The ongoing success of Skype
Launched in Europe back in 2003, Skype has become a core communication channel, supporting collaboration and key partnerships throughout the business world. With a focus on video chat and messaging services, with a microphone and camera incorporated within the technology, it has since been developed further by Microsoft, who bought the company in 2011.
Advanced language technology
Skype has become a vital source for communication for companies and individuals around the world, where it has been increasingly important for the technology to utilise different languages within this space. Skype Translation embeds vital translation services, enabling increased sharing. The translation service now houses over 10 languages, and has recently added Japanese to its list, alongside current languages English, French, Spanish, Germany, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Brazilian, Mandarin (Chinese) and Arabic. Japanese will also be available on Microsoft Translator Live.
It has recently been announced that Microsoft has partnered with Michelin-star chef Heston Blumenthal to support and encourage users to develop their culinary skills. The company have named it the ‘Heston Bot’, which can “bring stories, recipes tips and experiments that will change the way you think about food. Forever.” The bot will enable the sending and retrieval of instant messaging and photos, something of which has grown in popularity over the last two years, in alignment with rising apps such as Instagram’s ‘Stories’ and Snapchat’s dominance over the camera messaging market.
Users will receive cooking tips and expert knowledge, alongside different meal options to try and make yourself, with the aim to get users passionate about cooking from scratch. Blumenthal has said, "people will get a real insight into how I think and how I cook, and I hope everyone is inspired to experiment and have fun with my recipes.” Available on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, the technology can be accessed on a range of devices and will inspire food lovers to experiment with different flavours and recipes.
Microsoft has said, “We hope our brand new Heston Bot inspires you to embark on a new culinary adventure— “questioning everything” (as Heston would say) as you grow both your cooking skills and love of food. To add the Heston Bot, simply search for “Heston Bot” in the Skype Bot Directory, read the bot’s profile and terms, and then click “Add to Contacts.”
Whilst originating cofounder and CEO of Skype Niklas ZennStrom has moved on from the Skype business, he is now investing in clean-tech start-up Orbital Systems, a water-saving company, which has reportedly built a shower, named OAS, which uses 90 percent less water than traditional showers. Becoming sustainable and providing advantages worldwide is something Zennstrom takes extremely seriously, of which he stated in an interview with Huffington Post, “environmental sustainability and economic success were not mutually exclusive, but in fact mutually reinforcing.”
Zennstrom has reportedly invested £15 million within the start-up, bringing the company’s investment up to £25 million and now sits on the company’s board. Other famous investors are CEO of H&M Karl-Johan Persson and former Tesla employee Peter Carlson, highlighting the company’s current force within the market.
The showers will recycle the same water repeatedly, which is filtered each time by an inbuilt purification system, reducing water and energy use significantly, whilst discarding bacteria which has been removed each time. Zennstrom has stated that “we’re seeing more and more young entrepreneurs building companies which aim to have a positive impact on the way we live, as well as being commercially successful businesses;” where it will be exciting to see how Orbital Systems develop further down the line.
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How changing your company's software code can prevent bias
Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day.
Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization.
Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.
Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?
We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization
What impact can exclusive terms have on employees?
Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.
Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code
Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!
What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?
What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.
What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology?
My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve.