Microsoft's Director of AI and Innovation, Nicholas McQuire, explores AI's potential to solve society's and Science's biggest problems

We had the opportunity to speak to Nicholas McQuire, the former Chief of Research at CCS Insight, as he embarks on his new journey as the Director of AI and Innovation at Microsoft. Read on to find out how companies can leverage a market that's undergoing constant digitization by embracing change and banking heavily on data.

When applied correctly, AI will be hugely assistive for people from every nation, background, and digital ability.

MEDIA 7: Congratulations on your new role at Microsoft! Before we dig in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
NICHOLAS MCQUIRE:
Thanks!! It’s very exciting! I have always loved learning about how businesses apply new technologies to innovate, change how they work, and succeed in their respective markets. This fascination actually dates back to when writing my master’s thesis at university, before I even began my career - believe it or not! It all crystallized when I got my first job, fresh out of grad school, where I had the privilege of working in a tech startup incubator and early-stage VC firm. They took a chance on hiring me as a fresh-faced graduate. The range of innovation, and types of businesses and sectors across Europe and the US that I got to work with back then, was just mind-blowing to me so early on in my career. From then on, I was hooked on enterprise technology. I, then, went on to become an analyst and the rest is history.


M7: What an inspiring story! You have actually been a technological analyst for over 20 years. How do you see this experience influence your current role at Microsoft?
NM:
I think there will be a lot of cross-over. My new role, at its core, will be to help Microsoft expand its thought leadership for business leaders in the complementary fields of AI and innovation as both these has now become top priorities for businesses across the planet and it’s our job to help them succeed in both areas. A big part of this effort will be to help the business community better understand and leverage the fantastic work that Microsoft Research is doing in advanced technology science and in several important fields of AI technologies.

Back in 2005-2006, I got quite ill suddenly and was diagnosed as a type 1 Diabetic which exposed me personally to the advances in technology research that could help me deal with my illness. This has always inspired me to focus more of my research as an analyst and advisory to C-level executive clients in these areas. At the heart of what we do as tech analysts are storytelling. So, I believe, that this element, plus my experience in advanced research in AI and business strategy, will all come together in the new role.


Overall, though I’m optimistic about what the future holds for AI, I think the greatest positive from AI's advancement will mean that the ability for computers to learn to interpret us as opposed to us having to continuously learn and interpret computers.



M7: So, as the new Director of AI and Innovation at Microsoft, what is your vision? 
NM:
At Microsoft, we believe AI has the power to augment human ingenuity— it is the core to our mission of empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. We’re focused on democratizing access to AI, empowering developers to innovate, industries to transform, and helping every person change society for the better. Even more specifically, just as every company today is a software company, every business will soon become an AI business. Ultimately, our aim is to help organizations make this transition, foster innovation, and ultimately succeed in their industries with AI.


M7: Speaking of digital transition and innovation, what do you think is essential to stay competitive in a market that is going through constant digitalization?
NM:
Recently, I had the honor of being on the judging panel for the UK CIO of Year Awards 2021. And this critical question was one that came across in many of the leading submissions, after such a turbulent year with many changing business priorities. Essentially, what we observed is that leading, competitive firms in today’s climate have several attributes. They have strong leadership and a culture that embraces change, experimentation, and above all innovation. They embrace data to inform business decisions as well as the cloud to support the need for agility and resilience. They also partner well both within their industries and outside of them with large firms and startup organizations. There are other factors of course, but often it’s the various combinations of these elements that are the key attributes.

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At the heart of what we do as tech analysts are storytelling.



M7: That's an insightful take! With AI taking over the world, what are your predictions on AI changing our future in the next few years?
NM:
There are so many areas of development - it’s really fascinating. There’s progress to come, for example, in transformer architectures and large-scale AI models, in reinforcement learning, multimodality, sustainable AI, or in human-to-machine interaction, to name a few. But there are many challenges to overcome as well, such as accessibility of the technology, misinformation, privacy, and ethical challenges with its advancement. Overall, though I’m optimistic about what the future holds for AI, I think the greatest positive from AI'sadvancement will mean that the ability for computers to learn to interpret us as opposed to us having to continuously learn and interpret computers. When applied correctly, AI will be hugely assistive for people from every nation, background, and digital ability. I believe it also has the potential to contribute towards solving some of society’s and science’s greatest problems, which is a hugely exciting prospect!


M7: AI surely does have endless potential! Lastly, how would you define your leadership style?
NM:
I’ve had a few amazing leaders in my career who have taught me a lot and there are many aspects to this question - strong leadership, coaching, mentoring, always being available and supporting, empowering, and respecting, to name a few. But the biggest thing that I have reacted to in a great manager is the ability to inspire and to help me to produce my best work. I remember someone mentioning to me a while ago, “There are many companies grossly over-managed and severely under-led,” which I think sums it up nicely. Whilst I am by no means an expert in this area, I have always kept these elements in my mind over the years from some of my great leaders, managers, and mentors, in the past.

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ABOUT MICROSOFT

Microsoft enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. It believes that technology can and should be a force for good and that meaningful innovation can and will contribute to a brighter world in big and small ways. It thrives on diverse voices and engage its employees’ and customers’ experiences, strengths, and different points of view to inform, challenge, and stretch our thinking.

It believes that technology is a powerful force for good and are working to foster a sustainable future where everyone has access to the benefits and opportunities created by technology. It believes that, when designed with people at the center, AI can extend your capabilities, free you up for more creative and strategic endeavors, and help you or your organization achieve more. It delivers secure, private, and reliable computing experiences based on sound business practices.

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Qlik | January 25, 2024

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If the data building blocks of AI are not governed properly as it is democratized across the entire workforce, it could present a serious threat to the efficiency and integrity of business operations. The AI Council has been established to help Qlik&rsquo;s customers navigate these challenges and advise on best practices.</p> <p> Members of the Council will work within Qlik to guide the company&rsquo;s R&amp;D direction, inform its product roadmap and ensure its customers&rsquo; use of Qlik&rsquo;s AI is built with responsibility and ethics front of mind. The Council will also educate Qlik leaders and employees on how to harness the full potential of AI, while providing insights into the priorities of business leaders tasked with demonstrating value from AI investment.</p> <p> The AI Council features some of the most renowned subject matter experts from around the world. More information on these members can be found on our Qlik Staige website:</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Nina Schick &ndash; Author, Advisor and Founder of an advisory firm focused on GenAI</strong><br /> A world-leading authority on generative AI, Nina has long been analyzing emerging technology trends for society. With over two decades of geopolitical experience, she has advised global leaders, including Joe Biden, President of the United States, and was articulating her vision of the &lsquo;AI inflexion point&rsquo; years before ChatGPT made AI a global phenomenon.</li> </ul> <ul> <li> <strong>Dr. Rumman Chowdhury &ndash; Responsible AI leader, engineer, auditor and investor</strong><br /> Rumman is a pioneer in the field of applied algorithmic ethics, creating cutting-edge socio-technical solutions for ethical, explainable and transparent AI. She is currently the CEO and founder of Humane Intelligence, a tech nonprofit that builds a community of practice around algorithmic evaluations. She has also served on multiple boards, including the UK Center for Data Ethics and Innovation, and on UN&rsquo;s Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, Oxford University&rsquo;s Commission on AI and Governance, and Patterns data science journal. Previously, Rumman was the Director of META (ML Ethics, Transparency, and Accountability) team at Twitter, leading a team of applied researchers and engineers to identify and mitigate algorithmic harms on the platform.</li> </ul> <ul> <li> <strong>Kelly Forbes &ndash; Co-Founder and Executive Director, AI Asia Pacific Institute</strong><br /> Kelly sits at the intersection of policy, research and industry, working with leading organizations and governments to address the risks associated with AI through international cooperation. With extensive experience in the Asia-Pacific region, Kelly has conducted research on AI governance, public-private dialogue and government policy issues.</li> </ul> <ul> <li> <strong>Dr. Michael Bronstein &ndash; DeepMind Professor of Artificial Intelligence, University of Oxford</strong><br /> An award-winning academic, Michael was previously Head of Graph Learning Research at Twitter, a professor at Imperial College London and has held visiting appointments at Stanford, MIT, and Harvard. Michael is also a serial entrepreneur, having founded startups such as Novafora, Invision (acquired by Intel in 2012), Videocites and Fabula AI (acquired by Twitter in 2019).</li> </ul> <p> &quot;The formation of Qlik&#39;s AI Council is a strategic leap, reflecting our deep-seated commitment to not just advancing AI, but doing so with ethical integrity and practical applicability,&quot; said Mike Capone, CEO of Qlik. &quot;Our goal is crystal clear: to enable our customers to harness AI in a way that&#39;s not only transformative, but also responsible. By uniting a cadre of AI luminaries, we are sharpening our focus on delivering AI solutions that are not just cutting-edge, but also seamlessly integrated and governed. This initiative is a pivotal chapter in our journey, marking a bold move towards democratizing AI in a manner that is both accessible and aligned with our core mission of driving substantial, data-driven business outcomes.&quot;</p> <p> Data and analytics leaders from around the world can hear from the AI Council at Qlik Connect, which takes place on June 3-5 in Orlando, Florida. At the pre-eminent event for data analytics, integration, and AI, Council members will share their take on the opportunities and challenges for businesses exploring the value of automation in their data strategy. Additional details and event registration is at www.qlikconnect.com</p> <p> &ldquo;I am excited to join Qlik&rsquo;s AI Council and work with some of the greatest minds in AI to optimize how businesses around the world use data,&rdquo; said Rumman Chowdhury, member of Qlik&rsquo;s AI Council. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve reached an inflection point where innovations like generative AI are impacting the world as the internet did. This is not the time for complacency. &lsquo;Adopting AI&rsquo; is not as simple as some suggest, but getting left behind is a risky game. By taking responsible steps, organizations can enter an era of unprecedented innovation &ndash; I look forward to being able to contribute to this evolution.&rdquo;</p> <p> &ldquo;In working at JBS USA, I recognize the significance of Qlik&#39;s advancements in AI, embodying a responsible and pragmatic approach to enterprise AI development,&rdquo; said Stephanie Robinson, IT Business Intelligence Manager at JBS. &ldquo;Qlik&#39;s dedication to enhancing AI applications aligns with our focus on employing technology to drive substantial business outcomes. We value Qlik&#39;s commitment to ethical AI practices and are optimistic about the beneficial impact this will have on the industry.&rdquo;</p> <p> <strong>About Qlik</strong><br /> Qlik converts complex data landscapes into actionable insights, driving strategic business outcomes. Serving over 40,000 global customers, our portfolio leverages advanced, enterprise-grade AI/ML and pervasive data quality. We excel in data integration and governance, offering comprehensive solutions that work with diverse data sources. Intuitive analytics from Qlik uncover hidden patterns, empowering teams to address complex challenges and seize new opportunities. Our AI/ML tools, both practical and scalable, lead to better decisions, faster. As strategic partners, our platform-agnostic technology and expertise make our customers more competitive.</p> <p> 2024 QlikTech International AB. All rights reserved. All company and/or product names may be trade names, trademarks and/or registered trademarks of the respective owners with which they are associated.</p> <p> The development, release and timing of any product or functionality described herein remain at the sole discretion of Qlik and should not be relied upon in making a purchasing decision.</p>

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