Christine Barrett – Director of Digital Sales Germany at Microsoft

15th September 2020

This month Christine Barrett, Director of Digital Sales Germany at Microsoft and WMB Diversity Ambassador talks about how Technology has been central to everyone’s pandemic experience – the restrictions ultimately forcing a global remote working experiment which overall has been hugely successful.

Can you put into context, the size and scope of Microsoft for our readers?

Microsoft has been operating in Ireland for almost 35 years. Our campus, One Microsoft Place, is located in Leopardstown and home to over 2,100 people from over 70 nationalities. At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and organisation to do and achieve more, not just here in Ireland, but right across the world. From software development, testing and localisation to operations, finance, HR and sales & marketing for Europe, Middle East and Africa, our ambition is to help everyone, through the power of technology, to achieve theirs.

As a woman in a leadership role, do you believe it is your responsibility to lead by example and encourage other women to reach their full potential?

Absolutely – at Microsoft we place a high priority on leading by example but also making the time to mentor young women working across our business to reach their potential and their career ambitions. As a large corporate operating in Ireland we also take our responsibility of living out our mission locally very seriously.  Ensuring our young female students have role models and the opportunity to engage in the latest technology is part of this commitment. Our dedicated education and innovation hub, DreamSpace, is located at our campus and before restrictions were in place saw students visit every day for bespoke digital experiences. As a company we focus on ensuring girls are an equal part of the students visiting the space. Through the visits we aim to help young impressionable students to open their minds to the possibilities that a career in the technology sector could offer them.

Do you think the positive ground gained in diversity & inclusion might be eroded during this crisis?

The path towards greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace was not built in a day and it will not disappear overnight. The recent shift to remote working brings with it new opportunities. Businesses have access to new talent pools that can help foster a more inclusive workforce and reflect the customers we serve.

Do you believe remote working, and in a lot of cases, reduced working hours will allow working mothers more flexibility into the future?

Remote working ultimately provides more flexibility – in how and where we work. This gives working parents – both mothers and fathers ­– the ability to balance work and family commitments while also reaching their full leadership potential.

How has Microsoft evolved to accommodate the changing needs of its clients, and employees during this pandemic?

At Microsoft, our top priority is the health and safety of employees, customers, partners, and the communities we operate in. When the recent restrictions were put in place, the Microsoft team was able to seamlessly transition to working from home thanks to our technology and particularly Microsoft Teams, a teamwork hub. At Microsoft, we place a high importance on providing tailor-made supports to enhance the lives of employees. These include everything from access to nutritionists and financial planning to mindfulness classes and yoga. So, as the team transitioned to remote working, we launched a ‘One Microsoft Virtual Community’ so that employees could continue to avail of the wellbeing resources, which they previously accessed in the office, and remain connected with colleagues through virtual social activities.

Has upskilling played a part in transitioning your colleagues to remote working?

Central to our support during recent months has been ensuring everyone has access to the technology they need to succeed. We have done this by providing organisations navigating a remote working environment for the first time with free access to Microsoft Teams. Our education team transitioned DreamSpace to a virtual offering enabling students and their teachers to engage in STEM education from their homes. The team also provided training to teachers so that they could adapt to a remote teaching model and from a school’s perspective we supported those without digital solutions to adopt one.

Supporting our partners working in the NGO sector was also a key priority for us. One of the more inspiring transformation journeys we’ve witnessed was that of our long-term partner, Enable Ireland. When the restrictions were put in place, the adults that accessed Enable Ireland’s Service Centres were faced with the reality of long spells of isolation and loneliness and a lack of routine in their days at home. Working together, we’ve helped Enable Ireland to transition their services online through the creation of a virtual service centre, meaning they can stay connected to their service users and continue to deliver a range of activities such as Zumba, art, dancing, physio and yoga.

How have you had to adjust your way of working in recent months?

For me I’ve made sure that exercise is core to my everyday routine. Prior to working from home on a full-time basis my diary might not have allowed time for me to fit a workout in ahead of the day but now I find the time to walk in the morning before logging on for the day. This has been a welcome addition to my work schedule and something I’m going to prioritise into the future. From a team perspective, I make sure to have weekly one-to-one meetings with each team member to connect and ensure they’re doing ok. Group sessions are great but in a remote working environment that personal check in is important.

Has it all been challenging or are there ‘silver linings’?

Technology has been central to everyone’s pandemic experience, changing how they worked, communicated with family, socialised and exercised. The restrictions ultimately forced a global remote working experiment which overall has been hugely successful. For me this has been the biggest silver lining and I think will change the course of how we work into the future.