University of Montana students connected with the leader of one of the world’s top companies during a Q&A session with Microsoft President Brad Smith on Oct. 9.

During the event, which was organized by UM’s School of Business Administration and the Alexander Blewett III School of Law, Smith covered topics ranging from intellectual property rights to free speech and cybersecurity.

When asked for ways students can make themselves competitive in a global society, Smith emphasized that jobs will require a balance of technical and liberal arts as technology advances. He advised students to take courses in computer science as well as data analytics.

“Decisions inside business are best made when they’re driven by data,” he said. “Even if you’re never going to be the one to produce the data or the analysis, when people are talking about it, you’ll be better served by taking those kinds of classes.”

Explaining that we’re all going to have to work in increasingly collaborative ways to harness technology, Smith also suggested students take courses in economics, communication, and history.

“Just getting that broader perspective that you get from history is a great help because a lot of success in life comes from being able to step back, stay calm, be creative and learn from other people who have addressed similar issues,” he said.

Visiting Missoula for the Montana High Tech Jobs Summit, Smith answered questions submitted by UM business and law students. Paul Kirgis, dean of UM’s law school, moderated the session.

Smith, who also serves as the company’s chief legal officer, was a lawyer in Washington, D.C., before joining Microsoft in 1993. He now leads a team of more than 1,300 business, legal and corporate affairs professionals working in 55 countries.

In addition to his work at Microsoft, he is active in a number of civic and legal organizations and in the broader technology industry, including serving on the board of directors for Netflix.

“Exposing our students to global leaders and brilliant business minds like Brad Smith enriches what our students learn in the classroom,” said Chris Shook, dean of the School of Business Administration. “I’m thrilled and thankful that Microsoft and Brad made this happen for our students.”