UPDATE 3/25/2016: Words cannot express my gratitude for the wonderful messages and uplifting calls that I received from the community, peers, past managers, clients and former product team members. Thank you so much for understanding my need for a change and reminding me that community extends far beyond a solution or company affiliation.
UPDATE 6/17/2016: Sadly six women who worked with my former team have contacted me to share similar experiences. Another one left last week. Despite talk about recruiting more women into tech to feed the pipeline, there is still a long ways to go to keep women that want to grow beyond an entry-level or support role due to changing cultural dynamics in our field. Cases such as http://microsoftgendercase.com are worth following to better understand these issues from both parties perspectives. Today I see more technical leaders, managers and staff from countries where women are discouraged from working. As different cultures work together, differences in beliefs, unconscious bias and conscious bias have become significant challenges for women to navigate.
UPDATE 8/5/2016 Feds find clues of gender bias via The Seattle Times
UPDATE 10/16/2016 Judge rules gender discrimination class-action lawsuit against Microsoft can continue via BBC
UPDATE 8/14/2017 I recently learned of another former female peer that won a sealed case several years ago. I always wondered why she disappeared. It is sad. Thanks to the Google Manifesto reactions last week, the world got to see where the tech industry stands right now on gender issues. It was not promising. I honestly do wonder what these stats will look like in five years.
UPDATE 12/14/2017 Over the past few months, we have witnessed an unprecedented media spotlight raising awareness of many types of issues for women in the workplace today. TIME Person of the Year 2017 was awarded to a group of public Silence Breakers that became the faces for millions of #metoo voices around the world that have been silently suffering. While there is hope for the next generation, the reality is these difficult issues are not likely to improve soon. Existing broken programs and HR reporting processes remain a significant risk for women and men to carefully navigate.
UPDATE 2/16/2018 HR Is Not Your Friend. Here’s Why. via Forbes
UPDATE 2/21/2018: My assumption about living in Redmond was wrong. The remote male Power BI evangelists do not appear to have encountered the same issues. I have since provided witness testimony in the Microsoft Gender Case class action lawsuit. Although my experiences with Microsoft have been devastating, speaking up and agreeing to testify has made a positive difference for other women. Regardless of the final case outcome, there have already been a few good changes that came out of a bad situation.
Without a doubt Microsoft Power BI and SQL Server BI are now in a much better place. Eighteen months ago when I returned to aid the product teams in reviving Microsoft BI, the outlook was bleak and Microsoft BI community morale was in despair. I knew going back to Microsoft would be risky and my biggest professional career challenge thus far. Despite a few close friends and even my husband advising against it, I took a giant leap of faith. After doing so, I was uninvited to speak at multiple industry events, told that I must have lost my mind, wished well by several respected industry leaders, and then embarked upon my new mission to help fix Microsoft BI.
For the past year and a half, I put my heart, endless energy and genuine passion for analytics into doing whatever I could to make a positive impact. The Power BI turn-around market momentum has far exceeded my expectations. I never imagined that I would get tens of thousands of technical support/Q&A inquiries. It has been overwhelming. Today I am at peace knowing that I was a part of a wonderful change that ultimately helped the worldwide Microsoft BI community – my peers and friends – thrive once again.
I am so grateful that #SQLFamily has been absolutely fantastic to me regardless of where I worked all these years. Now we also have a growing #PowerBI community. If it were not for the community positive energy, enthusiasm and support, I would never have persisted as long as I did. You all are the best, most patient and most resilient community out there. We have been through so many ups and downs over the past ten years. I am pleased that the future for Microsoft BI is finally bright again.
Why Leave Microsoft
I jokingly tell people that I was hired merely to ensure that I would not compete or write another detailed BI vendor comparison on my blog while the new Power BI solution was evolving. There was seriously no other reason. I don’t really know why I was asked by numerous groups to return to Microsoft but my industry blog came up in every conversation.
Unlike 99% of bloggers, I truthfully and respectfully review the good, bad and ugly aspects of technology vendor offerings. (DOMO was the exception in that I picked on them for their strange marketing tactics.) Those in-depth technical reviews are usually fairly accurate and relevant to other analytics pros since I have deep hands-on, subject matter expertise and understand real-world needs. Publically reviewing technical solutions is so much fun. I totally love it but my reviews also have negative consequences. They attract bullies. It takes immense personal strength and courage to withstand what comes afterwards. Bullies have tested me both emotionally and financially. My life has changed forever, for better and worse, as a result of my popular, sometimes too honest, industry blog.
Blog aside, the evangelist role that I was offered to return to Microsoft to do was never culturally accepted. Everyone on the Microsoft BI product team is encouraged to be an evangelist. My role assignments conflicted with other team member roles, evangelism aspirations and side training business income. A few weeks after I was hired, someone else was hired for the exact same role in marketing as the officially funded, supported Microsoft BI evangelism role. If you ever wondered why I only posted Microsoft technical content to my personal web site and SlideShare versus official Microsoft web sites, emailed Power BI newsletters to your entire team from my personal Microsoft email account versus a 1:1 mass mail system, declined training requests, why you only saw me at PASS community events rather than official Microsoft events or videos the other Microsoft evangelists attended, that is why. It was an incredibly awkward situation.
To adapt day-to-day, I provided product feedback, compete insights, pitched in on random projects, supported partner and field technical sales escalations, and moderated forums. Thankfully one of the industry analysts told marketing that I was a good hire. From that point on, I did get to work with our awesome analyst relations and public relations teams.
Microsoft revolves around Redmond. You need to be there in person. You really do. There are also cultural differences that I was never able to overcome. Although I undoubtedly made a positive impact externally with my inimitable personal blogs, tweets and bazillion technical support/Q&A emails, I craved a different role and more meaningful assignments. As time went on and the awkward situation never improved, it became evident that I needed to make a change happen for myself… outside of Microsoft.
Please don’t be angry with me for leaving Microsoft again. Microsoft is going to be totally great without me. I have been trying to escape my strange role on a monthly basis.
What is Next
After an amazing 20 years in the technology field, it is time for me to take a brief sabbatical and then explore many other industries to continue to learn new skills, grow professionally and evolve over the next 20 years. I don’t know what the right next move, role or profession is for me…but I do have plenty of time now to search for it.
What about the Blog
At this time, I have no plans to stop blogging. It is a creative outlet that I relish. Countless people around the world have told me that they do appreciate my content. Sharing my knowledge and experience is one of the ways that I contribute back to the world. In fact, the blog will probably get much more interesting for you to read as I soul search, play, lobby for causes that I feel are important, fall in love with new technologies and possibly take my passions for data into a whole new profession.