(Internship) Musings: For the love of journalism

Although I haven’t always been a journalist, I do self-identify as a storyteller – and I learned it all from my family. I grew up hearing my grandmother recount the tales of crossing borders during the India-Pakistan partition, but there were more-lighthearted ones too. She shared pieces of her life by recounting times that she climbed into the neighbor’s yard to get mango trees as well as ghost stories from haunted houses where soldiers had lived. Every time she told me this narrative, I found myself gripping my seat as she brought her through each moment, and I wanted to capture people’s stories with the same authenticity and vividness that she had shown me.

Now, I’m at Microsoft, which is often first and foremost identified as an engineering company, but I would not consider myself a “techie.”  For this reason, I was nervous to intern at Microsoft because I didn’t feel like an engineer at heart or in practice. In fact, my three favorite things are storytelling, higher education, and supportive communities marked by diversity and inclusion as central values – none of which are usually associated with technology. For the past three years, I’ve leveraged these values and empower underrepresented voices through my work as a reporter, and the journalism has helped me develop these skills.

Journalism as a conduit for meaningful conversations:

My love for reporting started two years ago, when I applied to be a photographer for the school newspaper, The Daily of the University of Washington – only to find out that I had completed the application to be a journalist. For context, I hadn’t been a writer up until this point. I had written essays for English classes and a few reflections on my phone, but most of these musings never made it into public sight.

Regardless, I took the leap into journalism and didn’t look back. From that moment, I jumped straight into the world of AP Style and [CQ]s and never looked back. Since I often have autonomy over what I wanted to write about, I chose to tell stories about culture and higher education and programs that strive to address differential access to educational resources. Too often, voices of marginalized communities are overlooked in the media because narratives of college campuses often focus on celebrating what is being done well in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, and what is getting funding, whereas the stories about what we need to do better are overlooked. As a journalist, I wanted to bring these stories to the forefront of our news coverage. I realized this when I wrote a story on undocumented students, and it opened up the world of this hidden identity that I never knew. Being a journalist has challenged my perceptions about what it means to be an undocumented student or commuter or foster care youth thanks to conversations with people who have these identities. In my conversations with undocumented students, I realized that these students just wanted to make America better by positively contributing to the community, but they lived in fear of judgment from their peers, colleagues, and instructors. It was an invitation to check my biases and recognize that any stigma I faced because of my own identity as a Pakistani American paled in comparison to these students – at least no one ever told me that I needed to “go home” when I walked down the street.

So, how does this tie into my work at Microsoft?

With these skills, I feel prepared to conduct meaningful 1:1s and informational interviews with my role models at Microsoft. Through my work, I’ve realized that being a good reporter starts by getting out of the way and letting people share their own perspective.  So, whenever I chat with people at Microsoft, I try to create space for people to share their story honestly, only prompting them with reassuring nods or follow-up questions to dig deeper.  When I started doing this, I realized that people want to share the most vulnerable parts to share, and an interview might be the first time that they have space to do so. I’ve had countless conversations where people will tell me about moments where they’ve felt overlooked or excluded as well as times that they’ve finally made a difference in their communities.

Moreover, I feel like my journalism skills make me a more engaged coworker, storyteller, and friend because I’m always trying to learn from others, regardless of their discipline of interest. This became apparent to me when talking with a UX voice designer on Cortana who studied journalism during her undergrad at Seattle Pacific University. At the end of our conversation, August commented that I had great questions and kept the conversation moving while still being engaged in the conversation. I’m convinced that hearing this from a fellow journalist, and someone who looks for the intersection between writing and technology, made me sit up a little bit straighter. It’s cool to know that I’m in the right business, and I’m thankful every day that journalism helps me craft compelling stories that capture someone’s voice and priorities. And I’m even luckier that I get to have these conversations as part of my job, and the view from the 25th floor of the Microsoft City Center made it all even more worth it. I feel empowered and excited and inspired to be surrounded by people who are blazing trails in their field of voice design and hold themselves to high standards every day.

I’m learning to bring my love of storytelling to my work as a content publishing intern. Although this field is often focused on the concise and direct nature of technical writing, there are ways to bring a love of stories to this work – and, at the end of the day, we’re trying to empower people in some way, which is the goal of any good story. Our Content Experience team is using words to paint a vivid picture for customers, and the goal of that can vary from troubleshooting how to set-up a printer to the process of changing your desktop background at work so it reminds you of home. All storytellers are trying to make information accessible, and I’m learning to apply what I’ve learned about providing context, keeping the reader engaged, and offering opportunities to follow-up.

So, journalism and storytelling may not traditionally be associated with a Microsoft intern, but they are integral to my success as a writer and future UX career.

Just like my grandma taught me, I will make it because of culture and who I am.

 

(Internship) Musings: I deserve to be here

7-18-17: Having mentors who support you means more than anything. I forwarded my article to my favorite academic adviser, the one who’s seen me through the tumultuous journey from being an intended Bioengineering major on the pre-med track to the Human Centered Design and Engineering major who’s currently working at Microsoft / starting conversations about diversity and inclusion as demonstrated values / making slide decks about key principles to consider as we move forward in projects.

 

My adviser said:

 

“Wow, thank you for sending your article, I am bursting with pride and joy for you.  Your internship sounds fascinating and I hope we have some time to catch up when school resumes. 

 

Truthful words feel authentic, thank you for sharing so much of yourself to help others. It has been and will continue to be a privilege to work with you, witness your growth, and learn from your wisdom…thank you.

 

Bravo, way to be amazing.”

 

Wow, having someone on the other side who wants to see me thrive means EVERYTHING. I feel authentic and honest about the pain and impostor syndrome, but hopeful about a future where I can believe in myself. I’m excited to be here representing people of color, and that I’m making a life that I’m proud of.

 

Learning to celebrate my accomplishments is challenging because, in my future, we are taught that silence is respect and that positive self-talk is nothing but self-aggrandizing. It’s hard not to internalize that. I’m slowly learning to celebrate my accomplishments and growth, which is why I write these articles – I want you to know that it’s OK to celebrate how far you’ve come, and the ways that you’ve grown since last week, let alone last month or last year. I believe in being dedicated to constant self-improvement, but it’s important to step back and remember what I’ve been able to do.

 

At the end of every major milestone (these days, I often use the end of an academic quarter as my marker), I think about everything that has changed: I count my losses, look over articles that I’ve written, save all the projects that I’m proud to share, write reflections for my portfolio website, and think about how I’ll do even more next time. But I’m inviting myself, and now you, to step back and see how far you’ve come.

 

I’m always learning to be great, to be better, to think smarter and have a greater impact. But today, I will focus on being proud.

(Internship) Musings: Being elevated by others

I remember when  I interviewed for my job as a writing adviser Center for Learning and Undergraduate Enrichment (CLUE), a late-night study center at the University of Washington, worked from 7 p.m. to midnight to help students brainstorm, outline, revise, and polish their academic assignments, personal statements, and cover letters.

When I walked into the interview room, I was prepared for every question about my tutoring philosophy (bonus points for using language like “non-directive tutoring” and “peer to peer pedagogy” to echo CLUE’s mission statement) and examples when I worked on effective teams (I could pull from my experience as an editor and resident adviser). I remember walking into the interview room and bringing all of myself to the table, and the most surprising question was the following:

How do you practice self-care?

I remember blinking in surprise at Adiam, the interim CLUE director at the time, and the current tutors in the room. Wait, what about the questions about my favorite resume experience? Or my prior work as a tutor? At the time, I was surprised to see that my future supervisor and coworkers cared about my mental health. This was indicative of CLUE’s larger desire to care for its tutors as people, and I didn’t realize that the people I work with, and the values of the organization, are just as significant as the job title itself.

Up until this point, I’ve worked with nothing but amazing people. At CLUE, all of the other tutors were available to debrief tough sessions or discuss how we approach a brainstorming session for courses we had never taken. I absolutely loved this culture of frequent collaboration and communication, and it made me a better tutor because I got to pick each other’s brains and unpack some of the emotional labor that comes with supporting people in the writing process. And now, I get to work with amazing coworkers at Microsoft who want to see me thrive and validate my identity as a storyteller

People want to hear your perspective, so put it out into the world / speak that ish into existence. Tell people that their words and stories matter because if you don’t they might not believe it. I realized this after having a conversation with a new employee in our organization. We talked about how there’s always someone out there who will resonate with your story, but you have to share your story for people to read.

My writing is the most authentic or vulnerable thing I can share with others – and I’m so lucky that my tribe has been receptive to it. It’s taken a lot of courage to write these things into existence, the fact that I can feel like so much of an outsider and right at home in the exact same place – it all depends on a deliberate choice to believe in my own abilities and be validated in these choices.

Today, at a women intern signature event, I heard from 4 amazing women executives, each with their own quirks and unique stories to tell. There were all beautiful and powerful and resilient, and it reminded me that I could become a leader like that one day – maybe I’ll sit in front of a room and inspire a roomful of game-changing women in tech who fight to feel valid and produce meaningful work. And talking with other women in the room reminded me that being thoughtful and reflective shouldn’t occur in isolation – it should be in conversation with everyone else. So cheers to all the friends and coworkers and strangers who are responding to my writing and sharing a little piece of themselves in the process.

Even though I do feel empowered, I’m scared that I don’t do enough. I don’t want to do the bare minimum, but I can’t accurately gauge if I’m picking up enough responsibilities or helping my coworkers do their jobs better. I can’t tell if I’m actually as bad as I think, or of I’m recognizing genuine opportunities to bridge my tactical and desired goals.

I don’t know how to be great yet – but I’m still trying.

Recently, I lost an important person in my life. They were the one who taught me how to value myself and that I deserved opportunities like this internship. And now that they’re gone, I needed to learn how to tell myself these stories. I’m trying to see myself as inherently valid and someone who’s worth investing in. Maybe losing them was a reminder that I can be resilient / powerful / strong all on my own, and the most anyone else can do is compliment. So don’t be with someone who’s selfish because they just might take all the pieces of you with them if they leave, but maybe that was happening the whole time. I’ve realized that I can be wrong about people, and that’s okay.  I just can’t believe that the person who taught me to value myself and how significant I am to my friends is the one who dropped me with such ease.

Everything will always be right in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end. I gave my intern presentation today and I think it went well, but I was mostly amazed by people’s intentionality throughout their process and those hi-fi prototypes have me incredibly excited for my upcoming HCDE coursework. I’m thankful for Rupi Kaur’s new book (slated to be released on October 3!), friends who let me come over to their place and cry and laugh and debrief, leather skirts and velvet crop tops, and computers covered in stickers that make me smile.

Keep your head up because you’re a dope Microsoft employee with an ever-expanding resume that includes content publishing, journalism, and your new gig as a course assistant. You’re presenting in an engaging and fun way even though your slide deck template hasn’t changed since third grade – and you will do better / learn to be great / meet people worth trusting. How lucky am I to have mentors who care about enough to create a safe space for me overcome one of my greatest fears of giving presentations.

 

(Internship) Musings: Finding and maintaining productive side hustles

I may be at Microsoft, which is often identified as an engineering company first and foremost, but I would not consider myself a techie.  For this reason, I was nervous to intern at Microsoft because I didn’t feel like an engineer at heart or in practice. In fact, my three favorite things are 1) storytelling, 2) higher education, and 3) supportive communities marked by diversity and inclusion as central values. For the past three years, I’ve leveraged these values and empower underrepresented voices through my work a reporter, writing tutor, and educator – but journalism stands out as the thing that changed my life.

Journalism as a conduit for meaningful conversations:

My love for reporting started two years ago when I mistook the journalist application for my school newspaper, The Daily of the University of Washington, for the application to be a photographer.  From that moment, I jumped straight into the world of AP Style and [CQ]s and never looked back. Since I often have autonomy over what I wanted to write about, I chose to tell stories about culture and higher education and programs that strive to address differential access to educational resources. Too often, voices of marginalized communities are overlooked in the media, but I wanted to bring these stories to the forefront of our news coverage.

Through my work, I’ve realized that being a good reporter starts by getting out of the way and letting people share their own perspective. So, whenever I chat with people, I try to create space for people to share their story honestly, only prompting them with reassuring nods or follow-up questions about experiences or moments have influenced their beliefs.  When I started doing this, I realized that people want to share the most vulnerable parts to share, and an interview might be the first time that they have space to do so. I’ve had countless conversations where people will tell me about moments where they’ve felt overlooked or excluded as well as times that they’ve finally made a difference in their communities. Being a journalist has challenged by perceptions about what it means to be an undocumented student or commuter or foster care youth thanks to conversations with people who experience these identities on an everyday basis.

Projecting forward to interning at Microsoft:

Armed with these stories, active listening skills, and curiosity, I felt prepared to conduct meaningful 1:1s and informational interviews with my role models at Microsoft. I was able to ask good questions about people’s motivations, measures of success, and long-term goals while gaining some insight about my own professional identity. So, journalism, storytelling, and higher education may not traditionally be associated with a Microsoft intern, but they are central to who I am.

I am convinced that even if you do not pursue journalism as a field, every profession is all about stories. We are always trying to put the pieces of our lives together in the most vivid way, or create compelling narratives about the products we create so a target audience will engage with it; however, didn’t occur to me until I started my internship that my journalism background – not my major or ability to create efficient algorithms – is what made me a competitive applicant. This became apparent when I heard Dona Sarkar, head of the Windows Insider Program, discussed the value of productive side hustles. During her talk, she outlined how she started out software engineer and worked her way up, but people often remember her for her pursuit of fashion design, writing, and entrepreneurship in addition to her technical work. In other words, her unconventional interests, and fervor in pursuing them, makes her stand out – side note, check out this article from Microsoft Story Labs if you want to read more about her interesting background.

Dona inspired me to validate my journalism skills and see them as a strength. To be honest, journalism hasn’t always been my full-time job, but it’s helped me feel like I’m creating something that wasn’t temporary. This became apparent to me when talking with August Niehaus, a UX voice designer on Cortana who studied journalism during her undergrad. At the end of our conversation, August commented that I had great questions and kept the conversation moving while still being engaged in the conversation. I’m convinced that hearing this from a fellow journalist, and someone who looks for the intersection between writing and technology, made me sit up a little bit straighter. It’s cool to know that I’m in the right business, and I’m thankful every day that journalism helps me craft compelling stories that capture someone’s voice and priorities. And I’m even more lucky that I get to have these conversations as part of my job, and the view from the 25th floor of the Microsoft City Center made it all even more worth it. I feel empowered and excited and inspired to be surrounded by people who are blazing trails in their field in voice design and hold themselves to high standards everyday.

Making room for side hustles:

Being at Microsoft has taught me that flexing these skills and developing strengths in related fields is always valuable because it offers a fresh perspective or new approach to problems. So, don’t quit your day job but keep those side hustles active. Here are some of Dona Sarkar’s tips to have productive yet life-giving side hustles:

  1. Make some room, and think deeply about how you spend your time: What do you really value, and what do you want to learn more about it? Be intentional about making time for these skills
  2. Once you identify a potential side hustle or area of interest, run a small experiment to test drive the experience: Test drive your interest by volunteering at an event or attending a class. Even if you don’t like it, you’ll learn something about if it’s a fit. Experiments are always successful because they teach you something, so give yourself a chance to try out new experiences! My favorite way to do this is to take interesting classes that will help me new skills like website design, public speaking, and memoir writing!
  3. Hustle the experts: Find people who need your skills and expertise, and evangelize the things you can offer to others. This can help you identify next-steps to level up your skills, and you’ll start to build a network of people who can help you achieve your goals! Bonus points if you’re able to bridge different fields of interest – you’ll be able to offer a fresh perspective on both!

I’ve realized that I don’t need a perfectly crafted narrative that follows a linear narrative to be successful in the tech industry. Interesting side hustles are a strength, so keep searching for opportunities to keep your skills active and relevant. Now, I recognize that my identity as an interdisciplinary storyteller with a passion for social impact, inclusion, and higher education might be the secret sauce that helped me land this internship. I believe that I am here because I bring all of those perspectives to the table, and I don’t have to spend my time “proving” myself as someone else. I want to write all the time, engage in meaningful conversation, and remember that my work is all about serving people, and my internship honors these interests and allows me to do them every day. I was chosen to be at Microsoft because my other interests make me a valuable asset to my team, and so were you.

So, what are your side hustles, and how do you make room for them? On the flip side, what skills that you want to make room for?

(Internship) Musings: Bringing all of myself to the table

Wednesday, 7/5/17 – I used to be so quiet about my skills and passion and dreams. I would never tell anyone about the things that got me out of bed in the morning because I wanted to create space for everyone else. For a long time, that worked because I was a journalist and a tutor and an educator, so I was in the business of helping other people’s light shine a little bit brighter. But now, I’m realizing that I really can take up as much space as I need. I can tell stories of resilience and failure and survival because this is part of my narrative – it’s integral who I am as a Pakistani Muslim woman who’s also in the process of coming out and unabashedly loving myself in the process. And the people support me in that. How amazing / beautiful / wonderful that I get to choose this work every day. Even if I don’t know exactly what career I’m going to have, I hope that storytelling will always be part of it.

Self-identifying as a storyteller seems like the most honest thing I can possibly do, and I’m glad that I get to share my insights with everyone else too. I was raised to do this thanks to my grandmother who crossed oceans and borders, who raised me on outlandish tales of climbing over fences to steal mangos and brothers who would braid her hair into her sisters in their sleep. Now, it’s my turn to do the same – I will survive and thrive because of my culture.

In the process of embracing my identity as a storyteller, I decided to work on a series of articles chronicling my experience at Microsoft as a person of color. Honestly, I’m pretty sure that I got the job because I told my superviser about how I have to make the choice to believe in myself every single day – if I believed my capability was confined to the things I had been taught, if I believed all the stories other told me that I couldn’t be an engineer and designer and change my career paths in the middle of school, I wouldn’t be at Microsoft right now. But I am, and I’m hoping that these stories will help other people feel something, or think more critically about how to bring all of themselves to the table

Here’s what my superviser said after reading my stories: I think these stories are going to make a lot of people in this company stop and think – about their identity, about the culture they’re cultivating, and about the type of co-worker they are. You’ve hit such a broad stroke of corporate America with these stories, and I’m just amazed. You are an extremely talented writer.

This is why they say mentorship works both ways. You’ve already taught me so much in your short time here. J I’m so proud of you!

Honestly, this is a reminder that I am storyteller first and foremost – I have a voice and a story to tell, and I want to make people feel something regardless of their place in an organizational chart depicting the hierarchy of the company. Maybe I really can do anything, but this is what I want: to tell powerful, resilient tales about struggle and survival – it’s a sign that I’ve tried things / take risks / want to be more than I’ve ever been. And I’m not stopping here. Being at Microsoft is an exercise in bringing all of myself to the table, and writing this articles is my first step to do this.

Look out for links to stories very soon! I will add them to the post so stay tuned ❤ Until then, cheers to the summer of a lifetime featuring Chance the Rapper tiny desk concerts, ntoebooks full of vulnerable writing, and opportunities to grow and feel supported in my work – and I’m not just talking about my career.

(Internship) Musings: Working at a tech company as a person of color

[Writer’s Note: This is a series of articles about my experience as a content publishing intern at Microsoft, but also how this experience is colored by my identity. I hope that this will serve as an outlet for reflection and will provide a few helpful tidbits for anyone else doing an internship right now.]

Diversity and inclusion are integral to my identity and values. As a Pakistani Muslim woman, I’m all in when it comes to conversations about being an underrepresented minority (and fighting to feel valid in a world that wasn’t made for me), while also recognizing that my own privilege because my parents attended professional school and provided me with college-prep education that led me to attend the University of Washington today. I feel very strongly about my identity and how I talk about it but whenever I enter a new job or class, I find myself asking, “do I deserve to be here?” This question has nothing to do with my skill set or relevant experience, but my identity who has to fight to feel valid.

When applying for jobs for Summer 2017, I searched for job descriptions with familiar words like “accessible writing” and “passionate about technology,” as well as that embodied everything I wanted to be like “excellent writer who understands how to use everything from a perfectly placed fragment to in-depth storytelling” – the position for content publishing intern for Microsoft fit the bill. I wasn’t sure if I hit every bullet on the job description in my cover letter but when I hit submit on this application, I realized that I wasn’t afraid of failure. I mean, it was a company that reached millions of people with its hardware and software, so I had to give it everything I got and believe that this was enough.

Regardless of the outcome, I welcomed the interview as an opportunity to learn how to sell myself more effectively and align my past experiences or strengths with the desired attributes or values of a company. I strived to bring my identity as a storyteller and writer to the table, while also recognizing that my identity informs my interest in empowering underrepresented voices in higher education and STEM fields. I’m learning to own my skills and strengths and recognize that I have hustled every day to get here, but I also understand that so many people with similar skills could not make it because they lacked the resources/support/mentorship they needed to thrive.

So, enter me as a content publishing intern at Microsoft. It’s hard to turn down an offer like this:  the opportunity to work for a company whose software impacts billions of people, coupled with the free sodas and opportunity to wear jeans every day, makes it all worth it. But even though I was chosen to bring all of my storytelling skills and values of mentorship and inclusion to my work (reminder: your skills and perspective are always a strength), I have to make the choice to believe in myself every single day. I didn’t grow up in Redmond, my parents aren’t in this industry, and I can’t even make my rent without financial support from my family despite working 18 hours a week. As a minority, I always feel like I have more to prove than the average person, as if I need to work 200 percent harder to work up for my brown skin and vocal fry because people who look at me wouldn’t necessarily take me seriously.

I think we all need to do better to create a community that supports people of color and gives them the space to thrive in their work and recognize ensure that benefits like job promotions feel like this is a viable option. There is significant literature about how the workplace benefits from having diverse perspectives – underrepresented minorities know how to solve problems that people with privilege haven’t even considered. We need these voices at the table, especially when it comes to technology and the work of engineering companies. I’m here to do that on my team. As a minority, I can empathetically recognize ways that populations are being excluded but more than that, I have the problem-solving and storytelling skills to translate this awareness into action. I intend to do this in every single job I have, whether it’s at Microsoft or journalism or higher education. I am not here because of a diversity quota but because I worked the last two years to develop strong writing samples that demonstrate my values while constantly seeking feedback from mentors and teachers about how I can be a more effective “interdisciplinary communicator with a passion for social impact,” as my tagline suggests.

Upon arriving at Microsoft, I had a few main goals: 1) Be technically good at my craft of writing and leverage my journalism skills to create compelling content that will help people find what they need. I also wanted to understand what writing looked like at a large engineering company, and how my co-workers saw their previous work or academic experiences as strengths that could inform their approach to working. Amid these professional development goals, 3) I wanted to find empowering women of color and understand what motivates them to do this work, even if they lacked mentors who looked like them when they started.  I hoped to answer questions like, What helped them keep fighting when people doubted their abilities? Most importantly, what stories do they tell themselves to stay in the game or keep choosing this work? I wondered if women at Microsoft experienced moments of self-doubt the way I do. In my mind, they were warriors and trailblazers and leaders, the kind of empowering women I wanted to learn from. So, did they struggle like I did?

One thing I noticed among the women here is their self-confidence. When Dona Sarkar, head of the Windows Insider Program, was presenting during a speaker event for interns, she made the comment, “I could work anywhere, and so could you.” This really struck me – I never thought of my experiences or skills as inherently, so the idea that I could be seen as valuable to a future employer, was almost lost on me. When hearing this, I sat up a little straighter. Maybe I deserve to be here, I thought. It’s important to remember that you are always chosen for a reason, and you don’t need permission to make yourself great or successful – especially as a person of color or an underrepresented minority. I hope that I can keep this advice in mind as I move forward.

So, if you ever experience moments of self-doubt the way I do, remember what Dona said: When someone says that you can’t do something (including yourself), ask why. And don’t forget that you have worked for the opportunities that you have, and internships or promotion offers are ways that people are honoring your skills. Choose to believe that you are profoundly capable and can emulate the leaders who inspire you.

So, yes, I’m sea level at an engineering company as a Pakistani Muslim woman, and I deserve to be at the table with the best of them (in reference to all the software developers, UX designers, and content strategists at the table).  I’m lucky that I get to spend my summer growing through this work while keeping that familiar sight of Mount Rainier in view at all times, I don’t take any of this for granted. Cheers to all the growth that’s occurred in the last few weeks and will continue to occur, but also to the products and devices and text we will create that will always put the user at the center of the system and strive to create delightful experiences.

What kind of workplace do you want to be in, and what values are you looking for? I think this consideration is integral as you start to choose the workplace you’ll enter, or even the culture you want to exist in. Remember this, and that you deserve to feel validated, no matter what company you work for.

 

 

Musings: a little bit of heartbreak

6/28/17 – Today, love hurts a little bit. I’m not sure why I get into moods of self-sabotage where I want to delete every remnant proving that someone else matters. I’ll go through my phone photos and delete everything, remove all the texts, clear the call logs and hope that this erasure can convince me that other people don’t have much weight on my happiness. I’m doing it now because the love that I have isn’t being reciprocated in the same form, but that’s silly, isn’t it?

Why do I expect love to come to me in forms that I need to recognize? Why am I looking for people to give me words that they don’t mean, or can’t feel? Why is friendship on its own not enough for me? I don’t have the answers to any of this questions. Maybe I’m afraid that a love like this will never come again. I’m 20 years young and so much has changed in the last 3 months, yet somehow I’m convinced that meaningful relationships will evade me for the rest of my life. Maybe I don’t know how to let people in – maybe I don’t want to. Because the second that happiness comes, I find that people are in the business of saying goodbye soon after and I’ve never been good at these conversations. How am I supposed to just walk away from people who clearly matter to me? But people have to move on and pursue their dreams of being doctors and educators and engineers, and I can’t stop them. I know that this is an extreme way to approach relationships (either loving people completely or dropping them), but I don’t know what else to do.

The last time I experienced heartbreak, I realized that I didn’t know how badly I needed to love myself. And once I learned to love myself, I surrounded myself with people who loved me back, and who showed up for things that mattered like the monologues or my tutoring sessions or my final presentations. I found that these kinds of people can introduce moments of pure elation and teach me about myself but also how to have productive relationships that elevated me. But no one is ever as good as you, I think.

I’m still trying to figure out what kind of love is actually best for me. Is it yours? Is it me loving myself? Or love that I lost that will never be reciprocated in the same form?

Well, this is confusing. Clearly, I have some deep-rooted insecurities in relationships, which is fine and we’ve been working through them slowly but surely. But I think something happens when those feelings aren’t reciprocated – maybe I realize that I’m giving too much to people who feel too little about me, and it doesn’t seem fair or right. Maybe that’s what’s happening now – I finally see that I care more, and I think I feel insecure about it. That’s dumb though, right? Because clearly we’re friends and there’s  unconditional positive regard because we want to see the other person thrive by our side, so isn’t that enough? Doesn’t that mean something? Maybe I’m in sulking self-sabotage and/or I’m in desperate need of myself.

There must be more to this life than hurting. I know that because my days are full of life, or creative problem solvers who are trying to be someone and projects where I get to decide what kind of skills I want to develop. This will pass, the way it always does. I’ve managed to stop crying and once I sleep on it and realize that the sun has risen, I know that  I was made to handle this too.

healing will keep coming in waves – life self-love, it is an everyday act.

a little follow-up:

love has always been in my life, but in forms I didn’t always recognize. For so long, I struggled to be emotionally vulnerable with people who really mattered – if they saw the real me, I thought they would run for the hills before even trying to unpack my baggage. I thought the waterworks would drown anyone away because I don’t have it all together despite my best efforts to work through feelings in a poetic/productive way – so far, both of those things have evaded me.

So, I’ve been pushing people away for a long time. I can’t tell you what instinct leads me to do this because I haven’t quite figured it out. I find ways to destroy even the most productive relationships. I’ll find reasons to be angry and disprove all the times they showed up for me, even though they’ve embodied unconditional love in every interaction – and that couldn’t be more true this time as well.

Today, I’m realizing that love doesn’t need to show up in familiar forms. It doesn’t have to be “like like” romantic in the ways that everyone talks about – it just needs to offer some form of mutual unconditional love, the good kind of love where you want to see the other person achieve their goals and be genuinely fulfilled and even if you can’t be there every single moment, you are there when you can be.

Maybe I’m not used to this. Or maybe, when love like this arrives, I start searching for an expiration date because things that are so good never last for too long. It’s a defense mechanism because the last thing I want is to get hurt again.  I don’t know why this is the default, to push people aware who genuinely care. Maybe it’s the only thing about relationships that I’m really good at : getting ove rit.

It doesn’t have to be like this. I don’t have to push people away like this, and it’s a lesson that I’m still learning. People can contribute to my life significantly, and I don’t have to be afraid of this. The root of suffering is not attachment, as I believed for so long. Love does not have to hurt and follow rigid definitions that have been crowdsourced and adapted in response. Love, like friendship, shouldn’t require strategy.

Musings: Things I appreciate

[TLDR: An attitude of gratitude to honor the end of junior year and summer 2k17 being in full swing – there’s a whole lot to love right now, and I don’t want to forget that]

Things I appreciate:

  1. Opportunities to become more than I’ve ever been, both professionally and personally – hello The Daily
  2. Late night convos with roommates and terrible childhood movies featuring Milk and Cookies ice cream.
  3. A community that showers me in love and believes that I can achieve my wildest dreams
  4. Half hazelnut and half vanillas lattes with nonfat milk
  5. Brownies in the kitchen at 12:35 am
  6. Laptop stickers that make me feel cool and reflect my aesthetic to the outside world.
  7. Being able to run it out and feel a little bit less stressed (shoutout to the endorphins and biology that made all this happen)
  8. The realization that I can drop people from my life who don’t actively make me better
  9. Milkshakes, particularly of the Oreo variety.
  10. Jean jackets and sweatshirts representing the institutions and places I love most.
  11. Resilience and the ability the survive despite it all
  12. Lovely people who follow up and support me in things that matter. This can occur in any form from excited text messages claiming “you’re gonna be an engineer!” to notebooks and verbal affirmations that they believed in me the whole time.
  13. A little turquoise notebook filled with highs and lows (working on getting back to the highs)
  14. Songs like “With You” and “Show Me Love” that always make feel a little bit more peaceful.
  15. People who remember who I am and tell me that I’m memorable and valid
  16. Residence halls that offer a safe place to rest and write.
  17. Classes that let me write whatever I want. And teachers who care for me as an individual
  18. Fuzzy sweaters and rain jackets and gloves.
  19. Headphones (that is all)
  20. New music that has me feeling every type of way (also don’t call me baby unless you mean it)
  21. Successful morning gym visits followed by veggie burgers and sweet treats.
  22. An Asian community that values identity and intersectionality.
  23. Friends that always have stories or shade to share
  24. Interviews about things that really matter like k-12 education and outreach that help these kiddos see themselves as scientists and engineers.
  25. Pancakes runs with some of my favorite humans
  26. Show tunes from movies that make me feel nostalgic for emotions I’ve yet to experience
  27. Running into lovely people who remind me what matters, and validate that people who care about me will show up to things that matter
  28. Yellow and orange starburst
  29. Buses that run on time.
  30. Major appointments that help me take classes that excite me  (intro to user centered research anyone?)
  31. Traditions that stand the test of time like Friday night collective shows
  32. Mended friendships because we value each other too much to lose it all.
  33. Bright and sunshine-y days with concrete buildings and new bus routes to opportunities to develop professionally
  34. Becoming a person I’m proud to be
  35. Opportunities to visit places that grace the cover of travel magazines and lists like “50 must-see places”
  36. Role models who have managed to enter challenging fields and thrive, and who remind me that I can do the same.
  37. Academic quarters that go from 0 to 100 real fuckin quick, but that leave me feeling grateful for the people in my life who have helped me make it.
  38. The chance to spend the day working with future coworkers, or people I strive to be in a few years. Looks like Microsoft might be interested in lil ol’ me
  39. International Pancake Day runs with my two favorite people, featuring stories of younger siblings and promposals and a little bit of nostalgia
  40. Weather that’s perfect for this outfit that somehow has every color/pattern/texture/shine, all thanks to the things What Not to Wear taught me.
  41. Squinty smiles and flying baby hairs that capture moments of genuine happiness.
  42. Fresh starts – spring, new academic quarters, and opportunities to turn a new leaf
  43. Views overlooking expansive waters that always remind me of the Pacific Northwest (and some bright orange accent flowers for contrast)
  44. Artists like Nicki Minaj that can rap like a mofo but also break it down with some raw emotions (how does she do that shit)
  45. Friend dates at familiar tables where we can pretend to do homework (or maybe actually do it)
  46. Days where the sun peaks through the clouds and makes me wanna whip out those mint shorts and maybe show a lil ankle
  47. Legs heavy from exhaustion but also evidence of a commitment to taking care of my physical body
  48. Friends who check in on me, even when I’m stranded in downtown Seattle and walking along light rail tracks hoping to find a crossing
  49. Sunshine that makes me feel like a glowing
  50. Wearing some flowy shorts and a top with bell sleeves and feeling confident af
  51. Playlist titles like “u up” and allusions to future concerts
  52. Opportunities to change the little things like hair length in preparation for bigger better things like clarity on potential careers.
  53. Fun friends group that will collide at Friday night traditions.
  54. Bubble tea of the fruit flavored variety that serves as a long-awaited reward of finishing a long week.
  55. Lists that make me giggle but also make me think.
  56. Classes the confront use of taboo languages and words that hurt
  57. Beautiful portfolios that capture how hard I’ve worked to be intentional about how I use my time.
  58. A love for writing that has only grown and blossomed with time
  59. Free mornings that are set aside for writing and weaving authentic narratives (mine or someone else’s)
  60. Friends who are proud to see me grow and teach
  61. Opportunities to become the person I always needed as a mentor, tutor, and co-worker.
  62. Successful career fair visits where the person wants to take my resume, learn more about my field, and pass on my information to the right people
  63. Good facilitation strategies that encourage people to share their gut reaction, then think more deeply about their response
  64. Goldfish crackers and grand plan bars, as always
  65. Interesting interviews that invite me to broaden my current framework for understanding identity to encompass the more nuanced experiences of Asian and Asian Americans
  66. The chance to hire our next fleet of writing center tutors who are passionate about helping other people tell their story a little bit better.
  67. Green parakeet cake pops and insatiable laughter with coworkers (bonus if most of your communication occurs through head turns and confused looks in unison)
  68. A few hours working on a real research project that makes me think I’m in the right field
  69. A commitment to being a better writer with a clear narrative, and friends who will hold me to those high standards.
  70. Writing articles about a broader interpretation of identity through acapella and hip hop and traditional dance forms, all with the goal of letting people see you a little bit more clearly (status update – and then getting front page)
  71. Friends who will make the trek to work so you can be paid to help them
  72. Short hair don’t care that’s way easier to manage but still feels like an authentic look
  73. 30 minutes of str8 running like a savage to songs like “I’m the One” featuring a few body rolls that certainly demonstrated that I’m not here to play
  74. Playlists chock full of J. Cole in preparation for a lovely night of music.
  75. Nice emails from future coworkers and bosses who validated my work as a journalist and want me to learn about my role on the team.
  76. Friends who offer tough criticism and push me to tell a better story because they know I can.
  77. Delicious veggie burgers and downtime to wash dishes and ease the prep time in the morning
  78. Smooth vodka that goes down in one gulp (and drinking in a shot glass from Italy certainly adds to the aesthetic)
  79. Fake tattoos of demure foxes and sour Airhead rainbows that are a physical manifestation of me.
  80. 10 am grocery runs featuring mini biscotti and dried mango snacks.
  81. Successful runs that celebrate fun dance routines and songs featuring fun chance dance moves.
  82. Meetings with advisers who look critically at the way that this university demonstrates what it values.
  83. Feeling like I’m in my wheelhouse with these interview and writing-based assignments.
  84. Some good songs to bop to because God damn boi, I am not a teen choice.
  85. Sunshine!! I forgot what 70 degrees feels like but I’m ready to remember
  86. A slayworthy aesthetic featuring a corduroy skirt straight from a 1990 episode of Friends and some bell sleeves but peep that velvet choker and try not to tell me that short hair doesn’t suit my face shape
  87. Talks from user researchers at my future company.
  88. Meeting people who care about the same things as me like accessibility and diversity in engineering fields, but are also curious to learn about my windy journey to get there.
  89. Narrowly avoided thunderstorms that end with sunshine (God bless bc you already know I didn’t bring a rain jacket).
  90. Buses caught just in time to run into friends who are moving on to the professional world and thinking critically about the workplace culture they want – it’s a reminder to always strive for quality work and see my disciplinary experience as a strength.
  91. Lacy shorts and kneecaps that are out to play (and I wouldn’t have it any other way)
  92. Sounds that make you wanna bounce on someone with someone (679 you got me).
  93. Surprisingly quick trips to target that yielded the essentials and a whole lot of hair products (damn I cut my hair and you’d think I’m freaking Rapunzel with all my options).
  94. Slow songs that remind of a wake up early and make you breakfast kind of love.
  95. Bright blue skies that warrant t-shirt dresses and ear-to-ear grins.
  96. Slightly awkward car rides with really good friends, and checking off “be the last person at the party” from my bucket list.
  97. Delicious light roast coffees that are exactly what I need in this and every moment.
  98. Conversations with engaging storytellers who recognize their privilege and want to prevent erasure of Central District communities
  99. Convenient run-ins with cute people in white t-shirts (swoon)
  100. Covering shifts from 7:30 to 9 p.m. but it’s okay because I love my work enough to do this every day
  101. Transitions in seasons and moods and quarters
  102. Moments when I feel like things are headed in the right direction.
  103. Best friend’s birthday celebrations featuring strawberry margaritas and cactus cupcakes
  104. Days when I don’t wear makeup but still feel confident.
  105. Opportunities to coach high school students through the user-centered design process and great apps that communicate how high you are (short answer – very high)
  106. Managing to feel well-rested without coffee.
  107. Realizing the value of having high expectations for my friends and relationships – so I guess I’m asking for honesty and empathy and vulnerability because I will always give others these things.
  108. Hip hop showcases that offer a little bit of bounce and booty work.
  109. Poetry to write and read that helps my soul feel a little bit more at ease.
  110. Wonderful TEDxUofW conferences that open with a powerful woman of color who isn’t afraid to talk about racism and the ways that we as a nation still need to grow.
  111. Free bread and coupons!
  112. Jamz that make you wanna dance all the way home
  113. Unreleased tracks by Lana Del Rey that remind me we were born to live fast [and] die young.
  114. Long cardigans that keep my warm on rainy walks back from children’s
  115. Article drafts that get better with every review.
  116. Design sprints that leave my exhausted but exhilarated that we’re doing user-centered work.

And so much more ❤ cheers to this beautiful and precious life

Musings: Learning to be great

[TLDR: Getting constructive feedback is tough, but it’s also firm but fair and will remind me to make my presence more of a positive force on the team. I’m learning to be great, to be proud, and to believe in myself and my ability to create]

6/19/17 – Hello friends, it’s 10:44 p.m. and I am pooped so I’m aiming to go to bed by 11 p.m. Today, I got my first few pieces of constructive criticism and rest assured, I cried my eyes out afterward (good thing I was able to find a lil’ corner on the floor before mine, and I made it to the bathroom before the waterworks ensued). My supervisor had said that I seemed really tired and that I was preventing others from being productive, and that I needed to be more engaged (in reality, I had a debilitating migraine that literally made it hard to see, and I promise that I’m not one to be “dramatic” or talk about physical pain like this. Wow, I guess I don’t have enough energy to react in full force in writing, but it’s a little frustrating because I am adjusting to the company and it hasn’t necessarily been easy but I’m doing my best because it’s tech la la land aka uncharted territory in my book and I’m still trying to figure out how to navigate it. Honestly, all I’ve ever known was hospitals and pre-med trajectories and getting it wrong all the time that I don’t even know if I trust myself in this role. But honestly, I don’t think that they’re seeing my clearly. I really am engaged and excited, but I’m also nervous because everyone has 10+ years of experience and can spit out acronyms like MSC and SEO and UWP like nobody’s business, and I’m just LOST sometimes.

So, I guess I’ll try to ask more questions and bring all of myself to the table. Maybe I just need to be more engaged the way that I know how to be, and try to make a more deliberate effort to curb my anxiety because I have 12 weeks to make an impression and I’m still learning how to be great, but I want to take full advantage of the fact that I’m at Microsoft this summer – which isn’t a small feat.

I need to believe in myself and remember that I was chosen or a reason. I’m so tired of apologizing for not being good enough, and for not letting myself that I deserve to be there. I got this insert power pose and confidence and everything else in between ❤

Also, I didn’t debrief my conversation with my high school best friend the other day, but I just wanted to document how thankful I am that my friend accepts me in my rawest and most honest form, and that she saw it in me since the beginning. It’s confirmation that coming out is part of letting the world see the most authentic parts of me. And it certainly helps that we can joke about the past with the newfround tagline, “and I’m the gay one” 😉 – she’s definitely got me excited to date someone and feel that sense of genuine connection with a person who constantly elevates me. But at the same time, I’m lucky to get a lot of that from the people currently be in my life ❤ Cheers to that and summer and Dads who let me bring my car and fluffy maroon blankets that won’t leave my bed (even in summer), but also cheers to fun dogs on the Light Rail that are excited about life and friends that buy Boom Chicka Pop popcorn for us to snack on all night.

(Internship) Musings: Week 1 highlights

6/14/17 –  I am very sleepy and I’m going to bed, but I just wanted to document that I love my internship (catch me jumping straight into a big tech company after being fresh off my acceptance into HCDE – maybe my mom and my superviser and adviser and friends were all onto something for believing in me).  It’s amazing that I get to be sea level at a big company where the settings window is accessed by 100 million people – I can’t even fathom the reality of that number, and I am so excited to work on projects that will actually impact people and help me capitalize on that “passion for social impact” piece of my tagline. I’m excited to be fulfilled by my work and making new friends. I love that my supervisers love and care for me during this process while also pushing me to be more than I’ve ever been. I love that we can laugh and discuss and share and even when the music from the cubicle next door is penetrating the walls because I’m always in the mood for some good music by the Weeknd. I know that I’m definitely in the right place because I walk away feeling validated and excited to return, and it’s amazing to know that the company has virtually limitless resources and experts that I get to leverage for the next 11 weeks. We shall see what tomorrow’s design sprint bubbles to the service – let’s put those growing user research / design / engineer skills to good use!

Also, I had a little debrief with my roomie and we discussed the fact that not everything is your fault, it’s important to communicate and tell people what you need, and remember to support people in whatever ways you can, with the awareness that you can’t necessarily control everything. Let’s just do the best we can to take care of our communities, you know? Kindness goes a long way.

Also, receiving a message about how I inspired someone to write a blog post about leading from the middle, and facilitating a conversation more broadly about leading as a member of a community through empowering others, reminds me that higher education is not only my first love but a strength of mine – it feels good to be in the right field, but also be validated as a writer / tutor / engineer, as evidenced by everything I’m doing this summer. It’s crazy not to have any stories or interviews on the docket right now, but I know the discipline will be there waiting for me when I’m ready ❤

6/15/17 – A little update from the design sprint: Today was exhausting and collaborative and amazing and everything in between. We got the opportunity to think about empathy in the context of our own lives, meet with some subject matter experts, and ideate about what our target users really needed. I love that I got to bring my interview skills to the table with the support of a software dev who knew how to ask to right questions in an approachable way. I love seeing my supervisor be so willing to support others in ways that they want to grow, and I also love that I’m finding ways to talk about health care and differential access and my Pakistani roots despite my shift to a tech industry – it’s a reminder that I don’t have to let go of these authentic pieces of myself just because I switched industries. So yes, I’m here and I’m queer and brown and Muslim and a woman, and I deserve to be at the table with the best of ’em (in reference to all the software developers and UX designers and content developers)

I’m still learning how to ask for what I need to make sure that this summer is as productive and meaningful as possible, but I think I’m on my way there. So cheers to that and future lunch date plans and snack tables full of chewy bars and popcorn ❤ not to mention some new Justin Bieber songs, ** 2u, I see you and feel you ** good good playlists with Drake classics, and new artists like Blackbear.