“There’s a lot of granularity in the way I can ‘read’ a screen. I right-click an image and say, ‘OCR it,’” he explains. “Screen readers struggled in the past, but as AI evolves, things are constantly improving. If I am presenting with PowerPoint, I click a button, and it starts transcribing my words. It does a live translation. I can be German if you like!”
Over the horizon, he hopes OCR technology will open doors to even more inclusion. “OCR could be built into Office apps so that text in images with their format can be easily read, copied and edited by a screen reader. OCR technology could also make screen-sharing accessible to screen readers.” He would also like video conferencing technology, such as Microsoft Teams, to be able to recognize and describe to him the facial expressions and emotions of others.
Singh has just been promoted into a new product manager role with responsibility for the performance of Microsoft cybersecurity and compliance products and services. Working closely with industry, academia, and government, he is helping to create a more secure Australia.
“Microsoft Security is a holistic security platform. We have security deeply ‘baked’ into the platform: identity security, endpoint security – including mobile phones, laptops, operational technology, and Internet of Things devices, data security, and security of your apps. All your machines, whether on-premises or in the cloud, are safe – that’s data and emails. We invest more than $1 billion into cybersecurity on a yearly basis globally.”
In the coming years, he would like to move into even more senior roles “It really gets me going to generate shareholder value, to give people autonomy, mastery and a strong connection with their work.”
He is also mindful of his leadership style. “I have a very strong personal will that’s balanced with humility, empathy, and a growth mindset.”
He also enjoys a work-life balance built around his extended family. He met his partner, Tina, in 1999. They got married in 2006 and now live in suburban Melbourne. Tina is a business transformation leader at the national postal service, Australia Post. “She is also my chauffeur,” he says with a wicked chuckle. Both have parents and other family members living close-by.
About four years ago, he went through another personal transformation: He lost weight, got into shape and started powerlifting.
“I had lost all the fat I wanted to lose, but I then wanted to gain muscle. I started to enjoy powerlifting a lot and seeing my strength increase. It was the measurable performance that really drew me to it,” he says.
“I absolutely love powerlifting from a tenacity perspective. We have very vibrant and full days at Microsoft. At night, I’m thinking, ‘I don’t wanna do this,’ but I always feel great afterward.”
Singh works hard at making progress: whether he is chalking up a new personal best in his home gym or exceeding a business target in the office. His 10th anniversary with Microsoft is coming up soon, and looking back, his nervous first trip to Seattle feels like a lifetime ago.
He has grown professionally, and the attitudes of others toward issues of accessibility have evolved. There is a lot more support, he says. “Now at every event I attend, there’s thought given to captioning. There’s thought given to how to make content more accessible to everyone.
“If someone joins (Microsoft) today and they have special needs at work, we have a Special Accommodation Fund. The cost doesn’t even come out of your manager’s fund. There’s no burden on your immediate chain of command; there’s just a box asking what special assistance is required. It takes the trepidation out if it.”
He very much believes in the idea that everyone benefits when designers design with people with disabilities in mind. He champions digital technology as an “intense enabler” for inclusion and accessibility.
“At a people, process and technology level, Microsoft has made a lot of investments that have moved the dial significantly forward. And we’ll keep on pushing for more accessibility for everyone.”
TOP IMAGE: Kenny Singh lifting weights in his garage gym. All images by Penny Stephens.