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Meet a tech industry pioneer who leads by example

Paul Rubens | May 6, 2015
Microsoft’s Vice President of IT Strategic Enterprise Services Jacky Wright is more than her title suggests -- so much more.

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Microsoft's Jacky Wright. Credit: Courtesy of Microsoft

Picture Microsoft's vice president of IT Strategic Enterprise Services and you might imagine a slightly stressed, middle-aged guy in a suit who looks a little like Steve Ballmer.

But Jacky Wright doesn't match this stereotype by a long shot: she's a woman of color from North London, and she talks about her senior technical role at Microsoft with quiet authority. If there's any stress, it's certainly not discernible in her not-quite-cockney London accent.

So what exactly is the role of the vice president of Strategic Enterprise Services at Microsoft? It turns out it is something like the CIO position -- but it's not quite as simple as that. "I am not the overall CIO, but I do have a great portion of the CIO role," explains Wright.

Part of this role involves working with Microsoft's product teams, helping them to develop a product strategy and understand what needs to be added to a product to make it enterprise ready. It also involves testing these products to get them ready for general release more quickly.

"My primary role is to ensure that our products are fit for purpose, and meet current and future needs," she says. "I have worked on Office 365, Power BI, System Center, Azure -- anything outside the gaming division."

Much of the testing is done by Microsoft staff in their day-to-day work. "We work with the product team by dogfooding," Wright explains. (Dogfooding refers to the practice of implementing a product internally before it is released -- as a show of confidence in the product, but also as a way of discovering any shortcomings or hard-to-find bugs or usability issues.)

"That makes it different to a company that provides services at a mature level," Wright points out. "We also have to work out how to deploy something at scale while it is still in beta, and test it in an agile way -- we mustn't bring down the business."

Working with such a wide variety of products -- from cloud-based end-user productivity suites like Office 365 to data center management systems like System Center -- requires a level of expertise across an extraordinarily wide area of operations. So what does Wright do to keep up with the latest developments?

The answer is that she does a bewildering variety of things. "I work with our technology teams to identify what enterprises need, and I also read a lot -- both about technology and also things that are not necessarily technology-related," she says.

Wright also takes networking seriously. "Every company is going to be a technology company, so by bringing them together you can understand their needs and emerging trends. I sit on the DEMO CIO Council, which looks at startups and the leading trends in startups."

 

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