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Covering, community and creating space for one another: A Pride conversation

Editor’s note: In acknowledgment and celebration of Pride, Microsoft executive co-sponsors of Global LGBTQI+ Employees and Allies at Microsoft Employee Resource Group (GLEAM) Ann Johnson and Liat Ben-Zur got together (virtually) for a personal conversation about leadership, allyship, intersectional identities, bias and the powerful advocacy work of communities across the company. This is an edited…

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Editor’s note: In acknowledgment and celebration of Pride, Microsoft executive co-sponsors of Global LGBTQI+ Employees and Allies at Microsoft Employee Resource Group (GLEAM) Ann Johnson and Liat Ben-Zur got together (virtually) for a personal conversation about leadership, allyship, intersectional identities, bias and the powerful advocacy work of communities across the company. This is an edited version of their chat.

Liat: Ann, would you share some insights about your personal and professional path and how that connects both to what we do in GLEAM, and to how you approach your role leading teams at Microsoft?

Ann: First, it’s so great to be having this talk. You know, a lot of times earlier in my career, I was the only woman in the room. I also noticed that often, everyone in the room was white. As my career evolved, I started really becoming aware that there was a ceiling that not only I, but other people were hitting. I felt I had a certain amount of advantage because I have a college education and I am a white woman, and I can pass for having a very traditional, as it was called back then, lifestyle. I knew as I was starting to elevate in roles that I had a responsibility to create space for people. I had a responsibility to put the ladder back down behind me, even in my early management roles, to make sure other people can climb that ladder.

I figured out that if I could bring diverse perspectives and experiences into the conversation, we would get better outcomes. We had people coming from different backgrounds, people who maybe didn’t have a college education or maybe didn’t have a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. Or maybe they were a woman with a wife and children at home. I wanted people to feel comfortable having those conversations with me, so that has really informed my entire career in tech because I I’ve tried to create space. I’ve made mistakes. I grew up Mormon in a very small town in a very conservative place. I was on a huge learning curve, but I feel like that I had a responsibility to be on that learning curve.

Let me ask you a similar question about your story and how your various intersectional identities have influenced your path personally?

Liat: In many ways it’s very similar to some of your experiences. My journey in tech started over 25 years ago. I was a young female engineer, and especially in the semiconductor and wireless space I learned early what it means to be an outsider. I was almost always the only female in the room, the only female leader. I felt I had to prove myself, always had to do a little bit more to earn the trust and respect of my colleagues.

After doing that for so long just trying to fit in, I started to realize just how much I was holding back. For most of my career I was covering. And I didn’t really think that much about it because I just thought, you know, that’s what you had to do. I worked so incredibly hard to earn credibility with my colleagues that anything that would further marginalize me I was of afraid of.

It’s only after I came out, late in my career, that I realized how much weight I was carrying on my shoulders all those years. All those years of pretending to be someone else, of watching what I say, watching my pronouns, always on my toes when personal questions were being asked. It had a big mental, emotional and social impact on how I relate, how I don’t relate, even to this day. And I think the power of finally lifting that veil, being able to be my full, true authentic self at work — the release, the freedom, just enabling me to be me — really had a massive impact. It allowed me to be a better engineer, a better boss, a better mom, a better wife. Now that I’m a leader, it’s important for me to help create work environments that are welcoming, safe and supportive for everyone.

The cybersecurity industry has long acknowledged that with artificial intelligence and machine learning, the greater diversity of data that we have there, the better the outcome. I’m curious, Ann, how you think about diversity and inclusion, both from the business and the culture perspective?

Ann: You go where you’re invited and stay where you are welcome, meaning it’s not enough to bring people in. We have to actually create an environment where they stay and they’ll be successful. Diversity and inclusion are not just about race, and not just about gender identity. They’re about educational background. They’re about socioeconomic background. They’re about our many dimensions of identity. We need as many liberal arts graduates as we need STEM graduates. I compare it to machine learning. If you have millions of signals that are all the same thing, you don’t learn anything. You have to have diversity of data, so I put the diversity of thought of human beings to solve our problems in the same bucket. And as much work as we have done here at Microsoft toward this, we still have a way to go in creating a space where everyone feels safe to bring their authentic self to work.

Liat: We do. And I think the onus is on us, and thanks to leaders like you and so many others to model that change day by day.

Ann: One thing is we have to make sure that we address unconscious bias whenever we can. We make sure that not only do we have diverse candidates being interviewed, but we have diverse interviewers. And then as we get that interview feedback we look at it and say, was there any unconscious bias? By the way, everyone, including me, has unconscious biases. I know you will appreciate this: I interviewed someone not that long ago who was encouraged by a mentor to change their hairstyle for the interviews, to “look a little more professional.” That’s the kind of coaching people are still getting.

Liat: I got that, you know. I’ve received that feedback once or twice, especially when I was an executive in Europe.

Ann: It’s still a thing, this cultural bias.

You’re this amazing leader by the way, I look up to you, you may not realize that — because you are your authentic self. I know you celebrate that uniqueness. Can you tell me what parts of your journey have most influenced you to be the person you are today?

Liat: I haven’t always been my authentic self, and I think because of that, I do try to create that space not just for myself but for others here at Microsoft. I’ve learned that celebrating the different voices at work actually leads to diverse perspectives. I think we can only build products as inclusive as the teams who are building them. So as the leader of our consumer services here at Microsoft, I’m always thinking about how we can make better solutions for individuals, for families around the world and the problems that you and I experienced. The unmet needs vary widely based on our lived experiences. So, one product that works fantastically for one person can actually cause a lot of stress or anxiety for someone who has disabilities. One product with a design aesthetic that I love can be completely hard to see or impossible to read for someone else. Designing solutions that adjust for individual needs requires product makers who look at things differently.

I’ll give you an example. Designing a product that can help kids feel safer or be safer when they’re online and when they’re offline, which really was designed perhaps to make parents feel safer with their children in today’s world, could actually prove to be extremely helpful in protecting transgender youth getting home safely at night, in a totally different context with a totally different use case in mind, that might require a slightly different user experience.. It’s only with the diversity of the teams that we build that we can explore our world, our users, our products, our needs with all of these different perspectives.

Ann: As an LGBTQI+ person, how do you think about allyship?

Liat: There’s a well-known quote by Martin Niemöller that goes like this: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew. And then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.” Well, I’m Jewish and they did come after us, they came after my grandmother who watched her entire family get killed as an Auschwitz survivor. And she would always tell me, the Germans saw, they smelled, they heard. And they said nothing. The neighbors, they said nothing. And saying nothing and doing nothing is the same as doing the thing. There is no such thing as allyship without action. Be it for supporting women in tech; be it for supporting the LGBTQI+ community; be it for speaking against hate and violence toward Asian and Asian Pacific Islander communities; be it for speaking against police brutality and injustice toward Black people, or especially right now in this moment, calling out antisemitism, which is on the rise. We have to use our voice because our future depends on us doing something and saying something. And that’s what allyship means to me.

Ann: We need to condemn all forms of hate and we need to do it vocally every day. And as you know, trans rights are massively under attack in the U.S. right now. Having a trans daughter, I worry about her safety every single day and I’m going to be vocal about it and I’m going to take action. I’m going to do what I can. Maybe it’s one small thing, but if everyone does one small thing, we have a collective voice.

Liat: There’s a lot for us to lock arms and push against, and I’m really proud to be part of a GLEAM community that wants to do that.

Our Gleam Employee Resource Group has been so fortunate to have your executive support and leadership, Ann. We have a lot to celebrate. But there’s also a lot of work that needs to be done. What stands out to you from this past year and where would you like to see us go next?

Ann: I think it’s important, especially in the workplace context, to continue to educate people on how to be good allies. We talk about how there’s no allyship without action. So how do you do that. I give one example to my team – if we’re on a Teams call and someone’s just not getting their voice heard, speak out: “Liat, did you want to add to the conversation?” And advocate for the people when they’re not in the room: “Hey, I think Liat is super talented. This project would be really good for her.”

And I think being a great ally is always holding yourself accountable, making sure that your actions aren’t harming somebody unintentionally. I do think in general people have the best intent. They don’t always know how to act on that best intent.

Also, as you know I’m hyper-focused on trans issues. I want us to be an ally for all colors of the rainbow. I want us to make sure that we’re not only focused on one or two groups that have more representation, more power, a bigger voice. I want to make sure that nonbinary folks and trans folks, those along the whole spectrum, are really represented. I want to make sure that GLEAM is really representative in itself.

Liat: I think that is a great goal for all of us to work on. Thank you so much for this chat, Ann.

Ann: Thank you!

Tags: allyship, diversity, inclusion, Pride

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Customers share their stories on migrating to Dynamics 365

At some point, we’ve all experienced regret over not doing something. Opportunity passes us due to our over analysis, indecision, and uncertainty. Even though we’ve all done this, we rarely seek the advice of others, thinking our situation is somehow unique or different. This rationale is common among the on-premises organizations we speak to. They…

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At some point, we’ve all experienced regret over not doing something.

Opportunity passes us due to our over analysis, indecision, and uncertainty. Even though we’ve all done this, we rarely seek the advice of others, thinking our situation is somehow unique or different.

This rationale is common among the on-premises organizations we speak to. They understand the benefits for moving to the cloud but chose to focus on all the reasons not to—aging infrastructure, manual processes, and siloed data notwithstanding.

Hearing how others are approaching this critical technological evolution can be invaluable. Not to mention relatable. Here are a few customer stories we’ve collected; perhaps you might recognize yourself or the circumstances?

Discover other Dynamics AX and Dynamics CRM customer stories to learn about migration best practices and the benefits others are seeing in the cloud.

A small company with sizeable goals

Sonee Sports, is a small 28-year-old, family-run retail chain in the Maldives. The company moved its Microsoft Dynamics AX to Dynamics 365 in the cloud to streamline its resource planning, point of sale, and relationship management activities. Sonee Sports has grown from a single desk in a hardware store to 10 stores across the Maldives however, this growth didn’t come without challenges, particularly when it came to technology.

Maumoon Abdullah, Sonee Sports’s co-founder, has long advocated for using technology to understand, retain, and engage new customers. “In 2016, we had a customer churn rate of 10 percent—not good. We knew that technology was key to keeping our business afloat,” Abdullah said. However, their previous enterprise resource planning (ERP) took hours to generate reports, the data was inaccurate, so decision makers stopped using it. In time, Sonee Sports realized it had to move its entire business to the cloud.

With help from Mumbai-based CloudFronts, a Microsoft Partner Network partner, Sonee Sports upgraded to Microsoft Dynamics 365, deployed Microsoft Power BI for analytics, and rolled out a cloud-based e-commerce system. “We needed an all-around ERP system that was reliable, easy to use, and mobile-friendly and that offered a host of options for accessing information. Dynamics 365 Retail fits these criteria very well.” Abdullah says. 

With this setup, Sonee Sports has cut its IT maintenance costs by 38 percent and improved customer retention by over 8 percent.

“With Dynamics 365, we finally have the data we need to understand our customers.” Abdullah says. “The value of this is priceless.”

Read more about Sonee Sport’s migration to Dynamics 365.

A growing city with changing needs

It can be easy to forget that cities are a lot like corporations—they provide services to their “customers,” often relying on technology to deliver the goods.

Bristol is a diverse city in southwest England, with more than 90 languages spoken and a population of just over 463,000. Bristol City Council is the unitary authority and is responsible for a wide range of services including taxation, waste management, education, etc. Like many struggling municipalities, Bristol City Council felt it could no longer rely on its IT system to meet day-to-day demands of the city. Its systems weren’t agile or mobile-friendly and lacked a unified platform to support collaboration or leverage data insights.

“The council was historically, deeply dissatisfied with its IT systems and processes.” says Simon Oliver, Director of Digital Transformation at Bristol City Council. 

Bristol City Council realized the only way forward was to modernize its Dynamics CRM 2016 instance to Dynamics 365, which would improve efficiency and collaboration. Moving, however, was a significant undertaking, involving migrating 54 workloads and orchestrating nearly 500 ecosystem partners, and staff.

Built on Microsoft Azure, with Microsoft Power Platform and Office 365, Bristol City Council deployed Dynamics 365 alongside toolsets to increase productivity. “Working with Microsoft has given us an opportunity to look at our entire approach to delivering IT services, to reshape our way of thinking and the culture of the IT department,” explains Oliver. 

Read more about the Bristol City Council transformation.

An industry leader looking to drive purpose

Peet Limited, a leader in Australia’s property industry, believes in helping people gain peace of mind through property ownership. And their commitment to IT innovation has enabled them to remain competitive through market disruptions.

As part of its ongoing mission to offer quality service, the company partnered with Microsoft to upgrade its IT systems and move critical line-of-business applications to the cloud. Justyn Bridge, IT Manager at Peet Limited, explained, “Microsoft 365 is a complete, intelligent solution…it empowers Peet employees to be creative and work together.” Peet Limited had confidence in Microsoft because the organization was already using both Dynamics CRM and Dynamics AX, for its customer relationship management (CRM) and ERP, respectively.

Peet Limited designed its cloud strategy around security with the goal of end-to-end protection in mind; for them, security promoted value. Bridge explains that one of the best benefits of using Microsoft 365 is having a “single pane of glass” to view Peet Limited’s security landscape. Using Microsoft’s Advanced Threat Analytics, Peet Limited had a succinct, real-time view of an attack timeline with the ability to analyze and identify normal versus suspicious user or device behavior.

Considering the project, Bridge notes, “We sought better end-to-end protection, and Microsoft 365 gave us that. Our business has gained security in both protection and mindset.”

Read more about Peet Limited’s story.

When you’re ready to migrate, Microsoft is here to help

We all have stories that define us. Organizations are no different. Whether you’re looking to grow your footprint, improve services, or modernize your underlying technology, the Microsoft Cloud can meet your changing needs. While migrating to the cloud should be a business priority, the experiences above illustrate the importance of planning. When you’re ready to migrate your on-premises solution to the cloud, Microsoft is here to support your journey.

Learn from the other Dynamics AX and Dynamics CRM migration stories in our library. Visit the Dynamics 365 Migration Community to access partner discovery resources and other assets to help you migrate with confidence.

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Facebook: Our Largest Ever Climate Survey Can Inform Policies, Research and Campaigns Around the World

Today, Meta and researchers at Yale University are publishing the results of our biggest ever global survey about public views towards climate change. In March and April this year, a sample of more than 100,000 Facebook users from nearly 200 countries and territories were asked about their knowledge of, and attitudes and behavior towards, climate change…

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Today, Meta and researchers at Yale University are publishing the results of our biggest ever global survey about public views towards climate change. In March and April this year, a sample of more than 100,000 Facebook users from nearly 200 countries and territories were asked about their knowledge of, and attitudes and behavior towards, climate change issues and what should be done to address them. The results paint a picture of deep concern around the world and the desire of a significant majority of people to see governments and others take meaningful action.

 

Infograph about climate change survey results

 

The survey is a collaboration between Meta and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, as part of Meta’s Data for Good program. It is hoped its findings can be used to inform policy decisions and priorities for governments, especially in many countries where surveys of this sort have not taken place before. The findings should also be valuable for researchers around the world, as well as a resource to inform public information or awareness raising campaigns by activists and NGOs, and help journalists with nationally-relevant data. For example, the Social Progress Imperative is using data from this survey to develop a new Climate Perception Index, which will serve as a tool to better understand the societal implications of climate change and will provide insights for policy makers on where to focus most in order to deliver tangible societal outcomes to their citizens.

The survey found:

  • The majority of people in nearly all countries surveyed say they are somewhat or very worried about climate change, including more than 9 in 10 respondents in many countries in Central and South America. In almost every country, majorities saw climate change as a threat to their country or territory over the next two decades.
  • A majority in two-thirds of the countries and territories surveyed think climate change will harm future generations a great deal. 
  • Majorities in nearly all countries think climate change is caused at least partially by human activity. Europeans were most likely to correctly answer that climate change is caused by human activities, led by Spain (65%) and Sweden (61%).
  • In most countries, a majority say they don’t hear about climate change at least once a week in their daily lives. Europeans are more likely to say they hear about climate change at least once a week compared to other regions.
  • Most people say their country should reduce pollution causing climate change, either on their own or if other countries also do so. However, people have different views on who is primarily responsible for reducing pollution — majorities in 43 countries said their government is responsible, 42 countries said individual people and 25 said businesses. 
  • People everywhere think climate change should be a high priority for their government. Majorities in most countries in North and South America say it should be a “very high” priority.
  • A majority in almost all areas surveyed think action to reduce climate change will either improve or have no negative impact on the economy.
  • People support using more renewable energy and less fossil fuels. About 9 in 10 people in Hungary, Portugal and Spain think their country should use somewhat or much more renewable energy.

The Data for Good program is an unprecedented collaboration between technology companies, the public sector, universities, nonprofits and others using privacy-protected datasets for social good, including disaster relief and recovery. Many of our humanitarian partners operate in some of the most challenging environments in the world. By sharing free tools that provide fast insights, Meta data has made decision-making on the ground easier, cheaper and more effective. In recent years, this collaboration has informed policies governing things like the delivery of vaccines and aid to Ukrainian refugees, and been utilized for environmental campaigns in the US, Germany, Belgium, Croatia and the UK.

Alongside the survey, Meta has also published its annual Sustainability Report, detailing the solid progress we’re making in minimizing the environmental impact of our business, supply chain and wider community. This includes:

  • Setting an ambitious goal to be water positive by 2030, meaning we will restore more water than our global operations consume. In 2021, Meta helped restore more than 2.3 million cubic meters of water through investments in water restoration projects.  
  • Progress towards our goal of reaching net zero emissions across our value chain, and maintaining 100% renewable energy for our global operations.
  • Expanding our Climate Science Center to more than 150 countries.
  • Supporting key policies to advance sustainable policies and climate action, such as joining the European Climate Pact and participating in organizations advocating for clean energy policies in the United States.

Read the full climate opinion survey report and sustainability report.

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Facebook: Uplifting Tribal Communities in India Through Digital Entrepreneurship

Inspired by the rich culture and talent represented by the tribal and indigenous communities of India, we are extending our collaboration with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to launch the second phase of the Going Online As Leaders (GOAL) program. GOAL 2.0 will look to digitally upskill, connect and empower 10 lakh youth and women…

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Inspired by the rich culture and talent represented by the tribal and indigenous communities of India, we are extending our collaboration with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to launch the second phase of the Going Online As Leaders (GOAL) program. GOAL 2.0 will look to digitally upskill, connect and empower 10 lakh youth and women from the tribal communities of the country and will act as a bridge for the socially marginalized youth with a vast canvas of opportunities using technology that they otherwise may not have access to.

Through this program, the identified GOAL participants will have access to Meta Business Coach — a WhatsApp based learning bot — that will give the participants an opportunity to learn skills on how to build and grow their business using Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. To empower the participants to play an active role in the digital economy, the program will also include Facebook Live sessions in nine languages by master trainers on topics like Anti Scamming education, staying safe online, how to combat misinformation and being a good digital citizen. 

​Sh. Arjun Munda, Hon’ble Minister of Tribal Affairs launched the second phase of the GOAL program.

Speaking on the occasion, Sh. Munda said: 

“Honorable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has always spoken about bridging the digital divide. Digitally empowering India’s tribal communities would contribute significantly to the socio-economic development of the country and an important step towards creating a flourishing community of tribal leaders. The first phase of GOAL has seen changing the lives of tribal youth through the digital mentorship program. In the second phase, we will reach out to 10 lakh women and youth entrepreneurs and will also create a platform for more than 50,000 self-help groups and 10 lakh families associated with TRIFED to take their products global.” 

Sharing his views on the importance of digital empowerment for the tribal communities, Ajit Mohan, Vice President & Managing Director, Facebook India (Meta) said: 

“India’s massive digital transformation can be complete when even the most vulnerable communities of our society are digitally empowered. We are deeply inspired by the stories of some of the Tribal leaders who benefitted from the first phase of GOAL that we kicked off in 2020. We recognize the wide canvas of opportunity that gets unlocked when these tribal communities have access to digital tools and technologies, and that is why we are excited to launch the next phase of this program. In collaboration with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GOAL 2.0 will upskill and empower 10 lakh women and youth across tribal communities to harness the full potential of digital platforms and tools.”

Tribal population constitutes about 8.6% of the total population in India. Digitally empowering India’s tribal communities could contribute significantly to the socioeconomic development of the country and an important step towards creating a flourishing community of tribal leaders.  The first phase of GOAL included inspiring, connecting and upskilling tribal youth from across the country. As a result of GOAL, 75% of the participants from the tribal community admitted to being able to better articulate their thoughts to words and saw an improvement in their interpersonal skills. About 69% were able to leverage digital commerce for increased reach and about 63% said that it helped them understand how to set up their business. 

The program is aimed at empowering youth and women from tribal and indigenous communities to harness the full potential of digital platforms and enhancing their leadership skills for driving community development. Along with digital inclusion, the program aims to actively contribute to the economy by continuing to support the most vulnerable communities in tribal districts with a focus on tribal youth and on businesses led by tribal women in rural areas. 

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