Sherif Tawfik: A Purpose-Driven Technology Leader Passionate About Creating a Positive Impact & Legacy

Top Most Influential Sustainability Leaders of 2023

Sherif Tawfik, Chief Sustainability Commercial Officer at Microsoft, believes that true success should be defined as a sense of fulfilment, knowing that one has made a positive impact within their sphere of influence to the best of their abilities. While many associate successes with wealth, power, or fame, Sherif emphasizes that genuine success goes beyond these external markers. As we mature, our understanding of success evolves.

According to Sherif, achieving personal goals alone is not sufficient. Success should also encompass the positive influence we have on others, particularly those closest to us. Building successful relationships, leaving behind a positive legacy, and making a lasting impact are essential aspects of a well-rounded definition of success.

He highlights the significance of our actions and their impact on others even after we pass away. Sherif mentions, “It is said that when a person’s life ends, their actions come to an end too, except for three: ongoing acts of charity, knowledge that benefits others, and leaving behind individuals whom we directly impacted. These individuals, in turn, pay it forward by positively impacting others and remembering us with deep appreciation.” This emphasizes the importance of not just personal achievements, but also the influence we have on those around us and the positive legacy we leave behind.

A Dream of Working at Microsoft Comes True

Sherif’s career took flight during his university days when he worked a summer job assembling PC components. This hands-on experience taught him the art of constructing a fully functional computer from various parts, demonstrating that even complex tasks can be conquered when broken down into smaller, manageable steps.

Motivated by the mission of Microsoft to bring a PC to every desk, Sherif’s passion for PCs grew stronger. It became his driving force to pursue a Computer Science Major in Engineering school, with the dream of one day joining Microsoft.

After graduation, he embarked on a professional journey, working for a couple of startups where he held the pivotal role of the first employee after the founder. This diverse experience required him to excel in areas such as sales, technical work, project management, marketing, IT, and finance. These experiences played an instrumental role in shaping Sherif’s versatile skill set and honing his abilities.

Sherif firmly believes that with the right mindset of continuous learning and a can-do attitude, nothing is impossible. He motivates his team with a simple saying, “How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time.” This emphasizes that even the most significant challenges can be overcome by breaking them down into smaller, manageable steps.

Luckily, Sherif’s skills and passion caught the attention of Microsoft, and he joined the company on a special day – March 1st, 2000. He will always remember that date as a significant milestone in his career.

Accelerating Talent Development & Progression at Microsoft

Sherif has observed that Microsoft has not only contributed to his personal growth and success but has also had a positive impact on many other talented individuals he encountered during his time with the company. He recalls a quote from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella that deeply resonates with him, “Think of Microsoft working for you, as opposed to you working for Microsoft.” This quote helped Sherif recognize the significant potential that companies like Microsoft possess in empowering their employees and communities when they foster a culture of empowerment, innovation, and a growth mindset.

One of Sherif’s notable initiatives was the creation of a unique Center of Expertise within the company. This center aimed to hire fresh talent and provide them with intensive onboarding programs, enabling them to accelerate their professional development to the fullest extent possible. These individuals would then spend 50 percent of their time working regionally, supporting teams in different countries and driving sales. This also allowed them to learn from experienced colleagues in the region. The remaining 50 percent of their time would be dedicated to gaining even more intensive experience at the Center of Expertise.

By repeating this hybrid cycle multiple times, Sherif successfully accelerated the talent development and progression of over 300 individuals. Today, the majority of them have achieved advanced positions in their careers. Sherif maintains that having such a significant impact on people’s lives and their success, while also driving business success, is a rarity not often seen in many companies. It serves as a testament to Microsoft’s commitment to empowering and enabling its employees to reach their full potential.

Empowering Organizations to Foster a Better Planet
When Microsoft shifted its mission to “Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more,” Sherif understood the importance of the word “Planet” in this mission. He recognized that a healthy planet is crucial for genuine empowerment. In July 2022, Sherif made a request to transition into a new Sustainability commercial leadership role in the region, driven by his desire to contribute to realizing this vision.

As the Chief Sustainability Commercial Officer at Microsoft, Sherif’s main responsibility is to drive the commercial business for Microsoft’s Sustainability solutions. He works with large organizations in Central and Southeast Europe, Middle East, and Africa, spanning over 100 countries. Sherif’s goal is to empower organizations to create a better world through sustainable innovation, digital transformation, and growth. He also plays a key role in developing and implementing scalable business strategies for Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability platform.

Sherif is deeply committed to driving thought leadership in sustainability. He actively collaborates with partners and startups to develop innovative solutions that address sustainability challenges and can be swiftly brought to market.

Throughout his career, Sherif has received multiple leadership awards, including the Microsoft Circle of Excellence Platinum Award five times and a Microsoft Chairman Award. However, he emphasizes that the most meaningful recognition for him is the genuine appreciation expressed by those he has led and influenced. Seeing his team members achieve promotions or receive awards brings him immense satisfaction. Sherif firmly believes that true recognition for a leader lies in the success and growth of the individuals they lead, rather than their individual achievements.

Turning Dyslexia into a Superpower

Sherif believes that challenges play a vital role in shaping our lives. He views them as opportunities for growth and learning, embracing them with a positive mindset, regardless of the outcome. He recognizes that it’s easier to connect the dots when looking back rather than looking forward, but he doesn’t let that discourage him from pursuing his goals. Challenges are not roadblocks for him; instead, they are chances to step out of his comfort zone, acquire new knowledge, and grow personally and professionally.

One significant challenge Sherif faced was being dyslexic, which made reading and retaining vocabulary difficult, especially in a tech-driven world where continuous learning is essential for success. Additionally, in American multinational companies, strong communication skills are highly valued, posing an additional hurdle that he had to overcome through hard work and perseverance.

However, Sherif recognizes that his dyslexia also enhanced his visual skills, and strategic thinking abilities. He effectively leveraged these strengths in his career. During moments when he felt stagnant in his professional growth, he saw them as opportunities to propose new roles for himself. This allowed him to redefine his job description, acquire new skills, and unleash his full potential. As a result, Sherif was able to make a more significant impact in his chosen field, forging a path that transcends conventional boundaries. He created new opportunities, ventured into uncharted territories, and broadened his reach, leveraging his strengths and unwavering thirst for learning.

A Purposeful Leader Building a Legacy with Confidence & Humility

Sherif acknowledges that while he never had a specific ambition to pursue a particular title or position in the industry, he has always strived to make the greatest possible impact within the scope of his capabilities and resources. He believes in maintaining a delicate balance between confidence, which keeps him motivated to embrace challenges and changes, and humility, which allows him to recognize his place and acknowledge that he doesn’t possess all the knowledge.

As Sherif approaches the milestone of turning 50,” Sherif remarks, “I have become more obsessed with purposeful leadership.” He has come to realize that the legacy he leaves behind is not determined by titles or wealth, but rather by the positive impact he has had on people’s lives and the lasting legacies he leaves within communities and the planet.

Sherif firmly believes in maintaining a mindset of expanding his impact and striking a balance between confidence and humility. He recognizes that his true measure of success lies in the number of lives he has positively influenced and the enduring impact he has made. By embracing this triangle of expanding impact, confidence, and humility, he believes that everything will fall into place in due course.

Future Plans: Harnessing AI, Sustainability, and Skilling for Global Impact

As Sherif looks ahead to the next phase of his journey, he is filled with a sense of purpose and a grand vision. He envisions launching a non-profit research startup that will explore the potential of Artificial Intelligence in advancing sustainability skilling for job seekers, fresh graduates, and young professionals across the globe. These plans are currently in the formulation stage, with Sherif actively working towards finalizing and refining the details.

Operating alongside his role at Microsoft, Sherif is driven by a deep-rooted commitment to make a lasting impact on the world. The non-profit research startup will be a testament to his dedication and his belief in the transformative power of technology and sustainability.

Sherif intends to bridge the gap between AI, sustainability, and skilling, ensuring equitable access to education and career opportunities for all. With groundbreaking research and collaborative partnerships, he aims to create a more inclusive and prosperous society.

While these plans are still in the process of being realized, Sherif is eager to share more details as they are finalized and formulated. He understands the importance of careful planning and preparation to ensure the initiative’s success.

In these final sprints of his remarkable career, Sherif is driven by his vision and intent to create a legacy that impacts lives on a global scale. By harnessing the potential of AI, sustainability, and skilling, he aspires to shape a brighter future for generations to come.

Sherif will continue to balance his responsibilities at Microsoft while working diligently to bring his non-profit research initiative to life. As the plans take shape, he looks forward to sharing more about the initiative’s progress, partnerships, and the opportunities it will provide.

Stay tuned as Sherif’s plans evolve, and witness how his passion, purpose, and expertise converge to make a profound impact on the world.