Hilary Zaborski, SMB Customer Segment Lead for Microsoft Canada had a chat with CanadianSME to discuss the initiatives she’s hoping to put in place and the benefits this has for SMEs and the impact a strong leader has for the success of a company.
Responsible for delivering on our growth aspirations in the SMB, Canada’s fastest-growing segment, across all of Microsoft’s divisions: Modern Workplace & Devices, Intelligent Cloud and Business Applications. Leading strategies and programs spanning Modern Marketing, Direct Sales, and Channel Partners in Canada.
What are some of the initiatives you’re hoping to put in place in your new role of Director of SMB that can benefit Canadian SME owners?
Microsoft and our partners are investing in several key initiatives to help SMEs benefit from digital transformation, such as our Customer Immersion Experience and device loaner programs, offered at our retail stores across the country and via our partners, to give you hands-on training on Microsoft 365, Azure and Dynamics 365. We also offer funded proof of concepts and migration services to accelerate SMEs migration to the Cloud. Microsoft is also investing heavily in technical training (digitally and in-person) to benefit organizations and individuals of all size. Lastly, we have invested in sales, marketing and technical champions across the country both at Microsoft and across our partner network enabling us to support SMEs even further.
As Director of SMB Customer Segment Lead for Microsoft Canada, can you tell us more about your responsibilities to give our readers a better understanding of your role?
I am so fortunate to have the position leading our SMB Customer Segment for Microsoft Canada. I lead a team of sales, technical and marketing specialists whose mission it is to design programs and campaigns at a scale that inspire and meet the needs of our SMB customers in Canada. The SMB segment is the fastest-growing segment at Microsoft Canada, and we serve over 1.2 million organizations across the country to empower them to achieve more through our solutions. The Canadian SMB segment delivered over half of the net new jobs created in this country. We know technology will fuel the growth and success of the sector, so this is a critically important role in a segment so vital to the health of our nation. My mission is to ensure we help our SMBs achieve more through the amazing portfolio of solutions and partners Microsoft offers to this segment of the market.
What are some of the strategies you use to help you in your role?
It all starts with putting the customer first, I spend a great deal of time traveling across the country meeting with customers, large and small, to understand the challenges they are going through, and identifying ways that Microsoft and our partners can support them to achieve more. For example, Jay Klein, CEO of the Pur Company is a leading Canadian SME who exports gum that is free from chemicals, and we supported them in their rapid growth and expansion internationally through the power of Microsoft 365. Audioworks is another example of a customer we supported. They are reinventing how music is produced leveraging the power of Azure, and we are partnering closely with them to help them achieve their vision of music for everyone through the power of Cloud computing!
Secondly, it starts with people and our culture. Microsoft has changed dramatically under the leadership of our CEO Satya Nadella, and we carry this change into our team at Microsoft Canada. We focus on career development and growth, creating an inclusive culture where everybody can do their best, and setting the bar high and empowering each other to surpass it.
Lastly, technical skilling is essential, not only for me and my team but also for our partners and our customers. Microsoft is investing significantly in technical training to support the computing requirements for tomorrow. We bring a growth mindset and learn it all culture and are expecting our people to really invest in personal training across our entire portfolio of solutions. This is more important than ever before as the level of tech intensity in every industry is on the rise.
What would you say is the biggest challenge that SME owners face and how can Microsoft Canada help them overcome these challenges?
The way people work and how businesses operate is changing rapidly. For the first time in history, we have five generations in the workforce, bringing tremendous diversity in employee expectations, preferences, technology habits, and attitudes toward work. Collaborative work is on the rise. People are on twice as many teams as five years ago. “Collaborative” work –meetings, calls, answering emails – has increased by about 50 per cent and takes up 80 per cent or more of employees’ time. People are more mobile than ever – whether traveling for work, working from home, being out in the field, or at the local coffee shop. These employees need access to documents and company information from wherever they are. This increased mobility makes securing company data more important yet challenging than ever. These trends affect every organization of every size, but they pose challenges for SMBs. Many SMBs have limited resources, and their employees wear many hats. Often, they don’t have formal IT staff, so technology decisions can be complicated to navigate. Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. For SMBs, this means ensuring that business owners and employees have access to the technologies and solutions they didn’t previously have access to in order to enable them to compete, grow and succeed. For example, Microsoft solutions give SMEs the tools they need to operate globally, 24/7, in the most secure way with teams at the center of how they connect. Microsoft’s Azure gives SMEs the power of cloud computing at a fraction of the cost of on-premises infrastructure. You no longer need to be a large enterprise with a large capital budget to turn a great idea into reality, SMEs can leverage advances such as Artificial Intelligence, and massive computing power at the click of a button. Dynamics 365 gives SMEs the best CRM and ERP system needed, to better run their operations and better serve their customers.
There’s a lot of competition between Microsoft and other software providers offering similar programs and resources to entrepreneurs. How does Microsoft manage to stay competitive? Why should entrepreneurs choose Microsoft as opposed to software?
We believed strongly in Canadian business and the country’s innovation agenda that we made significant investments building a datacentre right here in Toronto and another one in Quebec City. We want to give SMBs the tools they need to grow and transform their business in the digital age. The cloud has leveled the playing field for SMBs, enabling them to access the same technology and resources as enterprises in a way that they couldn’t have done in the past. Microsoft not only offers affordable technology, products, and business solutions that allow SMBs to grow, we also offer support and resources to business owners to sustain that growth. Today, Microsoft Azure cloud services platform has emerged as the world’s most trusted cloud. Microsoft Azure offers organizations of all sizes and types a powerful and cost-effective computing, storage, data, networking and application services in a single bound. Along the way, it delivers some serious security benefits. Microsoft employs over 3,500 global cyber-security experts who work together to safeguard your business assets and data 24/7/365.
Technology has a huge impact when it comes to the success of any business. Especially when it comes to optimization. With that in mind, more and more business owners are moving to the cloud. What do you believe is the biggest benefit for entrepreneurs to move to the cloud?
Speed, cost efficiency, security and innovation. Entrepreneurs now have access to unprecedented levels of computing power, at an all-time low cost, and can now turn new ideas into a reality without the need for upfront capital. The power of IOT, AI, Computer Vision, BlockChain, etc… is available to everyone through cloud computing. Entrepreneurs need to choose their strategies wisely, by evaluating a) how they are spending their time, evaluating what is commodity and should be moved to a cloud provider, and b) choosing that provider wisely, ensuring they are not partnering with one who will power their business on one hand, and then compete with their business on the other.
You’ve been with Microsoft for over 16 years. Throughout the years, you’ve seen technology advance and innovate the world. What would you say is the biggest change/innovation that you saw throughout your career at Microsoft?
I joined Microsoft in the UK in 2002, and it is amazing to look back over the past 17 years and see the pace of change. The biggest changes I have seen are how accessible technology is to everyone through the power of the cloud and intelligent devices. Anyone today can be a developer, I see baggage handlers at the airport developing power apps to improve the way they work and service they give to customers. My 11-year-old daughter can create an online store for her crafts in minutes, and my 9-year-old son is coding his own games to play with his friends. The democratization of IT is the biggest change I have experienced in my time at Microsoft, and it’s thrilling to be a part of this revolution.
In your expert opinion, how have the needs of SME owners changed if you compare it to 16 years ago and what impact did Microsoft have on these changes?
Cybersecurity is the central challenge of the digital age. When I compare the attacks from 2002 to today it is night and day in terms of frequency, vulnerability, and damage. Every day organizations take precious time and resources away from their core business mission to defend against and recover from cyber attacks. They operate dozens of complex disconnected tools, yet the gaps between those tools remain and threats get through. Their security teams struggle to keep up and skilled expertise is scarce.
Microsoft has a holistic approach to helping customers limit their attack surface and protect user identities that can only come from a company that operates more than 200 consumer and commercial services on a global scale. Microsoft’s approach combines a unified product portfolio, an Intelligent Security Graph informed by trillions of global signals, and close partnerships with others in the industry to provide the only truly holistic security platform. Our three focus areas are: running security operations that work for you, building enterprise-class technology, and driving partnerships for a heterogeneous world.
You’ve created yourself quite a reputation as being a strong innovative leader. What do you believe is the most challenging part of being a leader?
The principles of leadership for me include creating clarity, generating energy and enabling success. As a leader I find it critically important to bring all three to the table, the challenge is in understanding when to bring which aspect at the right time. I lean on great coaches and mentors, and the people I serve to help me navigate through this.
Are you a strong believer that a good leader can impact the success of a company?
Strong leadership during the best of times and the hardest of times can make or break a company. Leaders can create clarity, generate energy, and enable success despite constraints. Leadership is everything.
What is the best advice you can give to a leader of a small business company?
My advice for an SME is number one – invest in the right people to grow your business, your people are the difference. Number two – set yourself up for growth as much as you can, this is especially important in your technology decisions. Are you investing in technology that leaves doors open, while giving you the security needed for your business?
On a final note, what can you tell us about the future of Microsoft for the SME industry?
The Small and Medium Business segment is the fastest-growing segment of Microsoft, We believe that the right technology can make a positive difference in reducing worry, encouraging innovation, and advancing success. We are continuing to invest in this segment through our partners, through the Microsoft for Start-Ups initiative, digitally and via our retail stores to empower SMBs everywhere to achieve more.