Kalin Dimchev is the CEO of Microsoft Bulgaria and the CEO of Microsoft CEE Multi-Country, which includes 24 countries. The need for digital skills worldwide is growing and this is the reason for the company’s initiative to open the doors of 25 million people worldwide to the new digital economy. We learn more about the campaign, the technological future and the required skills from Mr Dimchev.

Mr Dimchev, we see the clear direction of the world, leading to increasing digitalization. There is almost no job that does not require some kind of digital skills. Can we say that now is the right time for people to retrain to secure their professional future?

I would say that it is always the right time to learn something more and to develop. The technologies and skills we work with are becoming more and more necessary in real life and needed in almost all professional fields. Recently, our CEO Satya Nadela shared that by 2030 she expects 800 million people to need to acquire new digital skills. Also, in the next 5 years, nearly 149 million new jobs will be created in various areas of the digital world, with the main focus on technologies such as Machine Learning, Cloud Technologies and Information Security.

As an international leader, Microsoft has launched a campaign for mass digital skills training. The target is 25 million people worldwide, which is not a small amount. Here in Bulgaria already 12,000 people benefit from the program. Can you tell us more about the initiative?

The program is developing excellently and is really a great success on the Bulgarian market, as so far there are more than 27,000 people who have undergone various training programs. Everyone can get involved using the resources we offer. The initiative provides several different sources from which to acquire knowledge and follow courses. These are LinkedIn Learning and Microsoft Learn. They meet different needs and offer courses with a different focus.

The LinkedIn and GitHub brands are also involved in the global campaign for mass training in digital technologies. What is their role within the initiative?

LinkedIn Learning is an online platform that includes more than 16,000 courses, covering a variety of current, professional topics taught by experts. For those who want to acquire more in-depth technical knowledge, their place is Microsoft Learn. This is a platform that offers courses on Microsoft technology products needed for specific technical positions. It was created and works for our clients and partners, and is currently available to anyone who wants to enrich their knowledge. As a next step, the acquired skills can be tested in a real environment. That’s why we at Microsoft offer the GitHub Learning platform, which is where anyone who has taken a course can go and test their skills in a working cloud environment.

What are the most sought amongst digital skills? In what professional areas are the training programs conducted?

At Microsoft Learn, the most sought-after skills related to the technology part of our solutions are Power Apps. It is a platform that helps to quickly and easily build applications that are perceived and cover different business needs and challenges. While in LinkedIn Learning, the most popular courses focused on technological knowledge are related to our cloud platform Microsoft Azure, as well as information security courses.

Is software development popular among the participants in the initiative?

It is popular, but nowadays people and employers are increasingly looking for the so-called soft skills or soft skills related to the way of working, team collaboration and working in a digital environment. The skills needed by today’s professional are not limited to software development and coding. They are also related to a number of other skills that are also available on our platforms.

How do you explain the high interest in Bulgaria and what are the leading digital skills that are preferred?

Bulgaria is known for its technological talent and has already managed to establish itself as an important technological hub in the region. The number of developers in the country is indicative, which is currently over 60,000. Soft skills and knowledge in various technologies complement each other. In Bulgaria, they are in demand and accordingly they create a better environment for development. This in turn creates an appetite in businesses to hire employees who will develop more and more within the country.

In your opinion, can such initiatives as that of Microsoft make Bulgaria a more attractive technological destination?

Our vision is that these initiatives improve the overall environment – economic and working, and have a positive sustainable effect. They are aimed at anyone who wants to develop and upgrade their knowledge, but also have an impact on the economy in the long run, as those working in the digital field have one of the highest added values ​​and form the highest gross domestic product per capita of the population.

Can we say that COVID-19 confirms the greatest need for digital skills?

Definitely, the challenges of COVID-19 have helped many companies, as well as entire sectors, to catalyze an accelerated digital transformation in their field and business. I think we did very well in Bulgaria. For a few days, businesses organized the distance work of their teams, and in the field of education, the ministry, teachers in different settlements, schools and educational institutions, took lightning measures to organize the process of distance learning in a very effective way. In 12 months, the pandemic has done much more than what reforms and modernisation plans have failed to do and change in the education system for years. Not only has the learning process been digitised, but teaching has changed and online lessons have become commonplace, and schools have moved to the cloud. I must also mention that in distance learning, Microsoft Teams is used by over 40% of teachers and students in Bulgaria, and this solution is recommended by the Ministry of Education and Science as a collaborative platform for education.

If we follow the fact that there is a shortage of digitally educated people around the world, then can we say that it is campaigning with a free form of education (such as that of Microsoft) that is the leading way to reach more digital and technological global society?

Our mission at Microsoft is to enable everyone and every organization in the world to achieve more. For us, these are not just words, but behind them are actions that have been implemented for decades. In general and out of context, there are many platforms that offer free and accessible training, as well as other platforms for sharing your own projects and getting feedback. I would say that in today’s digital world there are countless opportunities for those who want to learn.

What are the important qualities that can bring success in the new digital economy?

For us, a person’s constant striving to improve, develop and learn new things, as well as to be curious and open to new ideas, are factors that help to succeed in the new digital economy. Transient human qualities are also important. I can give an example from the book of our CEO Satya Nadela. During an interview with Microsoft, he was asked what he would do if he sees a crying baby on the street. The answer “I’ll call the emergency number was not liked. The interviewer shared: “There is a lack of empathy. When you see a crying baby on the street, the first thing you need to do is to hug it! ”

Can we say that at the moment cloud technologies are the leading unit for removing barriers to work? It is now popular to talk about “work from everywhere” and it is believed that this is the future. How will this type of technology develops and to what other changes will it lead to? 

Cloud technologies have many advantages: security, reliability, flexibility, scalability. They also adapt to specific business needs. But technology, in general, has the potential to equalize opportunities, and this is constantly being seen. In today’s everyday life, in many online conversations, there is a lack of a sense of direct communication and the direct exchange of ideas. I believe that in the future our communication will be a mixture of the two models of work – online, but also a presence in the office.

What do you think are the technologies that are currently evolving and leading to a new technological future?

The development of technology and in particular artificial intelligence is something that I follow with great interest. Smart cities, autonomous cars, telemedicine and many other technologies are entering our lives more and more, and at some point, they will become part of our daily lives. Increasingly, we are seeing blurring the lines between education and technology, between healthcare and technology, between finance and technology. At all these intersections, new businesses are emerging that will be more and more present in our lives.

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