Early this year, a small group of people on the PowerPoint team at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Campus (SVC) were hard at work on something exciting.
The mission? Integrate AI technology into the presentation software program used from the classroom to the boardroom, with the ultimate vision to empower users to build beautiful PowerPoint presentations in seconds with natural language commands.
Four women in the Bay Area have played key roles in that journey. The AI chat they integrated into PowerPoint has since become part of Microsoft 365 Copilot, which became generally available to enterprise customers on November 1. That marked a major milestone for teams in the Bay Area and across the company working to harness the power of generative AI in business productivity tasks.
Dozens of people now work on Copilot in PowerPoint. But in the earliest days of the project, Hui Yang (principal architect), Srishti Shridhar (engineering manager), Kavya Keelara Shivalingaiah (engineering manager), and Shea Tuli (product manager) were part of a core team huddled in a conference room at SVC in Mountain View.
There, they wrestled with all kinds of challenging technical and product decisions, including finding just the right tone for Copilot to make harnessing AI an easy and seamless experience.
“A lot of my work has been around helping users feel empowered with AI and more confident using PowerPoint,” said Shea.
For Hui Yang, principal architect for the PowerPoint team, it was exciting to reimagine how a program like PowerPoint that’s been around for decades could take a major leap forward. When she first started exploring different chatbot technologies, it was a watershed moment as she realized the possibilities.
“What I found blew me away,” she said. “It changed my perception of what tech can help us accomplish.”
And the fact that four women happened to be in the exact right roles to take on such an important project speaks to the investments Microsoft has made in recruiting talented leaders, Shea said.
“Every standup meeting, I was surrounded by strong women,” she said. “It showed me I belonged and gave me the space and support I needed to bring natural language commanding to PowerPoint, a product whose commanding has been set for the past 20 years. It was a remarkable level of trust.”
Srishti echoes that sentiment. She says she was proud to take on the challenge of incorporating natural language commands into PowerPoint.
“We had the right team and the drive,” she said.
A global team
This core team of women played invaluable roles, but delivering Copilot in PowerPoint would not have been possible without people spread around the globe.
“We had folks working across geographies, trusting their colleagues, doing whatever it took to make progress each and every day,” said Kavya.
Figuring out how best to work with people in different time zones required creative thinking and flexibility, Shea said. She and her Bay Area colleagues made it a priority to be mindful of colleagues in Northern India so they did not have to always have meetings late at night, she said.
“It’s a real balance to make sure that both teams feel like they’re still enjoying their lives as well as being able to contribute in the way that they want to,” Shea said.
That approach embodies Microsoft’s values of respect, integrity, and accountability. And even in the middle of an intense and important project, this Bay Area team never forgot those principles, Hui said.
“Everyone is valued, and everyone’s voices are heard. And that kind of value builds a culture where anything is possible,” said Hui. “Keep watching the Bay Area. We’re going to keep surprising you.”
Copilot in PowerPoint will change the way we work, and these women in the Bay Area are striving to make that possible. Visit copilot.microsoft.com to learn more.