Tamer Ozmen is Services Lead at Microsoft UK, helping companies across the country digitally transform to improve how they work. We sat down with him to talk about his role, his aims and his favourite bit of tech.
Name: Tamer Ozmen (@tamerozmen)
Role: UK Area Services Lead
Family: Wife and three children
Pets: Two Caucasian Shepherd dogs
Hobbies: Skiing, tennis and chess
Tell us about your current role
Companies come to Microsoft Services when they want to digitally transform or disrupt their business models. We work with very large FTSE 250 companies and portfolio companies owned by private equities who are in a changing world; as millennials become very important, as mobile and cloud become abundant, these businesses must change how they work. We help them do that.
Digital transformation means four things to us: Can we help our customers transform their products? Can we help them connect with their customers better using machine learning and artificial intelligence? Can we help them optimise their operations? Can we help them empower their employees? Each industry has its own challenges; in banks, blockchain, security and smart contracts are very important, whereas for retailers, connected retail is top of mind; in manufacturing, big data becomes a very big play, and when you go to public sector, they want to know how to move to the cloud to save costs for citizens.
UK Services sits at the cutting-edge of technology, taking Microsoft products to the next level by turning them into valuable solutions for our customers. Any UK company that wants to digitally transform themselves or disrupt themselves should talk to Microsoft Services. We are doing some amazing things for customers to help them differentiate, disrupt and realise value.
What were your previous jobs?
Prior to this role, I ran Microsoft Turkey and before that I was Head of Digital for Orange in London. Before that I was one of the first employees at priceline.com, which became one of the largest travel companies in the world. I was there from the beginning: from the conceptual design of the product, to developing the product, launching the company and going through an IPO.
What are your aims at Microsoft?
For Microsoft, my goal is for Services to become the go-to partner for any UK company that is looking to digitally transform or disrupt their business model.
From a personal point of view, I am committed to making our employees happy, unleashing their potential and having them become industry-changing agents. I work in a very large department which probably contains Europe’s top digital architects, enterprise architects, chief technology officers and data scientists. We have very high calibre people in our team. How we attract talent, keep that talent and expand on their capabilities is also a personal goal of mine.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Digital transformation is not a simple conversation. IT is still an enabler for many companies, when it should be a disruptor. When you think of technology as an enabler then it’s a cost issue, but when you think of IT as something that will keep you in business in five, 10 or 20 years’ time, then that’s a very different way of looking at it. That mindset shift is happening, slowly. We are trying to help our customers to transform the way they work so they can remain relevant to their customers.
What’s the best part of your job?
I am often thrown into different situations, learning new things every day and having the opportunity to create something better for the companies we work with. Customers really excite me. They are fascinating. You learn about their challenges, their business models, what keeps them up at night. How we can help them reach their goals feeds back into Microsoft’s goals and [Microsoft Chief Executive] Satya Nadella‘s vision of empowering every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more.
What is a leader?
To lead, the people around you have to believe what they’re running for. Without them knowing what they’re doing, it’s very difficult to rally people. You can motivate people with money and positions to a point but it’s really about, when we come to work, what are we changing, what are we transforming, what are we doing for others? If you create a common purpose that helps everyone, people can believe in that and it makes sense for them, then things work well. My leadership style is to look at the unique vision we have and set that vision with everyone I work with, so it’s not my vision, it’s our vision, together. Once that is defined, uniting people becomes exciting. It’s about leading with a purpose, and ensuring everyone believes in and feels a part of that purpose. And you also must lead by example.
What are you most proud of?
I was running Microsoft Turkey before this role and I was able to triple revenues in four years. From a revenue growth point of view it was a great opportunity.
I also built a free online platform where people could learn to develop mobile apps. That platform became very popular. It created an economy for young people to take their digital skills and develop mobile apps. I met a waiter who became a programmer and was making $10,000 a month. One day a teenager called me and asked if he could come and talk to me. I said: “Sure, come with your father.” This bright 14-year-old started a club that grew to 80 people, aged between 14 and 18, and they would help each other to write programs. It just started this momentum, which I was proud of – to be helping people use their talents with technology to help society and themselves. If they take care of themselves, they will take care of others. Today, Open Academy has more than 500,000 members and each year over 1,000 apps are uploaded to app stores.
What inspires you?
It’s all about your purpose in life. You have to provide for your family and take care of your friends, and then it’s about what you are giving back to society. I try to always put myself in other people’s shoes and see how they look at a situation. For me, inspiration comes from changing things for the better, helping someone do something different with their career; or helping a company do something differently to help create opportunities for their employees and customers.
What’s your favourite Microsoft product?
The Microsoft product I use the most is PowerPoint, but the one I’m most intrigued by is Minecraft. It’s got such a large customer base of six to 10 year olds. That’s such a unique age group where a lot of things are shaped. The potential of using Minecraft as a learning platform is tremendous. It’s one of the smartest acquisitions Microsoft has made.
What was the first bit of technology that you were excited about?
When I was in graduate school, I had to write a very complicated code. I spent months trying to figure it out and it delayed my thesis for another semester. Getting stuck and feeling hopeless was a great test of my resilience. That was my most pronounced experience with technology. It taught me to keep things simple, as well as cool off, take a step back and start again, but never give up.