lower volumes and therefore would likely take less time to administer to patients than plasma itself. The H-Ig process also minimizes risk of any known virus or bacteria passing from donor to patient, thanks to the rigorous virus inactivation and removal steps that are embedded in the plasma product manufacturing process. Finally, H-Ig also has a longer shelf life, which permits easier storage and shipping for any outbreaks in the future. These attributes also make H-Ig relatively easy for hospitals to manage and distribute this potentially lifesaving medicine to patients.

The question is, how can we scale up the manufacture and distribution of H-Ig treatment? One promising approach has been developed by the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance, which has been formed by the world’s leading plasma companies: Biotest, BPL, LFB, and Octapharma along with CSL Behring and Takeda. The “I” and “g” in CoVIg-19 stand for immune globulin, which the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance will use to create an investigational medicine. With advisory support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, these leading scientists, innovators, and experts in drug manufacturing have joined together in an effort to accelerate the development of a potential H-Ig therapy for COVID-19. They are collaborating across key aspects such as plasma collection, clinical trial development, and product manufacturing. Plasma-derived therapies, like H-Ig, have already been shown to be effective in treating severe viral respiratory infections. The combined capability of these leading commercial manufacturers gives us hope for a scalable, reliable and sustainable treatment for COVID-19.

CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance logo

At Microsoft, we conducted a careful (but rapid) assessment, including consultation not only with our own experts but also several external partners. This assessment involved gaining an understanding of the underlying science and potential medical benefits. We are now convinced that the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance has a real chance to save lives, at significant scale, and possibly much sooner than other approaches currently being developed. We were also impressed that these alliance members had committed to working together for the public good, setting aside commercial and competitive goals. We are thus devoting our computing infrastructure, plus engineering and research personnel, to support this esteemed group and kick off the first phase: helping healthy individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 to sign up to donate plasma at licensed plasma collection centers across the United States. Together with the alliance partners, we’re launching the CoVIg-19 Plasma Bot, a self-screening tool that anyone can use to see if they qualify to donate their plasma. Like Microsoft did with the CDC Coronavirus Self-Checker bot and more than 1,300 other COVID-19 bots around the world, we’ve followed standard protocols to help guide individuals through the qualification and education process.

The Plasma Bot and the home page and donor recruitment site for the alliance will live at https://covig-19plasmaalliance.org/ and we expect to make the bot available through other web, social and search channels as well to maximize awareness for potential plasma donors. Donation should be fairly convenient in most cases: more than 50% of the eligible donor population in the U.S. lives within 15 miles of one of the 500 centers operated by CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance member companies. Recruitment will start in the United States, and then expand to Europe.

The sooner recovered COVID-19 patients donate convalescent plasma, the sooner the alliance may be able to start manufacturing a potential therapy and begin clinical trials. These trials will determine if this therapy could help high-risk COVID-19 patients recover and whether it could protect high-risk individuals from the disease. Time is of the essence: we’re now in an especially important but small window of opportunity with a critical mass of people hitting peak immunity as they recover from COVID-19.

Like many of you, we’ve felt overwhelmed at times by the changes that COVID-19 has brought on society. But even more so, we’ve felt incredibly encouraged seeing people across the planet coming together in truly heroic ways to respond to this pandemic. With this new program, we have a chance to make even more people heroes, starting with those who’ve survived COVID-19. Please take a moment to share this with potential donors, so we can all play our part in making a difference.

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Going Agile: Beyond the Buzz


“Agile” has been a buzzword thrown around Silicon Valley, startup conferences, town halls and HR department meetings for years now. Additionally, in the past several weeks we’ve heard “agile” again in large volume as companies rapidly try to adjust to remote work and the new realities we’re all living in due to COVID-19. While it’s true that adopting an agile mindset may be more valuable to companies than ever, it’s much more than successfully managing a quick transition from in-office to work from home. 

Though the idea originated way back in 2001, there still is not a widespread understanding about what agility really is, and how it can benefit organizations of all sizes — especially now. From addressing internal dysfunction to helping a business overcome competitive challenges, to coping in a world filled with VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity), embracing agility can give businesses the edge they’re looking for, ultimately transforming the way they work. 

For the transformation to be successful, however, agile has to be more than a buzzword. If it’s just showing up in memos, on Slack channels and PowerPoints or mentioned in passing at meetings, you are doing it wrong. To go from just saying or writing agile to actually being agile, you need to know where to start and what to watch out for. 

Here are four of the most common barriers experienced when trying to implement the agile mindset, and how to overcome them to become a truly adaptive organization — and thrive in these uncertain times:

If Agile Is the Answer, What’s the Question?

In my work as a Scrum Alliance Certified Agile Coach and Certified LeSS Trainer, I occasionally come across teams that want to be agile just so they can say that they are agile. I call this “agile for agile’s sake,” and it’s a big warning sign. Too often teams haven’t sharpened their focus enough before attempting to embrace adaptive practices. This can lead to confusion, frustration, and ironically, the opposite of agility. Another large warning sign is if you see heavy slide decks and best practices books popping up all over about how you’re going to become agile. They often mean that DDT (Deck Driven Transformations) is underway, as it is usually instituted by a large consultancy. When employees are still tasked to work through the controlled process of long development and feedback cycles for a project, then they are using up their valued time and resources, and a growth in documents contradicts what agile is all about!

Instead, figure out what agile will fix for your organization. It’s imperative to understand your own organization’s priorities – to know the why behind implementing agile – if you want your transformation to succeed. Otherwise, you’re just using a new buzzword, without any true meaning behind it.

Agile is an OS, Not an App

Another common pitfall I see are teams looking to jump on the “agile bandwagon” and expect it to be a quick and easy process. These are organizations looking to put a check mark next to “agile” and cross it off on its to-do list. We often see organizations “buying, unwrapping and installing” a popular, commercially available heavy framework or producing an internal over-engineered operating model that resembles a traditional model, spiced up with agile buzzwords.

But that’s not how it works. It’s not an app that you can simply download, install and be up and running on within moments. Agile is an Operating System – it will impact how everything is done (remember, the goal is transformation), and it can take some getting used to. 

Setting realistic expectations about what the agile framework is and is not, and how long it will take to transform into an adaptive organization is extremely important. Without this mindset, team members’ commitment to the transformation may wane, undercutting everyone’s efforts to evolve, as full, company-wide buy-in is necessary for success. 

Swim a Lake, Don’t Boil the Ocean

Another problem I’ve seen when working with companies looking to embrace agile is starting off too broad and shallow – looking to overhaul everything at once. Instead, I recommend focusing narrowly but going deep in specific areas, and then expanding, for example, like in Large Scale Scrum, where the idea is to descale an organization, in order to scale agility. The bigger the organization, the more important this is. 

To do this, identify a product or function where impact can be felt in real terms quickly. This is your best bet about where to start. Oftentimes, HR is a great department to include in an agile transformation. This is because HR policies are incredibly important, as it involves changing the way employees are treated.

It is interesting, however although maybe not surprising, lean companies are having a less painful experience adjusting to the unprecedented conditions we’re currently in, because being lean helps with adaptive-ness (agility), and it is based on the degree of organizational “descaling.”

Urgency as the Catalyst to Change 

Finally, in my experience, there needs to be a sense of urgency for an agile model to really take hold and thrive within an organization. The team must know and feel that something is fundamentally broken, and that embracing new practices and methods is essential to survival. Without the understanding that something must be fixed, the likelihood of a successful transformation is significantly lower. This is because those without a sense of urgency are resistant to change.

This is true from the top to the bottom of an organization. Without buy-in from the entire team, creating real change, real transformation is impossible. When it comes to senior leaders, getting them engaged and invested can make all the difference. 

Contrary to how you may have heard the word “agile” used previously, it’s not about cutting costs. That has never been the primary goal of being an agile company. Agile is about moving beyond the buzzword to become more adaptive and nimbler. This allows a company to transform the way it works fundamentally, innovate quickly and ultimately become more competitive. This ability to adapt and innovate has never been more important than it is today, where the entire fabric of work is changing with unprecedented unemployment and entire industries turned upside down by the pandemic. The businesses that can adapt fast will have an edge on those that are moving slowly: ultimately, the faster you can adapt, the more economically feasible your business is in our rapidly changing world.



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Welcome 2020 Microsoft interns – announcing our virtual intern program


Four photos of young men and women

At Microsoft, we’re embracing the “new normal” for how we work and live as the world comes together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The health and safety of our employees, interns, and their families is our highest priority, which means shifting in-person experiences online and working together to find creative solutions to new challenges.

For more than 30 years, Microsoft has hosted students from around the world as part of our summer internship program. This year, more than 4,000 students had plans to join us — the largest and most diverse class in our history — taking on roles spanning all our functions. And while we’re incredibly disappointed that we won’t be with them on our campuses, we’re committed to creating a meaningful and fun virtual internship experience for each one of them, and remain eager to absorb their energy and learn from them as we always do.

As we prepare to welcome our incoming interns, we’re working to set them up for a remote experience that will provide a rewarding professional development opportunity as well as meaningful connections. We’re fortunate to have the infrastructure and support needed to deliver a world-class remote internship program through onboarding tools like Microsoft Dynamics 365, and collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams. We also recognize that some individuals may be unable to participate in the virtual internship, so we’re providing an opportunity to defer their internship to next year, if needed.

In short order, the program team will begin hosting remote events that focus on building connections, fostering learning, and empowering interns to achieve their goals and uncover their passions. Participants in the program will connect with one another, build community within their teams, and engage with senior leaders across the company through a variety of virtual events. And we’ll empower our interns to co-create their summer experience with us. In the past, they’ve done everything from hosting their own volunteer projects and sharing TED-style talks to creating a musical.

While this experience is not what anyone expected, we’re embracing this opportunity together with our interns to learn from one another and grow. After all, the power of a growth mindset is that every obstacle is an opportunity to succeed. Adversity often creates some of the biggest leaps in innovation, and I predict that this year’s intern class will not only help us shape our virtual experience, they will have a lasting influence on our program for years to come.

Welcome to our upcoming class of 2020 interns, and thank you in advance for your hard work, creative thinking, and won’t-be-stopped attitude.

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