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Ever wonder what it’s like to be an influencer and someone who is important to an industry? Me too. Sometimes, people and companies want to talk to me about work-related technology and trends. More and more, I say no.

A few months ago, I got a call from Microsoft. They wanted to meet with me at the 2018 SHRM conference in Chicago to talk about their analytics product. They offered to pay for airfare, hotel, and a conference pass if I would take a meeting and learn more about their Workplace Analytics and MyAnalytics tools. They also asked me to share my thoughts on my blog.

The influence game is a weird one, and I was on the fence. There are a lot of great HR bloggers out there, and I’m hardly as influential as most of them. But I’ve done work with Microsoft in the past and even keynoted a big event in Seattle with Steve Ballmer. It was a great experience.

So, I flew to Chicago for one day and had a meeting with a woman named Dawn Klinghoffer. We met in a hotel suite above McCormick Place, and she told me about her job.

Dawn is the General Manager on the HR Business Insights team, who use MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics in their day-to-day work. Those products use the data left behind when you go about your everyday work in Office 365 — like time in meetings and email — to help companies and people make better decisions about how they spend their time at work.

Honestly, I was skeptical when I heard the words “Microsoft” and “people analytics” in the same sentence. It seemed a little audacious to me because Microsoft isn’t known for much in HR beyond Office 365. If anything, they have four HR products — Outlook, Excel, Skype, and LinkedIn — and I don’t hear the market clamoring for more Microsoft HR solutions.

Can Microsoft do people analytics?

Dawn explained that Workplace Analytics aggregates and anonymizes employee data at a company level so leaders can look at broad trends across an organization. MyAnalytics allows individuals to measure and set goals to improve how they spend time at work, in meetings, and even how much time they spend on work after hours. She called it “a fitness tracker for work.”

(I was like — Can you send me notes on this stuff? I’ll never remember it.)

Dawn also told me about how her technical team works to help Microsoft’s HR team to drive better employee experiences within their own company. There are live events where leaders speak with employees through the platform, and Dawn’s team analyzes data to understand the behaviors of managers with the most engaged employees and the actions that create the most positive onboarding experiences for new employees.

(That’s pretty cool.)

She also told me that other companies use MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics to have more productive meetings, increase focus time, and understand the behaviors of the most productive sales teams.

(I didn’t get other company names, though, because I forgot to ask.)

So, that was a lot. I was tired, and my eyes were sore. Once the meeting was over, I went to a big lunch with Microsoft — where they gave me a free computer that I eventually donated to 22-year-old art student — and then I flew home.

•••

I’ve had a few months to reflect on the experience, and it’s not like I can tell you whether or not those Microsoft products and tools are any good. But I can tell you that I enjoyed meeting with Dawn because she’s a long-time Microsoft employee and we know some of the same people. It was fun to listen to her story and hear how she is passionate about her role in “fixing work” and improving the employee experience.

Dawn also described how she fell into her role in human resources and developed as a leader. Microsoft has supported her career journey as a woman, a mother, and a manager over the past 20 years. You don’t always hear those stories from big tech companies, and it stuck with me.

So, if you are curious, being an influencer is a lot like this:

1. You get flown to meetings.
2. People pitch you on stuff.
3. If there’s gold in anything you learn, you write about it transparently.

And there was some gold in that meeting.

I’m excited that Dawn is leading Microsoft’s charge into the HR technology space, and I’m hopeful that her team does great work. We need more seasoned women in the HR tech industry — serving as examples for future generations of people who want to fix work and improve the employee experience — and I want to help advocate for someone who is doing great work.

So, I’m glad I went to Chicago and met with Microsoft. If you ever cross paths with Dawn Klinghoffer or want to connect with her on LinkedIn, please tell her that I sent you. And feel free to tell her what you think about Microsoft’s entry into the HR tech space. Good? Bad? Uneventful? You’re as influential as I am, and I know she’d love to hear from you.