July 1, 2022
Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Today: why AWS might be kidding itself if it thinks the results of a recent workplace investigation solved a problem, how one quantum computing entrepreneur wants to protect your data from, like, the future and a disappointing week for Microsoft’s sustainability leader.
When Andy Jassy took the keys to the Amazon kingdom from Jeff Bezos after leading AWS for 18 years, employees were cautiously optimistic that the newly minted great and powerful Oz would improve diversity at the Emerald City’s biggest employer.
Despite being a long-time champion of the cause internally, Jassy appears to have done little to move the needle as CEO in terms of increasing representation at the highest levels of the organization.
But last month, Jassy’s former unit scored a key win in its ongoing battle with employees who allege a culture of bullying, discrimination and harassment at AWS: an outside investigation into the troubled ProServe division found no evidence to back up such claims.
Unfortunately, the results of the Oppenheimer report are unsurprising in today’s corporate environment. No matter how appalling the allegations, no matter how many voices chime in to echo them, no matter the magnitude of the actions that workers take to draw attention to the issues, when businesses investigate themselves — or hire someone else to — everything is perfect.
But details of the Oppenheimer probe are telling. Investigators talked to 92 current and former ProServe employees, according to an email sent to employees. Overall, the division has thousands of workers.
Still, this is Amazon’s victory. Facing legal and reputational challenges, the company can now point to a report from a law firm led by Amy Oppenheimer, an experienced employment attorney, declaring that nothing is amiss.
It also helps shield Jassy from uncomfortable questions like, how much and what did he know? And what did he do to try to address it?
However, the Oppenheimer report will in no way close the door on this issue for Amazon.
Hybrid work success looks different depending on who you ask. Your company is made up of a cast of players, each with a role critical to a competitive and thriving business, and with an eye on their North Star: employee happiness. How do you appease all those stakeholders?
Cyber spies from the future are coming for your data. It sounds like a B-movie plot, but it’s what Jack Hidary, founder and CEO of SandboxAQ, is banking on to sell his quantum startup.
“It’s like watching a science fiction time-machine movie,” Hidary told me this week. “Your data today is retroactively broken from the future.”
The company, an Alphabet spinoff with financial backing from former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Marc Benioff's TIME Ventures and others, wants to help customers shield themselves from quantum computing capabilities that Hidary believes will break the technologies used to secure secret chemical formulas and sensitive customer transaction data today. To prepare, Sandbox is selling automated software that assesses the systems enterprises have in place now to determine what types of encryption they use, and whether vendors run those systems on hard drives in the cloud or on-premises.
Hidary calls this “the discovery phase.” He hopes companies will buy into the notion that they should launch a multiyear overhaul to gear up for the inevitable day when quantum computers can crack today’s encryptions in milliseconds.
One important caveat: “We don't believe anyone has built such a scaled quantum computer,” Hidary said, noting that SandboxAQ’s inventory software does not require a quantum computer to run. (Phew!)
“Even though quantum computers at scale are still a number of years away, if you don't move your core communications and data storage now, your data today is vulnerable because the adversaries get your data today. That's the problem. They get it today, and therefore they could read it a number of years from now.”
Hidary added, “It's a bit of a trippy idea.”
It was a “disappointing week” for Elisabeth Brinton, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Sustainability. On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court limited the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ability to regulate carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal- and natural gas-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act, the 1970 federal law that regulates air emissions.
A key issue that Microsoft’s legal counsel is investigating, according to Brinton, is what the ruling means in terms of the SEC’s proposed rule changes, unveiled in March. The new rules would force public companies to make certain climate-related risk disclosures, including their greenhouse gas emissions, to provide greater transparency for investors.
“Now, I am not a lawyer, but from a practical perspective, investors actually have been driving the SEC in terms of how they look at climate disclosures based on risk,” Brinton told Protocol. “The precedent … around risk and the authority of the SEC around capital markets … and disclosures in terms of understanding how a company stands in its valuation, to me is very solid ground.”
In any case, certain large multinational companies such as Microsoft and financial institutions doing business or investing capital in Europe still face sustainability requirements under European Union rules, even if they’re U.S.-based, according to Brinton.
“The EU taxonomy and the rules around sustainability apply,” she said. “The EU made their jurisdictional authority for sustainability very similar to GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] and privacy. So the market and where we have to go in terms of enabling not only carbon emissions reductions, but then across ESG [environmental, social and governance] more broadly, actually flows through and across to the U.S. companies that are global. It does impact, like GDPR, your operations holistically. It touches down into your cost centers, regardless of where they are.”
For its part, “Microsoft's commitment to doing the right thing for the planet stands regardless of regulation,” Brinton said. “We started on a journey for sustainability over a decade ago and continue to march forward.”— Donna Goodison (email | twitter)
Cybersecurity experts have some questions about Microsoft’s recent report on activity in Ukraine, and whether or not the company stretched the truth to further its commercial interests.
Taiwan joined the parade of people urging Congress to pass the long-delayed Chips Act, hoping to get subsidies for new construction in Arizona.Microsoft Azure’s capacity problems are back, according to the Information, which reported that servers are scarce in several countries even after Microsoft rushed to improve capacity during the early days of the pandemic, when it was forced to ration computing instances in some countries.
Rightsizing, where each meeting space is outfitted for a specific purpose, is top of mind for facilities pros. Reconfiguring rooms to support new hybrid work schedules enables personalization and a safe return to the office. Understanding how employees will use spaces as they come back will be critical for success.
Thanks for reading — see you Tuesday!