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As part of our ongoing commitment to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, we’ve recently launched a new program called Microsoft Change Agents (#MSFTChangeAgents).

The Microsoft Change Agents program engages a set of individuals accomplishing incredible things and helping to move the needle in technology. A Change Agent is an individual who promotes and supports a new way of doing something. They assume responsibility for promoting the value of the transformation, formulating and influencing how the transformation will happen and then guiding and supporting others through that transformation.

In today’s fast paced, digital world, it’s tough to find time to make a difference. But there are certain individuals that make the time, and are passionate above driving real change, in our communities, in our workplace and in our society. We can all stand to learn from these Change Agents, who through authenticity and a desire to make a difference, continue to make a positive impact.

Working closely with community members, we hope to drive meaningful change.

Maayan Ziv

Maayan is the Founder & CEO of AccessNow, an app that uses crowdsourcing to collect and share accessibility information on places around the world. From a young age, Maayan challenged norms and worked within her community to increase awareness of disability issues and improve accessibility.

What are some of the things you’re working on, that you’re really excited about?

I’ve been at AccessNow for three years. We’re kind of getting into some exciting new developments. What we’re doing is focusing on creating a more accessible world, we started in Toronto, but it’s really kind of exploded. We’re in thirty-six countries now and it’s all about community engagement. People connecting, sharing information about the places that they go to, what they experience, whether it’s accessible or not, and providing that information to the community. So that everybody engages with AccessNow, whether on their mobile app or the website, can actually figure out what’s accessible in their lifestyle and where they can go do the things that they want to do, with no barriers.

What excites you most about the future?

For me, what’s exciting is even just within the three years we’ve started this process, seeing the conversation change from being one of, “what is accessibility?” to “how can I be involved in this movement?”, bringing people together from all different areas and perspectives, and seeing that change actually happen. That’s the most exciting part for me.

Ami Shah

Ami is the CEO & Co-Founder of Peekapak, an award-winning social and emotional learning (SEL) platform designed for the classroom and the home. Peekapak aims to make SEL learning resources more accessible for educators.

As a change agent, how do you see the impact that you’re making change the technology landscape within Canada?

Technology is now starting to enter the education realm and it’s really exciting to see what you can do with technology, to help personalize learning. Before, it used to be that you’re teaching to the average; now we have a gifted child or someone who is struggling, and you can provide the information for learning at their level and help them catch up. You can accelerate their learning, with a developmentally appropriate way, and it’s pretty exciting that all of a sudden, students can have this opportunity to really have engaging and interesting content, and be able to give the information to not only teachers, but parents about how to better support their students, be able to provide tailored feedback, and help them essentially improve their student outcomes.

There’s a strong focus at Microsoft of enabling every person and organization on the planet to achieve more; you’re certainly helping to do that. Where do you see your company going in the future?

It’s pretty exciting with technology – if you think about AI, Machine Learning, and what we’re doing around machines with personalized learning. We can do more and more as we are collecting data around how students are learning different skills. What they’re excelling at, what they’re struggling at, and to be able to deliver content that really is at their level. To be able to accelerate and be able to predict where their interests may lie, where careers may be, how they can further excel and develop skills around those areas. And I think we can just do so much more as we continue to develop the technology, so it’s exciting to see what we can do in education and how we can integrate things like technology into that space to support the teacher and the parent, to be able to better support their students.

Aurelie Wen

Aurelie is the Managing Director North America at Agorize, a platform that makes life easier for organizations looking to launch open innovation challenges, student competitions and large-scale hackathons. She regularly speaks at conferences and universities about hackathons, open innovation and entrepreneurship.

In your own words, what makes someone a Change Agent?

Well, a Change Agent, in my opinion, is someone who shares their enthusiasm regarding technology, new stuff coming up and is keen on sharing this on social media with other people. I think the role of a good Change Agent would be explaining that it’s going to be okay, and that technology is here for good things, not just for the bad, and be very transparent and have a lot of candor regarding technology to ease that change process, that can be very scary for most people.

Technology is a big part of the change that is going on around us. How do you feel that technology contributes to change and transformation in society?

Well there are so many areas, just to take one example, the job market as we know it today is going to really encounter drastic changes, it’s happening now actually, and in that sense, technology can really bring a lot of things to the table, so that all the repetitive tasks that we’re doing right now can be automated for example. We can, as contributors and coworkers, be more effective in the way we do our work. So, this is one of the key areas in which technology can really drive change.

Brent Vatne

Brent is a Computer Systems & Programming Analyst with Expo, a free open source toolchain built around React Native to help build native iOS and Android projects using JavaScript and React. Brent is active in the open source community, with over 2,700 contributions on Github in the last year.

In your own words, what makes someone a Change Agent?

I think a Change Agent in my world, which is typically mostly in Open Source, can be anybody from someone who builds a project from scratch, or contributes to a project that they think is valuable and that they want to help succeed. That can be small changes like one small contribution to the project to make it better or something like a documentation change. I think it could be anywhere on that spectrum.

How have you used technology to transform and enhance your life?

Well it already has in the sense that this is what I do for work every day, working remotely, and it’s hard for me to imagine a world where I don’t work remotely a part of the time and I think that more people are going to start working remotely, at least a few days a week or something like that for other periods of time. I think that can impact my life in that I can choose to work in areas that I want to, with other people who are also working remotely with the rise of these sort of coworking spaces and that kind of thing.

Janelle Hinds

Janelle is the Founder of Helping Hands App, a platform that matches students with volunteer organizations using a skill development-based matching model. Helping Hands is on a mission to increase youth community engagement through technology. Janelle is also a Diversity in Tech and women empowerment speaker.

In your own words, what makes someone a Change Agent?

To me being a change agent is a person that recognizes that there is some issue out there and that they’re not going to wait for someone else to fix it, that they’re going to go ahead and do it. I recognized that young people weren’t being engaged by their communities, and that there were all these barriers put up and that someone had to step in and help remove those barriers for them.”

What technology do you find helpful in the work that you do?

I think for young people, they need something that is on their phone that they can look at and quickly just get an answer. They’re like ‘hey I want to volunteer now, I want to volunteer on a Saturday, where can I go?’ So, we’re trying to make an app that they can go on and say, ‘hey this is my availability, this is what I’m interested in, these are the skills I want to build’ and just get an answer right away, saying this is where you can build.

Jaxson Khan

Jaxson is the Managing Partner at Khan & Associates, a global advisory firm that helps innovative companies and organizations grow their influence. In the community, Jaxson serves as the host of the Ask AI podcast, a mentor with Techstars and is a member of the World Economic Forum.

In your own words, what makes someone a Change Agent?

A change agent is an individual who challenges the status quo. They may be dissatisfied with some part of an existing process, structure, or product. They ask: “why do things have to be this way?” And then they do something about it. They seek out constant change in their life, because they know that improvement comes from regular iteration and effort.

How have you used technology to transform and enhance your life?

I use technology to automate tedious, low-value tasks, so I can free up time for more high value ones. And so that I can live more. For too long we have lived in a work obsessed society and one that is too focused on ‘growth at all costs by any means necessary’ as opposed to genuine human livability and potential and operating with ethics and principle. Technology coupled with intention have the power to change our lives and our world. It’s time to embrace technology in our daily lives and ensure that everyone in the world can access it.

Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon is the Founder of COMMS.BAR, a revolutionary new approach to helping startups and small businesses get the PR, marketing and publicity advice they need to scale their business. At COMMS.BAR, Lyndon has pioneered proprietary retail methods.

In your own words, what makes someone a Change Agent?

I’ve spent the last few years working on making public relations and marketing affordable, accessible, transparent and measurable with the goal of enabling every startup and small business to get the help they need. That has meant changing every part of the traditional industry from business model, to the pricing structure to the way strategies are built and tested. The result is COMMS.BAR. Challenging the norm, makes someone a Change Agent.

How have you used technology to transform and enhance your life?

I had one of the first mass-market cell phones in the UK back in 1994 so that I could work and book jobs working as a freelance journalist while still at University. I purchased one of the first ultra-portable laptops so that I could file stories electronically. My primary objective with technology has always been the value it delivers – it’s even more important since I started COMMS.BAR. I switched from a MacBook Pro to a Surface Book because it added value to my business that I couldn’t get from Apple.

Scott Duffy

Scott is the Chief Architect and Trainer at SoftwareArchitect.ca, a consulting service that provides online skills training for software and enterprise architects. Scott currently has over 110,000 students in 177 countries around the world enrolled in his online training programs.

In your own words, what makes someone a Change Agent?

Well as you know, technology is changing so rapidly, as a trainer myself I can create videos today and 6 months from now they are not going to be as relevant anymore. Keeping on top of the change within the entire technical space is a challenge, I’m glad to have this opportunity to work with Microsoft to bring out some of the great programs that you guys are doing to the world and let people know that things are changing and it’s not something to be afraid of, it’s something to embrace.

How have you used technology to transform and enhance your life?

My business revolves around creating videos for people to consume online, so if I didn’t have internet access, I don’t know what I would be doing because my whole career has been around development and creation of websites. Technology to me allows people to learn, anywhere that they want. If they have a phone, if they have a Surface or a device, they can watch videos, get their skills up to speed and continue to earn an income. It’s people’s lives really.

Tony Flath

Tony is a Technology Advisor, President TmanSpeaks Ltd., for Telecommunications & Technology Applications anything ‘aaS’ and Cloud – passionate about Technology with experience in Cloud, Cyber Security, Unified Communications, Connectivity, Network, Mobility, & AI. With more than 15 years of complex solution experience in the IT space from applications, custom development, professional services, infrastructure, managed services, cloud services, network, security to mobility, Tony has a diverse technology understanding. Tony is active on social media & recognized as an Influencer in Cloud, Cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence. His mission is to help enable the path to true Digital Transformation.

In your own words, what makes someone a Change Agent?

A Change Agent is someone who embraces technology, understands what value it can offer, always ready to look at a better way even if it means disruption. The role of the Change Agent is to explore new grounds, help organization’s transform by focusing on such matters as organizational effectiveness, improvement, and development.

How have you used technology to transform and enhance your life?

Throughout my career I have been on the leading edge of technology. This started early years back when I migrated client’s HR information to the cloud before anyone knew what the cloud was. I’ve had the great fortune to then learn about cybersecurity and artificial intelligence and now working with emerging technologies like Blockchain. My work with technology has taken me to interesting locations all across North America. Now with integrated connectivity through social media, I have connected globally with influencers establishing friends and colleagues around the world. Next stop, Blockchain!