Kalin Dimchev has been part of Microsoft’s regional leadership team since 2017. He currently serves as Country Manager of the Adriatics region, comprising 9 markets (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro) and Country Manager for Bulgaria. He has over 20 years of experience in management, leadership and sales, gathered in startups, public companies and international business organizations from various industries. He is passionate about solving important business problems with innovative cloud and AI technologies. His management style fosters a culture of trust, development and teamwork.
What is Microsoft’s approach to AI and how to mitigate the risks given the recent voices against AI technology in general?
Microsoft’s philosophy centers around the notion that when creating world-changing technologies, we must make sure to use it responsibly. We are committed to creating responsible AI by design. Our work is guided by a core set of principles: fairness, reliability and safety, privacy and security, inclusiveness, transparency, and accountability. We are putting these principles into practice across the company to develop and deploy AI that will have a positive impact on society. We take a cross-company approach through cutting-edge research, best-of-breed engineering systems, and excellence in policy and governance. Governments play an important role charting the path forward on AI and Microsoft welcomes the opportunity to engage with them to advance innovative AI that benefits the whole of society. We believe that industry, academia, civil society, and government need to collaborate to advance the state-of-the-art and learn from one another.
Do you have a special team in Microsoft behind the development and enforcement of the appropriate AI rules and principles?
We have invested significantly in responsible AI over the years, with new engineering systems, research-led incubations, and, of course, people. Our community members have positions in policy, engineering, research, sales, and other core functions, touching on all aspects of our business. We have a responsible AI process that our AI systems go through, which includes reviews by a multidisciplinary team of experts, that helps us understand potential harms and mitigations, and we continue to improve that process. Examples of mitigations include refining the dataset used to train models, deploying filters to limit the generation of harmful content, integrating techniques like query blocking on sensitive topics that helps to prevent misuse by bad actors, or applying technology that can return more helpful, representative and diverse responses and results. Another very important safeguard is intentional and iterative deployment. We take a measured approach to rolling out many of these experiences. We may start with a limited preview with a select number of customers with well-defined use cases in mind. Collaborations with these early customers will help us make sure the responsible AI safeguards are working in practice so we can scale adoption more broadly.
Biggest Bulgarian companies are on the forefront of using AI. Where can AI be applied – which sectors/industries could see benefits first?
AI tools are already used in workplaces, home offices, academic institutions, research labs and manufacturing facilities around the world, and they are helping everyone from scientists and salespeople to farmers, software developers and security practitioners in a wide range of sectors and industries. For example, in healthcare AI can be used to analyze medical images, diagnose diseases, and develop personalized treatment plans; in finance – to detect fraud, analyze financial data, and provide personalized financial advice. In retail to analyze customer data, provide personalized recommendations, and optimize supply chain management. In manufacturing to optimize production processes, monitor equipment performance, and detect defects. In transportation AI can be used to optimize route planning, improve traffic management, and develop autonomous vehicles. These are just a few examples of the many sectors and industries that could benefit from AI. If you are a user of any Microsoft product or service – you are AI user. We have been on the forefront of cutting-edge research in AI and integrating these powerful, innovative AI technologies into our products and services to help customers do more. Microsoft AI, powered by Azure, provides billions of intelligent experiences every day in Windows, Xbox, Microsoft 365, Teams, Azure AI, Power Platform, Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Defender.
How can AI improve cybersecurity and the more resilient operations of the enterprise customers?
Cybersecurity is the foundation for digital progress. It gives business leaders confidence to embrace the shift to the digital economy. It helps the government protect critical state functions and the public services on which we all rely. And it gives us all peace of mind to live our digital lives to the fullest, knowing our personal data is kept secure and private. As AI becomes a critical tool for organizations and individuals to stay productive and do more with less, Microsoft is focused on the safety and security of these systems and empowering other developers and organizations to deploy their own machine learning systems safely and securely. For example: Microsoft’s “AI Red Team” empowers engineers to build and deploy AI systems securely by proactively looking for different failure modes in ML systems and helping address them. Counterfit, is one of the tools stemming from AI Red Team learnings. We released it for security professionals to assess the security posture of the AI systems in their organization. To unlock faster digital progress and the economic and societal benefits it can deliver, business leaders and policy makers need to place a renewed and sustained strategic emphasis on security. What it means to be ‘safe and secure’ has changed, and organizations can no longer ‘do it alone’. Working with partners and peers who share the same values will be key, and Microsoft is committed to playing its part in helping build a brighter, more secure digital future.
How can Microsoft and its partners accelerate the digital transformation projects of the Bulgarian SMB and enterprise companies?
Small and medium businesses are a base of Bulgarian economy. In 2022, there have been more than 338.000 SMBs operating in Bulgaria, boosting local economy and creating more job opportunities. Adoption and taking advantage of digital tools and solutions can become the next growth engine for Bulgaria and can provide an opportunity for businesses to reach new customers and expand into regional and global markets. For that reason, Microsoft and its partners launched a Solution Assessment Program for Bulgarian SMB to help them on their digital transformation journey. This project, that is fully founded by Microsoft gives the opportunity to small and medium businesses to nominate themselves for assessment and analysis their readiness – for successful digital transformation. Another project that has been implemented in our country is the initiative Together4Digital launched by Unicredit Bulbank in collaboration with Microsoft and Crayon. The initiative aims to support small and medium companies in digitalization and cybersecurity by providing free consultations, financial advice, skills, and digital tools recommendations for sustainable economic growth.
Could you give some examples of recent successful digitization projects in Bulgaria?
Microsoft Bulgaria, in collaboration with Telelink Business Services, launched Dream Space – a STEAM learning hub offering immersive, research-based experiences to all Bulgarian students and teachers for free. The plan for this first school season is to reach 10.000 students and 600 teachers. Microsoft additionally plans to invest 1 million BGN within the next five years to upgrade Dream Space’s STEAM laboratories and material base to fulfill students’ and teachers’ needs for resources and good practices. Nowadays, Bulgarian schools have access to digital tools by enabling e-learning. At St. George International School and Preschool, students communicate with their teachers through Microsoft Teams channels, collaborate with their classmates in virtual classrooms, and receive and complete assignments. Another great example of digitalization we see in Bulgarian law firm Boyanov & Co. where they migrated their hardware infrastructure to Azure and digitalized their administration and business operations by using Microsoft 365, which facilitated real-time collaboration via SharePoint, OneDrive for Business and Teams for Business. Also, Bulgarian startup company Fantasian Ltd developed Fantastic stay software for property managers. Using this software, they oversee their listings across vacation rental platforms and their booking website – all from a single dashboard. What we learned is that we can use the benefits of technology not only in crisis situations but as a part of our teaching process. As advances in technology drive globalization and digital transformation, gaining the necessary digital skills can help in obtaining a successful business.