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AI Business School Podcast Episode 5: Empowerment

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Empowerment: Bringing AI to every employee

At Microsoft, we believe that AI’s full potential is reached when you enable everyone in your organization with AI: helping employees automate repeatable tasks, enabling them to discover new insights, augmenting their business acumen and creating and innovating with the use of AI. David Carmona and his guests discuss how you can make it happen.

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Transcript excerpt (read the full transcript)

Angela D’Orazio: When you’re opening a bottle for the first time, first of all, you assess the information on the label. You enjoy it before opening it, so you watch it and you sense it, and you hold it, so it’s a sensory, visual sensory thing before opening it. And then I pour the first whiskey and I take the glass in my hand and I swirl it around and sense the first impression of it. [MUSIC] I sense the first impression in the nose.


David Carmona: Few people on this earth know whiskey like Angela D’Orazio. As the Chief Nose Officer of Mackmyra Whisky Company in Sweden, Angela’s entrusted with the recipes and development of all the whiskies that Mackmyra releases, including I have to say, one that as of last year has been developed with the help of AI. And I should also mention that that whiskey has won awards for its taste and complexity.

Hi, everyone. My name is David Carmona and I’d like to welcome you to the AI Business School Podcast from Microsoft. In this episode, we’re going to talk about how to go beyond in your business AI transformation to empower every employee with AI. So, why is this important? Angela, I think answers that very well.

Angela: Well, I guess I personally would see it more as an inspiration [MUSIC] than anything else, an inspiration to innovate within your company.

David: When you extend the ability to innovate to every person in an organization, you play in a very different league. Now everybody can follow their personal purpose to drive change. To help illustrate this, I tend to go back to a book that I love. You may have read it already. It’s called “The Alchemist” by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. In short, in this book a young shepherd, Santiago, has a recurring dream that is telling him that he will find a treasure inside the pyramids in Egypt. The author refers to that dream as a personal legend, and it’s an allegory of our purpose in life. He sells his sheep and embarks upon a journey where he, of course, will experience lows and highs. But then one day he will meet an alchemist who will inspire this shepherd to pursue his dream. He will teach him the secrets of the desert and walk with him in this journey.


We usually think that we’re the shepherd in this story and after reading the book, you will probably get motivated to pursue whatever your dream is, and that’s fine, don’t get me wrong, if that’s what you want to do, but what I typically say to leaders is that they are not the shepherd, they are the alchemist. They should be the ones inspiring others in the organization to find that purpose, that personal legend, and help them achieve it. Purpose driven employees are the most powerful force in any business.

Saqib Shaikh: I find that when you are driven by that purpose, it really doesn’t make it feel like work. I feel like I’m so lucky because I’m going to work every day, but I really pursuing this purpose trying to help as many people as possible. And so when you hit those roadblocks, actually, it feels like business limitless spark. Not limitless, but lots of motivation because you know that there are people depending on your work. So, that really gets me through.

David: I’d like you to meet Saqib Shaikh. At one of our internal Microsoft hackathons several years ago, Saqib led a team that created an app called Seeing AI. This was an innovative mobile application that used your phone’s camera and AI to describe people and objects around you and even read documents. It sounds a really cool concept, but it has a greater purpose. Saqib actually lost his sight at the age of seven. Such an app allows him and tens of millions of other, sight impaired people in many different languages to change the way that they experience their world around them.

Saqib: I often talk about this idea of disability being a driver for innovation and what I mean by that is we can look in history and see how many of the everyday technologies we have came about as a result of solving the challenges of someone with a disability. Because this community has these interesting challenges we’re often early adopters of technology.

David: This is innovation that can truly change people’s lives, like a testimonial that Saqib received from one user who puts Seeing AI to a very unexpected use.

Saqib: It’s all the little ways that people have used the app in their daily lives. For example, there was a lady who told us about how she was using the handwriting feature [MUSIC] to go through papers in her drawer and she found some memories from her mother who was passed away, but she could access that information from decades past.


David: But then you may think that as heartwarming that Saqib’s story is, it may not be aligned with your company’s business, but you’d be surprised.

Saqib: If you solve for someone with those extreme needs, then you can actually make solutions which scale for everyone, and that’s something we always have on our mind at Seeing AI. So as we are developing new technologies to empower people who are visually impaired, then how do we build those enhancements back into our platforms for all customers?

David: You don’t necessarily have to go that far though. Anything that makes employees’ lives easier can also have a big impact.

Andrea Temporiti: The artificial intelligence can really fast create, understand what is most likely the cause of the problem, so it can enable people to in a very fast way to address a problem in the field, even if they are not the super expert.

David: That was Andrea Temporiti, the Electrification Business Area Digital Lead for ABB. ABB develops automation, electrification, robotics, and motion equipment for industrial and manufacturing customers. Andrea has found that using AI to mitigate some issues that individual employees are encountering in a business like that has become very useful.

Andrea: The real power on artificial intelligence is when you start from the problem and you find something, an algorithm or a solution, that can help people to realize better or faster their target, their job.

Read the full transcript

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Heard on this episode

David Carmona, Microsoft General Manager for AI and Innovation
Podcast host David Carmona is the General Manager for AI and Innovation at Microsoft
Angela D’Orazio is Master Blender, Chief Nose Officer at Mackmyra
Angela D’Orazio is Master Blender and Chief Nose Officer at Mackmyra
Saqib Shaikh is Software Engineering Manager and Founder and Project Lead for Seeing AI at Microsoft
Saqib Shaikh is Software Engineering Manager and Founder and Project Lead for Seeing AI at Microsoft
Andrea Temporiti is the Electrification Business Area Digital Lead at ABB
Andrea Temporiti is the Electrification Business Area Digital Lead at ABB

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