2019 or How I started to believe in myself

Purpose of this post

Someone on twitter asked, what was the one word to describe 2019. As I can’t name just one word, I will need to write an entire blog post to do that. Originally, I didn’t know if I will publish this recap, but I needed to clarify my thoughts to get a better vision of what next year will be about. With clarity comes freedom and peace in mind. Right now, there is a thunder inside of me and I can only calm myself by taking away anything that distracts me. This also means, that I need to write what holds me back, puts me down, shrinks me into places I have already grown out and blurs my vision. I don’t want to write a list of accomplishments to let others applaud me, but I think that sharing my experiences is a good way to beat my insecurities, overcome my impostor syndrome and thank people that helped me on my way.

Last year

In 2018, a big part of our community got to know me because of my sketchnotes at various conferences. Whenever someone introduced me, I was the “Sketchnote Girl”. Sure, I am very thankful about the visibility and my exposure within the community, but I felt the urge of showing that I am not only able to draw (in fact, I taught myself how to draw in 2018, but this is another story ), but that I am actually an Office 365 Consultant, who is passionate about learning & sharing in first place. I wanted others to benefit not only from my skills to visually recap what other’s session were about, but also from my own insights and learnings. I have so many ideas about the art of teamwork, how to really increase productivity and how to explain complex structures that really anybody is able to understand, so I wanted to open discussions and yes — also be recognized as an expert.

This year

Therefore I realized, that I needed to sharpen my profile and work on how others could see me, so that I wasn’t only remembered as the one that does those drawings at conferences but also knows her stuff as a Consultant and can share her technical expertise by speaking.

State of mind

Although I am a non-technical Consultant focusing on User Adoption & Communication. I felt the need to challenge myself with new things like finding solutions for problems. As I have no technical background at all, I was afraid that I could fail, and that I wasn’t smart enough to achieve my goals. I suffer from impostor syndrome and had these voices inside, telling me that at some point everyone will notice that I don’t really provide value, or that everything I did was just a mistake. But although I was scared as hell, I set some goals and just continued learning and asked for help. I can’t list everyone who helped me, gave me hints, encouraged me whenever I needed support, but just let me say THANK YOU DEAR COMMUNITY. Thank you for including me after I excluded myself. Very special thanks to Dona Sarkar, for giving me more courage. My old beliefs, false assumptions and low self esteem when it comes to my technical skills held me back for so long time from actively making progress in my learning journey. It was just so easy to refuse instead of breaking my barriers and work for it. This year I finally broke with this mindset. How I managed that? I realized that there was a parallel between how I became a Sketchnote artist and everything I wanted to be in other areas. I realized that it was about me, how I perceive myself, and the world.

So obviously, I need to tell that story — didn’t plan that for this blog post, but here we go:

How I became a Sketchnote artist

Discouraged at the age of 6 by my teacher in arts at school, who told me that I should just stop to try drawing because I really had “no talent at all”. I just didn’t draw for my whole life. I suffered from it for a long time, because I wanted to express myself also visually. As I am a visual learner and felt that there was creativity inside of me. These words of having “no talent at all” stuck to my mind. This held me back from trying. At some point, last spring,. I realized that I wasn’t that poor girl. It became very clear to me, that I’m the one who is responsible for her life and what she makes from it. The grass is greener where you water it.

writing “The grass is greener where you water it ” by Neil Baringham, photo taken in Antwerp

Sure, the arts teacher was mean and should have encouraged me. He should have helped me instead of discouraging me. He should have been inclusive, but I played his game and excluded myself from being, thinking and acting visually. I used the “no talent at all” as an excuse, as a perfect reason, so that I didn’t need to just sit down and practice.

When I understood, that I was in my own drivers’ seat and that I couldn’t allow someone else to determine if I was successful or not, I felt very scared, but then let that feeling go. This was more than relieving!

First I started by setting up a little visual vocabulary of around 20 icons which I wanted to draw. I also worked on improving my handwriting.

Listening is also a good skill of myself. This together with practicing drawing and writing, I was able to take my very first sketchnotes at Re:Publica 2018 in Berlin. Three weeks later I also did this at Collabsummit 18 in Mainz. The guy, which sat next to me, asked me to post my notes to Twitter and tag the speaker of the session — rest is history. Thank you again, Dan Holme.

Learning Journey in 2019

Power Automate / JSON /Microsoft Graph

I started to learn to use Power Automate and wanted to add some complexity in my flows. This complexity triggered me to learn JSON, which helped me with using Adaptive Cards and connecting to Microsoft Graph. This was seriously a game changer for me. Already typing developer.microsoft.com as the URL in my browser was a bit scary for me.

Thanks to Jeremy, who not only pointed me to an amazing blog post series #30daysMSGraph, but also helped me understand how I as non-Developer could find my niche. I used the Graph in a lot of flows and found out that I seriously love its power. Registering my first Azure AD app got me very exciting. These days I show others how to use and do this and it feels amazing.

Thank you Andre for being my partner in crime for that at BASS. I binge-watched sessions that were far outside of my comfort zone. Each session, I documented in a learning diary. Whenever I struggle, I read in this diary to know what I asked know. Thank you as well Keith for pointing me to some resources and continuing to encourage me.

JavaScript

Besides that, I took the next step. I started to learn JavaScript. Yes, I am #NotADev, but felt that it was a good idea to understand how to write code and how a developer thinks. More and more I get involved in intranet projects. Having these coding skills/mindset, it helps me see things from a different angle. This gives me an additional perspective on the work I do in order to have a more holistic approach how to provide value to my customers. Plus: I wanted to know if I can really learn anything. I shared a lot of this on Twitter. Some of the comments weren’t nice. Others really helped me finding my way — thanks also to my 300 new developer-followers who saw me struggle and offered help — I was deeply touched by that!

Adaptive Cards

Since I became more familiar with writing and understanding JSON, it became easier to use Adaptive Cards. I really like these Adaptive Cards and my customers find them fancy as hell.

At #MSIgnite, I not only attended the session about Adaptive Cards, but also did a sketchnote from Matt Hidinger s session. This sketchnote was published on the official Adaptive Cards blog. Thank you, Matt, for recognizing my work!

Events

I worked on blogposts about my learnings and shared my experiences openly on Twitter in order to not only be “the artist”. I realized that I had to start submitting sessions to conferences in 2019. This was a success and I spoke at the following events:

6 Meetups

  • Modern Workplace Meetup Münster

Thank you Henning for having me – I had a great time presenting my very ironic session: 5 ways how to avoid collaboration in your organization

  • BASS in Bremen

thank you, André, for presenting together with me about how to provision a Microsoft Teams team with Power Automate! Was the first time I presented not alone – Thank you as well for our very professional preparation session in the ball pitt!

  • Office 365 Cologne

where I showcased how drawing helps me in consultancy by facilitating teamwork

  • Office 365 UG Hamburg

where I talked with Michael Roth about what could possibly go wrong in an Office 365 project if you treat it like an IT only project. Read our blog post in case you missed it.

  • Wirtschaftsförderung Paderborn

again, thanks Michael who helped me to convince Cloud Newbies to consider Azure & Office 365 as part of their digital transformation journey

  • MSCCCH Hannover

big thanks to Tomislav Karafilov and Stefan Riedel who hosted not just me but also my 9 year old daughter Clara who became a Power Automate fan this day:

7 SharePoint Saturdays

  • SPS Bremen

My very first speaker slot at an SPS event — about sketchnoting and how this technique could make you a better consultant — Lucky that I had a great audience who were not only very keen on learning how to draw, but also gave me amazing feedback — thank you! Also thank you Daniel Wessels for giving me this opportunity.

  • SPS Warsaw

Bad session. Nothing worked. Wi-Fi, Demo, my slide deck, my poll, the game I wanted to play. Worst 50 minutes for me.

Obviously, I didn’t sacrifice chickens to the demo gods, or I didn’t bath in blood at midnight. You need to learn from your failures. This session taught me I needed to have at least a plan B.

Thank you to any of the speakers who hugged me, told that shit just happens, and that you just need to embrace the lessons life gives you.

Thanks you Edyta GorzonTomasz Poszytek and Martin Siewnicki for an awesome event!

  • SPS London

Taking my two chief fangirls & daughters (Marie, 14 and Clara, 9) with me to London, it was an absolute pleasure for me to deliver my very first session about Power Automate and what you can do with it if you think you lack of technical skills. This was a trojan horse session. It looked like a #Maker- session, but was in fact about empowerment.

The session was packed and I really had a good time presenting.

Thanks, Seb Matthews for selecting me!

  • SPS Cologne

Cologne is somehow my local SPS Event, I seriously enjoyed being there and amazed my audience with some drawing skills — thanks to Raphael Köllner.

  • Power Saturday Paris

Once again, sharing how to take visual notes was fun, need to come back to Paris soon — thanks to Isabelle Van Campenhoudt and Patrick Guimonet

  • SPS Brussels

Funny story. Although I was originally not selected as a speaker at this event, I actually delivered a session about productivity — thanks to my daughter Clara, who not only took pictures of me, but was my fangirl for the whole day, and fell in love with Community.

By the way: very proud of receiving such good speaker rates!

Thank you Thomas VochtenRick van Rousselt and Elio Struyf

  • SPS Munich

Right after #MSIgnite I was part of an expert’s panel discussion about the purpose and use cases of private Channels in Microsoft Teams together with Edyta GorzonRobert MulsowDaniel Wessels and Omar Shahine. I also delivered a session on my own about task management with Planner, To-Do, SharePoint and Power Automate — audience was very happy about how I connected libraries with tasks and how everyone can achieve zero inbox with ease.

Thanks Antje LamartineCorinna Lins and Max Melcher for organizing an awesome event!

3 non-Microsoft-organized Conferences

  • aOS Aachen

as an aOS ambassador it was my pleasure to deliver a session about task management — I learned a lot about being a woman in tech; here is my advice to all fellow #WIT: don’t wear long earrings (they come in conflict with your headset and will make awful noise) and if you wear a dress, choose one with a belt so the sound engineer has a fair chance to attach the sender.

Thank you Patrick Guimonet and Sascha Fredrich for having me!

  • Office 365 Connect Haarlem

Delivered two sessions at the very last Office 365 Connect Conference which made me laugh and cry. I was happy to present in front of great audiences who were so open and interactive, asked so many questions and were very talkative. I cried because it would be the last time to have a conference at this awesome venue.

Thank you Nigel Clapham.

  • Modern Workplace Conference Paris

For the first time, I didn’t just show how I thought everyone could learn how to draw, but I showcased how somebody learned it in fact. This somebody was none other than Elio Struyf. I want to say big thanks for trusting me in this process. Although for him as a developer, drawing is far outside of his comfort zone. He was very passionate in learning and practiced very focused.

We presented on stage what needed to happen so anybody can learn to draw and how developers and other IT-people can benefit from this skill.

Thank you Patrick Guimonet and Gokan Ozcifci for having us!

3 Microsoft Conferences

  • MVP Summit

My airline left my luggage in my hometown, so when I arrived at Summit, I had nothing to wear. Not like my cupboard is full of clothes I don’t want to wear but just NOTHING to wear, so the struggle was real. 20 Minutes after I posted this on Twitter, Brian Dang came to my hotel (even before I arrived from the airport) to bring Power Apps Shirts and other swag. Thank you, Brian!

Mark Kashman packed a whole SharePoint Bag for me with shirts and my dear roommate Ida Bergum allowed me to just use her make-up and wear her clothes —

Damn, all this gave me such a warm feeling of being welcome and that community got me covered.

After shopping, I had the pleasure of delivering a 3-hour session at Pre-Day. During this session I showed the basics of drawing and how you could overcome those inner barriers which limit you.

Thank you, Betsy Weber, for making this happen. Audience was deeply touched. It could have been I had something in my eyes as well.

  • Microsoft Business Application Summit

Another step outside of my comfort zone was this event, that focused on Dynamics and Power Platform — I shared my learnings in a Citizen Developer Panel and would like to say a big thank you, Sameer Banghar. Showing what’s achievable for makers and how Microsoft is really fulfilling their mission statement gave me goosebumps.

My “About me” slide of my Citizen Developer presentation
  • Microsoft Ignite

Biggest Conference of the year! Together with Loryan Strant I was part of an unconference session of Joanne Klein about survival tips for the independent Consultant — we shared insights and learnings and were all impressed how openly our participants shared their thoughts. Thankful of being part of this experience.

Another great thing happened — after I did a sketchnote on Satya Nadellas vision keynote, he replied to my tweet. This made my day!

Thank you to everyone who celebrated this with me Anna ChuHeather NewmanBetsy WeberDona SarkarTom ResingShona BangLaurie PottmeyerKaruana Gatimu and so many others!

AS if all these event weren’t enough, I was also official Sketchnote artist at

  • Collabsummit19 in Wiesbaden

I did not only come back “home” after a year, but also got the opportunity to be on stage. My sketchnotes of both keynotes were projected on huge screens so the 1600 people could see them in real time. Can’t say that I didn’t feel pressure, but I so enjoyed it. I also wrote an article for the #Collabmagazine and designed its front page — thank you Adis Jugo and Spencer Harbar for making that happen. Meant the world to me, #communityrocks

  • SPC19 Las Vegas

Something special is going on when your family jokes about you going last-minute to Vegas — Thanks to Bill BaerDan Holme and the whole team for bringing me to SPC19 — I loved being there. Nice touch, that my sketchnote tweets were the most retweeted ones of the whole conference. Thanks as well to Matt Wade who really challenged me with giving the most speedy talk I ever experienced.

  • ESPC19 in Prague

After being the Sketchnote Artist last year, Tracy O’Connell invited me again to facilitate speakers and amplify content on social media. If I look at the awesome report of John White of TyGraph I need to say: It worked out quite well

People

Nothing of this would be possible without the people that support me. So although I already thanked a lot of people in this post, I want to continue to do this.

Family

First of all, I want and need to thank my family. My two daughters Marie, 14 and Clara, 9 support me in an outstanding way and I can’t say how much I appreciate that. Having a mom that is so often far away from home and spends a lot time after work on community work can seriously be a challenge. But both girls ensure me quite often, that they see me as their role model and that they want me to see happy and independent and that I need to do what I want to do. Sometimes, I am able to bring the kids with me to events and I would love to see more kids around community events. We aren’t alone in this world and I think this would also be a step towards more diversity if we really included all of us.

REgarding 365

I’m part of the team of #Regarding365, if you don’t know us by now, please make sure to visit our website. I’m so incredibly thankful to have friends around me that work with me on the same mission, and love the connectiveness of this group. Thank you Darrell as a Service for including me, thank you Phil Worrell for amplifying my work, my learnings, my journey. Thanks to everyone in the team who helped me out when I struggled and gave me advice, so I didn’t feel awkward anymore. You all are great.

#PowerAddicts

Another very special group of people my heart feels so close to are the #PowerAddicts. It is an initiative of learning and sharing about Power Platform of a some awesome people: April DunhamKeith WhatlingGeetha SivasailamAnton BenzDaniel Christian and Vivek Bavishi, who gave me the nice opportunity of designing not only stickers but also shirts for all of us. This global movement of makers impresses me every single day in a way I can’t express enough. The inclusivity, diversity and kindness of this community is outstanding. Thank you as well to my girl Lauren, who is my role model. Read about her here: https://news.microsoft.com/features/you-dont-have-to-be-a-developer-to-turn-a-great-idea-into-an-app/

My Crew

Another big thank you goes to “My Crew” — very special friends Edyta GorzonRobert MulsowTomasz Poszytek and Elio Struyf — thank you all for an awesome year, for your company and friendship. You all know what you mean to me.

Community & Special Thanks

As I already mentioned the experts I did sessions with, I wanted to also thank all supporters. Everyone who sat in front row making some noise or in the back seats applauding for my solutions — special thanks to Laura Graham Brown and Paul Hunt, who were able to see something in me I didn’t believe in.

Thank you Phoummala Schmitt, the Exchange Goddess for supporting me at MSBizAppSummit, Dux Raymond Sy for always giving me thumbs up, Miri Rodriguez, we still owe each others a drink and Simon Chan for taking your time to work with me, I can’t express how much I love to be your Microsoft To-Do Ambassador. Very sure, there are lots of others, which do not mean less to me, but if I wanted to include all of you, I needed an entire new blog post for that. I am very sure we will meet again next year and celebrate our friendship.

Personal

This whole post is quite personal, so perhaps you ask yourself how a paragraph called personal will be. I don’t believe in having a work — life balance. I live just one life and my work is a very important part of it but not everything my life is about. There are some intimate things that I want to share, although this seems to make me more vulnerable and weakens my position. But I can’t be my authentic self if I hide certain parts just for the sake of so-called professional behavior.

Running

Early September 2019, I began running because of medical reasons. I had pain in my neck, suffered from this well-known tech-neck. My doctor told me that I just need to do sports or would need surgery in less than two years. All my excuses like “I don’t have time”, “I travel too often”, or “I can’t stick to a fixed rhythm” didn’t count. My doctor proposed to start running because I could do this anywhere. Thank you Aleksandar Draskovic and Rich Riopel for encouraging me as well — having role models made it easier for me.

I downloaded an app, chose some songs and added them to a playlist. I found out, that Foo Fighters and Rage Against the Machine work best, #jsyk. I started with a program which was called “Couch to 5K” and it guided me through the process from not being able to run an all to easily running 5K. In the beginning it was seriously hard for me, to convince myself that I needed to do this. It took all my discipline and willpower to choose what I really wanted over what I wanted now. I ran 3 times a week, no matter what. I refused the urge of making excuses due to cold and rainy weather or telling myself that it would be ok to skip “just this time” because I was tired after long day at customer/conference and travels. I knew that if I didn’t stick to my new routine, it would be even harder to get back on track.

After a few weeks I realized that I didn’t need to convince myself anymore. In fact I just did it, and finally also found joy in running. It was (and still is) not only an exercise for my body, but also for my mind. Being stronger than my weaker self, moving forward and making progress was something I needed in other parts of myself as well. 4 months after I started to run, it seriously became my habit. Nowadays, I pack my running gear every time I travel. Both body and mind ask for it and I can’t imagine that I will stop doing this.

What the heck has this to do with your profession?

I realized, that there was a pattern in my life:

I just assumed, that I am not talented /smart / strong / whatever ENOUGH to achieve something, start doing it anyway and then really rock it.

What about 2020?

I just decided to stop that pattern. This year taught me to believe in myself. I achieved what seemed to out of reach for me. I surprised others and myself, I realized that making excuses doesn’t solve anything.

Next year, there will be new challenges, new learnings, new struggles- But I am surrounded by you awesome community so I believe that I can make it.

Luise

Luise is an independent Microsoft 365 Consultant, Microsoft MVP for Office, Apps & Services, Sketchnotes Artist and Power Platform Advocate based in Germany. Do you need help with your project, want to exchange views or just connect? Feel free to follow me in twitter, LinkedIn or get in touch via contact form.

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