Returning to the Cloud

Paul Maher’s experiences come to bear in his new role as head of the Industry Experiences team at Microsoft

Paul Maher Microsoft
Paul Maher, General Manager, Industry Experiences, Microsoft

Paul Maher has spent much of his career working in the cloud. After earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Sheffield, he commenced his working life at a local software company in his hometown of Liverpool. Maher next joined KPMG UK as a developer and went on to lead the product engineering team responsible for delivering healthcare solutions to the UK and Scandinavian markets. Maher’s career continued into roles leading research and development at JMC Airlines and Torex Retail before joining Microsoft UK in 2005, where his career migrated to the cloud. He left Microsoft to help build one of the biggest solutions on the Microsoft Azure cloud at the actuarial and consulting firm Milliman. But in late 2017, Maher rejoined Microsoft to take on one of the biggest and most exciting challenges of his career.

As the general manger of Industry Experiences, Maher is building an entirely new team from scratch. As the team’s name suggests, Maher is assembling a team that aligns Microsoft’s cloud solutions and services with industry needs—something that he understands firsthand from his previous roles. “We want to ensure that Azure is the cloud of choice for industry,” Maher says. “So, we’re hiring a team that has a customer obsession—a customer-first approach.”

Currently, the Industry Experiences team is focusing on building out the team, hiring experts with industry and cloud experience. The team will connect and engage with industry, everyone from influencers to architects to developers, focused on building industry relations and providing technical expertise to help businesses be successful using the Azure cloud to deliver to their digital transformation needs. The team is initially focusing on the following industries: financial services, manufacturing, retail, and healthcare.

Maher is the right person to lead the team as he has years of industry experience—in particular in financial services, retail, and healthcare—as well as a long tenure at Microsoft. He is also proud of his recent achievements as CTO at Milliman, where he and his team worked directly with Microsoft to build a market-leading solution on Microsoft Azure for actuarial modeling and reporting.

“I’ve come from industry. My proudest moment is having built one of the biggest things that exists on Azure today while at Milliman,” Maher says. “Having that deep, technical understanding and in-depth industry knowledge in the Industry Experiences team allows us to not only have an effective and engaging conversation with industry customers, but to also have those conversations internally with the engineering teams.”

Maher is also excited to be able to help the Azure engineering team. He had worked with the team in his previous roles at Microsoft, but the Industry Experiences team is actually embedded within the engineering team. Additionally, Maher is following in the path of leaders he believes in, specifically former executive vice president of cloud and enterprise group and current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, as well as Scott Guthrie, the current executive vice president of cloud and enterprise group, who asked Maher to head the Industry Experiences team.

Above all, though, the new role is a chance for Maher to use his industry background to help shape Microsoft’s cloud offering.

“Ultimately, one of the big goals of the team is to provide feedback and industry insights to Azure engineering, the folks that are building out the Microsoft Azure cloud, and associated services,” Maher explains. “We are providing a real-world understanding of how the cloud is being used, what the digital transformation needs are across industry, which will help us continue to evolve our Azure cloud platform to meet the needs of industry.”

The Industry Experiences team plans to gain those insights in part by working directly with customers and partners. In fact, the team is already driving initiatives in financial services, retail, and manufacturing. They are engaging in a variety of ways, such as deep technical engagements, as well as community focused activities such as events, industry institution memberships, and advisory boards.

And while Maher is already actively executing on the team’s mission, he is still in the process of building the team. To put the right people in the right seats, he’s drawing on the vast network that he’s built over his career and looking to surround himself with a group of bright people with diverse backgrounds, skill sets, and industry experience. “If you surround yourself with smart people, then you can achieve anything,” Maher says.

In addition to identifying those people within Microsoft, Maher has stayed in touch and connected with previous coworkers and new people via LinkedIn and at industry events. In fact, the connections he made during his first nine years at Microsoft are part of the reason he decided to return to the company.

“My relationships have offered me a variety of advantages,” Maher says. “I already know everyone at Microsoft, so I’ve known where to go and where to connect to start kicking off these initiatives. In addition, I’m obviously hiring people through my networks, people I value and respect.”

Maher is so personally in tune with the culture and new direction at Microsoft that he often draws from Nadella’s playbook for his own leadership skills. Nadella’s approach to innovation and continual transformation, which he details in his book Hit Refresh, guide Maher in building and leading his new team.

And although Maher often quotes or references Nadella’s book, he has also developed his own philosophies on leadership. “My leadership approach is to learn from experience, to make sure that you learn from your mistakes, evolve, and mature,” he says.

Now, all of Maher’s experiences are coming to bear as he gets to build an entirely new team from scratch and put all of his industry knowledge outside Microsoft to work. “The opportunity to be part of the transformation and build an industry-led team within an engineering-led business group is really exciting,” Maher says. “I’m excited to be on the Azure cloud team because we see the cloud as the future for Microsoft and for the industry. We’re at the center of the digital revolution.”

Required Reading

Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone

By Satya Nadella

With a foreword from Bill Gates, Hit Refresh represents a passing of the torch of sorts at Microsoft. Written by current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, the book touts a cultural change at Microsoft that centers on building more empathy with customers. It’s a message that Paul Maher identifies with while he leads the new Industry Experiences team. The message that Maher hears is that the Azure cloud engineering team needs to identify with industry needs rather than retrofitting the tech.