Below is an article originally written by Candace Whitney-Morris at PowerToFly Partner Microsoft. Go to Microsoft's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Susan Betts moved to the United States to follow her career dreams. A combination of the Defense of Marriage Act and immigration-related laws meant that she and her partner, who came with her, might not be able to stay unless something changed.
In 2008, Susan Betts and her partner, Silvia Colombaretti, made the move to New York City from São Paulo, Brazil, where they met and fell in love, and pursued their dream to live abroad. Betts was granted a work visa for a new job, and Colombaretti came to the United States on a student visa. Colombaretti didn't know English at the time and decided that she would learn the language.
After two years, Betts was offered a senior director position on the Microsoft Brand team. Saying yes to the job was significantly easier than the immigration challenge that awaited them—Colombaretti's student visa was due to expire.
"We were debating staying in New York—jumping at the opportunity for me to work at Microsoft—or going back to Brazil," Betts recalled. "But always, there was this question around immigration."
This was in 2011, and gay marriage wouldn't be recognized by the US Supreme Court until 2013, which meant that Colombaretti wasn't eligible to apply for a green card as Betts's spouse. Colombaretti had neither a green card nor a spouse visa, and the couple wondered if they might be headed back to Brazil much sooner than they wanted.
"We loved it here; it was where we chose to be," said Betts.
While Betts was still in the recruitment phase with Microsoft and fielding these complex questions, Microsoft's legal team stepped in to help.
"They were incredibly diligent and supportive every step of the way, before I came to Microsoft and during the subsequent months after I had joined," Betts said. "There are hundreds of people at Microsoft who are on visas, and Microsoft does a lot of work to support their immigration. We probably have the best legal immigration team that you could ever dream for, because we have so many people from overseas here," Betts said.
Microsoft's legal counsel suggested that the couple postpone the next step—applying for Betts's green card—until Colombaretti could be added to the application as her recognized legal spouse. Many eyes were on the landmark Edie Windsor court case, which the legal team knew could flip everything on its head by repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, the US federal law that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.
In 2012, same-sex marriage became legal in Washington State, but still the couple waited to get married.
"Marriage equality on a federal level is what mattered to us, because immigration is a federal issue," said Betts.
Susan and Silvia (on computer screen) got married in Brazil and in the United States on the same day. The couple's faces beam with joy on Skype as they celebrated with Susan's mother (right) and two best friends who acted as witnesses.
They waited, but they did not despair. Betts calls herself a glass-half-full kind of person, and while things were up in the air, Betts said that she knew they could always move home to Brazil and be close to their supportive families.
"We were apprehensive, but we had options," she said. "A lot of people aren't that flexible."
She also felt fortunate that she was born into an accepting family and recognized that many people don't have that experience.
"My mother is incredibly supportive of me and Silvia."
The ability to feel confident at home with her family meant Betts didn't have to worry about her sexuality and the potential impact it could have on her life.
"At home, at work, with my friends, and in my social life, it's never really been a taboo, or hidden," she said. "This gave me peace of mind since the very beginning of my adult life. I wish everyone could have the kind of emotional support I did."
In anticipation of the Windsor case, the couple married in April 2013, so that when the decision came down, they could proceed with the final stage of their green card application and list Colombaretti as Betts's legally recognized spouse.
Betts and Colombaretti originally thought they would have a simple courthouse wedding, but they reconsidered, wanting to make memories with their families in Brazil. Using the power of video conferencing, they logged into Skype at 6:00 AM in Washington State and watched while Betts's mother (equipped with their power of attorneys), friends, and a Brazilian notary made it official in their home country.
"Then I came to work," Betts said. "And after work, we went over to the Bellevue Courthouse and got married here, too," Betts proclaimed, like the end of a fairy tale.
Windsor, one of Betts's heroes, won her case in the US Supreme Court, granting same-sex couples the same benefits that are given to married heterosexuals.
"When that happened, it unlocked marriage equality at a federal level," Betts said, which meant it also unlocked the immigration debate at a federal level. The following year, the couple were granted their green cards.
"We were guided every step of the way by Microsoft's legal team, which was incredible. You know, I couldn't ask for more," Betts said. "I have felt and been supported for who I am my entire life—by my family and now by Microsoft as my employer," she said. "When that happens, you feel truly included."
Stories power change
As a firm believer in the power of stories, Betts shares hers as much as she can with the hope of providing a better platform for others and the life they choose to live.
"Once stories become a part of social fabric, once they aren't hidden in the closet, people will start to be more accepting. And the norms, the behaviors, the values will start to change because people will start to see things differently," she said.
"I think that when things are in the closet and hidden, you create your own story about what they are. When things are out of the closet, you realize that we are all diverse in some way," she continued.
"My uniqueness may be different from your uniqueness, but we're not different at a very human level. My love for my wife, and her love for me, is no different than your love for your spouse."
Betts said it's a bit ironic, all the talk about immigration and the legal system and the Supreme Court and the Microsoft legal team. "Because to me, at the end of the day it's all just about Silvia and I loving each other."
Meet more Microsoft employees who are changing hearts and minds and advancing human rights.
See how Microsoft is celebrating Pride 2018 and how you can be an ally.
Learn how Microsoft and its LGBTQ+ employees push for change across borders.
Worried about those moments when you feel like a fraud at work? Learn how to see imposter syndrome as a good thing
Below is an article originally written by Candace Whitney-Morris at PowerToFly Partner Microsoft, and published on March 23, 2018. Go to Microsoft's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Building your career is a journey filled with challenges, excitement, and forks in the road. And journeys are easier with maps. In this column, job experts answer your questions and deliver advice to help you take the next step.
Question: Sometimes I feel like I'm in over my head at work, like I don't belong, or like I am not good enough. Any advice for how to overcome this feeling?
Answer: Anyone who tries to achieve something new or who moves out of their comfort zone could feel like a fraud at one time or another. And while there might not be an official senior manager of imposter syndrome, Trish Winter-Hunt has certainly seen and worked through the phenomenon enough to develop expertise on the matter. If you haven't experienced imposter feelings yet, said Winter-Hunt, senior content experience manager at Microsoft working with Windows devices, it's just a question of time.
In all her years as a professional communicator, working in public relations, marketing, and communications with PhDs and C-suite executives across a range of organizations, Winter-Hunt never met a single person who didn't experience imposter syndrome—the fear that arises when people can't internalize their success and worry they'll will be exposed for the fraud that they believe themselves to be.
Imposter syndrome was first identified by clinical psychologists in the 1970s and has been a topic of study ever since. A wide variety of articles have been published on the topic, and the issue has received more attention in recent years with new research and as career coaches, business and self-help books, companies, and publications such as Harvard Business Reviewhave addressed it.
Whether you are familiar with feelings of faking it or newly acquainted with your inner imposter, here are some tips to build confidence and beat back imposter syndrome so that you can achieve great things.
Self-talk really works, for better and for worse
First, Winter-Hunt said, "there is nothing wrong with you."
If your inner dialogue is spinning thoughts like "I am not good enough for this job," "the hiring office made a clerical mistake," or "any moment now, someone's going to find out how much I fake it every single day," then welcome to the club.
According to one study, these feelings are especially prevalent among highly ambitious people, notably women, who have self-imposed standards of achievement. You can feel good about the presence of that voice; it means you are taking a risk. When you are venturing into new territory, there's just a certain level of ambiguity that we have to learn to be comfortable with, explained Winter-Hunt.
But imposter syndrome ceases to be a helpful motivator if those feelings limit your ambition—if they stop you from going after what you want, a phenomenon that Winter-Hunt said she sees all the time when she interviews candidates. Because one place that you can almost guarantee that your inner imposter will show up is during a job interview.
"It's really disheartening to hear so many people self-select out of a position, even when they've already landed the interview," she said. "I tell them that I'd likely not even be interviewing them if I didn't think they could do it."
"One striking characteristic of the syndrome is that although impostors crave acknowledgement and praise for their accomplishments, they do not feel comfortable when they receive it," according to Psychology Today. "Instead, praise makes them feel anxious because they secretly feel they do not deserve it. After all, they think, I'm just faking it—unlike everyone else here who seems to know what they're doing."
Imposter syndrome also likes to show up uninvited when you are beginning something new, but the feelings of fraud don't necessarily indicate that you are about to make a mistake.
Winter-Hunt said that one way to combat those feelings of inadequacy is to turn those phrases on their head. Repeating mantras like "I am good enough" or "I deserve to be here" are small but mighty steps toward undercutting self-defeating thoughts.
So go ahead: just for a few seconds, take a deep breath, and say to yourself, "I've got this."
Foster the imposter
Feelings of fear and inadequacy are uncomfortable but also natural. It's tempting to try to hide it, to overcompensate with your coworkers or in an interview. But usually that inauthenticity only makes you feel like more of an imposter.
Instead, "foster the imposter," encouraged Winter-Hunt in a recent article. "Because you most likely will never overcome feelings of fraudulence. Instead of viewing imposter syndrome as a defining characteristic, embrace it for the transitory experience it is," she wrote. "One that forces you to evolve, try new things, and question your previously held philosophies."
Some people welcome it and even use the opposite feelings—comfort, security—as signs that it's time to try something new . . . that perhaps the very presence of imposter syndrome indicates that you are itching to grow in areas you've become stagnant.
Talk through it
Research shows that for people who can't shake their imposter syndrome or feel their lives are overtaken by it, talk therapy can really help. And not even necessarily with a trained professional.
Winter-Hunt said that even just being up front with her boss and vulnerable with her coworkers has made a huge difference for her. In all the discussions she's had, she has never been met with a reaction that wasn't encouraging and supportive.
So go ahead, learn to love that imposter, but never give it decision-making power. Winter-Hunt lives by a quote from bestselling author Seth Godin: "Begin. With the humility of someone who's not sure, and the excitement of someone who knows that it's possible."
Why? Because the world needs your talents, your persistent exploring, and your desire to keep challenging yourself. We need your help to push into what's next.
Below is an article originally written by Candace Whitney-Morris at PowerToFly Partner Microsoft, and published on April 11, 2018. Go to Microsoft's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Editor's note: We sat down with Amanda Finney to talk about Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the unexpected path that led her to Microsoft. She tells this story in her own words.
Eighteen months ago, I was sitting in the Hillary Clinton campaign office, furiously making phone calls. When I wasn't making calls, I was canvasing neighborhoods and talking to people in their homes about issues that they really cared about.
Speaking up and fighting for human rights is a key part of my background and was a topic of conversation at our dinner table while I was growing up. My uncle was a chief in the Cherokee nation, and I served as an ambassador of Cherokee culture as Miss Cherokee of South Carolina. My grandfather on the other side of my family was the first Black chief justice of South Carolina. I was always told that you have to know who you are and where you've been in order to know where you are going.
These are spaces I've been most familiar with and comfortable in—political circles, community activism.
Amanda Finney shakes hands with Hillary Clinton, whose campaign she volunteered for in 2017.
That's probably why, on my first day working at Microsoft last year, I was freaking out. I asked myself, what in the world am I doing here? I had no corporate or technology background—everything for me up until that point had been about communications and media. Although, if I reflect on my history, I can definitely see the threads of connection that eventually led me here.
"You have to know who you are and where you've been in order to know where you are going."
When I was young, I dreamed I would become a political correspondent or an on-camera broadcast journalist. In college, I got a White House internship handling the correspondence for the first family. I would open hundreds of letters daily from Gulf Coast children during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, and I'd read every single one. Reading these stories written in their own small handwriting broke my heart. I selected 10 letters a day for then-President Barack Obama to read.
When the Obama 2012 reelection campaign rolled around, and I distinctly remember telling myself that I was darn sure not going to miss this chance. I wasn't old enough to vote the first time Obama took office, and I felt like I missed out on an important moment in time. The campaign work felt like a calling, a movement. One of my main objectives was to excite and mobilize members of my generation, as well as go around and listen to the stories of the community. I kept hearing story after story that connected people to each other.
Amanda Finney worked on the Obama 2012 campaign in the state of Virginia, listening to voters tell their stories and mobilizing members of her generation to do the same.
After the election, I joined Teach for America. I found myself in charge of 30 students, kids with little to no resources, hearing their stories and getting to know their struggles firsthand, which connected me to their lives in such a powerful way.
By 2015, I was back on the campaign trail again, but this time for Hillary Clinton as her state director for Louisiana. It was my job to make sure that the people who wrote to Hillary got a response. Being the go-between for her and the American people was an amazing experience.
I remember that a mother and daughter wrote to Hillary to thank her for work on the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The daughter was born deaf, and without CHIP, the family wouldn't have been able to afford her early intervention. Now, that daughter is going to college. We made a video of that story; to this day, I cannot watch it without crying.
While that work is very different from what I am doing now, I've noticed that there's a common thread, and that's the power of individual stories to connect humans. You don't realize the effect a bill in Congress can have on someone's life until you hear from those people who are impacted. When you hear a powerful personal story, it doesn't matter what you believe in or who you vote for: what you see is the American story of how something helped keep a family together. We are all the same, we are all human, we are all doing the same kinds of things every day.
So how did I end up at Microsoft?
After the election, I had a moment where I didn't know the next move. I knew I wanted a different experience than politics so I could expand my skill set, but I wasn't sure what it was other than it would be in communications. I heard about a position on a new team called Windows Community. They seemed to be spinning up like a grassroots movement. And that sounded familiar to me.
I worried whether my skills would translate, but one thing the elections taught me is that anything is possible—the good and the bad—and I decided I couldn't rule out any opportunity. I interviewed and got the position.
"We are all the same, we are all human, we are all doing the same kinds of things every day."
Now I get to connect everyday customers to the engineers who make Windows, so that they can learn from each other just like Obama got connected to the Gulf Coast kids or people in Louisiana felt heard by Hillary. Knowing the story behind the product, or the story of the person behind an idea or product, brings value to the user and helps facilitate understanding, just like in politics and community activism.
Although coming to work for a technology company seemed at first like a sharp turn for me, I see now that I can use the power of storytelling here, too. It's the stories, it's always the stories, that connect us all.
In the video above, Danielle Vaughan, Account Manager, shares the following information about her experiences at Microsoft: "A company that encourages diversity and inclusion where I, being a woman Latina in tech, feel a hundred percent supported and encouraged to share my thoughts."
Would you be interested in working at Microsoft and being able to observe firsthand their commitment to diversity and inclusion?
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After many of her mentees quickly landed tech jobs, Microsoft engineer Kal Viswanathan scaled her impact to reach hundreds
Below is an article originally written by Candace Whitney-Morris, of PowerToFly Partner Microsoft. Go Microsoft's Page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
"Everyone dreads the whiteboard interview," said Kristen Thayer.
Thayer, a former educator turned Xbox software engineer, is referring to a common part of technology company interviews: candidates are given a coding or troubleshooting task, a whiteboard, and a marker and then asked to solve the problem in real time, in front of the interviewer.
Though she was anxious about the whiteboard, Thayer was prepared for it. She'd just graduated from Kal Academy, a nonprofit coding academy for women and minorities and the brainchild of Microsoft employee Kal Viswanathan— who started as a HoloLens engineer and now works in Dynamics 365 for Talent.
"Kal doesn't just teach you to code," said Thayer. "She wants women to actually be in the field with jobs, so she also has this interviewing class. Her advice: 'First, don't stress. Second, solve the problem. Be confident.'"
Thayer passed the test. She went from being a teacher to working at Microsoft in just under a year, and she attributes much of her success to Kal Academy.Kristen Thayer, a former teacher, learned to code at Kal Academy, a nonprofit started by Microsoft employee Kal Viswanathan. Thayer got a job at Microsoft in under a year after starting at Kal Academy.
The academy's students include mothers struggling to support their families, administrative assistants who dream of becoming engineers, and women who find themselves in jobs where they can't advance.
Viswanathan has story after story of graduates who were empowered to succeed by her training. One of her favorites is about a woman who wanted to take classes but couldn't afford the expense, so the academy granted her a scholarship. This woman went on to study data science and land a data analyst role at a major retailer. Now, she also tutors other data science students.
In this way, Viswanathan's students are learning that the outcome of education isn't just knowledge but an awareness of how an education gives a unique opportunity to directly help others advance in life. Viswanathan learned this foundational lesson from her parents early on.
Filling in the gaps
Growing up in India, Viswanathan dreamed of becoming a doctor. But she knew that neither she nor her parents, two middle-income teachers, would be able to afford medical school.
"My parents bred teaching into my DNA, along with the lesson that I needed to give back to my community," said Viswanathan.
She eventually turned her aspirations toward computers and decided she would find a way to educate herself. So the resourceful Viswanathan brokered a trade: she found students around her who needed tutoring in subjects that she was good at and, in return, asked them to help fill in her computer skills gaps.
"I taught math and science to kids in my neighborhood and asked them to teach me computer science," Viswanathan recalled.
It worked. Her early penchant for sharing knowledge continued through college and in her work at Microsoft.
Over the course of her time teaching and working in computer science, Viswanathan noticed that something was off: the field of computer science suffered from a glaring lack of women and minorities. The few women she came across working in her field seemed to stay quiet, speaking up only when working in small groups of mostly women. Viswanathan refused to accept this as just the way it is.
While working at Microsoft, Viswanathan was also teaching at University of Washington. A few students approached her, asking her to teach them privately. She started mentoring and tutoring women in small groups on nights and weekends in her garage.
Viswanathan had a hunch that women just needed a good, efficient education, a place where it felt safe to speak up and build their confidence, and someone to show them the way. She was right; emerging evidence supports the theory that women mentors could make all the difference in other women staying in STEM studies and fields despite the "implicit tendency to see engineering as a male discipline."
"[Women mentors] act as a 'social vaccine' that protects female students against negative stereotypes and gives them a sense of belonging," according to an Atlantic article.As Viswanathan's mentees were getting good jobs at good technology companies, Viswanathan saw the chance to help even more women. Word got out, and more people began to gravitate toward her warm and welcoming teaching style. In 2014, while working at Microsoft, Viswanathan started her own nonprofit organization, officially launching Kal Academy.
"Microsoft encourages me to do these things, to make a difference in the world," she said.
Viswanathan moved Kal Academy out of her cramped garage and into a small facility in Redmond, Washington, where she continues to teach not only the nuts and bolts of coding, but also—and perhaps most importantly—how to get a job in tech. This includes how to be confident in interviews and strategies for acing that dreaded whiteboarding session Thayer was worried about.
"Women get to know how to face work every day, and they get to know how to learn new things if they're just thrown at them, because ambiguity is one thing that we all have to get used to," Viswanathan said in a recent podcast about women in business and technology.
"It's not magic," Thayer said, referring to coding. "You study it. It's completely achievable. Kal empowers students to believe in themselves."
Since the academy's inception, 200 of its students have landed roles at Microsoft, Amazon, T-Mobile, LinkedIn, and other companies.
They include Walaa Ibrahim, who was studying computer science at the local community college when she heard about Kal Academy. "I told myself, let's give it a shot. And only three months later, I got my internship at Microsoft," said Ibrahim. "Then, four months later, I got my first full-time job in the United States."Kal Viswanathan (left) helped FastTrack Walaa Ibrahim (right) into a career in technology. Now, Ibrahim works at Microsoft.
"I was so excited, screaming. I called Kal and told her; she was so happy for me," she said. "I never imagined I would get a job at Microsoft."
Viswanathan said that the energy she needs to keep up with the rigors of working full time during the day, solo teaching from 8 AM to 8 PM on weekends, and running a nonprofit is sustained by women such as Thayer and Ibrahim.
Because she is a woman and a person of color, Viswanathan feels uniquely suited to motivate other women like her.
"I tell them, 'I've been in the place you've been, and this is what it took to get out of it and find success,'" she said. "And that's exactly what I am going to teach you here."