Befriending Dragons

Transform Tech with Anti-bullying Cultures


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Taking Flight a.k.a. The Data Dragon’s Life After Microsoft

Cross-posted (with slightly worse formatting) from https://befriendingdragons.com/2014/07/23/taking-flight-a-k-a-the-data-dragons-life-after-microsoft/

Taking flight like Toothless from How to Train Your DragonLife is a journey – we can choose to fly through it with our wings spread to catch and channel the winds, or we can let the winds pummel us to the ground. I choose to take flight, enjoy the journey, and land on my feet. Then take off again. Even when the flight happens because of an unexpected push from the nice, comfy nest, it’s possible to spread our wings and take off in the direction we choose. Especially when you’ve decided you’re a Data Dragon. Yes, that’s me. Cindy the Data Dragon.

Wha...? Huh? Wha…? Huh?

What am I talking about? One of those life changing events that sneaks up on you sometimes.

Last Thursday I got a very unexpected call and I got to experience hearing the words “you’ve been laid off” for the first time ever. It was effective the same day, at least as far as job elimination. I am a Microsoft employee until September 15, my options are wide open after that.

I could choose to sit around and feel sorry for myself, ask countless “why me” and “why now” questions. What I did instead is remember that I am likely in a far better position than many of the other 13,000 people laid off the same day. And remember that now I don’t have to wonder and worry about the remaining Microsoft layoffs that are expected. And remember that this opens up many wonderful opportunities. And remember all the friends, co-workers, and customers who instantly offered support (thanks Sean, Terry, and Linda for the coffee followed by the much stronger drink and the rest of you for all the calls, emails, and IMs). And thank those same folks for the job leads, introductions, and recommendations on LinkedIn that immediately started pouring in – keep them coming! The Data Dragon chooses to concentrate on the good things, dive into making sense of things, and move on to new and better things. (Yes, Murshed, I again referred to myself in the 3rd person).

So now what?

I am going camping this week, I plan to make time for getting out of town again for a few days or weeks before the end of September (SLC ComicCon anyone?), and I am going to get my beautiful back yard back under control and add more colorful things growing in it. I am going to take my time finding the right Big Data job, not just any job.

Connect with me on Skype (cindygross@outlook.com), follow me on Twitter (SQLCindy | Cindygross), and send pics of you toasting the Data Dragon and her beautiful future!

Don’t stand in my way, the Data Dragon is taking flight and looking forward to all the wonderful things in my future!

Green-eyed Data Dragons like me never stay down long!

Green-eyed Data Dragons like me never stay down long!


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Would you go to jail for Human Rights?

AT4WFeb272014JailBus_AshtonPage

Add the 4 Words supporters being arrested and transported from the Statehouse to the Ada County Jail. Photo by Ashton Page.

I believe in justice. I believe in human rights. I believe gay rights are human rights. I believe the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees “Equal Justice Under Law”. Idaho is keeping that justice from an entire group of people – those who are gay. Gay teens in Idaho are bullied into suicide. Gay teens and adults are denied jobs or promotions. Gay folks can’t take a picture of their partner to work. Straight employees can’t take pictures of their gay adult child and that child’s partner to work. People of all orientations avoid taking jobs in Idaho or refuse to bring their businesses here because they worry about their families. What do you believe in? What are you willing to do in support of those beliefs?

I am willing to fight for what is right, to fight for everyone of every sexual orientation and every gender identity. Last week I chose to be arrested, along with 45 other supporters, in support of the “Add the 4 Words” cause. The Republican Leadership in the Idaho legislature won’t even hold a hearing to listen to the stories of those who face discrimination for their real or perceived sexual orientation – and we all have a sexual orientation. We have lobbied legislative leadership, shared poll results showing a vast majority of Idahoans across the state believe firing someone just because they are gay is wrong, and told them our personal stories. Yet still leadership silences our voices, ignores their constituents, and refuses to hold a public hearing where their own constituents could testify. What do you believe in? What are you willing to do in support of those beliefs?

With the support of former Idaho Governor and former head of the Idaho Republican Party Phil Batt, in the 1960s Idaho added a Human Rights Act. We simply want to Add the Words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to that existing act to tell Idahoans that gay folks get the same basic human rights as the rest of us. Former Governor Batt supports this modification to the act he helped create – he wants his gay grandson to feel safe while visiting Idaho. He calls the current legislature’s failure to act “disdain.” What do you believe in? What are you willing to do in support of those beliefs?

You can spend a few minutes or a few hours or a few days on an action – start as small as you want. Do one action or many. Just do something. Stand up for your beliefs, for the fact that all humans deserve basic dignity and respect and the freedom pursue their happiness. Start with any one of the items below. See how that feels. And come back for more when you’re ready. What do you believe in? What are you willing to do in support of those beliefs?

Cindy Gross - Arrested in support of Add the Words, Idaho Feb 27, 2014

Cindy Gross – Arrested in support of Add the Words, Idaho Feb 27, 2014. What will you do? Photo by Ada County Sheriff Deputies.

1) Tell Governor Otter your thoughts on Idaho’s reputation with regards to human rights, especially gay rights. This is even more important for those of you don’t live in Idaho. Would you visit Idaho? Would you start a business here? Would you bring your family here for a job? Give him a personal story.

2) Follow @AddTheWords and @AddThe4Words on Twitter. Now tweet why you support gay rights in Idaho and tag one or both of those accounts. Consider tagging Governor Otter, Senator Hill, your own legislators, or national folks who we may be able to engage in the cause.

3) Donate to Add the 4 Words to help cover the bail and fines of those standing up to be arrested.

4) Participate in the next non-arrest event sponsored by Add the 4 Words or Add the Words.

5) Sign up to participate in in the next Add the 4 Words arrest action – you don’t have to be arrested, you can volunteer as an observer or supporter.

6) Contact your Idaho State Senator and two Idaho State Representatives plus Senator Brent Hill. Note that this is NOT the same as your US Senators (Crapo and Risch) and US Representatives (Labrador and Simpson). There are 35 districts in Idaho – there are many different legislators. I am happy to help you figure out who to contact (cgross1@hotmail.com).

7) Tell your friends why you believe Add the Words is the right thing to do.

8) Donate to the Add the Words documentary http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/add-the-words-a-documentary

9) Follow the Add the Words Blog http://addthewords.blogspot.com/. Offer to contribute a blog post or be interviewed for a blog post.

What do you believe in? What are you willing to do in support of those beliefs?


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What Should “Racism” Mean?

Racism isn’t dead, it just keeps morphing. And spreading. And multiplying. Take all those things you see about racism and add in sexism, homophobia, and other “isms”. Be aware and stop doing it. It isn’t some mysterious other doing it – it’s mainstream Americans.

The Weekly Sift

There’s a type of faux scandal that’s been happening … well, I haven’t exactly kept track, but it seems like there’s a new one every month or two. They all fit this pattern: President Obama does something that symbolically asserts his status as president, and the right-wing press gets outraged by how he’s “disrespecting” something-or-other related to the presidency.

So, for example, in January, 2010 this photo caused FoxNation.com to ask whether Obama was “disrespecting the Oval Office” by putting his feet up on the antique desk.

Of course, it didn’t take long to uncover similar photos of previous presidents, none of which had raised any particular outrage at the time. But everybody forgot again, and so we had an almost identical flap last September. “This just makes me furious,” one woman tweeted. “He was raised so badly.”

Or remember last May when marines held…

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Stupid Cancer – Survivor Spotlight Tonight at 6p

Stupid cancer. It can be a devastating diagnosis – even if like me you’ve “won the cancer lottery” and ended up with a very treatable breast cancer. In my case I’m cured – a couple of small scars, a bit of a fading sunburn on one side, and memories. I can no longer say I don’t have tattoos; I have three tiny “prison blue” dots across my chest as a reminder of my radiation treatment. Stupid cancer.

As a professional data geek I see lots of hope for the future of cancer diagnosis, prevention, and treatment. New “Big Data” technologies promise to improve the accuracy of screenings, speed up genetic testing, and improve the lives of those with a cancer diagnosis. Stupid cancer.

As an amateur community organizer and activist I regularly fight for human rights – gay rights, women’s rights, the rights of those who are being denied the opportunity to live normal lives for no good reason. Cancer denies people the right to live normal lives – I’m working to fit fighting for cancer survivors into my activism. Stupid cancer.

My mom died from breast cancer in 1997. One of the big surprises of getting my own breast cancer diagnosis was my sense of relief. I hadn’t realized how much I had been waiting for stupid cancer to happen to me. Heredity may only account for 5-10% of breast cancers but I apparently still had it in my subconscious that my mom had it so I would get it. The non-stop awareness campaigns sometimes seem to just make us afraid without giving us something concrete to actually do. Stupid cancer.

This stupid cancer definitely gave me a new perspective on life. Tune in to hear me talk about being a cancer survivor on tonight’s Stupid Cancer show at 6p MST: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/stupidcancershow/2014/02/18/single-fathers-of-cancer

“Bereavement from cancer is the one of the most difficult parts of dealing with cancer. Join us for tonight’s bereavement roundtable, where we talk to Justin M. Yopp, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor, UNC School of Medicine, Dep’t of Psychiatry) and Matt Herynk co-founder of Young Cancer Spouses about the coping with the loss of a loved one due to cancer. Survivor Spotlight on blogger Cindy Gross.”

To listen live, visit http://stupidcancershow.org

To subscribe to the iTunes podcast, visit http://stupidcancer.org/itunes

To subscribe via iHeartRadio, visit http://stupidcancer.org/ihearttradio


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Interview with Julie Strauss–Microsoft BI WIT

clip_image002Julie Strauss is a very accomplished and respected Senior PM at Microsoft. Her current role is technical assistant for Microsoft Data Platform Group (DPG) Corporate Vice President Quentin Clark. She has been the public face of Microsoft BI at conferences and helps deliver great technical content and data stories to the public. Julie loves to help others so she has shared some background on herself and some great business advice that could be helpful to others seeking to improve their success.

Julie saw a job posting for the support team in Microsoft Norway (at the time Great Plains) looking for an individual willing to learn the ins and outs of the Microsoft BI products. She was excited that the posting indicated a willingness to learn was more important than previous knowledge of the particular Microsoft product. This was how and why Julie came here – she loves the technology and the data driven parts of the business and finds them fascinating.

Julie has a notable role with a wide range of responsibilities. The majority of her time is spent working on strategic projects to meet the goals of the team at the DPG Vice President level. Projects can vary in nature and cover everything from exploratory and technical projects to organizational projects. She gets to work with many areas of the business and enjoys interactions across the org. In addition to these internal facing responsibilities Julie also manages a set of customer and partner engagements for the business. Overall this role has provided Julie with an amazing learning opportunity. She gets to widen her scope while maintaining her data and BI focus and also use her years of experience from responsibilities ranging through sales, marketing, support, engineering, program management and people management. She merged these experiences into a role as technical assistant that utilizes some aspects of all those areas. Throughout her career she has chosen new jobs that allowed her to stretch and grow with a significant amount of change. But throughout it all she kept one core thing the same – her focus on BI and data. This mix of old and new in each role helps her cultivate new skills while leveraging what she already knows and expanding her influence. Within Microsoft there are many opportunities, something Julie feels is unique in the corporate world, and we can all find a way to shine and grow here.

imageJulie has an extensive network she finds invaluable in navigating all that opportunity. Her network lets her know about new opportunities and the network members also influence decision makers. She emphasizes that your reputation is everything – your network carries that reputation to others. In a strong network everyone is contributing to each other’s success. She has a large network though at any given point in time she is only actively interacting with a few people.

In addition to a network of contacts, Julie has closer relationships with a smaller group of people as both a mentor and a mentee. When Julie made the decision to move from marketing to engineering she leveraged her close mentoring relationship with Donald Farmer. Donald knew Julie and her work ethic and was willing to take a chance on Julie’s ability to succeed even though on paper it wasn’t an obvious fit. She stresses the importance of having semi-formal mentoring relationships with people at various levels. She asks various mentors for advice with experiences, projects, and specific interactions. Julie contributes back as a mentor to others – this keeps her coaching skills active. Julie observed that while she doesn’t treat her mentees differently based on their gender they tend to bucket themselves. More often than not women ask how to handle a specific situation or how to become more efficient or appear more confident. On the other hand men are more likely to ask task oriented questions such as how to make a specific change or how to write a better spec. She enjoys helping with both types of questions. Some of her mentees and mentors are people she already knew and some are people she grew to know only after the mentor-mentee relationship started.

imageI asked Julie what advice she feels is most important to her success that would be helpful to others in the organization. In addition to networking and mentors, she offered these pearls of wisdom:

  • Be willing to take risks and take on new challenges. She has few regrets because she goes after what she wants. She does wonder if having no regrets at all means she didn’t stretch enough. You have to find your own balance.
  • Be true to who you are – how people see you, your brand, should reflect the real you. For Julie it has been very important to never compromise on being true to herself. Julie’s brand is “Give me a challenge and I will work my butt off to get it done, being creative as needed, bringing in people who will make it work.”
  • Never be a victim. Women are strong.
  • Pick something concrete to improve upon and just do it. For example, Julie was ranked as the lowest presenter at a conference. She decided to become a top 10 presenter – she achieved that goal and grew to truly enjoy presenting along the way.
  • Find work you love. Julie finds data fascinating because it is very tangible and with BI you control how it leads to insights, learnings, and possibilities. She loves how data and BI let you use your own imagination and set your own boundaries.
  • State your needs and get buy-in. For example you might tell your manager that you want a promotion and lay out your plan to get there. Then you ask “Is this realistically going to get me to my goal”? Make sure your manager understands your value and gives you feedback, then follow through on the actions with appropriately timed check-ins on whether you are still on track.

Over the years Julie has lived in Denmark, Norway, the UK, and the US. She is always looking for new challenges whether it’s how to succeed in a new country or job or taking on a demanding project. Whatever she does she is working hard and getting things done. Follow her advice – build your network, find a mentor or two, be clear on expectations, and always be true to who you are.

I want to thank Julie for sharing herself and her ideas with us – it can be tough to open up but Julie did a stellar job!


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Transgender…. Are You Uncomfortable Yet?

I wrote this post for Idaho’s Add the Words blog, I am reposting here to spread the word:

TDORI started this post to ask you to join us at Boise’s Transgender Day of Remembrance 2013. As I thought about how to write about it, what I could say to get people to attend, I realized most people would just dismiss the day and the event as irrelevant to their lives. But it’s not irrelevant to you – it’s all about the type of world we want to live in. It really is an event you, yes YOU, need to attend.

I know, you’re busy. Maybe you’re uncomfortable around people who are different than society has taught us is normal. Maybe you aren’t sure what people will think of you if you go. Most people who attend will not be transgender themselves, we are there to show that we don’t think violence is the answer to feeling uncomfortable around others. Are you really ok with using violence against people in a misguided attempt to make them conform or to make the attackers more comfortable with themselves? Because that’s what this is about – remembering all the people who are beaten, raped, and even killed every year just because their gender identity makes people uncomfortable.

Take a few minutes from your evening on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 to head to the Anne Frank Memorial for Boise’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. The memorial starts at 7p – show that you don’t condone violence by joining us there.
Cindy Gross – Straight Ally and Equal Rights Supporter
#TDOR
GLADD: Transgender Day of Remembrance #TDOR – November 20 http://www.glaad.org/tdor

10 things every Lutheran should know about Transgender Day of Remembrance http://www.reconcilingworks.org/news/news/611-transgender-day-of-rememberance

Link or Tweet this blog post via http://tinyurl.com/mw45x5w


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How To Really Be Aware This October

Thanks to the “I Had Cancer” site for posting my guest blog this week on How To Really Be Aware This October.

Everywhere we turn we hear about “awareness”. That’s great, but what does it mean? Now it is Breast Cancer Awareness month – but awareness of what? What do you do with all this awareness? Will you be more aware at the end of this October than you were last October? What did you learn? And what will you do differently?

Read the rest here.