Q&A: Microsoft’s Brad Smith on job training initiative, philanthropy and Facebook


Microsoft President Brad Smith speaking at the 2019 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire / Dan DeLong)

Microsoft is on an extraordinary philanthropic marathon, announcing a new plan Tuesday to train 25 million people around the globe in the skills of the future.

The announcement came one week after Microsoft unveiled a sweeping racial justice initiative and just a few months after pledging to become “carbon negative” by 2030 and remove the total sum of carbon that the company has emitted since launching by 2050. Microsoft unveiled that initiative in January, one year after the company vowed to spend $500 million on the housing and homelessness crisis in its home region.

Previously: Microsoft unveils sweeping job training initiative to teach digital skills to 25M impacted by pandemic

Microsoft’s bold philanthropic bets — combined with the wisdom of experience that comes with being a technology pioneer — has helped the company set itself aside from its tech industry peers, which are mired in controversy.

But could Microsoft’s appetite to take on big societal challenges become a distraction from its core mission?

We posed that question and more to Microsoft President Brad Smith on Tuesday in a wide-ranging conversation about the job training initiative, philanthropy, and some of the issues plaguing the technology industry. Read the edited Q&A below.

GeekWire: Will Microsoft directly hire people who complete the training programs?

Brad Smith: I hope we’ll have the opportunity to hire some of these 25 million people that we’re hoping to help. One of the inspirations for this effort is that we’re at a moment in time where short- and long-term trends are really coming together. The long-term trend is obviously the increasing digitization of the economy and the growth in jobs that have more digital content. The short-term trend is the urgent need to help people develop the skills to get a new job, especially people who’ve lost their job as a result of this pandemic. There are lots of talented people, not just in the United States, but around the world so as we engage in hiring, I would guess and hope and expect the some of the people will find a way to Microsoft. We’ll be beneficiaries of all this.

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GW: Microsoft says this initiative will train 25 million workers. How did you come up with that number and how will you execute on it?

Smith: We basically started by pulling data from the LinkedIn Economic Graph, we …read more

Source:: GeekWire

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