Javier Soltero: Innovation That Never Quits
Javier Soltero is one of Microsoft’s biggest rising stars. After rapidly ascending through the giant tech ranks, he was promoted to Corporate Vice President, Office Product Group in November, where he now leads the over-all strategy for Microsoft Outlook. A key player in CEO Satya Nadella’s vision to continually innovate the brand, his philosophy of pushing boundaries and taking risks has positioned him as an agent of internal culture change. With a “No quitting, no whining” approach Javier is steadily leading Microsoft into the future.
How did you arrive to your current position at Microsoft?
Microsoft acquired Acompli, the company where I was CEO and Co-Founder of in 2014. Shortly after the acquisition, I was promoted to lead the Outlook product and most recently moved into a new role driving the overall strategy for the Office Product Group.
What was given to you in terms of advice or mentorship that pushed you to where you are today?
The best advice I ever got came from a poem called Cantares by Spanish poet Antonio Machado:
“Caminante, no hay camino. Se hace camino al andar. Al an-dar se hace camino y al volver la vista atras se ve la senda que nunca se ha de volver a pisar”.
In English: “Wanderer, there is no road. The road is made by walking. One makes the road by walking, and when glancing behind one sees the path that will never be trod again”.
I learned this quote from my late stepfather who was a successful Puerto Rican artist and entrepreneur. It’s the best piece of advice I could ever hope to offer…keep walking, keep learning, don’t dwell on the past.
Which is your main strategy to ensure success in your operations?
Define success, get the right people on board, get out of their way. Lather, rinse, and repeat
Which Microsoft innovations are you most excited about and what solutions do they provide?
Microsoft is working across such a broad range of products; it would be very difficult to pick just a few. That said, I find our innovation around mixed reality technologies (Microsoft’s HoloLens technology for example) and our innovation in artificial intelligence incredible. One aspect of AI which is absolutely in-credible to me is the advancements we’ve made in machine translation. As a bilingual person, I am amazed at the impact that al-lowing people from different parts of the world to communicate and collaborate in real time while speaking their native language can have in making the world better.
What steps do we need to take to address the Hispanic Technology pipeline shortage? How can we improve Latino representation?
Continued, increased investments in STEM education programs in schools in Latino communities is a good start. Talent is every-where, we just need to nurture it and provide these young men and women with the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to help us continue to use technology to improve the lives of people around the world. Microsoft and other companies are making great efforts to support this through support of educational institutions as well as through their hiring practices. We have a long way to go, but I am personally very encouraged by the amazing Latino talent I see at Microsoft and in many other places.
As a recognized industry leader - what advice can you give to the upcoming generations?
It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like, what language you speak. What matters is how hard you’re willing to work and how good you are at your trade. Opportunity shows up in the least likely places, you just need to be open to it and be willing to work hard to get it.
What role do you see Latinos playing for Microsoft’s future - as customers and collaborators?
As a global company, I am proud to know Microsoft’s technology and services are trusted by companies throughout Latin America including my native Puerto Rico. It means even more when I con-sider the increasing number of Latinos contributing to build and deliver these products and services around the world. In order to compete and thrive, Microsoft needs to continue to innovate and build products that appeal to our global audience. Doing this re-quires nurturing and growing a diverse talent pool that includes Latinos and people from around the world and letting them loose on solving the hardest problems.
What are your most important professional values?
They are best summarized by the two main rules I’ve asked my 5-year old son to live by: “No quitting, no whining”. Commitment is a critical ingredient in any functioning organization. Often in the face of disagreement or difficult challenges, people waver and often passively or actively work to undermine the efforts of their team. Similarly, when people struggle, too often the discussion turns towards emotions instead of focusing on what people can do to work together to solve big problems.
What are the main challenges facing the Tech industry today, and how to you approach them?
The biggest challenge facing the tech industry today is the effect of all the rapid progress technology has delivered in productivity and modernization on people that lack the skills to participate in the modern workforce. As an industry, we are slowly coming to terms with the balance that is required to both drive big advancements in technology while investing in education and skills building that will enable as many people as possible to participate and take advantage of these advancements.
The next biggest challenge is the need for more diversity in the industry. Gender and ethnic diversity is not where it should be in the technology industry. The good news is this is now being actively discussed and companies across the industry are being more proactive about correcting this. We can’t build the future without the best talent in the world. The best talent is diverse and inclusive.
What is the main lesson you have learned at Microsoft?
Growing and modernizing products that are used by hundreds of millions of people is extremely difficult. Listening to users is critical, but often the people who are most com-mitted to your products are the ones that are most resistant to changes that would make the same product more appeal-ing to a new audience.
What is the philosophy you lead your teams with?
Same as above. No quitting, no whining.