If you want to lead in technology today, this Fast Company article on Microsoft’s AI-to-product strategy should be at the top of your reading list. And, we could not be prouder that it showcases Brown University Executive Master in Science and Technology Leadership Class of 2019 Matt Fisher.
According to the article, Microsoft launched its AI research division in the 1990s but struggled to productize advancements. Clippy, the world’s most annoying digital assistant, says it all. But ever since CEO Satya Nadella hit refresh, Microsoft’s AI has moved full throttle out of the lab and into our offices and homes. From gaming to MS Office, the company’s cutting-edge AI is making you faster, smarter and more entertained in its products right now.
EMSTL ’19 Matt Fisher and Team Use AI to Expedite Coding with Codie
Demonstrating this AI-to-market push, the article points to Codie, a multilingual chatbot designed to provide information about coding. Matt Fisher EMSTL ’19, Director of Windows Developer Engagement – DevCollective at Microsoft, is one of Codie’s creators along with a team of 15 Microsoft employees that includes developers, designers, and marketers.
Codie solves a major software engineer pain-point by providing access to information such as commands in Python and syntax for SQL database queries. The article notes that this problem is especially acute for non-native English speakers. Not currently available as a commercial product, Codie is described by Fisher in the article as, “Cortana’s geekier little sibling.”
The team originally developed Codie in Microsoft Garage, a program for employees to pursue ideas they’re passionate about. But they didn’t stop there. The article states,
Fisher and the team beat 767 other projects to win the company’s Redmond Science Fair, and took second place out of 5,875 entries in the company’s inclusivity challenge.
According to Fisher’s teammate and Microsoft software engineer, Afreen Rahman, by the end of the 48 hour Science Fair challenge, the team had something that was working across five different spoken languages. Pulling from a huge database of information, you could ask a coding question in Spanish and get a technical answer back in Spanish.
This accomplishment speaks to Microsoft’s AI mainstreaming efforts which includes critical infrastructural meeting of the minds opportunities like Microsoft Garage and the Redmond Science Fair. Fisher also referenced in the article the Microsoft cloud offerings that enabled the team-despite not knowing much about AI-to leverage Microsoft’s pre-packaged AI and machine learning:
We used everything from the Azure learning service to LUIS language understanding… There was plenty of Microsoft AI expertise in there; it’s just that it was in ready-to-use form. For Codie–and many other things people want to build–that’s enough.
Applauding Codie’s success, the article looks to the team’s plans for upgrades–one obvious one would be to let users talk rather than type–and how to make it broadly available. Once again, Fisher is quoted, saying,
Our goal is that we would like to see it be used outside of Microsoft’s walls… We’re working towards what we need to do to get there.
Want to Lead Tech? Follow Microsoft’s Lead. Hit Refresh
Counter-intuitively, these advancements in AI stem from what makes us wonderfully human – our ability to share ideas with each other. In the article, Microsoft Executive VP of Artificial Intelligence Research Harry Shum shares that breaking down silos between their AI researchers and Office and gaming product developers is at the heart of what Shum calls, “deployment-driven research.” It’s as if a Rapunzel-like org-change freed Microsoft’s researchers from their ivory towers and created pathways to join meetings with product developers, review product roadmaps, and leverage customer feedback to train models.
In this world of cross-disciplinary development, we believe leaders need to be technical experts as much as they need to be people experts. Whether it’s AI, mixed reality, or quantum computers, 21st century leaders must have the broad-based strategic skills to carve a course for growth, and facilitate interdisciplinary and multi-stakeholder conversations to get to the end goal.
Join winning professionals like Matt Fisher at Brown’s EMSTL and get ready to lead across silos and drive the future.
You can have the best idea in the world, but it’s pointless if you can’t communicate it and get the right people on board,” said Fisher. “I consider myself a lifelong learner, and the lessons I’ve learned while attending Brown EMSTL helped me cultivate the leadership communications skills that aided in building Codie, and those skills will serve me for the rest of my career.
We invite you to learn more at This is Microsoft’s AI pipeline, from research to reality.