An Interview with Elena, Mike & Lee at Microsoft

We have asked a number of our Supporters and Sponsors about why they get involved in Hack Days, price their views on innovation, buy | and what they are excited about in the technology MSFT_logo_rgb_C-Gray_Dindustry.

Today we’re hearing from:

  • Elena Branet, Internet of Things and Data audience evangelism lead
  • Mike Taulty, Microsoft Technical Evangelist
  • Lee Stott, Microsoft Technical Evangelist


1. Why do you get involved in Hack Days? 

“We believe some of the best innovations are born as a result of people getting together to connect, share, test concepts, and build on each other’s work. It is amazing to see how quickly teams can solve complex problems with collective intelligence and resources. We love the creative process and exchange that takes place during hackathons, and we want to help people use technology and tools to do great things.”


2. Does involvement in Hack Days have an impact on the further development of your products and services?

“Absolutely. Listening to the needs of the community – from developers and students, to startups and enterprise — is a critical part of our product development and feedback process. We take feedback into product teams and requirements are prioritized on a regular basis. The Microsoft Azure cloud platform was built with openness in mind, and the cross platform editing capabilities we’ve built with Visual Studio Code are both great examples of how we have evolved our platform to support the needs of people who build software and services.”


3. What are your own internal approaches to Innovation?

[MT] “Microsoft definitely believes in the ‘hack’ approach to innovation and you’d see this in our ‘OneWeek’ initiative which happens each year and includes a global, company-wide hackathon across all roles. This isn’t the only time that the company hacks in the course of a year but it’s certainly one of the biggest hacks that we know of, and employees are encouraged to take some of the biggest code-bases out there and like Windows/Office/Bing and push them in new directions. We’re also involved in tonnes of hacks in the developer communities worldwide each year. We like to hack!”


4. What role can mobile developers play in both the future of the mobile industry, and emerging industries such as IoT and wearables?

[MT] “Mobile developers are key for helping to develop and evolve IoT and wearables. Firstly, mobile developers are very used to running in environments where you’re running code directly on a device that may have limited hardware or a security-sandboxed app model. They’re also used to reaching out across networks from their mobile apps to access remote data services. They’re thinking about the identity that needs to flow to those services and the management that needs to be done around mobile devices and apps. At Microsoft, you could say that we implicitly recognise this by having a Universal platform that runs mobile devices but also IoT devices so in that sense a mobile developer *is* an IoT developer.”


5. Do you have a view on where the next big opportunities will lie for developers?

[MT] “Everywhere. For the longest time we’ve said that the ‘world runs on software’ and that’s accelerating. We see opportunities in providing a user with an experience that is tailored to them, their device and their current context, is increasingly personal and intelligent and which is available to them everywhere. That implies opportunities everywhere from devices to cloud-based intelligence. There’s never been a lower barrier to entry to building on today’s devices + cloud to make a business that can scale from 1 user to 1 billion users. It’s an amazing time to be a developer.”

[LS] “We also see the next big opportunities coming from Data Insights. All organisation are now looking at ways in which they can speed up the access and time to analyse all types of data. Data is key for organisations to make better decisions, and they can do this faster now thanks to the cloud and services from machine learning analyse the data . Tools like Office Delve are a perfect example of the Office and Data opportunity. Office Delve surfaces personalised content to you from across a user’s Office usage. With the Office Graph, Delve brings you information based on what you and what you are working on, who you’re working with.”


6. Tell us about some of your own new products and / or services that you are excited about.

[MT]. “We’re seeing a lot of innovation around making computing more personal. We see this in seemingly simple ways in that we can increasingly talk to our devices via technologies like Cortana. We can log into our devices securely using facial recognition with technologies like ‘Windows Hello’ and cameras like Intel’s RealSense which also allows us to take detailed control of our devices through (e.g.) hand based gestures. Then we see some of those technologies moving to the next level through a device like the HoloLens which combines gesture, gaze, speech with augmented reality 3D output. It’s hard not to be excited about those kinds of devices and where we’re going as an industry.”


7. How would you like to invite the attendees of Over the Air to get involved with your organisation?

We invite attendees to join the talks and workshop sessions to learn more and are happy to help support projects of developers and makers:

Startups that are building for IoT and Data can apply until 30th Sept for our IoT & Data Innovation Programme to get $120k free Azure cloud, plus tech advisory and more at