As part of the Microsoft #BuildFor2030 Initiative, in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we’re continuing to highlight women-owned businesses, their solutions, and their journeys growing their business on the marketplace during each week of Women’s History Month in March. In our third edition of the series, Microsoft’s Masako Kodama sits down with X0PA AI’s Nina Alag Suri to discuss the inspiration behind developing a tool for mitigating bias in recruitment processes and how Microsoft has supported her journey. Masako also provides an overview of how the commercial marketplace supports diverse-owned businesses.
About Nina: Nina Alag Suri is the Founder and CEO of X0PA AI, a B2B SAAS platform that helps organizations in their Human Capital hiring and deployment with AI and automation, improving efficiencies and removing bias from selections to create better teams. She is also the Founder and Chair for Empauwer, an AI-powered platform that enables companies to hire, retain and engage neurodiverse talent. Nina is also a Founding Member of Chief, a global membership network focused on connecting and supporting women executive leaders, and a Board Member of Bipolar Buddy and Mood Mentor, mental health start-ups.
About Masako: Masako is a Director in the commercial marketplace at Microsoft who supports Teams ISVs to grow their business. She has worked in Microsoft for 26 years across a variety of roles at Microsoft Japan and Corporate, with roles in Engineering, Filed Compensation, Consumer Devices, Sales Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Research, and Finance.
From Masako: As a prelude to my conversation with Nina and in the spirit of highlighting women-led businesses this month, I want to first share a broader view of how the Microsoft commercial marketplace is supporting diverse-owned businesses, and how this translates into benefits for both buyers and partners.
Buyers: Using the Microsoft commercial marketplace, you can access a wide range of partners to assist in meeting your business needs. Many customers are looking to find partners that align to their business values and want to support supplier diversity. Follow these steps to discover diverse-owned businesses in the marketplace:
Partners: you can self-attest to relevant diversity business classifications by selecting the appropriate checkboxes in your Partner Center Company profile. You may select more than one applicable classification; providing this information is optional. Learn more here.
Join us for our upcoming community event: On April 19th, 8am-11am (PST), we are planning to do a marketplace community event, "Grow with the marketplace built for inclusion, innovation, and impact". This event is focusing on who are creating applications on Microsoft platform.
If your company is diverse or minority-owned, or you are developing an environmental, social and governance (ESG) solution, please join us to:
And now, on to my interview with Nina!
[MK]: Tell us about your time at X0PA. What inspired you to be a founder, and how did you come up with the idea for the business?
[NAS]: X0PA AI was founded in 2017 to transform hiring into science through B2B SaaS solutions powered by AI that enhance the decision-making power of organisations through predictive analytics and big data. X0PA has been selected by companies such as Panasonic, Capitaland and Antal as well as by more than 80% of Polytechnics in Singapore who have deployed X0PA for their interns and graduate hiring. Additionally, Workforce Singapore selected X0PA to power their National Job Portal. But the proudest achievement of X0PA is its AI Verify status which deems its AI to be ethical, responsible, and explainable.
Recognized by IDC as an AI-Innovator in APAC, among other awards and accolades, X0PA is the only HR Technology company globally to have met the AI VERIFY standard launched by the Singapore Government and the World Economic Forum to demonstrate the responsible, verifiable, and transparent deployment of AI systems.
I founded X0PA with the aim of revolutionizing the traditional recruitment process using artificial intelligence and machine learning. I was inspired by my own experiences as a job seeker and a recruiter, where I realized the inefficiencies and biases in the recruitment process. I observed that recruitment processes often rely on subjective factors such as educational background, work experience, and personal connections, which can result in unconscious biases that affect the selection of candidates. I believed that technology could help to eliminate these biases and make the recruitment process more efficient and effective. Furthermore, I recognized that there was a growing demand for skilled workers in the technology industry and that the traditional recruitment process was not equipped to handle this demand. I saw an opportunity to use AI and machine learning to match skilled candidates with suitable job opportunities more quickly and accurately than traditional recruitment methods. Driven by my passion for technology and a desire to make a positive impact on the recruitment industry, I founded x0pa with a mission to transform the way companies hire talent.
[MK]: Can you tell us a bit about the application? How does it work?
[NAS]: X0PA AI helps employers to hire objectively to achieve equity, be more inclusive and increase diversity in the workforce. X0PA helps screen-in candidates seamlessly and without human bias and errors and above all takes a skills-based hiring approach hence ensuring candidates are screened in instead of getting screened out. The platform uses AI and ML to remove subjectivity from hiring. Selections are skills-based and void of gender, age, ethnicity, or other implicit biases such as pedigree, university, etc.
[MK]: Can you talk about your experience in building an app for the commercial marketplace? How has Microsoft supported you along your journey?
[NAS]: The Microsoft commercial marketplace has provided us a brand-new platform to showcase X0PA AI solutions to customers, and a very effective gateway to publish offerings to new markets and geographies. It also offers a simplified procurement process and a standardized governance model which enables our customers to accelerate innovation. Therefore, our solutions are not only visible to millions of customers and ecosystem partners, but also to Microsoft customer success teams worldwide. This collaborative engagement that’s inspired by the co-sell dynamic within the commercial marketplace adds tremendous value to customers in mapping, optimizing, and leveraging their application and cloud infrastructure landscape to drive optimum economics and achieve business goals. X0PA AI has received high quality customer leads through the commercial marketplace and marketing incentives to generate incremental revenue.
The support and guidance X0PA AI has received from Microsoft in both building an app and publishing it on the marketplace has been outstanding. The app is fundamentally built on Azure using mostly Azure infrastructure and application services, so apart from the well-designed technical documentation and reference material, the Microsoft Application Support team has provided excellent support to our product engineering team throughout the application development lifecycle. The channel sales team worked closely with the Commercial Marketplace Support team in successfully planning, designing, publishing, and launching a transactable offer on the Azure Marketplace and AppSource storefronts. Overall, the experience and journey we have had with Microsoft in building an app and monetizing it in the Commercial Marketplace was fantastic.
[MK]: What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
[NAS]: Women's History Month is a powerful reminder of the countless contributions women have made to society throughout history, often in the face of immense obstacles and discrimination. It's also a call to action to continue the fight for gender parity and recognize the achievements and struggles of women while we inspire future generations of women to dream big, pursue their passions, and break down the barriers that hold them back. Women's History Month reminds us that when women are empowered to fully participate in society, everyone benefits. Making the world more equitable as opposed to just equal.
[MK]: What are your greatest achievements to date?
[NAS]: I have been fairly fortunate to do what I really love and enjoy – my work with tech around human capital. finding more women in the tech world to join us has definitely been one of my talents – if we look at the volume of availability. This does tell me that we need to demystify tech and STEM and encourage more girls to join the tech world.
For me the greatest achievement has been doing what I truly love and building a career on my terms. I think I have been very fortunate to be able to do this. I love technology and the benefits that it can bring to the world. I am fortunate I have a startup that helps in making selections unbiased and works towards a more equitable world, whether its inclusion of gender, age, neurodiversity etc. I love what I do.
[MK]: Why is gender diversity and gender equality critical to the future of tech innovation?
[NAS]: Gender diversity and gender equality leads to various organizational benefits. Companies on the top percentile of gender diversity on executive teams are 25% more likely to have above-average productivity, according to McKinsey. Gender diversity and gender equality are critical to the future of tech innovation because they bring together diverse perspectives and skills, foster a culture of inclusion, and address the gender gap in the industry. By promoting gender diversity and gender equality, we can create a more innovative, inclusive, and equitable tech industry that benefits everyone.
[MK]: What is the best piece of advice you would give to women who are trying to grow their careers in the technology industry?
[NAS]: I have worked both in the corporate world as well as an entrepreneur, and my advice not just to women, but to everyone in tech, would be to ensure they are constantly upskilling and learning to ensure they are not just at par with the technologies of today but also staying ahead and ensuring they are not left behind.
[MK]: What inspiring women leaders do you look up to?
[NAS]: I have always admired Melinda Gates. I had the pleasure of meeting her a few times in person, and her determination to make the world a fair and equitable place really resonates with me. It’s one thing to be generous with your money, and I have admiration for people who also give their time to worthy causes.
[MK]: What is something you wish you would have known early in your career?
[NAS]: Finance for non-finance managers! I would have greatly benefited from a formal training in CFO and fiscal management. I have over years learnt on the job but the hard way!
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