Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Kevin Scott rise to his current post is about as unlikely as you will find. He grew up in Gladys, Virginia, a town of a few hundred people. He loved his family and his hometown to such an extent that he did not aspire to leave. He caught the technology bug in the 1970s by chance, and that passion would provide a ticket to bigger places that he did not initially seek.
The issue was one of opportunity. In his formative years, jobs were decreasing in places like Gladys just as they were increasing dramatically in tech hubs like Silicon Valley. After pursuing a PhD in computer science at the University of Virginia, he left in 2003 prior to completing his dissertation to join Google. He would rise to become a Senior Engineering Director there. He left Google for LinkedIn in 2011. He would eventually rise to become the Senior Vice President of Engineering & Operations at LinkedIn. From LinkedIn he joined Microsoft three and a half years ago as CTO. He is deeply satisfied with the course of his career and its trajectory, but part of him laments that it took him so far from his roots and the hometown that he loves.
As he reflected further on this conundrum, he put his thoughts to paper and published the book, Reprogramming the American Dream in April, co-authored by Greg Shaw. As he noted in a conversation I recently had with him, “Silicon Valley is a perfectly wonderful place, but we should be able to create opportunity and prosperity everywhere, not just in these coastal urban innovation centers.”
Scott believes that machine learning and artificial intelligence will be key ingredients to aiding an entrepreneurial rise in smaller towns across the United States. These advances will place less of a burden on companies to hire employees in the small towns, as some technical development will be conducted by the bots. He also hopes that as some of these businesses blossom, more kids will be inspired to start their own businesses powered by technology, creating a virtuous cycle of sorts.