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Microsoft’s Claudia Roessler on Diversity: “You Can’t Fake It”

Claudia Roessler is the Director of Agriculture in Microsoft’s Azure Global Engineering Group. She is responsible for developing strategic partnerships around digital innovation and ag tech solutions within the agricultural ecosystem. Originating from Germany, Roessler now operates within the U.S. where she seeks to help businesses drive increased productivity by leveraging technology.

Roessler joined Microsoft 26 years ago after realizing her passion for data and technology solutions.

“I was always excited about what technology can do for a business,” she noted.

This became especially apparent when Roessler was introduced to the agricultural sector. “While age-old ag is fast in adopting technological advancements and mechanizations, it lacks getting the value due dissipate systems, missing data and lack of interpretation coming for analytics.”

Now, ag tech solutions are at the forefront of the industry, across the globe and throughout all levels of the supply chain. “It’s a good time to be in this place and I’m excited about it.”

Roessler is part of the Global Engineering Group that is working on building the agriculture technology road map. “We want to help companies to build technology solutions for agriculture by using our cloud analytics platform. A lot of that has to do with getting better data, being able to run analytics on massive amounts of aggregated technical data.”

For an industry on the cusp of realizing the advantage of information technology capabilities, and one that is facing an immense need for increased production efficiencies, Roessler says that despite agriculture being a bit of a late-comer, there’s currently a transformation underway.

“We are facing really tremendous challenges—the need to produce more food or get food to where it’s needed. There are massive sustainability challenges, climate is changing, so we need to be even more on our feet to make the right decisions. That’s really the role that technology can play.”

And for women, the opportunities in the digital side of agriculture are tremendous, with far-reaching impacts.

“I think there are a lot of women that are coming to agriculture now,” she said. “I absolutely think that for women, technology is playing an even more important role.”

The significance of ag tech can be felt in all corners of the globe. Roessler says that, in developing areas, women around the world are becoming landowners for the first time, but that they don’t have access to the same historical, tribal knowledge that some of the male farmers have, so they are needing to learn things in a new way—and are therefore receptive to trying out new things. Technology can play an immeasurable role in that.

“What data analytics/artificial intelligence does is that it can process massive amounts of data and see patterns and predict potential incidents which, without technology, it’d be much more than any human brain can identify. We’re not made to process and compare massive amounts of data in time and space. Therefore, I’m absolutely expecting we find patterns and new insight that we would have never seen without. I think it can bring a little advantage that women need.”

But this concept isn’t limited to the developing world. “In general, when you think about technology adoption in developed markets, I think there’s an opportunity for women to become first movers here because of the advantages that come out of it.”

Roessler’s experiences over the years, meeting with various businesses, echo that of so many women working in male-dominated industries: “It’s predominantly men in the room.”

“It’s just the pure ratio of the underrepresentation of women in those key positions,” she says. “I’d love to see the ratio change.”

For women looking to start a career in the agricultural or tech industry, Roessler says being creative and resourceful are essential qualities, along with collaboration and networking. And networking and technology happen to go hand-in-hand.

“Building your network and using technology plays an important role, because you don’t need to be in the same room; you can build a social network. There are tools to be able to benchmark you with others and opportunities to crowd source for ideas. So, getting creative about building your own network and how you can collaborate with others and accomplish things better is important.”

“I feel the agriculture industry is incredibly collaborative by nature,” Roessler added. “There are fantastic tools to get social networks across the world.”

For companies looking to diversify and harness the talent of women entering the space, Roessler says it must be genuine and it must include the executive level.

“I think it starts with company culture,” she says. “You can’t fake it right? If you want to have women in your company, want to attract them, you need to show that.”  Additionally, “You want to have female leaders in leadership teams on the board.”

“I think it starts with company culture,” she says. “You can’t fake it right? If you want to have women in your company, want to attract them, you need to show that.”  Additionally, “You want to have female leaders in leadership teams on the board.”

Roessler is on the advisory board for the upcoming Women in Food and Agriculture event, being held in Amsterdam on December 3-4.

Speaking on the event, Roessler says, “I think the structure is a little bit unique, I’m really excited to see how it’s perceived and the feedback that women are giving, the level of networking that’s going to happen there, and thrilled that I’m part of the advisory board and I have an opportunity to look at and help build this agenda. I think there’s a little bit of me in it as well and I’m very excited to see what’s coming.”

And of course, “Events are the best source to build your personal network.”

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