Living and thriving with AI

This episode dives into how Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Generative AI are transforming our lives at work and home. Host Zeshan Randhawa chats with Martin Evers, Sr. National Channel Sales Manager at Microsoft, about how businesses are leveraging Azure AI and Microsoft Copilot. You’ll also learn about practical AI tools you can use to boost your productivity, whether you’re a small business owner or an individual looking to streamline your day-to-day tasks.



You’re listening to the Cloud Lounge podcast, a show about business technology and all that jazz brought to you by soft landing a leading it service provider in Canada. Let’s get started. Here’s your host, Zeshan Randhawa. Welcome to the Cloud Lounge podcast. I’m your host Zeshan. Today, we’re gonna go a bit further on the topic of A I or artificial intelligence. We’re gonna be talking about living and thriving with A I in our day to day lives. It’s been one year since the release of chat GPT, a groundbreaking technology that’s promised to reshape our interaction with the digital world. So has it lived up to its lofty expectations? Chat GPT, as many of you may know, was one of the fastest growing consumer applications in history with 100 million active users within just two months of launching, but it’s not just chat GPT that’s making waves. A recent Forester report predicted that 6.9 million or roughly around 8% total of us, knowledge workers will be using Microsoft 365 Copilot by the end of 2024. And if you don’t know Microsoft 365 copilot or Copilot for Microsoft 365 is an A I powered assistant that helps users interact with Microsoft 365 apps such as Word Excel and Teams. Now, I and others at Softlanding have been lucky enough to be using Copilot for Microsoft 365 for a few months now. And that means I’ve started to introduce A I in my general flow of work including drafting emails, drafting documents, mining through my emails, summarizing meetings and emails as well and almost completely replacing traditional search engines to use copilot to actually find relevant and contextual answers. One underlying takeaway that I’ve walked away with so far is that the more you use copilot or AI, the more it unlocks your creativity and finding effective ways to use it.

I’d like to dive a little deeper on this topic with my guest for today and today our guest is Martin Evers. Martin is an Azure Channel Sales Manager with Microsoft. Welcome to the Cloud Lounge, Martin and thank you for joining us. Hi Zeshan. Thank you for having me. Great to be here. Excellent. So Martin, let’s start off by you quickly telling us a bit about your background and role at Microsoft. Just introducing our listeners to yourself. Sounds good. In my current role, I lead our Azure channel sales in Canada, which, you know, until I work with our largest partners across the country and I help them position and deploy Azure Based solutions for our mutual customers. I’m based in Vancouver. I’ve been in the Microsoft ecosystem for almost eight years now, I’ve had various roles from Account Manager to Enterprise Channel Manager and now I’m the National Azure Sales Manager for Canada. Excellent, excellent. And Martin, today’s name of the game is really around AI and I know you’ve been fully immersed in that world as well. How did you kind of get interested and involved in AI at Microsoft? Well, even before Microsoft, I’ve always been interested in computers and technology and including AI, I used to run a small company called Pango Security Systems. This is 15 years ago and it was a camera based security system. It was IP cameras and we were dabbling with computer vision as an example of AI trying to recognize license plates for, you know, payments of parking in the garage, like things like that. And then more recently I took computer engineering at school and done some AI like Machine Learning type projects there. Nowadays, I play with my son and he is a big computer fan and we have a, you know, a Raspberry Pi where program sensors that turn on the coffee machine and using a lot of, you know, A I tools there. And then of course, about a year and a half ago when cha GPT came out, I was just blown away and I’ve been using Chat GPT every day ever since Yeah, so a little bit in your private life and public life as well. Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I understand Martin. You’re heavily involved with Azure Open A I. Can you let the listeners know what is Azure Open AI and how it’s helping organizations? Yeah, definitely. I mean, Azure Open AI actually, it’s been rebranded. So now it’s called Azure AI. And the main reason for that is that, you know, yes, our partnership with Open AI is deep and it’s it’s very exciting.  Microsoft has also has other partnerships like for example, ma is just recently announced and it’s also available in the Azure AI studio. So it’s been rebranded Azure AI and in there, it’s really a way to test out and quickly leverage AI tools without having to train a model, which can be very intense and time consuming and you can use any of the AI services. So yeah, computer vision, machine learning, deep learning and of course, also gene of AI using all the latest LLM models. But yeah, it’s a platform where you can upload your data, you can do no code, low code or full code type implementations to try out AI on your specific data in a secure manner. So Microsoft is very focused on keeping the data secure data governance in Azure. Of course, Azure AI is top of mind. So it’s a great way to play around with your data and test out use cases for AI. Interesting, interesting here at the Cloud Lounge, we love hearing stories from the field and what people are actually using the technology for. So we’d love to hear from you kind of how organizations are embracing and adopting Azure AI. Can you share some stories or, or use cases with us? Yeah, for sure. Yeah, there are, I mean, a lot of people are talking about what can we do? What should we do? What’s working, what are other people in our industry doing? So there are definitely some pioneers out there. A public one that I like to talk about is Walmart. So Walmart, they have an app and they are in the partnership with Microsoft and this app you can now recently released, you can basically talk to it like a consultant. So you’re asking, for example, hey, I’m planning a birthday party for my son. He’s turning 13 and I want it to be a halo themed birthday party and it’ll come back with all these suggestions on. Well, hey, here’s some, you know, master chief shaped balloons or, you know, here’s a cake that might be relevant to the party and it lists all the available items in your store that’s closest to you. So really helping customers instead of having to find out, you know exactly what to purchase, you can just tell them what you’re trying to do and using generative AI it will suggest the best course of action. So I think that’s one of the cool examples. I’ve got another one. Another good example that I’ve recently seen is just this contact center. So a lot of people reach out to service companies or any company with questions, suggestions and it’s hard to manage all that input. So using generative AI can help customers connect with your organization, have conversations, guide customers all through either a chatbot or it could even be voiced. So contact centers in general is a big piece. But a lot of companies are looking at how can we use generative A I in engaging with our customers online and in person and on the phone? Excellent. Excellent. I have a third example. So this is my favorite is for a nonprofit organization here in BC. And they apply for grants like federal and provincial grants to run their operations. And they, they have a team of four people who’ve been submitting grant applications. So they, they scout a web they look for grants, they decide if it’s a good one to apply for and then they submit, they generate the proposal and they submit it to the appropriate people. It takes them a lot of time. But if they have to do it, it’s a significant part of their income every year. So they’ve kept all these RFPs and these grant submissions for the last, you know, 15-20 years and we went through an engagement where we added some metadata to all these RFP submissions like things like did we win? Did we lose? How much money did we win? Any feedback on the RFP? How much effort did it take to put this all together and then train the model on all that data and build a little Power app. So now a new grant comes in either by PDF or website, you can just drag this PDF into the Power app. And based on this, on the model that was trained, it generates a first draft response for this grant. And it’s unbelievable how, how good it is. So now they, you know, they’ve been doing this for a while, they’re actually winning more RFPs with less effort and only one person has to manage this platform. The other three can do work for a nonprofit that’s much more impactful than just writing RFP responses. So I like that story because it really talks about if you as an organization, if you have a large amount of data that’s proprietary to you and that you use to generate more content, new content, I think that is at this point in time, that is the most useful case for generative AI. Yeah, absolutely. Just reusing information and content that you already have and mining it for information. It really does seem like your creativity is the limit here with all the different use cases of how you can apply AI to your business. For sure. I think that’s what I, what I really like about AI. Right. It’s not about like, how many, you know, SQL server licenses are we going to deploy to run this application? No, it’s really what, what are we able to create, to improve, not just our organization, but just society as a whole. So I’m very positive I’m bullish on, on AI, for that exact reason, it’s the creativity about it. Absolutely. Absolutely. Now, speaking of the creativity and how fast AI is growing in all the different use cases, it is really difficult to kind of keep up with the latest developments and trends and so on and so forth. So I’d love to hear kind of what are some of your sources or resources that you rely on to kind of keep abreast of what’s going on in AI. Great question. It is changing every day and there’s not just technology, but also, you know, like Elon Musk is super open AI and people being fired and there’s always political discussions around AI like, I think there’s so much more to AI than just the technology, which is, you know, good and bad and kind of exciting. My main source is actually a podcast. So there’s a daily podcast called The AI Daily Breakdown by Nathaniel Whittemore. He’s an excellent guy. He’s based in the States. So he releases a podcast every single day. And he’s actually, he uses AI tools to generate this podcast too. So sometimes he’ll just, you know, I’m sure he does some research using AI and then he has a text to voice. So it’s actually using AI to generate this AI podcast. So, I use all of that. I also, I’m subscribed to another AI LIST and there I have like weekly tasks. So every week, for example, you have to train a small LLM model or you have to use, you know, a tool to generate images for your website. So a lot of little tasks around the latest AI tools kind of forcing you to use the tools. Yeah, for you to use to, I think hands experience is, is very important. I’ve also, you know, make a point of taking all the certificates and exams and Microsoft releases. So there’s the AI 900 which is kind of the basic entry level AI but still very informative and very useful. And you, you know, it’s a Proctor exam. So you have to go and write the exam and you can announce the linkedin and you pass it. And the other one is A I 102. So that one is a bit more hands on and you can use some Python coding and using the AI studio. So if you, if you’re really into AI and you want to get some more hands on experience. I recommend AI 102. The best source of information I think is just talking to other people. Like I’ll be, you know, in my car driving home from work, I’ll just dial up some of my, you know, techie friends and I can talk about AI for hours on end. So chatting about what are other people doing? What are people seeing? You know, what I actually also find is if you just talk to people, like in a networking event, for example, and you talk about AI, some people are a bit, they’re not super happy about AI, they think maybe it’s gonna take away their jobs or it’s going to be a bad thing in the world. So I think when you do talk to someone about AI and my suggestion is to first kind of feel out what is their stance on AI before you jump all in and position grade AI is gonna be for everybody. Absolutely. Absolutely. We definitely know we’re kind of at the infancy stage of AI. And we know there are some limitations and issues and so on and so forth. Are there any particular limitations or issues that you’ve noticed so far or you’ve dealt with on an ongoing basis? Yeah, I think there’s definitely one of the main limitations is just like, you know, there’s the GP US are, we can’t make them fast. Enough. So I think equitable access, like who has access to the latest technology and how do these people decide what’s the right way to develop AI. So I think it’s really important to have an ethical framework on how we’re going to release this to the world and to, you know, how do we leverage this new technology? And I think that’s why I’m proud to work at Microsoft. You know, Microsoft does a really good job of making AI development good for the world and make sure that everybody has equal access, try to remove bias because really the output is only as good as the input we give it. So what kind of data are we training these models on? I think that’s very important. The other thing is a bit of a limitation I feel is that it’s a bit of a black box, right? Even the people who are developing this AI, they don’t know exactly how this technology works. So that’s somewhat a bit scary, but definitely a limitation. Yes, those are some of the things that I think about the limitations for AI. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So Martin, I’d love to kind of switch gears now and talk a bit about your life outside of Microsoft because I know you and I have chatted in the past and you’ve told me this amazing kind of story of how you’re using A I in your own side business that your wife and yourself own. I found that super fascinating. I’d love to be able to see if you can share with our listeners kind of how you’ve been using AI at home. Ok. My wife runs a small retail company. It’s called Luna and Boo Permanent Jewelry. And it’s a new trend in the jewelry, fashion industry where people come and they, you know, instead of just buying a bracelet with a clasp, you pick your chain and then you zap it on with a ring and you weld it on. So it’s, you know, it’s permanent, you can still take it off, of course, but that’s, that’s the new trend. And what I’ve learned about running a small, my wife runs the business. I’m like her IT guy, social media is such a big part nowadays of any business specifically for startups and smaller businesses. And that is all about content generation. So I think one of the best use cases for generative AI is generating content. So it can be as simple as going to Chat GPT and ask, hey, can you generate a tweet for me about permanent jewelry, do some research and generate 100 and 40 character tweet and it’ll do it and you can also say generate 15 of them so that you can schedule a posting. I’ve taken it a step further and build a little app where every day it runs this script and it uh it does some research on the latest trend in jewelry, it generates a tweet and then based on that tweet, it goes to DALL.E and it narrates an image and then it posts the image and the tweet every day. So it’s like an automated way of staying relevant and generating content. You know, you can do the same thing for Instagram and Facebook. And so yeah, generating content is my number one thing for Luna & Boo. But it’s more so I also, as you like, we’ve been expanding a little bit. So now we have four locations and you wanna have a bit of a consultant to figure out what should I think about when you open up another location or what about the commission structures? And you know, normally you have to go to a business consultant, but I’ve been using Chat GPT to do exactly that to ask a question to run ideas by it. And it is surprisingly just so good. It makes me feel comfortable and helps my wife with her expansion plans. Wow. And then I’ll give you one more cool example. So I, I coach my son’s soccer team. He’s in a U 16. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the custom GP TS that you can now build. So instead of just like a generic Chat GPT chat, you can actually give it some content and then the ground itself on that data. So my son’s soccer club, they give a handbook. It’s like 100 and 25 page handbook with soccer drills and soccer strategy. And they expect us to train the teams in this club based on that strategy and those drills. So I used to walk through that handbook and build a practice and it takes me, you know, takes me a bit of time. So what I did, I uploaded this handbook to a custom GPT I called the coaches assistant and I also gave it some more information about how my team plays, what the vision we play, the names and the numbers of the, of the team members. So now I coach on Monday nights and on a Monday afternoon, I go to this custom GPT and I ask it, hey, I’ve got a practice tonight. Can you generate a 90 minute practice? And I want to focus on passing the ball and switching the play and it generates a near perfect soccer practice and the boys like it, I show up really prepared. So that’s one way of how I use it to my personal life. Wow. And it makes you look really good at the end of the day. Hey, we’re in first place. The cup final is this Saturday in Port Coquitlam. So if you want to come watch, please come check it out. Excellent. Excellent. Wow. Yeah, you’re like the pinnacle example of just using AI in all parts of your life as a social media manager. As a business consultant, as your helping coach, your son’s team as well. That’s amazing. That’s just amazing. Yeah. Some amazing. Again, creative kind of use cases there as well. So Martin, finally, I’d just like to close out on hearing from yourself. What are some of the exciting or promising opportunities or applications of AI that you personally look forward to or envision for the future? Yeah, I mean, again, I think just infusing it in your daily and work life, you know what I see more and more of is how organizations infuse AI in their existing apps. And I think, you know, Microsoft again is a perfect example of that. So if you think about Copilot, right, we’ve infused the use of generative AI into all the productivity tools that everybody uses every day. So if you go into Outlook, you can now enable Copilot, it’ll help you summarize your emails, it’ll help you draft new emails on teams, right? I’m on team calls all day. I’m sure you are too and turning on Copilot to get a summary, to get action items, to get the summary notes. Even when you don’t attend the meeting, it can do that for you. So I think we’re going to see more and more of that. Just existing applications are going to be infused with AI technology. This is another thing I like about AI I think it’s going to be extremely impactful on the world and even in ways that we can really think about or that we cannot fathom at the moment, I think about energy generation diseases that we can, that we can cure. Maybe we can finally predict the weather accurately soon. Things like that. I think anything where there’s gonna, where there’s so much data and input that we at the moment, we can handle it all. I think those type of problems are going to be gone and we will be able to just process vast, vast amount of data and use that to make better decisions for all of society. Amazing. Amazing. Well, Martin, thank you so much for sharing some amazing examples and use cases and your perspective on AI as well. Thank you so much for joining us at the Cloud Lounge podcast and look forward to hearing more about your AI endeavors in the future. Thank you, Zeshan. No, I’m I’m happy that I was able to be part of the Cloud Lounge podcast. I think you’re doing a great job and I can’t wait to hear the final product. I came across a very interesting quote by uh Karim Lakhani. AI won’t replace humans but humans with AI will replace humans without A I. Of course, we have a steady stream of technology innovation these days. However, only once in a while do we get something of the magnitude as that of AI? And it’s great to learn in depth about a technology but to have technology change, the way you work and interact is truly a magical thing. We have a long way to go with AI but already hearing real stories and use cases as we have for Martin today shows us that this is no longer theoretical. We are here. As always, we want to thank our listeners for tuning in to the Cloud Lounge podcast and Martin Evers for joining us today. We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode and learned something new about the world of AI. Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast until next time, keep living and thriving with AI. Take care.


Click the links below to subscribe in your favourite podcast app



Written By:


Softlanding is a long-established IT services provider of transformation, professional services and managed IT services that helps organizations boost innovation and drive business value. We are a multi-award-winning Microsoft Gold Partner with 13 Gold Competencies and we use our experience and expertise to be a trusted advisor to our clients. Headquartered in Vancouver, BC, we have staff and offices in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary to serve clients across Canada.

More By This Author