VFI Members Highlighted in #TechForGood Video

Voices for Innovation (VFI) and some of our great members had the honor of being highlighted at the 2022 Microsoft Inspire conference in a #TechForGood video.

The video provides just a few examples of how VFI members are making a difference in their communities by leveraging the power of technology and civic engagement.

VFI partners are helping advance the careers of Black entrepreneurs, bringing refurbished devices to communities in need, preparing women for careers in cloud, supporting meaningful public policies like data privacy protections, and a lot more. Thank you to all VFI members—and Microsoft partners everywhere—who are contributing to #TechForGood. Check out the video…

We want to give a special shoutout to VFI partner leader Dux Raymond Sy and his team at AvePoint for their work on this video project. Thank you!

Do you have a #TechForGood story that you’d like to share? We’re continuing to collect video stories of our members to highlight the power of #TechForGood. If you have a story to tell, please visit our Share Your #TechForGood Story page.

Submit Your Video to VFI’s #TechForGood Stories

Video clap boardFrom laptop donations to providing IT training to setting up cloud infrastructure, we’ve witnessed the power of technology to transform local communities by enabling learning, facilitating professional development, and creating economic opportunity in the last two years.

All this wouldn’t be possible without tech heroes supporting social good, including Voices for Innovation members around the country.

With this in mind, we’d like to invite members of the VFI community to be a part of our #TechForGood Stories project. We’re creating a collection of short videos, highlighting how tech heroes have served their communities to enable digital transformation. Your story can serve as an inspiration for others to do the same.

VFI will share these videos widely starting this summer to help drive awareness about the massive need of underserved communities for tech enablement.

How to Participate
  • Record yourself in a video and tell your story of how you helped bring technology to a community group, non-profit, school, or other organization to drive social good. Each story in the video will be about two minutes, give or take, but feel free to submit more than one take. When you tell your story, aim to answer these questions:
  1. What is the problem or challenge?
  2. What inspired you to get involved?
  3. How are you solving the problem or addressing the challenge?
  4. What’s the outcome — or where are you headed if your work is ongoing?
  5. What did you learn?
  6. What are you INSPIRED to do next?
  • Collect/shoot videos or pictures of the community you served.
  • Upload all the videos and pictures here (create a folder for yourself).
  • Once uploaded, email us and let us know your content is ready for editing.

For video specifications and tips on shooting your video, check out this guide, courtesy of our friends at AvePoint.

The deadline to submit videos is May 19, 2022. Please submit by this deadline for the best chance to be featured in our highlight reel. We will accept videos until June 1 but may not be able to include late submissions in our highlight reel.

The Rewards of Advocating for Data Privacy Legislation

Portrait photo of Marian Breeze.Prior to joining the tech industry, I ran a consulting practice. Much of my work involved helping corporate and nonprofit leaders build or restore a level of trust with their partners and their communities. It is much easier to build and maintain trust than to repair it, and sometimes the solution required massive structural changes.

For the past eight years, my work at Archive360 has also centered on trust: protecting data is at the heart of what we do. Heavily regulated organizations in the public and private sector trust us to help them secure and manage their data in the cloud, giving them ownership and control over their own data estates.

The ability to store and manage data in the cloud and move away from outdated processes—for those of us who remember running tape back-ups—has completely changed day-to-day activities, not just for IT and Legal, but also for Security, Compliance, Internal Audit, Records Management, even Accounting and HR. It makes business operations more efficient and has created new opportunities for data-driven innovations.

At the same time, the enhanced ability to collect, store, and use data in the cloud has justifiably raised concerns about privacy and cybersecurity. Navigating these challenges successfully requires the tech sector and policymakers to work together.

Common Ground for Businesses and Consumers

We can better understand and meaningfully engage in discussions of data privacy if we work from one key point: namely, responsible companies want to protect their customers’ data. They are stewards of highly personal information, and they take this responsibility seriously.

In other words, consumers and businesses are allies, not adversaries with respect to data privacy. Policymakers have an opportunity to provide protections for consumers and give businesses clear guidance that will help them operate successfully and reduce risk.

While many countries and the European Union have recently adopted stringent data privacy regulations, the U.S. still lacks a national data privacy law. In the absence of action from Congress, several states have passed their own data privacy legislation, and more are looking to take action in the near future. Having a patchwork of state laws is far from ideal: among other things, it puts a tremendous burden on businesses, especially small and mid-size companies. But I am hopeful that well-crafted legislation will serve as a model for Congress and compel them to act.

My Advocacy Journey

I strongly believe data privacy policies can serve the common good by meeting the needs of consumers and businesses, and protecting national interests. I’ve become passionate about supporting good governance on this issue—as both a consumer who has experienced identity theft and as a member of the tech industry.

Over the past several years, my colleagues and I have engaged on a variety of fronts to advance digital privacy policies. In 2017, Archive360 joined an amicus brief in Microsoft’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice, which essentially sought clarity about how law enforcement can access consumer data held by cloud providers. As a relatively small company, it was an extraordinary opportunity for us to leverage our expertise in data management, specifically data ownership and access.

This suit went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court but became moot when Congress passed the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act in 2018. The CLOUD Act was an important step forward, but it did not address the larger issue of how businesses collect, store, and use consumer data in their everyday operations. While these shortfalls were apparent at the time the legislation was being considered, a coalition of data privacy advocates from the tech sector (myself included) spoke with Congressional leaders and voiced our support. Both in business and in political arenas, compromise often gets more accomplished, and the CLOUD Act was a step in the right direction.

Engaging at the State Level

More recently, in the absence of Congressional action on data privacy, I’ve engaged on this issue in my home state of Connecticut. Earlier this year, I shared my support for proposed data privacy legislation, and underscored the need to provide rights to consumers, clear rules and reasonable protections for businesses, and alignment with established data privacy practices.

Connecticut’s data privacy legislation did not advance in the 2021 session. While this was disappointing, the bill’s sponsors took this as an opportunity to bring together a working group, comprised of people with expertise in various sectors, including healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, hospitality, tech policy, and consumer advocacy. We discuss components of the bill, listen to each other’s perspectives, and share ideas and concerns. There is far more alignment than disagreement. It’s been helpful to hear from others about the potential impacts of new data privacy legislation on their constituencies. As with the other state bills that came before it, my hope is that our work will become part of a larger model for federal legislation.

In the past, I’ve volunteered with various organizations, but it was a separate activity from my professional life. Now, l have a seat at the table to advance public policies that will improve outcomes, and (I hope) provide the basis for increasing trust between business, consumers, and government. It has been a fascinating and exciting experience.

Voices for Innovation deserves much of the credit for bridging this personal/professional gap, for opening doors, for providing much-needed tech policy briefings, and for offering me meaningful opportunities to lend my expertise. It has been very rewarding—both professionally and personally—to help shape policies that will benefit the public. I encourage others in the Microsoft partner community to pursue their own advocacy journey.


Marian Breeze is Director of Regional Sales and Business Development for Archive360, a global provider of intelligent enterprise information management and archiving solutions. She is a member of Voices for Innovation’s Advisory Task Force and serves on the Connecticut General Assembly’s working group on data privacy.

The Urgent Need to Create Inclusive Access for Women to Join the Technology Industry

Photo of Chaitra VedullapalliThe tech industry remains a bright spot in a global economy battered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital transformation projects accelerated in response to the global crisis—and tech businesses large and small grew revenues and created jobs in 2020 and into 2021.

But the big picture is not all good for tech—or for underrepresented people in the industry, including women. There is an estimated $700 billion opportunity for enterprise cloud solutions, but fewer than 1% of enterprise cloud contracts globally go to tech firms founded by women.

Women, tech companies, and enterprise tech customers are held back because of the lack of diversity in the tech sector. Research has shown that more diverse teams leads to greater creativity, innovation, and ultimately, profitability. Tech is missing the leadership, expertise, creativity, perspective, and passion of women.

To add to the challenge, during the pandemic, more women than men lost their jobs. Women-owned tech businesses also saw their access to enterprise contracts shrink. As enterprises scrambled to respond to the pandemic, decision makers were less likely to onboard a new woman-owned IT vendor.

Women also make up a majority of the service sector, holding jobs that are more likely to be replaced by AI-driven automation in the coming years. Displaced women can find new careers in tech—if they have access to training and open doors at tech companies.

Women in Cloud Takes Action

In 2018, I co-founded Women in Cloud (WIC), a community-led economic development organization, to help close the gender gap in technology. Fortunately, there are leaders—women and men—in tech and the enterprise marketplace who share this goal. WIC is seeking to translate this support into real progress through our key initiatives.

Our flagship six-month Cloud Accelerator program helps women entrepreneurs co-build, co-market, and co-sell with Microsoft and the company’s distribution channels. Critically, this program provides access to enterprise influencers and decision makers. WIC also helps bring job seekers and enterprise employers together through our #CloudJobs initiative.

Collaborating on a Scholarship Program for Azure Training and Certification

Many tech companies, including Microsoft, recognize the need to diversify, while struggling to find employees with needed IT skills. On the workforce side, thousands of women want to pursue careers in tech or improve their tech skills—but they lack access to affordable training and mentorship. Job displacement caused by COVID-19 has further increased the need for IT skills training, especially for women.

Given this situation, it made perfect sense for WIC and Microsoft to collaborate to help women access digital skills training. Last month, with support from Microsoft Azure, WIC launched our Microsoft Azure Training and Certification Scholarship program. More than 600 participants will be able to access training in Azure Fundamentals, Azure AI Fundamentals, and Azure Data Fundamentals. This is the type of IT training that enterprise employers value.

This skilling program was made possible by Voices for Innovation (VFI) and its director, David Pryor. I knew that VFI helps Microsoft partners engage on tech policy issues, but the organization also fosters connections between Microsoft and other tech groups. David helped bring WIC and Microsoft’s Azure team together around our mutual goal of helping women advance their tech skills.

How VFI Members Can Help Drive Positive Change

There are many ways that VFI members can support women in technology—and drive increased diversity in tech:

  • Highlight WIC’s Azure Scholarships—Please encourage anyone interested in tech careers or displaced by the pandemic to apply for an Azure Training and Certification Scholarship. Priority is given to women, but the program is open to all genders.
  • Hire Women—When you have a job opening, please be sure to connect with women candidates. You may need to broaden your hiring criteria and work more closely with recruiters to ensure women candidates are recognized. When you have openings, please contact us and we can help.
  • Engage with WIC—We all benefit through community. Please sign up for our newsletter, sponsor our programs, and participate as a speaker at our conferences. (You can also sign up for VFI’s weekly tech news Executive Briefing here.)

Looking ahead, WIC will be intensifying our advocacy engagement to win policy changes that expand access to the government marketplace for women-owned technology businesses. On this count, we hope to work collaboratively with VFI and its members to support policies that drive both innovation and equity in the tech sector.


Chaitra Vedullapalli is the Co-Founder and President of Women in Cloud, as well as the Co-Founder and CMO of Meylah, a Cloud Solutions Provider and Microsoft Gold Partner. An author, in-demand speaker, and change leader, she is helping to drive conversations about digital transformation and women in tech at the United Nations and among top corporations.

The Value of Investing in Privacy Compliance

Photo of Jeffrey GoldsteinMicrosoft partners—and every tech business—should provide strong privacy protections for their customers. It’s the right thing to do, it’s required by laws and regulations, and it’s good for your business.

U.S. tech companies and customers alike would benefit from a single, unified federal data privacy law. But in the absence of that law, we’ll benefit if state laws are closely compatible with each other and with the Europe Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

My company, Queue Associates, has invested substantial time, energy, and money to become privacy compliant everywhere we do business. We’re confident we’ve made worthwhile investments—and I want to encourage every Microsoft partner to make a similar commitment to privacy compliance.

Recognizing the Risks of Non-Compliance

Queue Associates is an international business, with offices in the UK and Hong Kong—in addition to Phoenix, Atlanta, and the New York metropolitan area. We became aware of the need to make privacy compliance part of our ongoing operations when the EU implemented the GDPR in 2018.

The GDPR includes stringent directives, not just guidance. If your business fails to comply, it can face severe fines. Last year, British Airways was fined £20 million ($26 million) by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for violating the GDPR—and the fine could’ve been as large as £183 million.

The threat of fines by itself was a strong motivation to meet compliance requirements. We also began to see RFPs requiring strict compliance with the GDPR related to data privacy. Increasingly, if you want to compete for business in Europe, you have to demonstrate privacy compliance. I expect this requirement will become more common in U.S. RFPs as well.

Turning to Privacy Experts

Queue is committed to digital privacy compliance, but we’re not privacy experts. It made sense for us to seek outside help, so we contracted with a company called, The Data Privacy Group (DPG). When we first hired DPG, they conducted an audit of our websites and other technology. We were shocked to learn the extent to which we were out of compliance—even though we had not neglected privacy or security. But now we knew what we had to do to meet compliance requirements—in all the places where we do business.

Just as DPG scanned our websites to find compliance lapses, privacy regulators regularly scan websites. They first check for cookie compliance and privacy notices. If you fail to meet base-level compliance requirements in an automated scan, someone may dig deeper. DPG helped us update cookie and privacy notices, and we now utilize DPG and their OneTrust platform to maintain compliance and manage customer requests to review, update, and delete data. We are now also ISO 27001 certified for meeting international standards on information security.

Peter Borner from DPG also conducts annual privacy compliance training with all of our employees and serves as our designated Data Protection Officer (DPO), as required by the GDPR. All told, for software licensing, services, and training, Queue Associates spent about $50,000 for the first year with DPG to become compliant. This is money well spent. It makes us compliant, it makes us competitive, and it provides peace of mind. We also utilize LastPass to strengthen password protections and Microsoft InTune to manage the security of our desktops, laptops, and mobile devices.

Putting Customers First

During the COVID-19 pandemic—with many employees working from home—businesses took a harder look at the security and privacy of their technology and their MSPs. Throughout 2020, our customers increasingly asked us about our privacy and security, and required Queue to produce privacy notices. Because we’ve been proactive on this front, we’re able to demonstrate our compliance and show that we’re looking out for our customers.

I would encourage every Microsoft partner to stay ahead of the curve on privacy and security. You’ll not only protect your business, but also build trust and enhance your reputation with your clients.

Tech professionals can also act as trusted advisors and thought leaders on behalf of our customers by advocating for sensible privacy policies in the halls of government. Our industry and customers together will be best served by a balanced, unified policy approach that protects data privacy without overburdening businesses or undermining innovation.


Jeffrey Goldstein is Managing Director of Queue Associates, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner specializing in Dynamics 365. Jeff is also past President of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP)—Americas, an active VFI advocate, and an alumnus of VFI’s Advisory Task Force.

Meeting Pandemic Challenges with Digital Transformation

Graphic illustrating digital transformationThe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is hard to grasp. The loss of life has been staggering—a tragedy unmatched by anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. Beyond the loss of life, the pandemic disrupted businesses, organizations, whole industries, schools, and our communities.

Everyday life—and many businesses—hit pause as states shut down and stay-at-home orders went into effect. At the same time, essential services needed not only to keep operating, but also to take steps to fight the virus, limit its spread, and support communities.

When the scope of the pandemic became clear, businesses and organizations (and households, too) turned to tech to keep moving forward. We recently talked to two VFI members who are also Microsoft partners about the ways they helped key customers respond to the challenges of COVID-19.

Tracking COVID-19 at a Major Healthcare System

Photo of VFI leader RJ NaugleRJ Naugle, Microsoft alumni and active leader in VFI’s Advisory Task force, leads REV Tech, a veteran-owned Microsoft Services implementer and channel partner, which focuses a large part of its operations on purpose-driven projects that help government, commercial customers, and non-profits serve communities. One of REV’s customers—an eight-state healthcare system—is one of the largest non-profit healthcare organizations that is leading the charge against COVID-19 while simultaneously transforming their organization through the Microsoft PowerPlatform. On a tight timeframe, this organization needed a way to track and report COVID-19 cases and exposures among its tens of thousands of employee caregivers.

“In less than 30 days, we built a PowerPlatform low-code/no-code Power App solution that enables the tracking of COVID cases and exposures among caregivers,” RJ explained. “We streamlined data collection and consolidated reporting forms in real-time. The Caregiver App helped mitigate the spread of the virus by supporting contact tracing and identifying who needed to be tested and quarantined.”

REV’s solution also implemented required data fields for federal regulatory reporting for possible COVID relief funding and CDC reporting. “For a small investment, the organization is set up to see long-term return. This tool can also be used to track COVID variants and other diseases or outbreaks as they emerge in future years. It will also support workflows for future crises,” explained RJ.

During the COVID-19 crisis, RJ and his company also worked with a consortium of Seattle organizations serving people without permanent homes. REV’s Navigation (Nav) App, which leverages Microsoft Dynamics 365, was originally designed to help manage and serve encampments. When the pandemic hit, REV updated the technology to add COVID-19 contact tracing for the over 10,000 chronic homeless in the Seattle Metro area.

Supporting Mental Health Among First Responders

COVID-19 has taken a toll on first responders. Many have contracted the disease, many are exhausted, and many face mental health challenges. The pandemic aside, firefighters and emergency medical personnel suffer in high numbers from stress and depression. Far more firefighters die from suicide than die in the line of duty.

Last year—amid the pandemic—the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City (UFLAC) and the Los Angeles Fire Department opened the UFLAC Center for Health and Wellness in a converted fire station in the city’s Arleta neighborhood. The facility is solely dedicated to supporting the mental health of firefighters and emergency medical personnel.

2017 Photo of VFI Advisory Task Force leader Bill Hole in front of the White House grounds“This facility had been in the planning stages for three years,” explained Bill Hole, technology consultant, president of US Licensing Group, and engaged leader of VFI’s Advisory Task Force. “But the pandemic broke out right during IT contracting and procurement. The facility could no longer have people congregating onsite, so we had to establish a system for secure meetings and operations.”

Fortunately, Bill and a Microsoft team were able to scramble to get the Center up and running. “People cleared their calendars to get this done. Microsoft provided a lot of resources. Using the Microsoft 365 platform, we quickly had a HIPAA-compliant system in place for remote collaboration, document access, and patient care.”

RJ’s and Bill’s stories represent a broader digital transformation that took place across the country and worldwide in response to COVID-19. At the outset of the pandemic, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella noted that the company saw “two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” A McKinsey survey of corporate executive found that COVID-19 sped companies’ “adoption of digital technologies by several years”—as much as seven to ten years.

Bill and RJ both had a breakneck 2020, working non-stop to help organizations adopt new technologies and remain operational. Bill explained why Microsoft partners were prepared. “Microsoft has long sounded the drumbeat of ‘readiness’ with its partners. We’re in a posture of readiness. It’s part of the culture that partners embrace. We all hit the ground running to help respond to the pandemic.”