Celebrating Tech Trailblazers for Earth Month with Darshna Shah
Published Apr 28 2023 09:11 AM 2,760 Views
Microsoft

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As part of the Microsoft #BuildFor2030 Initiative, in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we’re continuing to highlight solutions that are enabling broader societal impact, and their journeys growing their business on the marketplace. To honor Earth Month in April, Microsoft's @iva_kolanovic sat down with Elastacloud’s Darshna Shah to hear their story and partner journey.

 

About Darshna: Darshna Shah is the Director of Innovation at Elastacloud, where she leads the development of Sustainability AI consultancy and products, including but not limited to renewable energy, carbon management and reduction and ESG. Darshna also has a broad-ranging consultancy experience, in which she has developed and deployed a wide range of machine learning models on Azure across a myriad of industries. Darshna has a PhD in Neuroscience, specialising in neuronal network dynamics in drug-resistant temporal lobe epilepsy from which her passion for Data and AI stemmed.

 

Darshna is a Microsoft AI MVP and has established herself as a speaker and mentor, having given talks at Tech(K)now Day, Microsoft Conferences (Future Decoded, Build, Ignite), SQL Bits, Cloud Brew, DPS Days as well as co-organising and leading the monthly Data Science London meetup group -  bringing together a community of over 10,000 members together to discuss and learn about the latest and most compelling data science algorithms and use-cases. She has a huge passion for sustainability and loves speaking with diverse audiences, learning and sharing knowledge through blog posts.

 

About Iva: Iva is a Senior Partner Development Manager with the Global Partner Solutions team at Microsoft. In this role, she is responsible for fostering and enhancing relationships with strategic partners to drive mutual business growth that is sustainable, ethical, and socially impactful. She works towards empowering partners to create innovative solutions utilizing Microsoft technologies and publishing them on the Azure Marketplace. Iva is also an active member of the Garage Ireland site committee at Microsoft, supporting hackathons and promoting a culture of innovation and creativity among employees and the wider community of customers, partners, and non-profit organizations.

 

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[IK]: Tell us about your time at Elastacloud. What inspired you to join?

[DS]: I joined Elastacloud around 6 and half years ago, and have had the phenomenal opportunity of progressing through my career as the company evolved from a small Azure consultancy to a large organization with international presence across UK, Spain, India, Brazil and USA. I’ve acquired excellent domain knowledge and experience building cloud and AI solutions in Finance, Energy, Legal and Sustainability.

 

I started Elastacloud as a Data Scientist and have progressed to leading the Data Science team, the sustainability division, and now the responsibility of innovation across the organization.

 

[IK]: What are some of Elastacloud’s offerings available on the commercial marketplace?

[DS]: Elastacloud has many offerings available in the Azure Marketplace, but one of our most recent additions is Sustainability Studio, a broad-ranging modular product enabling customers to: understand their ESG score and subsequent pillar, theme, subtheme, and metrics; understand controversy scores based on news an social media sentiment; assess their climate revenue at risk from supply chain disruption or asset degradation from climate scenarios; and much more. It is our mission with this product to remove barriers to sustainability action through data acquisition, reporting, and AI intelligence so organizations can accelerate sustainability progress.

 

 

[IK]: How have you partnered with Microsoft?

[DS]: Sustainability Studio harnesses the power of the Azure cloud, leveraging several services including storage, Azure functions, Azure Databricks, Azure Data Factory, Power BI, and more for a reliable and scalable service. It is our mission with this product to remove barriers to sustainability action through data acquisition, reporting, and AI intelligence so organizations can accelerate sustainability progress toward net zero and beyond.

 

The Microsoft sustainability technical teams, account managers, and product teams have joined us on hackathons, provided feedback and suggestions that have been instrumental in progressing the development of Sustainability Studio.

 

[IK]: Can you talk about Elastacloud’s emphasis on sustainability?

[DS]: Elastacloud has had interests in sustainability since 2018 when we developed our Renewables.AI product, which helps solar asset farm managers use AI to increase profit yields.

 

Following a hackathon with Microsoft and Imperial College, involvement in community events, and the growing societal urgency around climate change action, we decided to assimilate a dedicated sustainability team in early 2020. We continued to prototype and refined the performance of the Sustainability Studio platform, with continual market feedback and trials, and launched in August 2020. Since then, numerous additional features have been added with respect to industry specific processes and detailed analytics of 5 categories of scope 3.

 

[IK]: What excites you most about your application and its impact?

[DS]: Elastacloud has aligned intentionally to industries with some of the biggest sustainability challenges, such as Energy, Finance, and Built Environments (accounting for 40% of global emissions). Being able to collaboratively work with organizations to develop tools that enable real effective change at scale makes our teams extremely fulfilled and inspires us to continue creating useful tools to save our planet. More broadly, sustainability technological advances have also shown extraordinary rates of growth, making this innovative area a really exciting one to work in.

 

[IK]: Aligned with the focus of the Microsoft #BuildFor2030 initiative, why is it important for more companies to support the UN SDGs?

[DS]: With an enormous corpus of sustainability jargon that has exploded onto business and financial scenes over the last few years, it can be challenging for the most effective leadership teams to keep updated on the many sustainability frameworks, upcoming regulations, industry specific benchmarks, consumer demands, and more. The UN SDGs remain, for now, a universal language for thinking about sustainability, which is why Sustainability Studio provides SDG analytics based on consolidated ESG metric data in an easy and transparent way to understand.

 

[IK]: How do you engage and educate your customers about sustainability, and what are some ways you encourage them to make more eco-friendly choices?

[DS]: Many of our customers know their businesses well enough to suggest operational changes that could start moving the needle towards better sustainability performance. Quite often, however, they struggle to acquire and understand the relevant data to take sustainability performance to the next level.

 

When we initially engage with our customers, we provide educational and discovery workshops to identify what they know, what they have tried, and where they are at in their journey . Our one-click sustainability data platform then jump starts the real progress enabling all sustainability relevant data sources (e.g. climate models, biodiversity data, news data) to be consolidated and enriched for in-depth insights.   With detailed reporting out-of-the-box, our consultancy teams are then able to work with organizations to develop Sustainability AI models tailored to their data to empower more accelerated change through better day-to-day decision making, such as the supply chain risk model we created for several procurement teams.

 

[IK]: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are interested in starting a sustainability-focused business, or employees who are interested in getting involved in sustainability efforts within their orgs?

[DS]: As with AGI, businesses and employees will need to become familiar with sustainability challenges and solutions in order to remain effective. As we explain in our recent whitepaper, it is imperative for C-suite leadership teams to have sustainability issues on their radar from the perspective of the business function they own. For example, CEOs would assess what sustainability goals should be, what competitors doing, and what emerging trends in sustainability are gaining momentum. A CFO would evaluate revenue at risk from climate change and how investments could mitigate risk. A COO would address emissions reductions that could made throughout the supply chain. They can also upskill their teams to meet sustainability needs through education on climate science, sustainability technology, data and regulation.

 

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Have questions for Darshna or Iva? Comment below to continue the conversation!

 

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