The focus has shifted to cyber security

The focus has shifted to cyber security

In his first interview for Forbes Ukraine, Country Manager for Microsoft Ukraine, Leonid Polupan, talked about artificial intelligence, projects from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Digital, as well as $540 million in aid to Ukraine. 

“The most active area of development is Copilot Al services,” says Polupan, who has been managing the company’s business in Ukraine and the Baltics since December 2022.  

Microsoft systematically releases Copilot Al tools based on GPT4. What is the role of the Ukrainian team in the company’s Al development? 

Microsoft Copilot is a line of assistants for different purposes and different specialists. For the basic function – decoding – we are currently testing the Ukrainian language, and the tool shows good simultaneous translation results. For example, a colleague gave a presentation in Ukrainian, Copilot translated that speech into English and answered questions on the topic of the speech. 

People from different countries work on the products. Specialists engage in the development not based on the country where they live in but on their skills, so it is difficult to talk about the Ukrainian team. Ukrainians living in different countries also take part in the development. Many of them do not write code but are beta testers of products. For example, I’m a beta tester for almost all our products that come out. 

What products are you currently testing? 

I am testing Copilot for M365 with Ukrainian localization, which will be released soon. 

Why is the Ukrainian language only now appearing in Al tools or at least starting to work well? 

Artificial intelligence is a system that learns depending on the content of the database. When any new technology starts, learning happens faster with the languages that are widely spread. Big language models, although already radically changing our lives, are at the very beginning. If compared to a human, Al is still a child. 

Who are your subordinates? 

I am responsible for Microsoft’s business in Ukraine and the Baltic countries, where people work to support partners, clients, and interact with the state. According to the old principle of hierarchy, some people are subordinate to me geographically. At the same time, as I have already mentioned, some employees may be in Ukraine, but according to the matrix structure, they do not report to me. In Ukraine, my area of responsibility includes the support of our partner program, public and commercial sectors. 

How does Microsoft work with partners? 

Partners are the core of Microsoft. They help implement our products and can have different roles in the process, such as distributors, resellers, and others. There are companies that make their products based on our platform, and we offer them support through partner programs, technical consulting, etc. In Ukraine, we have approximately 1,000-1,200 partners. 

Why does Microsoft have a partner ecosystem model of operation? 

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella once said that every organization in the world is an IT company. Every sector – banking, energy, insurance – wants a product that is adapted to the specifics of their business or legislation. A large company is unlikely to be able to effectively respond to such a request. Instead, partners take a platform that meets all the basic requirements and make a so-called verticalization, that is, a solution that will work for that company. 

Which Microsoft products are the most popular in Ukraine? 

By 2022, most projects on the Ukrainian market were aimed at digital transformation. Now the number of projects has increased significantly, and the focus has shifted to solutions for Modern Workplace, cyber security, cloud storage. For example, the energy holding DTEK, which is a constant target of cyber and kinetic attacks, moved its data to the Azure cloud platform. Company employees use our products for the Modern Workplace. So, they can ensure the continuity of their work and the availability of systems. 

We place the data of Ukrainian companies in European data centers. This reduces the risk of physical destruction. There are requests for both the basic cloud service and the use of the cloud for training large language models. 

What new products can be expected in the near future in Ukraine? 

We launch our products simultaneously for all markets. We are currently improving existing services, but the most active area of development is Copilot services. Such Al assistants already exist for well-known Word, Excel, Power BI, Teams, etc., and this series will continue to grow as they help with everyday tasks. 

In YouControl, the revenue of Microsoft Ukraine LLC according to the results of 2023 is UAH 184 million. Does this figure reflect the volume of Microsoft’s business in the Ukrainian market? 

In our financial reporting, we do not disclose business results by country. The answer to the question is a complex one. Microsoft Ukraine works with partners, so they make sales. We have different types of products, partner programs, so the model of cooperation with each partner is different. 

One of Microsoft’s products is the Xbox console. What are the sales in Ukraine? 

I am not directly responsible for this part of the business. Colleagues from the relevant department have added the Ukrainian aircraft An-225 “Mriya” to our Flight Simulator. This is a joint project with The Antonov Company. We decided to give 100% of the gross receipts from the sale of the digital An-225 for one year after launch directly to Antonov Company so the money could be used to rebuild the An-225. We also recently launched PC Game Pass in Ukraine, so all games are now available to Ukrainians from the first day of their release. 

How many specialists are there at Microsoft in Ukraine? 

The office in Ukraine has opened in 2003 and has never closed. There are Ukrainians working here, there are those who wanted to relocate. We do not disclose the number, because we work with customers of critical infrastructure and the public sector. 

The intensity and number of projects in Ukraine have increased significantly, so we attract a lot of resources from the global office. That is, at the moment there is no need to have employees with different skills directly in our office. If there is a request for a project with a certain technology, then we go to an employee in any country. 

Are you hiring Ukrainians in Ukraine now? 

The situation in Ukraine is constantly changing, but as of now there are no plans for further hiring this year. However, we are constantly monitoring the situation, and at the same time, we continue hiring in our region, for example, in Poland. 

Microsoft provided $400 million in aid to Ukraine based on the results of 2022. How is the cooperation between the company and Ukrainian state bodies structured? 

Since the beginning of the war, we have already provided $540 million in aid to state bodies, state-owned companies, and businesses. Some of this help is provided in the form of our products and services, such as cloud storage and cyber security products. For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs uses our cloud. It also has a large presence abroad, and they need to communicate quickly and securely with each other, so they actively use Modern Workplace solutions. 

We were also contacted by the Ministry of Digital Transformation regarding regional state administration in the frontline zones. We help them keep their data secure and provide a Modern Workplace solutions. We also help displaced people and provide equipment for schools. 

Mykhailo Fedorov wrote that you have a joint project regarding the metauniverse. What exactly are you working on? 

The metauniverse is a potentially interesting topic for Ukraine. The fact is that Digital Twins can help with reconstruction. A digital copy of a real object, such as a building or an entire city, helps simulate different situations in order to understand how to make it the most effective and protected. It can also be used in the concept of city building in general to increase the efficiency of the city, traffic, and consumption. 

Microsoft was involved in the investigation of the cyber-attack on Kyivstar. What are the results? 

The corporation has a DART unit that deals with intrusion investigations. We always tell our partners that DART is the team we hope you never meet. They were involved in the incident with “Kyivstar”, did their part of the work, provided conclusions and recommendations. It is not my competence to comment on what exactly the team investigated within this case, but they were repeatedly involved in Ukraine during these two years of war. 

Where should a Ukrainian business start when it comes to the area of cyber security? 

Cyberattacks are a real threat. The first thing you need to do is to stop thinking that you are not interesting enough to the cybercriminals. It is necessary to take care of the basic things – use multifactor authentication, use the zero-trust principle, increase the level of knowledge about cyber security for all employees. Most cyberattacks occur due to the absence of a password, its primitiveness, or a phishing email. The basic things protect against 99% of attacks. 

Source: Microsoft в Україні: ШІ-продукти, кібербезпека та наявність вакансій — 


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