Almost every bit of new technology these days seems to have internet capabilities. Smart phones, sure. But coffee makers, fridges and washing machines? That’s a lot connectivity.
Michael O’Keefe is Microsoft’s Internet of Things lead, dealing with all that connectivity. It’s a job that didn’t exist when he was young, learning to touch type as his only foray into technology. It’s a job that is constantly updating and evolving too. Michael’s work in IT has transformed from a being grounded in desktop support to working up in the Cloud.
Michael had a lot to say about working with the coolest new technology, using creativity in his job, and the next generation of tech, so we made sure to write it all down. Read about Michael and his Microsoft careers over the years and be sure to catch him in person at the Millennial 20/20 conference.
Tell us a little about your study.
I actually came in through vocational education, through a traineeship in IT way back in the late 90s. I thought I was going to be a musician! I started out working with customers and understanding how customers use IT. It was a very different industry back then, the cloud didn’t exist and roles were very defined. You either supported infrastructure or wrote applications as a developer.
“In the future, I hope we will think about how AI will add to people’s lives instead of replacing the human necessity in every industry.”
“Touch typing was my technology class. Now my kids are learning how to code. Artificial intelligence, big data and analytics; when our children come into the workforce in ten years time, they’re going to have to understand these fundamentals.”
In your experience, how is our workforce evolving to be shaped by technology?
In the past, the IT industry was a very much defined space with very clear roles. Now, in IT everybody has to have a fundamental understanding of what was then pretty advanced principles of how technology is used. Everything has become digitised, from running our business, using accounting programs, communicating with customers, to offering a website or service. Everybody has to have a good understanding of how technology is built to operate any business.
How can we safeguard ourselves against an ever evolving career landscape?
Students today that will be working in technology in the future need to know the fundamentals of big data and machine learning, etc. These are at the core of the AI technologies that are coming on to the market.
What has been the most ambitious or rewarding project you’ve worked on so far?
I was lucky to be working on the beginning of the Cloud in my career. The most rewarding thing I’ve worked on is helping customers understand how the Cloud can change their business, and seeing the results. Customers have become much more agile in the digital sense.
What’s been your biggest failure? What did you learn?
Not my biggest failure, but the biggest thing I’ve yet to do is complete a Master’s degree. It’s the thing I need to do to become more rounded in my understanding of how businesses operate and how it applies to the technology industry.
Has your perception of computer science changed since you started working at Microsoft?
Due to the rate of change in the company and over the industry in the last four years, we’ve seen a huge adoption of cloud platforms and fundamental shifts in the way data is being used on the internet.
CS is at the core of all of it; Bing, Google, the amount of data these platforms can process, and now AI platforms built on top of that data. Computer scientists are taking on this rate of change and driving innovation.
Everyone knows about Microsoft careers. Is there anything surprising about working there?
I have all these amazing people around me building platforms and adopting those platforms with customers, that’s what we really love doing and that’s why Microsoft careers exist. It’s quite a contagious atmosphere when everyone is super passionate about teaching our customers how they can use technology.
Catch Michael speaking about Microsoft careers and the new generation of makers and consumers at the Millennial 20/20 conference on the 14th and 15th of November. Buy your tickets or view the amazing line up of speakers ready to inspire you from Facebook, Google, Airbnb, Commbank and more.
Want to learn more about Microsoft careers? Read about the University of Melbourne students competing at Microsoft’s Imagine Cup.
Author: Eliza Brockwell
Eliza is the Digital Producer for Careers with STEM. Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.