Microsoft’s President Visits UTEP

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Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, visited the University of Texas at El Paso campus on March 19 to deliver a Centennial Lecture on “The Impact of Artificial Intelligence: What Will It Mean for the Future of Jobs?” and to visit with students.

Prior to his Centennial Lecture, Smith spoke with computer science and business students at UTEP. Two College of Business students who will be interning, and one COBA student that will be employed full time at Microsoft, participated in this event. These students are Hugo Rodriguez (Finance) and Jessica Mariscal (Marketing) as interns this summer and Ethan Rodriguez (CIS) will be a full-time employee as of July 9, 2018.

Smith’s lecture touched on how artificial intelligence could take some jobs from humans, but it also will create fields for other jobs. He said one way to predict the future related to artificial intelligence and jobs is to look at the past and how the invention of automobiles impacted agriculture and farms, but also created jobs in the automobile field.

Smith also spoke about Microsoft’s TechSpark program that is in a handful of communities around the country and will be coming to El Paso, Texas. The TechSpark initiative focuses on five program areas: digital transformation, digital skills and computer science education, career pathways, rural broadband, and support for nonprofits. In each region Microsoft will have a signature project which will be a major investment that the company hopes will help accelerate a community’s transformation.

“We’ve created budgets of the same size ($5 million) for each of the six communities,” Smith said of the TechSpark communities. TechSpark will be in each community at least five years and will focus on partnerships.

When talking about UTEP’s possible role in the TechSpark program, Smith called the University “one of the great crown jewels of El Paso.”

“I was so impressed meeting with the faculty and the students here in the computer science department,” Smith said. “So, we’re very interested in partnering with the University in new ways. I think we have a great opportunity to get to know each other, to learn more about what are the priorities here at UTEP. Where we can take computer science in the future. One of the great things about UTEP is that it is so connected with the community. And I think that is what we are fundamentally what we are wanting to do with the TechSpark program – work with institutions that are connected to the community. So, I think there are some interesting things we can learn about and pursue here.”

During the audience question and answer session, Smith gave some advice to the students in attendance.

“You’re the future. You’re extraordinarily lucky to be in these disciplines that are just going to remake society and you can help remake society in such a positive way,” Smith said. “But the other thing I will say is this. Especially as you graduate, life will take you on a journey. It’ll take you to a company like Microsoft or somewhere else and it might even take you away from El Paso. There will come a time when you will ask yourself, ‘what on earth are you doing?’ Your self-confidence will be challenged. You’ll wake up. You’ll feel like, ‘I made a mistake coming here.’ I can tell you I’ve been at Microsoft for 25 years and after two months I thought I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing and it was only a matter of time before everybody else figured it out. That day will come. Just know it will come. It’s the nature of life. You have way more inside you than you can possibly imagine. Stick with it and you will find it in yourself. You will find the ability to overcome the obstacles that life will throw at you.”