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Irish AI demand explodes: ‘In my 17 years in Microsoft, I’ve never seen anything like this excitement,’ says tech boss


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Engineers at the Sandyford campus have been heavily involved in integrating the tech giant’s Microsoft 365 Copilot product technology with other Microsoft products such as Outlook, Office and Teams.

Microsoft began rolling out its version of AI generative tech here in November and so far, says Geraghty, selling it has not been a problem, despite an ongoing wider debate around the dangers of the rapid advance of AI and its potential threat to jobs.

Ronan Geraghty, chief operating officer at Microsoft Ireland. Photo: Naoise Culhane

Microsoft itself was the subject of reports of new job threats last week but its artificial intelligence division – driven by its investment in ChatGPT creator OpenAI – appears to be opening up a whole new future for the Seattle giant.

“In my 17 years in Microsoft, I haven’t seen anything like the level of excitement in a product since Copilot launched,” said Geraghty.

Big public sector and semi-state firms have been some of the most enthusiastic adopters of the new technology tools, he says.

For example, ESB is deploying Copilot for Microsoft 365 to improve knowledge-sharing and collaboration among its 9,000 employees.

Engineers at the Sandyford campus (above) have been heavily involved in integrating Microsoft 365 Copilot product tech with other Microsoft products

An Post is also using the tech, while the Department of Enterprise is using generative AI to improve access for the public to business supports.

MS Ireland made the product available to a limited number of larger customers here back in November but in January opened it up to all.

AI generative technology is increasingly seen as a way to remove mundane repetitive tasks from the to-do lists of many workers. But as the power to quickly generate relevant and accurate response content grows, it has also stoked fears that it could replace jobs.

A recent report by Implement Consulting Group, commissioned by Google – also a major player in the AI space – suggests generative AI alone could boost Ireland’s gross domestic product by as much as €45bn. But, the report found, it could replace 6pc of jobs – about 160,0000 people – over the next 10 years.

‘The real ‘aha’ moment came for me when I set up a prompt in Copilot to tell me my priorities,’ Geraghty said. Photo: Getty

Geraghty, however, insists that his own personal experience using Microsoft’s suite of AI tools in recent months has shown it to be something to be embraced rather than feared.

“The product is called CoPilot rather than Auto-Pilot for a reason. The human stays in the lead,” he said.

In March, when it was announced that Microsoft Ireland general manager Anne Sheehan had departed, Geraghty stepped up temporarily to cover the role until new boss Catherine Doyle arrives next month.

For two weeks, he struggled to manage a huge influx of emails and meetings related to his temporary role on top of his own workload.

“When you’re double-jobbing, I think you’ve got to figure out how to prioritise,” he said.

“The real ‘aha’ moment came for me when I set up a prompt in CoPilot to tell me my priorities each day,” he said. “There’s an art and a science to prompting. And you know, that’s something you do need to really make the most out of these tools.

‘I don’t need to read every email and I don’t need to be at every meeting,’ says Geraghty. Photo: Getty

“I’m trying to ingrain new habits and change old habits. I don’t need to read every email and I don’t need to be at every meeting.”

Instead his virtual AI-powered assistant flags priority messages, responds where necessary and attends and summarises Teams meetings that he cannot get to.

“It’s been incredible to see the speed at which the engineering teams have worked to integrate this,” he said.

The result of that integration is rolling out across Irish workplaces as we speak.

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