Chris Rothwell was recently appointed Director of Education for Microsoft UK. He oversees a team that helps schools, teachers, pupils and others embrace technology to achieve their goals. The UK News Centre sat down with Chris to talk about his new role, his favourite Microsoft product and the first piece of tech that he remembers using.
Name: Chris Rothwell
Role: Director of Education at Microsoft UK
Family: Wife, two sons – aged three years and five weeks
Hobbies: Cycling (Chris took part in the 100-mile Ride London event last year, raising around £3,500 for diabetes charity JDRF)
Tell us about your current role?
My team and I work with Microsoft’s education customers. We work with schools, colleges, universities, museums and libraries to help them use Microsoft technology to achieve their goals. That could mean using laptops in classrooms, deploying Office in an administration department, or working with universities to help them use data that spots students who need more help with their studies or support in their broader life.
What were your previous roles?
I joined Microsoft in 2006, as a Product Manager in the Office team. During that time, I worked with the education team on a product called Live@edu, which was one of Microsoft’s first cloud services. I then joined the Channel team, working with small business customers and Microsoft’s partners. I then moved to be the Business Group Lead for Dynamics, overseeing the business applications unit in the UK. I became Director of Education in September.
What are your aims at Microsoft?
I think Microsoft has an incredible opportunity to help the education sector and the people who work in it. I want to help teachers learn digital skills that they can pass on to pupils. I also want to encourage our education customers to embrace modern technology such as new devices and cloud computing to help them work and teach more effectively. That’s what they love doing, and I want to help them do it.
I’m also incredibly proud of the work that Microsoft is doing in accessibility, inclusion and diversity. The impact we continue to have in those areas, such as helping people with dyslexia engage with written content more easily, is amazing. It’s always great to meet people who are passionate about the impact our technology has had on them.
Finally, I want to help Microsoft in its mission to encourage more young people to consider a career in the technology sector. There are not enough people, especially women, studying computer science and STEM subjects. By helping people get excited about digital skills and the opportunities and careers they lead to, they will change their lives and the UK, as a whole.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
There are a lot of amazing opportunities to help the education sector, but, unfortunately, we are only one company and there’s only a certain amount we can do. That means I have to make tough decisions every day and say “no” to many great ideas and activities that I would like to do. That’s hard.
What’s the best part of your job?
I spend my time trying to improve education in the UK using all the technology and skills Microsoft has to offer. That’s amazing.
I also have a really diverse job. I work with schools, colleges, universities, the Government, partners and customers, so no two days are the same. People who work in education do so because they have a passion for it and they really want to be there. They put so much energy and effort into everything they do. That motivates me a lot.
What is a leader?
Someone who helps the people around them be successful. It’s important to create enough space for the people around you so they can do great work. Give people a clear idea of where you want to go, get them excited about going there, and then get out of the way.
What are you most proud of?
I love seeing people who work for me go on to do bigger and better things. In a couple of instances, colleagues have made quite big career changes and gone to do something very different. I’m proud of helping those people transform themselves into something different and see them be successful.
What inspires you?
Microsoft, its staff, partners and customers are capable of having a huge impact on the world. When we get things right, the extent to which we can change people’s lives is unbelievable. That’s very rewarding for me.
What is your favourite Microsoft product?
It’s difficult to choose, but I love OneNote. I use it a lot on a number of devices at home and at work. I probably use it more than Outlook.
What was the first bit of technology that you were excited about?
When I was an intern at Microsoft, I was a part of the DotNet Developer Group. The year I spent with them opened my eyes to the world of developers and IT pros, and what developing was all about. A colleague at the time said that coding was the best Lego set you could ever have, and I suddenly understood the creativity and opportunity of working with technology to help create solutions to problems that people experience every day.