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Raw | Uncut | Keeping It All the Way 100

I KNOW! I KNOW! I am terrible; I went back on my word. I have not been pushing out blogs like I promised I would. But I am back for another one so forgive me? Cool

A lot has happened since I last wrote. I have been working on this blog since January but decided not to post it. This is a reasonably vulnerable post, so I was hesitant. I still am, and I am hoping this is the right move. Hopefully, someone will find this and be able to sympathize with this.
I wanted to write a blog about my struggle and reflect on the past two years of my life. Back in December 2015, I accepted an offer to come work for Microsoft as a support engineer(SE). My start date was initially set for Feb 2016, but due to family issues, they pushed it back to July 2016. I chose Microsoft partly because my recruiter showed me the most compassion during that time and so easily accommodated my ask to push back my start date.

In July 2016, I started my job as an SE. At first, I loved my job, but slowly and surely it started eating at me. There were specific aspects of my job that I liked such as interacting with the customers, advocating for my customers,  and thinking critically. I would say I learned how to think fast, my investigative/technical skills improved drastically. But I just disliked tech support. It's nothing against Microsoft, but tech support still felt very much like a man's world. There were times where I felt like my customers spoke to me in a demeaning way and when I would bring in a male colleague into the conversation, their tone would change. I always thought of support engineering as a great stepping stone, a way to get my foot in the door. In March 2017, I started looking for a new job. I wasn't actively seeking a job, but I would ask managers for an informational. (S/O to everyone who met with me and gave me advice, they are now trusted mentors).

In June 2017, I was at my all-time low, and I was just unhappy with where I was at professionally. I am an introvert by nature, so after a full day of interacting with over 20 customers or so per day, I would be mentally drained and didn't have the energy to do anything. I just wanted to go home and crawl in my bed. One day, I decided to actively look for a new job. I remember around that time; my friend gave me the best advice about interviewing "Welcome to the rejection hotline, check your ego at the door." This was one of the best advice given to me. I did a lot of work prepping and doing Technical Practice interviews. In July, I interviewed for a technical PM role. I was heavily favored, but I ended up not being picked because I wasn't far enough into my technical journey yet. I won't lie it crushed my soul, I cried for a couple days, and I was bummed out. But my mentor, Scott probably gave me the best advice of my career. He told me, and I  paraphrase not quote:
"If you are going to be sad about not getting something, it's okay to be sad about it. But give yourself a limit on how long you will allow it to affect you. Allow yourself a period whether you choose three days or 2 weeks however long you think you need to be sad, do it but after that grieving period, pick yourself up and move on. "

Sure enough, I told myself that if I didn't get that TPM role, I would be sad about it for five days. When I was told I didn't get it, I remember going to the bathroom and crying (Like Kim K ugly tears). I wasn't upset because I didn't get the job but more so because I was hoping to leave a situation where I was no longer happy. I thought to myself great now I have to start from scratch.  In hindsight, that was the wrong attitude. I wasn't upset with the hiring manager, he went on to become one of my mentors and has been helping me on my professional journey.

In that timespan, he became an advocate, and he introduced me to a Principal PM on an opposite sister team that he thought I would fit in. I met with her, and we vibed. I liked her management style, and I was genuinely interested in what her team was working on. After a couple of talks, we decided I was ready for a loop, so she introduced me to the rest of her team, and I interviewed with them. Again, I showed up prepared and did a lot of research and prep interviews with my TPM friends. I thought the conversation went well and I for sure had this. After a week or two, the manager and I met, and she provided me with some feedback about my interview loop. She stated that she was hesitant to give me the job and by that point, I was confused. After a serious discussion, she told me her team thought I would be efficient in my role, and I would fit in well, but it was apparent to them that I was running from something not running towards something. It was clear that my heart was not in her open role. I can't say that their assumptions were wrong. In fact, they were completely right, I was running away from something and would take anything that came my way to try and find happiness. The manager, she understood I was unhappy, and at one point in our conversation she told me it's not a no, but she encouraged me to keep looking and suggest a couple of roles such as Business Program Manager and content developer. She also offered to become an advocate and help get me to the right team. This time around, I was okay with the rejection and didn't cry.

I should also mention that while I was interviewing for the second team, I was also working with a career coach to figure out what I wanted out of my career what made me happy. ( I may post the document we drafted about my ideal job, but I am not sure yet) . Anywho, I was also traveling a lot, and in September 2017, I went to Costa Rica to help train some future engineers. I remember getting a text from a good friend of mine on my team that she was leaving her SE job and she got a role as a Technical PM. I was happy for her, but it made me upset. I no longer liked my job, and my friends that I worked with were rapidly leaving their current role and moving on to do what they truly wanted to do. Again, I cried. At 1 AM CST, I told myself ENOUGH, and I got on google and typed in "Program Manager Microsoft Philanthropies." Sure enough, a job req came up. The Microsoft TechSpark team was looking for a business program manager. I felt like I connected with the job description and it checked every box of what I wanted to do with my career. It had philanthropic ambitions,  Techspark was working in rural areas and trying to provide economic opportunities. It wasn't in a sense like here is a bunch of free things but more so teaching people how to fish by genuinely listening to them and their learning styles.  The next day, I showed up to work, and I was on a mission. I ping the woman responsible for finding candidates for the role, and I asked her if we could meet that day. She was kind enough to respond to me and give me some information. I was psyched I thought I found my "unicorn" job. Unicorn Job -  The post you always dreamt of having, the perfect job for you but you know it doesn't exist because unicorns aren't real.

Well, I made it through, and the team brought me in for the loop. Again, I prep, I read up on socioeconomic reports and programs in each of the states TechSpark was operating in. I researched the team and reached out to one of the TechSpark Community Manager to understand what her work was like. I put my soul into this and left it all on the table. After the interview, I sent my thank you notes then it was just a matter of playing the waiting game. During that time, I was traveling for some external clients training in Mauritius and Reunion. While I was in Reunion which is 11 hours ahead of Seattle; I get a call at 3 am from the TechSpark Director. He wasn't aware that I was traveling and I had just awaked from my sleep when I picked up. I sounded tired on the phone and played it off like I had a cold. I was impatient, and I wanted an update. I was like ( F Sleep). He says " Hey Jane; I have some good news then I have some bad news which one do you want first?" I like to end on a positive note, so I told him to hit me with the bad news. He says " well we really liked you, but we decided to go with another candidate but we felt you would be a good fit for a different role. Are you interested in coming in and having another discussion with us but I must warn you it's different from the role you applied for. Of course, I accepted, and I told him yes, I'd love to come back in and discuss this opportunity; hopefully, it's a good fit. I hung up and I texted my bf. I was excited but sad because this was yet again another rejection and I assumed I would have to go through another loop.

This where the fairytale begins. Once I got back in the state, I met and had lunch with the TechSpark lead. We had a great conversation about the role and she was looking for someone to work on the digital transformation projects for the program. After lunch, she told me she wants to move fast and while she didn't need an answer today, she needed to know soon if I was interested. I kid you not I went home and drafted an email telling her I was interested but didn't send it until the next business day. She responded back and said the following steps would be for me to meet with the hiring manager for the role and then they will connect to see if it's a good fit. A day later, I met with the hiring manager, we chatted briefly about her expectation for a PM on her team, and I told her I was still up to the task and challenge of this role. 10 minutes later, the TechSpark Lead called me, and I had the job. I accepted on the spot and called my dad who lives in Haiti and told him that I got the job one that was my dream job. I remember being afraid that this wasn't true and at any moment they would say to me "nevermind Jane, we no longer want you on our team". I was afraid they were going to think I was a fraud, I had no concrete PM experience, I was entry level, I was barely at Microsoft for a year and 1/2. I mean I wouldn't have been upset if they rescinded their offer (like JK you are a fraud, its the imposter syndrome in me).

It's been seven months since I have been on my team and I can't lie I am glowing. I wake up every day with a passion. I love what I am working on. When I talk about my job, I beam. My manager is amazing. I cannot rave about her enough. Everyone deserves a manager like her. She is supportive in all of the way a manager should be. Call me naive, but I truly feel like she has my back.

But wait this isn't over. A month ago, I heard about the Microsoft LEAP program which is an apprenticeship program that helps ppl with a non-CS degree or non-traditional background upskill as a Technical PM, Software Engineer and Support Engineer. I was afraid to bring this to my manager. Sure enough, she thought it was a great idea and is allowing me to take the training. So on July 23rd, I am embarking on a new journey to learn how to be a Technical PM. I sometimes pinch myself because it seems weird to me what a difference a year can make. It's almost as if things have come back full circle. My journey was long but it was a path worth traveling. I learned a lot about myself in the past two years, and I learned if I truly want something I can persevere through whatever obstacle and get to a happy place. It also reinforces my belief that it takes a village. I was fortunate enough to have an incredible support system from my dad and brothers to the bf who wipe my tears when I was cried when I got home from work, the friends who lent me an hear and listened to me, the mentors who help me realize my potential. I also dealt with anxiety and learned the value of mental health. Honestly, I feel like if you don't have your sanity you have nothing. I want to say be patient. Good things come to those who wait.


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