Khaled Abdel Kader – General Manager, Microsoft Egypt [Interview]

A true inspiring Egyptian story. It all started with a young Egyptian international volleyball player who became a world class professional and now runs one of the biggest companies in the world as country manager: Microsoft Egypt. After hearing such a success story, Think Marketing Magazine team decided that we had to share it with each and everyone who has a goal or dream, so that we all know that impossible is nothing as long as you truly believe in yourself.

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Q: How did you become Microsoft Egypt’s GM in such a short time?

A: When I think about how my journey started at Microsoft, it all began like the story of any young fresh graduate who wants to join a multinational company, so that I can excel and get the chance to develop while having the opportunity to have a real impact on both a personal level and on society as a whole. It all started in my childhood, as I was raised in a very competitive family and played a sport very close to my heart; volleyball. It presented me with the opportunity to play for the Egyptian national team. Being a professional player gave me the chance to compete on a very high level whether locally or even at the Olympic games in 1996. This period of my life taught be how to be committed, accountable, a hard worker and really inspired and dream big, so the sky is the limit for dreaming. I think that this was one of my early principles towards ending up in Microsoft.

Q: Would you share with us how it all started and how you shifted careers?

A: I am like any Egyptian, you go to school then you have to take the big test for your high school diploma (Thanaweya Amma) and you just try to do your best. I guess I wasn’t the best student back then. So having some extra curricula as I said earlier, I was very much focused on becoming a professional volleyball player. I even played professionally outside of Egypt for a while, but then I joined the faculty of physical education at Helwan University where I was one of the top three students, which is why I was offered a job as teaching assistant. I stayed at the university for a couple of years teaching biomechanics and even started my master’s degree and was almost done with it when I realized that this wasn’t what I wanted anymore. I shifted my career and started working for different multinationals. I worked at Xerox for a while then moved on to a real-estate company and finally decided that I will go for a MBA in the United States. I finally ended up at Microsoft where I am now realizing my dream.

Q: Where did you find the time to do it all: Sports, Master’s and work as well?

Time is about setting priorities, so if you really prioritize what you want to do and just focus and be efficient in managing your time, you will find that you can actually do a lot during your day. It comes from the self-motivation, as I believe that what matters the most is whether you are really motivated or not and the fact that you really like what you do. So I never felt that I have issues with time. I always feel that I have enough time, it’s about how I can invest this time to the best of my ability and challenge my capabilities to get even better every single day.

Q: What is Khaled Abdel Kader’s recipe for success?

A: I want to say that there are so many stories more inspiring than mine. Mine was a mix between ambitions, hard work, passion, dedication and tenacity.

Q: When did you join Microsoft and how did your job journey start inside it?

A: I joined Microsoft on Sep 1st, 2003, occupying one of the greatest positions I have had in my life. It was mainly about landing one of the major initiatives at Microsoft which was called “Partners in Learning”. It was a commitment from the company towards reforming and transforming education worldwide. I was the Academic Programs Manager running this initiative. We were fortunate back then to get Bill Gates actually twice in Egypt. Such initiatives really showed that we as a company want to help education in Egypt to transform and have an impact on the teaching and learning experience, on how we can make our kids learn better and instill critical thinking in them and knowledge acquisition rather than the memory retention that we all grew up on. All this was really a blessing for me. I was leading the educational sector which focused on helping the overall education system in Egypt. After that, I managed the public sector where I learned a lot and saw what a great potential Egypt actually has. During that time I worked on a lot of projects that really had a huge impact on the market. For instance, with respect to our partnership with the Egyptian government, the way we see it is that it mainly revolves around our joint work to establish and grow the local software economy and increasing our partners from having only one or two partners eleven years back to now having 11,000 partners. Our business model at Microsoft is working through local partners and seeing such a big number of partners that we currently have is something we are all proud of.

Q: How do you see the market in Egypt now, especially with the current economic and political status and how does that affect Microsoft Egypt?

A: No one will argue that we are facing a very difficult time in the country on economic, political and even social perspectives. In the meantime we see it as a responsibility to know what we should do differently to really help the country and our partners and the partner Ecosystems that we built over the years so they can get back on the right track. And we know we can change the current status as when we look back at the past two or three years, it simply makes us realize that everything is possible and hopes and dreams invent the future. So at Microsoft, we see the potential of Egypt, we want to invest in it and I announced that we are increasing our investments in the country and doubling our head count since the revolution and will continue to do this since we believe in the talents we have in Egypt.

Q: Cloud computing and different technologies that Microsoft is currently providing, with the presence of different competitors like EMC, IBM and others, where do you position yourself as Microsoft among them in Egypt and globally as well?

A: It goes again from the level of responsibility and how we see ourselves, and how we see we can help and support the demands and opportunities in the Egyptian market. So we look at different aspects like enterprises over the years. It was great seeing the transformation from the main frame to the internet and right now to the cloud. How you can actually have the ability to use your productivity tools offline and online, how you can move from devices and have compatible software and applications that build on the infrastructure that you have. Our competitiveness comes again from the responsibility that we feel we have to deliver to the country. We build around our presence. So looking at the software economy, we represent a good 55% of this software in the country. We are proud to see that above 90% of the country is all running on our platform, and the market is proving that they trust our technology and platform which helps enterprises be more efficient and reach more customers while being more profitable.

Q: It is said that Oracle is currently being targeted by different government sectors in Egypt , which in return is taking a big portion from Microsoft’s market share ?

A: I would look at it differently. I look at the future and the market trends. If we are maintaining and growing our competitive radius among the partner Ecosystem and the fresh graduates coming from the education while comparing it with numbers coming from IDSC and other unbiased organizations, I see good solid indicators that actually position us among the leaders in this market. Our commitments continue to stay as strong as they were for the past 10 years and I am happy with where we currently are and for the future I am optimistic and my feeling is supported with strong numbers and indicators. Competition is good and as tough as it gets is as much as you can get better. This is good for Egypt and the presence of all multinationals in Egypt is really good for the country. This should be our number one priority … Yes we are a commercial company but our purpose right now is how we can help, support, and accelerate the economy to get back to where it should be.

Microsoft Launches Windows 8 in Egypt - November 8th 2012
Microsoft Launches Windows 8 in Egypt – November 8th 2012

Q:  What is the market feedback for Microsoft Windows 8 ?

A: It was impressive, this was the biggest launch ever in the history of Microsoft Egypt. That was my first external event right after taking the job as GM. Seeing the people excited useing the touch capabilities and different applications, this was a great feeling! In terms of numbers, our numbers are speaking very strongly as it’s much higher than previous launches in Egypt. We are building on it as we are seeing momentum and huge demand on Windows 8 devices right now in retail and different enterprises.

Q: Why did Microsoft retire MSN messenger? and Why did you acquire Skype?

A: The world is moving towards a new direction. Looking at the past year and the amount of investment we spent on R&D, we spent almost 10 million dollars in R&D. When you combine all of this together, you will find that the direction we are moving to is supporting our mission and strategy in terms of being a devices and services company while at the same time supporting consumers’ and enterprises’ needs. Right now we offer through the Skype acquisition a much richer user experience and we believe that the consumers are very excited about Skype and link together.

Q: Can you share with us how you see Egypt and MENA region in 2020?  

A: I will focus on Egypt in 2020. I hope that we will help every single person in the country with different opportunities, so that people can actually realize their full potential and create a better future through the passion and innovation of Microsoft. Honestly for the first time we see the far future much clearer than the short term future in Egypt. So we hope that it’s a brighter future and no question that the country’s potential is huge and we are interested and want to invest even more. As for the new players, we love competition given our history, we learn from our competitors and always challenge ourselves and manage to surprise the entire world like we did with Xbox, Kinect, Windows phone 8 and others. We are hoping we meet the expectations of the Egyptian market and we were number one back then when I was playing volleyball so I hope that this can actually mirror where we will be moving forward.

Dina Marzban

Experienced Research Analyst with proven track record in executing and delivering insightful recommendations and analysis for clients across a range of industries.