“Artificial Intelligence is the defining technology of our time”


Katrin Hinkel firmly believes that artificial intelligence is the next big step in the evolution of our interactions with computers. However, the CEO of Microsoft Switzerland believes that this new technology will be a “co-pilot” and will not replace human intelligence. Interview at Microsoft headquarters in Zurich.

This content was published on May 31, 2023

swissinfo.ch: In 2021, he moved to Zurich from his native Germany to head Microsoft’s Swiss subsidiary. ¿What surprised you the most?

Katrin Hinkel: I am very impressed by the innovation and creativity in Switzerland and at Microsoft. The Swiss have a long history of innovation, on the other hand, the team at Microsoft Switzerland likes to come up with new and innovative solutions. I was amazed at the level of collaboration between Microsoft and its partners in Switzerland.

Catherine Hinkel

Catrin Hinkel was born in Germany in 1969. In 1992, he completed his bilingual business studies at the University of Reutlingen. He later worked at global consulting firm Accenture, where he held various senior roles including Senior General Manager responsible for Cloud First Strategy & Consulting in Europe. He has been the CEO of Microsoft Switzerland since May 2021.

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Microsoft employs more than 1,000 people in Switzerland. ¿What are the main functions of this subsidiary?

As CEO of Microsoft Switzerland, I am responsible for a Swiss team of 600 people responsible for marketing and sales in Switzerland. We work closely with our clients to help them on their digital journeys. In addition, Microsoft has hired another 400 people who are part of an “international team” in Switzerland.

What is the role of Microsoft’s “international team” in Switzerland?

Employees of this group are assigned to various technical divisions of the Microsoft Group and participate in the development of new products internationally. Both the Swiss team and the Swiss customers benefit from the expertise of this international team, especially in the fields of mixed and augmented reality.

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Microsoft Group is known to market its products through external partners. Are you following this? Mode of operation Also in Switzerland?

In Switzerland, our business activities are closely linked with 4,600 partners employing 100,000 people. These partners include global companies such as Accenture, Tata Consulting Services and KPMG, but most of our Swiss partners are SMEs or very small local companies. These partners do not get exclusivity to a particular territory or to particular products, but we provide them with appropriate training.

Globally, many companies like Google, Amazon, Twitter and Microsoft have recently reduced their workforce. What about Microsoft in Switzerland?

Statistics cannot be provided in detail. However, as a company operating in highly competitive and dynamic technology markets, we must adapt flexibly to meet the needs of our customers. This is the norm in our market. As a result, we hire new staff in growing and forward-looking areas; On the other hand, in areas where our growth is not so strong, we position ourselves accordingly to maintain our agility.

Microsoft Switzerland invests Beginnings (beginnings)?

In Switzerland, we support 400 Beginnings in various ways. In some cases, we invest indirectly Beginnings Offers up to $100,000 in credits towards our cloud services. In other cases, we put Beginnings In touch with our own clients.

What do they have to do with the academic world?

In Switzerland, our international and Swiss teams work closely with two federal polytechnic schools, among other institutions. For example, we fund professorships and invest in research centers. Additionally, we encourage knowledge transfer and support scientific exchanges led by Microsoft Research. [la entidad del grupo Microsoft especializada en investigación].

How does the shortage of IT professionals in Switzerland affect you?

This shortage of experts is a serious problem not only for Microsoft, but also for our customers and partners, both in Switzerland and abroad. To help solve this problem, we launched the initiative “Skills for Switzerland” in 2020. This has helped us improve the digital skills of more than 630,000 people in Switzerland. Organizations such as Zurich-based Adeco and Geneva-based Cyberpeace are also involved in the effort. We are also working on other projects with Digitalswitzerland and Migros.

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The cloud market is growing, and according to IDC, it will exceed $11 billion in Switzerland by 2026. ¿How can I explain this madness?

Thanks to the cloud services of a company like Microsoft, our customers can outsource their IT system and benefit from, among other things, enormous economies of scale and capabilities. In particular, thanks to the cloud, Swiss companies of all sizes have access to new technologies such as artificial intelligence at competitive prices. It allows companies to innovate at will and ultimately, it can be said that the cloud encourages innovation.

Continuing with the cloud theme, it’s a concern that your customer data is sometimes stored offshore…

Microsoft is a global company serving local and international customers, so we strive to provide the most suitable solutions to our customers. With our four data centers in Switzerland, we are able to offer robust local solutions. This local offering has also helped us gain the trust of Swiss companies subject to local requirements: for example, I am thinking of banks of all sizes that are heavily regulated and supervised by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA). .

However, some members of the Swiss parliament are concerned that you may have access to sensitive customer data yourself. What would you say to them?

With cloud services, we provide technology platforms to our customers. We have no interest in data from these sites. Exploiting this data or transferring it to other companies is completely beyond our power. Additionally, on our sites, our customers’ data is protected by encryption. In short, we are interested in the democratization of new technologies.

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What do you think about new technological developments like BlockchainLos The Metaverse And artificial intelligence?

When used well, technology can make human life easier, more efficient and more enjoyable, especially when performing routine tasks. In fact, technology will always be an aid, a kind of co-pilot, and it will never replace men and women.

“Artificial Intelligence Will Revolutionize Many Types of Jobs”

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Artificial intelligence is the defining technology of our time. AI is the next big step in the evolution of our interactions with computers. In an increasingly complex world from an economic perspective, artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionize many types of work.

What are your main artificial intelligence applications?

Our investment in artificial intelligence extends to our entire business Teams Y Outlook up to Ping Y Xbox. We are already seeing considerable interest from our customers in Switzerland and we are actively working on “value cases”. For example, our Copilot application can quickly extract essential data from a 300-page annual report.

Artificial intelligence raises ethical questions. Many countries are taking action in this regard.

Precisely for this reason, in 2018, Microsoft defined a series of ethical principles applicable to all applications of artificial intelligence. For example, we exclude racial bias. We also reject applications that are not yet fully reliable and that, if they fail, could harm people; For example, I’m thinking about facial recognition.

>> More information about the functionality of artificial intelligence and its primary use ChatGPT:

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Text adapted from the French by Karla Wolff

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