AI Industry

Head of Microsoft AI and Research Harry Shum Is Leaving the Company

Microsoft Executive Vice President Harry Shum (Shen Xiangyang), the head of Microsoft AI and Research, will leave the tech giant in early 2020.

Microsoft Executive Vice President Harry Shum (Shen Xiangyang), the head of Microsoft AI and Research, will leave the tech giant in early 2020. A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed the departure of the 23-year Microsoft veteran, who will continue advising CEO Satya Nadella and company co-founder Bill Gates. Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott assumes Shum’s position as head of Microsoft AI and Research effective immediately.

Microsoft established its AI and Research Group in 2016 and chose Shum to lead it. At that time, the 5,000 person group comprised Cortana, Bing, and Ambient Computing and Robotics engineering teams mixed with parts of Microsoft Research. Within a year, the AI and Research group grew to 8,000. As its Executive VP, Shum led Microsoft’s overall strategy and R&D in AI.

Shum joined Microsoft Research in Redmond, Washington, in 1996. In 1998 he moved to Microsoft Research China when it was founded. The group was later renamed Microsoft Research Asia and Shum appointed its Managing Director. Shum was then promoted to Distinguished Engineer and in 2007 took over the responsibilities as the Corporate Vice President of Bing Product Development. From 2013 to 2016, Shum oversaw Microsoft Research operations as Executive Vice President, Technology & Research.

Shum is an IEEE and ACM Fellow whose academic work focuses on computer graphics and computer vision and has been presented extensively in journals and at international conferences. His distinguished research in interactive computer vision was published by ACM SIGGRAPH.

Microsoft China PR provided Synced with a letter that Shum sent to Microsoft employees announcing his departure, which we have translated from Mandarin to English below:

Shen Xiangyang to Employees

November 13, 2019 (US Pacific Standard Time)

November 14, 2019 (Beijing time)

Dear Colleagues,

Throughout the past 23 years, November has had a very special meaning to me. On November 4, 1996, I joined Microsoft Research in Redmond; on November 5, 1998, I attended the opening ceremony of Microsoft Research Asia; in November 2007, I was Corporate Vice President of Bing Product Development. Formally joined the Bing team; in November 2013, I became executive vice president, joined the senior leadership team, and was in charge of technology and research; today, on November 13, 2019, everything came to a perfect ending.

In such a great company, I’ve spent my time in the research group and product R&D team, and I will never forget the wonderful times. I’m grateful for Microsoft yet no words can express my profound gratitude. I will keep it at the bottom of my heart.

I am very honored to have been able to work with the most intelligent people in the computing and technology industries. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in solving the enormous challenges facing humanity and help companies shape the “next future.” I’ve also had the chance to help to push the development of computing science and collaborate with so many talented and successful researchers and students from Microsoft Research and academia. I’ve had an unforgettable time at Bing Search, too. All those improvements, such as better search quality and performance, increased advertising profits, and better user experience, and needless to say the new product lines, including Bing for Business that terrifies our competitors. But what makes me even more proud and something I will always cherish is the friendships we have made.

Leaving Microsoft is the toughest decision of my life. Microsoft has been very successful, but at this stage of my life, it is time to open a new chapter. It’s time to explore new challenges beyond Microsoft and beyond business; to think about what I can do more for the industry and the next generation of computing science.

I am proud of you — of Microsoft, the Artificial Intelligence and Research Group, Microsoft Research, the search and advertising team, the Bing team, the Asia Internet Engineering Institute, the Microsoft Research Asia, and all the achievements that we’ve made! I will miss everyone very much. I believe that everyone will continue to achieve new goals under the leadership of Satya and Kevin.

In the past twenty-three years, I have learned a lot. The most significant thing I learned is that we can’t predict the future, but we can do the best preparations: being open-minded, tolerant, and kind to others.

Thank you, my friends!

Shen Xiangyang

What’s next for Shum remains unknown. Under the leadership of Satya Nadella, Microsoft has completed an engineering reorganization and put more emphasis on artificial intelligence. Nadella believes AI is one of the technologies that will “shape the next phase of innovation” and “AI capabilities are rapidly advancing across perception and cognition fueled by data and knowledge of the world.” What’s next for Microsoft is more of the cutthroat competition against other tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Apple in AI.

Journalist: Fangyu Cai | Editor: Michael Sarazen

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