Tag Archives: Inclusion

Solo Superhero Strikes Again?

Last month, I published a blog post about managing my mental health and dealing with social anxiety. And I want to continue that conversation. I thought I would highlight a recent example of where my anxiety kicked in and how I dealt with it.

Sometimes going out and doing things that come easy for everyone else doesn’t come so easy for me. Like going to the movies by myself. My anxiety gets triggered when I think of being in social situations by myself or around large groups of people. Even seeing a movie in a movie theater. Last week, Spider-Man: Far From Home from Marvel Studios came out. And I am religious about seeing every Marvel Cinematic Universe movie on opening night AND in IMAX. For IMAX movies in Regal Cinemas, they release special collector tickets. And I collect them. So, by seeing these movies on opening night – I ensure I get one of these tickets. For popular movies, these tickets can go quickly.

When it came to seeing Spider-Man: Far From Home, I didn’t have anyone available to go with me on opening night. And it makes me feel more comfortable going to movies with someone I know. Yes, I know – it’s just a movie and you’re just sitting there watching a big screen for 2 hours and not really being “social”. You’re still around a lot of people though especially when your going to a hotly anticipated movie which most of the Marvel movies are.

In trying to manage my anxiety, I am challenging myself to confront these situations head on rather than avoid them. To make sure I didn’t weasel out of seeing this movie, I used the Regal Cinemas app to purchase a ticket for the movie in advance. An IMAX movie ticket on opening night isn’t cheap. And it’s not trivial to get your money back for a ticket you bought through the app. I trapped myself a week before the movie. I HAD to go. Otherwise I would be wasting a decent amount of money which is stupid.

In short – I went to the movie, it was awesome (highly recommend seeing it and seeing it in IMAX), and I got the collectible ticket.

There are still cases where my anxiety gets the best of me. I wanted to go see the Foo Fighters (my favorite band) in concert and didn’t go because I didn’t want to go by myself. Same for Weezer. And every year I tell myself I’m going to go to San Diego Comic-Con but never actually do it. I’ve still got work to do. But at least I’m taking baby steps!

For those of you who have social anxiety, how do you manage it? I’d love some tips to try! Leave a comment or tweet at me.

Managing My Mental Health

Mental health issues (or disorders) affect 1 in 4 people. That means millions of people today live with mental health issues like Autism, Depression, Anxiety, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and others. Unfortunately, that has come with a somewhat negative stigma. Studies on these mental health issues are ongoing, but it has been discovered that many are the result of how the brain is “wired” which can impact behavior as well as create challenges in thinking and learning. Today’s push on neurodiversity challenges the negative stigma by saying that the differences in how the brain is wired that results in mental health issues are simply normal variations in humans and shouldn’t be treated as a defect. These people are simply a normal variation of the human species. To put a spotlight on neurodiversity and to fight the negative stigma often associated with mental health, many people are speaking out and sharing their experiences on their own mental health issues. And I would like to take part in this conversation by sharing my own experiences dealing with my mental health.

Throughout my entire life, there have been very specific situations which make me extremely anxious. It began when I was a kid with minor things like reading out loud in class when I was in grade school. My teachers and parents just told me I was “nervous”. But as I got older, it got worse. In high school, the risk of simply getting picked by a teacher in class to answer a question or read out loud gave me feelings of panic and fear causing my heart rate to skyrocket. It also gave me stomach troubles. Having to present a project in front of the class or participate in group projects made me feel the same way: absolute panic. Anything related to being in major social situations gave me severe anxiety. So, I did everything I could to avoid getting into these situations. I managed this well in high school, but this became more challenging in college. In college, there were classes that required you to participate in group projects to pass the course. I ended up simply not doing the group projects which in turn meant not getting good grades. I didn’t go out to parties. I couldn’t make friends. No matter how hard I tried to convince myself to feel differently in these social situations – it never worked. It wasn’t until my late 20’s when I realized I was dealing with Social Anxiety Disorder.

I continued to do everything I could to avoid the situations that would give me anxiety, even when I started working for Microsoft in 2008. To avoid these situations, I created various excuses. But a few years ago, I realized that by avoiding these situations, I was missing out on experiences and opportunities. I missed out going to product launches and big technology conferences because I convinced my managers that “I didn’t need to be there” because I didn’t want to travel. I missed out on meeting new people and making new friends after moving to Seattle because I didn’t go to social gatherings like happy hours I was invited to. I was given opportunities to meet amazing people I admire like Satya Nadella and I didn’t take them because I “didn’t want to bother people”. I’ve passed up so many amazing opportunities to introduce myself to people and always chickened out. And I’m divorced because my ex-wife felt she was missing out on doing fun things with friends and family which I avoided because of my anxiety.

After my divorce, I decided to take time to self-reflect. In OneNote, I created a list going back as far as I could remember of all the experiences and opportunities I missed out on because of my anxiety. It was a rather long list. But the list served as a forcing function for me to face my fears. I didn’t want this list to grow. In fact, I wanted to create a new list of all the NEW experiences and opportunities I get to have as a result of facing my fears. My hope is that it allows me to grow more comfortable with more social interaction both professionally and personally. Every time I find myself closing up and feeling anxious – I’ll open up the list of all the things I’ve missed to remind myself I don’t want to add to it. It’s a great way to hold myself accountable.

Over the course of the last two years, I’ve had amazing opportunities and experiences as a result of me facing my fears. I’ve traveled to Europe for the very first time and visited London and Munich. I discovered a way to make myself feel more comfortable is to travel with someone I trust and who I am comfortable with. It made a huge difference in the level of anxiety I felt. I’ve spoken in front of groups of people at a big technology conference. Instead of getting up in front of a bunch of people and making a speech, I’ve discovered I feel a lot more comfortable speaking along with someone else on stage who I can work off of. And I’ve done social things where I’ve met cool people. But I have a lot more work to do. I still find myself falling back into my old routine of avoiding things. Dealing with this is really hard for me. I feel like I’m broken because I see everyone else out traveling the world, having fun, making friends – but I struggle so much. But I remind myself of the progress I’ve made so far.

I have so much more to say on this topic and on mental health. I want this blog post to serve as an introduction to me talking more about this and opening to my struggles as well as ways I’m coping and managing my anxiety. I have been signed up by my boss (told) to take part in a neurodiversity session at Microsoft Ignite 2019 in November. Microsoft has been investing a lot in diversity and inclusion in technology and this is part of that effort. I’m glad to be taking part in this conversation!  

What I want to do in 2019 (Better Adulting)

We’ve been having a significant “snow event” here in Seattle and it has given me some time to put down a blog post highlighting some of the big things I want to do and be better at in 2019 (aka be better at adulting).

These are the things I want to do this year:

I want to continue building my brand. Back in September, I blogged about building my personal brand. I want to continue that investment into 2019.

I want to continue being an advocate of diversity in technology. Back in September at Microsoft Ignite 2018, I took part in several Diversity and Technology sessions which really fired me to be a better advocate. I also spoke at an internal Microsoft event in Redmond put on by the Hispanic/Latinx Organization of Leaders in Action (HOLA) group. I want to continue to participate in these types of sessions and events. I passionately believe people with different backgrounds and experiences should be given equal opportunity to thrive in both their professional and personal lives and am incredibly proud of the work Microsoft is doing in this area.

Me at Microsoft Ignite 2018.

I’ve created a list of work projects by priority. Over the holidays, I took some time to reflect on how I work. I really wanted to give myself some focus in 2019 and do a better job setting myself up for success in my job. That’s not to say I wasn’t being successful. I just felt I could do better. Instead of being a bit random in the projects I am working on, I decided to create a list of projects that I intend to focus on for the rest of the year by priority. That list and their priority were agreed upon by my manager. And I keep this list in Microsoft To-Do. Now, when something random comes my way – I will measure it against this list to ensure I am focusing on the right things and evaluating any trade-offs that might need to be made. Part of this is also learning to say “no” to things (or delegate). I have always struggled with that. Part of this is that I want to give myself dedicated time to think about things more thoroughly and exert my creativity. I have a very active mind and it needs to let loose some creativity! Of course this list can evolve as priorities change and shift projects around!

I’ve created a personal financial plan for the entire year. I’ve created a financial Microsoft Excel spreadsheet where I have plugged in all my reoccurring expenses and bills. My goal is to pay down what debt I have and boost my personal savings account. This spreadsheet allows me to plug in and estimate numbers for the rest of the year. My intent is to be far smarter about my spending this year which also means being much more deliberate in choosing what nerdy things I collect. My other goal is to save up and trade-in my Ford F-150 by the end of the year. I love the truck but its far too big for what I need especially in the Seattle area. What will I trade my truck in for? Well, it will either be another Ford like the new Edge ST or a Tesla Model 3. We’ll see. Keeping your financials in good shape is a critical thing any adult should be doing and I was doing it previously but more on a month to month basis rather than long term.

I want to write more on my blog. I want to write more here on my blog. I find it therapeutic and it helps exert some of that creativity I mentioned above. There are a lot of topics I care about and I want to talk about those things here. Last year I floated the idea of possibly writing a book but realized I’m not ready yet to do that. I’ve begun using Microsoft OneNote to keep ideas on topics I want to write about on this blog.

I got to see the Space Shuttle Atlantis in real life!

I want to be a better advocate of the exploration of space. I recently donated and joined The Planetary Society. Through The Planetary Society, I sent letters to state and federal politicians regarding the impact of the recent U.S. Government shutdown on space exploration. I also became a backer of the Restore Historic Mision Control on Kickstarter to preserve the legacy of the Apollo Program.

I want to travel more this year. Ok, there are two pieces of this one. Whenever an opportunity to travel presents itself at work, I want to do it. I recently took my very first trip to Europe (London and Munich) and it was awesome! I’m going back to London at the end of this month for Microsoft Ignite | The Tour. Additionally, I need to be better at actually taking vacation time. I tried to take several weeks off over the holidays and didn’t do a great job. I’ve already made progress and plan to go with some friends to San Diego in June!

Me having tea in London.

So lets see how I do in accomplishing all these this year!