Welcome to the first in an occasional series of conversations with some of the thought leaders in our industry. In this edition, Gary Duffield, who heads up our Partner Relationships, chats to Microsoft’s Regional Director for Learning and Readiness, Chee Sing Chen. Let’s meet Chee Sing.

Chee Sing Chen, Microsoft Learning

Chee Sing, we’ve worked together for a number of years now, can you share a little bit about yourself and your time working with Microsoft?

Sure, I’ve been working in the IT industry for over 20 years. Starting my career as a technical guy in a large System Integrator and moving from Operations to Consultancy in Microsoft and then moving into Sales/Marketing/Partnership roles with solutions. Currently, I am blessed to be in a role that focuses on building relationships with Microsoft Learning Partners who are a strategic asset to Microsoft in enabling Microsoft Partners and Customers to get value from their investment in Microsoft technologies and services.

Microsoft has really re-invented itself over the last five years, although I miss the simpler days of NT4, SQL 7 and Exchange 5.5, clearly today the cloud is king. How has Microsoft managed to take not only their employees, but their customers on such a disruptive journey?

It starts with leadership and strategy and Satya Nadella has definitely made an impact, which is the Microsoft we see today. From a Microsoft perspective, Satya and his Senior Leadership Team started with the company culture to instil a collaborative environment and, on top of this, help employees to develop a growth mindset, which are the two elements that are crucial for any company going through Digital Transformation. He also wanted all of us to be able to provide good customer experiences which means that, firstly, employees would need to understand partners and customer business insights.

One of the changes that I really like is that the wider Microsoft Partner channel is more inclusive, as a Learning Partner we now sit right in the middle as a Gold Cloud, Productivity and Data Partner, in addition to L**earning, of course. Are there any other changes that are shaking things up?**

The huge demand for Azure and Office 365 Training is being driven by partners, and it’s great to see DDLS working both with partners and organizations from technical to end user adoption. From a Microsoft point of view, DDLS and Microsoft have been working on the different skills initiatives like Azure, Microsoft 365, that are coming up. These initiatives are crucial to drive customers’ adoptions and also consumption of Microsoft Services like Azure, Microsoft 365 and Office 365.

DDLS has built a “Learning as a Service” platform and are about to pilot the Data Science content – can you share the Microsoft strategy around LaaS?

Microsoft has been talking about the transformation in the education world in both public and commercial entity. Firstly, we have done research and learnt that the younger generations (age 30 and below) prefer a different modality and prefer to consume content outside of the traditional classroom. Secondly, skills gaps are a problem in most countries and we would like to address it through our role-based curriculum, such as Data Scientist, DevOps and Cloud Administrator. I am extremely glad that DDLS has been the first mover for us in Australia and through our partnership will solve the skills gap problem that we have in Australia, and then hopefully bring this solution to other countries.

Over 30 years, I must have helped tens of thousands of people become skilled in Microsoft technologies, a few of whom might even have achieved MCSE, MCSA or MCP certification. Is certification still relevant to Microsoft in a cloud-driven world?

110% yes, in fact we are seeing a trend where public education, like the vocational schools and universities, need to be industry aligned so that their students can make an immediate impact when they leave school. Certification helps students validate their knowledge and their skills and be recognised internationally. Separately, IDC also published a white paper (https://www.microsoft.com/en-sg/learning/certification-testimonials.aspx) on how certification for the individual helps their company and themselves.

You look after other geographies, not just the Australian subsidiary – what do you see in the Australian market compared to others? For example, are we leading the pack on Azure skills and certification, or is there a country we should be chasing?

Australia is leading the way in a number of areas. Firstly, from a Cloud aspect, Australia is one of the top ten countries in the world that is leading this transformation. Secondly, from the Azure Skills aspect, there is a big demand that together with DDLS we would like to address.

From a DDLS/Microsoft Partnership perspective, how is DDLS unique and what other areas of opportunity do you see for DDLS?

DDLS is in a unique position where firstly you are the only Gold Learning Partner in Australia. Secondly, with Learning as a Service(LaaS) DDLS can offer the full suite of learning modality from LaaS, MOC, MOC on Demand, Certifications, to address the skill gaps in Australia. There is currently a huge opportunity with large enterprise accounts in Australia where they are going through Digital Transformation and learning becomes crucial. With Learning as a Service, DDLS now can install the platform with content for the customer and on top of it provide learning consultancy to upskill individuals with the different types of modality suiting each individual learning style.

And finally, Chee Sing, using the vast power of your crystal ball, Power BI and Delve, look ahead five, ten, twenty years…. What does the future look like to you? Will we finally get MS Flying Cars?

Well, as you know, experts say that we are on the second half of the chessboard, which means things are accelerating exponentially, so it might be just shorter than five years ???? Through “my” crystal ball, I see that many things would be automated from self-driving vehicles to asking for a diagnosis of my medical problems through a machine. The only thing that is slowing all this down now are the legalities and policies that need to be established. I see that jobs will be drastically different and the only way to survive for us, is to be in the Technology business. This is one reason that I have told my daughter to choose Computer Science as a university subject.

You can find all of the Microsoft courses on offer at DDLS here on our website.

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