Episode 20 | Creating The Future For Rural

Mar. 29, 2018

Show Notes:

In this episode, Chuck is joined by Shelley McKinley, General Manager of Technology and Corporate Responsibility at Microsoft. Microsoft has placed special importance on rural area connectivity as well as artificial intelligence for inclusion. Get to know more about their vision as well as Shelley.

Quick Links:

Full Transcript:

[0:05] Good morning, welcome back to Catch Up With Chuck [0:08] from the Rural Futures Institute [0:09] at the University of Nebraska. [0:11] I’m Chuck Schroeder. [0:12] I’m executive director of the Rural Futures Institute. [0:15] Joining me today is a really special guest of the institute, [0:20] Shelly McKinley, who is the General Manager of Technology and Corporate Responsibility at Microsoft. [0:27] Yes, the Microsoft. [0:30] And we’re delighted to have her on campus. [0:31] Shelly, welcome to Catch Up With Chuck. [0:33] Thank you so much, it’s really my pleasure to be here. [0:35] Well, we’re so pleased to have you on campus. [0:38] Well, listen, this is a very exciting week [0:40] for the Rural Futures Institute, [0:42] it’s been many months in the making, [0:45] as we bring an innovative leader of really global impact [0:49] here to campus to meet with faculty, meet with students, [0:52] meet with a lot of our friends at the institute. [0:55] Now, Shelly, most everybody on the planet [0:58] with an active pulse knows about Microsoft. [1:01] It’s a big deal. [1:03] Tell me what brings you to Nebraska.

[1:05] Well, almost everyone on the planet [1:06] knows about Nebraska as well. [1:08] I mean, there’s a lot of famous things [1:09] coming out of Nebraska, as I’ve learned this week. [1:11] And really, for me at Microsoft, and for Microsoft, [1:14] we also need to know the rest of the world. [1:17] We can’t do everything from our home base in Redmond. [1:20] We are located around the world. [1:22] But it’s so great for us to come into the field [1:25] and really get to know our customers [1:27] and get to understand what’s possible.

[1:29] Well, it’s already been an exciting time for us, [1:34] as you’ve had meetings over the last day. [1:36] Well, listen, one of the things that we try to do [1:37] with this broadcast is to let folks in our audience [1:41] get to know a little more personally [1:43] people of global impact, like yourself. [1:47] So, listen, you were born in Kansas City, [1:49] grew up in the Dallas area, spent summers in the Ozarks, [1:54] so you have some heartland roots. [1:57] But, listen, tell us a little bit more [2:00] about Shelly growing up, and the seeds that were planted [2:04] that led you to this really remarkably diverse career [2:07] that has had global reach.

[2:09] Yeah, so, I think really as I traveled in my youth [2:13] between Dallas and Kansas City, spending a lot of time, [2:16] as you mentioned, in the Ozarks, [2:17] it was really that sense of adventure [2:18] that I learned from my father. [2:20] We would travel back and forth, kind of overnight [2:23] to grandma’s place in the Ozarks. [2:25] And then, there, there were a lot of adventures [2:27] to take advantage of. [2:29] For me, growing up in Dallas, when I came to the Ozarks, [2:32] and we went fishing, that was like a huge adventure for me. [2:35] We would go out on the boat, [2:37] on the little tiny metal boat into the lake, [2:39] and explore the caves. [2:40] And so, while my sense of adventure [2:42] I think started on a very local level, [2:44] that grew over the years into a sense of adventure, [2:47] really around the world. [2:48] And so, I did spend a lot of my career already in Europe. [2:51] And many, many countries around the world.

[2:54] Well, clearly you have that sense of [2:55] looking over the next hill and trying things. [2:58] Trying new things, and I think that’s important [3:00] really for our prospective students to know, [3:03] hey, that’s where it all begins. [3:06] Well, listen at the Rural Futures Institute, [3:08] our big hairy audacious goal is a thriving, [3:12] high-touch, high-tech future for rural. [3:16] We firmly believe that thriving rural communities [3:19] can be a legitimate best choice [3:20] for young professionals that are looking for a place [3:23] to build a business, raise a family, get involved, [3:26] where they can make a difference. [3:28] But they can’t do that with two tin cans and a kite string. [3:35] Microsoft has declared a genuine interest [3:39] in rural connectivity, and that’s one of the things [3:42] that you’ve been talking about with folks here [3:44] the last couple of days. [3:46] Tell us a little bit more about Microsoft’s interest [3:49] in rural and how you perhaps can help us deliver on that [3:53] high-touch, high-tech future.

[3:55] Well, we know there are at least 60 million people [3:57] in the United States live in rural areas. [3:59] Our mission as a company is very clear. [4:01] We want to empower every person and every organization [4:03] on the planet to achieve more. [4:05] And that doesn’t matter whether you live [4:06] in an urban community or a rural community [4:08] or somewhere else in the world. [4:09] Our mission is really to touch everyone [4:10] and help them achieve more. [4:12] What we definitely know is also, to have people achieve more [4:15] you have to help them get the skills they need, [4:18] you have to help provide them with connectivity, [4:20] and to really take that and be able to use it, [4:23] and be able to live where they wanna live. [4:26] So, rural Americans and urban Americans [4:29] should have the same opportunities. [4:31] They should have high-paying jobs in rural areas. [4:34] So, I think with broadband, certainly what we know is that [4:37] today 19 million Americans that live in rural areas [4:40] do not have access. [4:42] Can you imagine if you didn’t have access to broadband [4:44] how you could take advantage of educational opportunities, [4:47] how you could start a small business, [4:49] how you could take advantage of the opportunities [4:51] that telemedicine will bring, [4:53] to bring better health to people, [4:55] and advances in agriculture, [4:56] which is so important here in this area. [4:59] So when we can help areas bring broadband, [5:02] that’s what we’d like to do [5:03] to help empower everyone to achieve more.

[5:06] Well, I have to tell you, [5:06] you put up a slide on the screen yesterday [5:09] that really touched me, [5:10] and when you talked about your ambition to [5:13] move forward with technology without leaving people behind. [5:17] And that kind of declaration I think says a good bit about [5:21] not only Microsoft as a company, but the people within it.

[5:25] Yeah, although we are a global company, [5:28] we’re very local. [5:30] We strive to have local impact [5:32] in every community within which we operate. [5:34] That means bringing everyone forward [5:37] and not having technology leave people behind. [5:39] And we know, we’ve been through [5:40] tough digital transformations before, [5:42] technology transformations, [5:44] we can learn what we did in the past as a society, [5:47] and think about how do we move forward [5:49] and ensure that people have skills the need to have [5:52] to really be flexible and transition to newer, [5:55] higher-paying jobs in the future.

[5:57] Well, I think it’s noble. [5:59] (laughs) [6:00] Well, listen, I know that one of your desires, [6:02] you told us prior to your arrival, [6:05] is that you wanted to meet with students. [6:07] You wanted the opportunity to, [6:09] not just talk to them, but to engage. [6:12] And you did that yesterday. [6:14] I’ve already been hearing exciting reports. [6:17] Tell us a little bit about why that was important to you [6:20] and some of your impressions [6:21] coming from some of your engagements yesterday.

[6:23] That has been, so far, I think probably my favorite part [6:26] of the two days I’m here. [6:28] I had the chance to spend three hours [6:31] with a group of female students last night [6:33] and really just talk about issues [6:35] that they were interested in understanding. [6:37] A lot about leadership, [6:38] about being a woman in the workforce, [6:41] about the opportunities of the future, [6:43] and importantly, how can they live where they want to live [6:47] in rural communities or in urban communities [6:49] and be successful. [6:50] And it was just so great to hear what was on their minds. [6:53] And I have to say, what you have an amazing group of [6:57] creative, innovative, motivated, passionate students here. [7:01] And I frankly have no concerns [7:03] about their ability to be successful. [7:05] They demonstrated that yesterday [7:07] by the questions they asked, by the engagement they had. [7:11] Literally, we went an hour over time, [7:13] and they were still all there [7:14] ready with probably three more hours of content for me. [7:16] So it was just, for me, I take away so much from that. [7:20] I learn so much about what they’re thinking, [7:22] things that you lose touch with when you’re kind of off, [7:25] off doing your job. [7:27] So it’s so important to get in touch with [7:29] the customers of the future, the leaders of the future, [7:32] and understand how you can help them [7:34] with their opportunities and help bring them forward.

[7:37] Certainly, one of our ambitions [7:38] at the Rural Futures Institute is to give the students [7:42] with whom we interact the opportunity to go face-to-face [7:46] with global leaders like yourself, because we know [7:50] from our own lives, that those relationships, [7:53] those engagements, those impressions, [7:55] shape lives for the future. [7:58] So, our audience has heard me say many times before [8:02] that one of our core beliefs at the Rural Futures Institute [8:05] is that people have the capacity to shape their own futures [8:10] so your engagement here has been about much more than [8:14] showing off Microsoft technologies. [8:18] You really have been encouraging people, students, [8:21] faculty, others with whom you’ve engaged, [8:24] to realize the opportunities that they have [8:27] to shape their own future. [8:29] Indeed, using technology, but it goes beyond that. [8:32] I’d like for you to share some of your thoughts [8:34] in that regard.

[8:35] Yeah, I think really the future [8:37] is a multi-stakeholder discussion. [8:40] There’s no one company or one person or one institution [8:43] or one community that can do it alone. [8:45] And I think when we have discussions like this, [8:47] it really helps when students get all these perspectives [8:50] and understand, this is what I can do, [8:52] this is how I have to own my future, [8:54] this is where I can get help, [8:55] it helps me understand where we can help. [8:58] It helps me understand what the local forces are in play [9:01] that are really helping the students move forward, [9:02] like the Rural Futures Institute. [9:04] I mean, I just can’t tell you how much I’ve learned. [9:06] That’s what really sparked my interest [9:09] in coming to Nebraska, was when I learned about the work [9:11] that you’re doing here in the institute, [9:12] and thought we can learn a lot from that. [9:15] I can also bring a few learnings from us. [9:17] And that exchange is so important [9:19] for helping develop these young minds [9:21] and helping them move forward.

[9:24] Well, it’s been fun to see, again, [9:26] some of our community leaders that we know [9:29] are driving these thriving rural communities [9:33] with high-touch, high-tech ventures of various kinds, [9:36] and to see their interest in your being here [9:39] and being able to ask questions was really a lot of fun. [9:42] Well, listen, Shelly, I just want to say [9:44] that it’s really an honor for us at the [9:46] Rural Futures Institute to have you in Nebraska [9:49] for this very unique engagement with students, faculty, [9:52] civic leaders from rural and urban settings. [9:55] We hope this is a friendship that we can revisit [9:57] time and again, as the years go by. [10:01] Anything you’d like to add about your visit?

[10:02] Absolutely, I think this is really [10:04] the start of a discussion. [10:07] I am excited to be here. [10:08] I am excited to learn more about what you’re doing [10:10] over the course of the next day. [10:12] And I’m excited to continue the conversation. [10:15] You may be aware that we are engaging in rural communities [10:18] around the United States. [10:19] We’re gonna be learning from that. [10:21] I want to be able to share those learnings back here [10:23] and see how you can take from those learnings [10:25] as what you’re doing here in your institute. [10:27] So, we’ve committed in six areas in the United States [10:31] to really work on digital skills, [10:33] to work on broadband access, to work on… [10:38] career transitions, which I think is so important [10:40] in this digital economy. [10:43] And to work with non-profits. [10:45] And while we work around the United States, [10:47] on many of these things, particularly broadband, [10:49] which is what I’m focused on, [10:51] there are so many learnings that we have [10:53] that I think we can share more broadly [10:55] and really help communities deal with the issues [10:58] that they’re facing today. [10:59] And so I’m hoping, I’m definitely coming back to Nebraska. [11:03] Absolutely. [11:05] We definitely feel like kindred spirits here, [11:07] and I want to make sure that we can continue to engage, [11:09] continue to discuss, continue to share [11:11] and learn from each other. [11:13] So I’m looking forward to it.

[11:14] Well, I have to tell ya. [11:17] We’ve had these conversations since you arrived in Lincoln. [11:21] You’re our kind of people. [11:22] (laughs) [11:23] So the welcome mat is absolutely out for ya. [11:27] You know, I just have to say [11:28] that your demonstration of values, [11:33] as a critical part of your work, [11:36] I think was a very powerful message for all of us [11:39] that tend to think of, you know, [11:41] Microsoft as the technology. [11:44] And, so we’ve learned a lot from you. [11:46] So it’s still a people business.

[11:48] Yeah, the important thing is [11:49] our biggest asset at Microsoft is our people. [11:52] People ask me a lot of times, [11:53] why are you engaged in broadband? [11:55] Why are you engaged in digital skills? [11:56] Why are you doing all of these things [11:58] if they’re not direct moneymaking ventures? [12:00] Well, look, there’s a lot of great business interest [12:02] in helping people, [12:04] there’s a lot of great business interest in serving people, [12:06] but for me, one of the number one things [12:08] is our employees expect it of us. [12:10] They are people, too. [12:11] They came from all over the world, [12:14] and now they all work in Redmond, Washington [12:16] and in other places around the world, [12:18] but there’s 40,000 of us in Redmond. [12:20] And there’s about 100,000 of us worldwide. [12:24] But these are people. [12:25] These are people that drive the company, [12:27] and people that have interests [12:28] in other people around the world. [12:30] So it is, people do think of Microsoft [12:31] as a monolithic corporation, [12:33] but really, we’re people. [12:35] People are our biggest asset, [12:36] and they expect this of us, [12:41] and it’s amazing the kind of engagement [12:43] and enthusiasm you get. [12:44] People will be super interested to hear about [12:46] what I learned here. [12:46] I guarantee you that. [12:47] I will get a lot of email at Microsoft about this visit. [12:51] Very good.

[12:52] Well, we’re proud to have you here. [12:53] Welcome, thank you for making this investment in us. [12:56] Listen, we wanna encourage you to stay in touch [12:59] with the Rural Futures Institute. [13:01] We’ll be back with Catch Up With Chuck. [13:03] But we want you to follow our website, [13:05] and our postings on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram [13:10] and LinkedIn and all of those fun things. [13:13] But we’ll be back next week, talking with real people [13:16] about real places, demonstrating [13:19] that thriving rural communities are a legitimate best choice [13:21] for worthwhile living. [13:23] Thanks for joining us. [13:24] Thanks so much for having me.

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Episode 21 | Connecting Rural and Urban for the Good of Humankind