15 years (and counting) as a Microsoft MVP

In the beginning of my MVP tenure, there were not very many of us in my chosen area of expertise.  We all knew one another, all knew spouses of one another (well, let’s be honest, there were two women, we all knew the wives of the others), knew about the kids.  We became a family with not only a common love of technology, but for each other.  We jokingly call the guest room at our house the MVP suite because so many have come to stay while in Colorado, even more came for a homemade dinner.  I have enjoyed visiting countless MVPs on my world travels.  Made so many memories together.

It was this feeling of family, of unwavering support for each other, that made me determined to stay part of this group.  Even in the years where it was tough. And I will be honest that some years are easier than others.  I always love the community work, I always hate the tracking of it.  Sometimes it’s tough to see where you can make a difference.  There was certainly a year or two that I was going through the motions because it’s what I knew, but was unsure of my motivation. This past year some paid projects reignited my passion for this community. 

There were two times we all auto-renewed for various reasons (program realignment and COVID).  One of those years I was actually really struggling with my health and had thought for sure I would lose this family because I just couldn’t keep up.

Over the years the family has grown, and so has the technology.  I hear from so many old-timers that we just can’t keep up with all the new growth of our beloved CRM and Power Platform.  My immediate thought is, same here.  I cannot keep up with the tech, or these new MVPs.  Then I realize I don’t have to be an expert on everything.  I can still make an impact on the community.  I compare myself to prior versions of me, not to someone else.  While it might not be daily growth, or daily learning, am I better today than before?  Do I know more today than before?  As long as that answer continues to be yes, then I am good with myself and feel that I still belong in this MVP family. There’s room for all of us to succeed.

I see friends deciding to step back from being an MVP after they lose their passion, redefine their own priorities. I am so happy for them that they followed their hearts.  I’m not there yet.  When I think it’s time, I’ll follow my heart too.  I don’t see that happening soon, but we’ll see.

There are now hundreds of MVPs in my chosen specialty.  I do not know all of them.  I try to know as many as I can.  And while I professionally respect your technology expertise and your community commitment, I’m more likely to ask about your family or your dog than I am to chat about your most recent blog post.

I grew up in a big family, with not a lot of money or opportunity.  I can’t remember being told I could do bigger or better things.  The people around me didn’t have that vision.  I will forever be grateful for marrying into a family who had that vision, who gave that support.  And then the continued support from this MVP family.

Do the things. 

Do all of the things.

Then find new things to do.



How you can support the women around you

Full disclosure, you should be doing these things daily.  But if it took a special named day to get your attention, and now that I have your attention, I’m going to tell you how you can support women in your personal and professional orbit. 

  1. Support our choices with our bodies. That includes keeping your unwanted hands and opinions to yourself.
  2. Pay women what they are worth. 
  3. Stop charging more for women’s products.
  4. Celebrate the successes of women.
  5. Listen to us. We have great ideas.
  6. Stop talking over us. Finishing my sentence isn’t even cute if we’re married.
  7. Don’t take credit for our ideas and our work.
  8. See to it that others see your example, and feel free to tell them to do better when needed.
  9. It doesn’t matter if we are feminine, masculine, or somewhere in between, we belong at the table, on the stage, anywhere we want to be.

And if you just can’t do the things above, get out of the way.  You don’t have to help, just stop making it harder.

How did I get here?

I recently posted a tweet, asking you how you got to Power Platform.  The responses were great, full of so many different answers.  I love how diverse they were, and how it really solidified for me that any path can be the right path.

For me, my path here was anything but intentional. Anyone that knew me as a young adult would have had me editing a big glossy magazine and living in Manhattan.

But a broken leg changed my path. When I was stuck with nothing to do, I started working as a software tester. Then I was writing requirements. Then I was architecting solutions. And now here I am. 

Back when we called Power Platform plain old XRM, I was amazed at how much I could build without a single line of code.  Now, we have an entire ecosystem to empower anyone.  Wow.

I was always interested in tech, curious about how things work, how can we solve problems in the most logical way. When I had the chance to teach others how to do the same thing, I knew I found my place. The opportunity to help people find a better version of themselves is quite a motivator.

My work has brought me around the world.  Seeing great things, meeting great people, eating great food. 

Hello again

For years I blogged a lot.  It’s how many of you got to know me.  Then it became a chore and I let it slide lower and lower on my priority list until it no longer had a place on my to-do.  My last post was nearly 4 years ago, my last tech post, even longer.

I tried to revive my writing at the beginning of the pandemic, but my heart just wasn’t in it.  So, I decided to give myself a break and not feel like I had to exceed at everything all of the time.

With the pandemic I went from travelling more than 100,000 miles per year to nearly no miles per year.  We would go months without putting gas in the car.  Photography has always been a hobby, but without new adventures that slowed down so much that I wasn’t even keeping the batteries charged for my camera.  We couldn’t see our kids.  We couldn’t see our parents. I was in quite a funk like most all of us. 

I love to eat, so I’ve always loved to cook.  But now we were cooking all of our meals. I started documenting more of what we made.  I learned how to make my own wine, I named it Tipsy Traveler.

My random pandemic accomplishment was design school.  I attended, and graduated from, a self-paced online interior design program.  I’ve been putting that to use in designing our new house.

So, here I am trying this writing thing again. 

I split my blog, one for tech, one for the other stuff.

From a tech perspective my role has evolved to more training and curriculum and less hands on keys making things for clients.  I joined the board of directors for a non-profit that helps excite high schoolers in technology. I still share my voice to decision-makers in DC trying to help small tech and app makers.

For the other stuff, I started to document and share some of my cooking and design work.  And it makes me happy to relive the stories behind the photos, so I’ll be including that here.  And who knows, maybe there will be some new travels and new photos, too.

The techy stuff will be here, the non-techy stuff here.  And there will certainly be crossover between the two because that is who I am.

Oh, and I got a puppy.  His name is Lio. 


Clinical depression is not an emotion

Some days I have regular old situational depression.

My old dog died a month ago.  I’ve been sad. 

I have a chronic illness that will never go away and promises a lifetime of pain.  That really sucks.

And with the empty nest we have now, it gets kinda quiet and lonely sometimes.

These are all normal; I don't need drugs for that. As much as that makes me sad some days, I welcome it, I don't shy away from emotions.  But sad terrifies me.

The battle against depression is a long one. Every variety of depression looks a little bit different than the next. For me it’s crying. Just crying. If you asked me what was wrong, I'd have no answer.

When life itself was miserable, depression just felt ordinary. But I knew I needed help when I had everything I could have ever dreamed of, and I still cried every day. Literally every day. I am currently responding well to my meds, and I have been for over a decade. It took a couple of tries to find the right one for me. That’s where a good doctor can help. I still feel a full range of life's emotions.  But without the weight of the beast that is depression sitting on my shoulders.

I have achieved personal and professional success. I still have depression. It is not situational.

Luckily, my depression does not come with the despair and hopelessness that so many others feel. However, if not treated, I can see how it could go there quickly.

I have found great success with a good doctor and good medication.  If I was not that fortunate, then I could totally see where self-medication would be a welcome relief.  This is how many many addictions find their way into the lives of people you love.

If you need help, please get it. It is a sign of strength to get that help, not a sign of weakness. Find a doctor that will step you thru the process of finding your way out from under the weight of depression. It is exhausting to pretend to be ok when you are not.

If you know someone that needs help, help them find that help. If you don’t know what to do, ask someone (like me) for ideas.

If you are reading this, know that I will be there for you. I am happy to be your 3am phone call when the tears just won’t end.

I am not ashamed. I should be ashamed if I didn't seek treatment or if I hid behind a diagnosis.

Most days I win. Some days the demons win. I am fortunate that my battles are small ones.

The first year of a debilitating diagnosis

It’s been one year since I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Time flies when you’re having fun?

In that year I have cried a lot. Had a few pity parties. Gotten angry. Learned tons about auto-immune disorders (or are they conditions?). Took more steroids in that one year than the rest of my whole life combined.  I’ve tried a few meds and started on one that is comparable to low-dose chemo. I’m pretty sure every single day had pain, I don’t remember a pain free day. There were varying degrees of pain. Some days annoying. Some days debilitating.

In that year I have also…

· Spoken at several conferences all over the world

· Had a bear try to get into my house

· Watched a herd of elephants play in a big pile of mud for hours

· Appeared on a career panel for impressionable young minds

· And cursed

· Twice

· Spent the day with my son in NYC

· Celebrated 14 years married to Mr. Right

· Got in a car accident

· Watched my brother-in-law get married

· Watched my son dance with his grandmother(s)

· Found a gas station gravy tap

· Hosted my girlfriends on a wonderful weekend in Breckenridge

· Discovered I am the fox whisperer

· Spent the first Christmas in 20 years without my daughter (I guess it was time for us both to grow up?)

· Had to explain to non-native English speakers way too many inappropriate things in Cards Against Humanity

· Found grey hair in my eyebrows (seriously, eyebrows?!)

· Captured someone’s marriage proposal with pictures

· Spoke to members of Congress about things that are important to me (and you)

· Purchased an acre of land for our next home

· Did not see Star Wars

· Caught a ball at an NBA game

· Celebrated New Year’s on a boat in the Caribbean under the stars

· Said goodbye to an old friend, INETA

· Smuggled gummi bears into the US Capitol Senate reception room

· Went to Spain

· And Turkey

· And Poland

· And Slovakia

· And Hungary

· And Hawaii

· And Africa

· And Holland

· And Belgium

· And UK

· Too many trips to Seattle to count

So, life goes on. And will continue to do so.

What makes a successful meeting on “The Hill”?

I have been fortunate enough to be invited to join a group of small business owners as we meet in Washington DC with Act|The App Association. It’s an annual event, this year in April. The days go so fast, but it’s so worth it. I have been several times, and will continue to return as long as I’m invited. A meeting can be deemed successful based on many different aspects. For me, if I feel that I was heard, it was a good meeting. Even if we didn’t agree or become besties.

Day one is for arriving and exploring DC on your own, then meeting the group for dinner.


Day two is heads down learn learn learn. Learn about what issues are most current and where we might be able to have some influence. What matters to me and my business? Big topics for us this year include funding for STEM education, government access to data and encryption.

So, day three. Lots of meetings. Lots. Learn something from each meeting. Leave a memory and a story. Here’s the rundown of my day three this year.

Started my day with The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. To talk about encryption and privacy. Just a small little meeting to start my day, get off to an easy start. Nobigdeal. No, wait, this is a big deal. A huge deal. There are active cases likely to go to SCOTUS very soon. There’s new legislation proposed that will overreach and impact every single person that makes software. Not to mention endanger the data and protection of our data as citizens. The meeting was great. They asked questions. Lots and lots of questions. They had their lists of arguments and asked for our counter-arguments. It was not at all confrontational, despite every other sentence starting with “not to be devil’s advocate, but…” I honestly felt heard. I feel that I likely had an impact.


I was in a great great mood. I headed to my next meeting, at Congressman Doug Lamborn’s office. It’s easy to say that that Doug and I disagree on most things. But, he is my elected representative and I needed to go and be heard. We had a brief chat with a staffer. The meeting was unremarkable. I had the staffer take my picture at Doug’s desk.


After a quick lunch it was back to the Senate side.

We were supposed to meet with a familiar face at Senator Michael Bennet’s office. We arrived and the senator was in the hallway posing for photos with a group of students. The staffer met us in the hall and we just started chatting as the senator rushed off to a vote. No big deal. Senator Bennet’s office is always receptive and welcoming. A hallway meeting in DC is still a meeting. Turns out I was wrong. It wasn’t a hallway meeting with a senior staffer. It was a walking West Wing style meeting. Walking fast, talking about important issues. Down to the tunnels, on the restricted little train to the Capitol. Yes, there was a vote happening. But we’re going to the reception room to chat with the senator when he finishes the vote. The reception room was this big ornate space, full of other people having there squeezed in meetings. Lots of familiar faces all around. The senator finished his vote and we found a place to stand and chat. He knew about me. He knew about my work with schools. He knew the things that mattered to me. He was either well-briefed or totally stalks my blog and social media.


Next up was Senator Cory Gardner’s office. Last time I was in DC, I emailed and asked to meet directly with the Senator, not a staffer. They said the Senator was busy but so and so would love to meet with you. I said I was busy too, and was getting on an airplane, the least he could do was meet with me. So last year, I met directly with the senator. He was new to office, had his temporary office in the basement of a Senate building. This year I met with a senior staffer and had a good chat about data privacy and STEM education. Was non-remarkable but just fine.

Last up was Congressman Raul Labrador from Idaho. The staff member we were scheduled to meet had a last minute conflict and we met instead with a senior staffer. I didn’t know much about things in Idaho, other than I’ve been there and it’s almost as pretty as Colorado and I have a few friends that live in Boise. So, when you don’t know what to talk about, try something you might have in common. Education! We all want our kids to be well-educated. Right? Well, the Congressman from Idaho feels very strongly that education is a state issue, not a federal issue. I can see that point, but the reality is that we have currently federal involvement in education and the Department of Education isn’t getting dissolved any time soon. That meeting was not very productive and felt like the longest meeting of the day. Don’t get me wrong, they were totally polite. We were welcome to be there. They gave us Cliff Bars (they are made in Idaho)!

The “we” I reference is different for every meeting. The other civilians like me join together for the meetings and for most of the meetings ACT|The App Association sends along a staff member (they are our saving grace if we forget a point, have a hard time saying what needs to be said, great moral support).


The Colorado GOP says my vote is irrelevant

The Colorado GOP will decide your vote this season.  No seriously they will.  You don't get a say.

"Colorado’s delegates to the 2016 RNC will be unbound"

Now that doesn't sound bad does it?  But it is. 

It means that the Colorado Republicans do not respect the views and desires and votes of its Colorado citizens. 

It means don't you worry your pretty little head about voting sweetie, we got this, now go make me a sammich.

It means that each delegate chooses the candidate they personally prefer, with no regard to the will of the people.

Used to be that in order to have a say in the Colorado primary/caucus process you needed to register as GOP.  That's why I was registered as such for many years. 

I switched that today.

GOP press release here.

I will continue to vote based my own thoughts and not based on party.  But I demand my voice be heard.  We all should.

Just another day at MalaMala

The day begins just before sunrise.

As we leave camp we notice some impala all standing at attention and looking the same way. We head that way to investigate.

Look in the river. Look around the river in the bush. No go.

In comes the call, lions. Not just lions but a new pride in the making. An established pride of three lionesses seems to have joined forces with a pride that started with two males and a female. However, the female has been shunned and was no longer with the group. The lions, five of them, were lounging on the sand alongside the river just a short distance away.

When we arrive we see the two males sleeping. The lionesses are near but one is wide awake, like she’s on guard duty. We get a good position for photos. Our hope is that as the sun rises from behind us, the lions will go into the river for a drink and we’ll get good photos head on with the fresh morning sun lighting up their faces.

One of the other rangers sees a leopard across the river. That would be behind us. We do not see the leopard. But the lioness on guard sees the leopard.

She begins her walk over, going right through the water in front of us.

Copyright Julie Yack

The other lionesses follow her. After the three lionesses cross, the two males join.

Copyright Julie Yack

They have found the leopard and have her trapped high in a tree.

Copyright Julie Yack

The lions decide it’s time to sleep now. Under the tree, keeping the leopard trapped.

We wait. We watch.

The lions move around a little.

The leopard grumbles and hisses.

The lions move around a little more.

The leopard grumbles and hisses more.

The dance continues for some time.

As long as the leopard is patient, she can wait out the lions. She is far too high in the tree for them to reach her.

We leave the scene and move along on a quest for more leopards, two young females had been spotted not far away. On the way we are distracted by a beautiful green bird. This bird sits high in the tree, in the perfect sunlight. When it takes off it performs a loop and returns to the same branch. This little bird is not only photogenic, it’s cooperative.


We drive a little more and decide to stop for coffee and biscotti. We enjoy a hot cup while keeping an eye on the river. There is no danger, but who knows when an elephant might decide to cross the water, always great to watch.

From there we head back to the continued saga of the lions and the leopard. The monkeys are hollering. They want anyone that can hear to know that there’s some big predators here and they mean business.

Enter a herd of thirsty buffalo. The only thing between them and the water is lions. And a leopard.

A few of the male buffalo decide to bicker, throwing horns and grunting, dirt filling the air.

The buffalo move closer to the lions. The lions start to wake.

The leopard remains high in the tree.

The buffalo move closer to the lions. The lions are on their feet.

The leopard carefully watching from above. Safe.

The buffalo move in, the lions run for the water. Dirt flying.

Lions growling. Buffalo grunting.

Copyright Julie Yack

After the lions are gone, and the buffalo are settled the leopard cautiously begins climbing down the tree. She looks around and goes down a branch. She checks for the lions’ location, goes down another two branches. She can’t be too careful. She makes her way to the ground, continuously looking around her for any chance of danger. Once she reaches the ground she slowly begins her walk to safety, walking and looking over her shoulder for dangers behind her. Once she is sure the dangers are gone, she runs from the area.

With that drama over, we return to the road in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Bicycle Crossing leopard. His nickname is The Godfather. He has the largest territory of any leopard in this part of the world. He is big and tough, and at 14 years old a little past his prime. We had seen him last night and heard he is still in the same area. He likely has a kill that we didn’t see and will remain there to eat.

On the way we receive word that there’s another male leopard in the area. They are aware of one another and hissing and growling.

Could there be a battle?

We speed up, but then must take a detour. There’s a rhinoceros sleeping in the road.

When we arrive we see the challenger, in the sand and reeds of the river. It’s a younger male, but he looks tough. Broad shoulders and nostrils flaring.

We hear The Godfather grunting and hissing.

Both leopards move around a little, but still do not approach each other.

One goes in for a drink.

The other moves around and repositions.

They continue this for some time while we watch and wait. Cameras poised and at the ready.

The challenger goes in swiftly, not quite at a run. The Godfather does not engage in conflict.

The challenger goes back to walk in the sand and get some distance. He decides to lay down in the sand. He is alert, not resting one bit.

Then The Godfather gets up and hops down into the sand. He slowly walks toward his challenger. The challenger gets up and slowly walks toward The Godfather. They walk parallel to each other, sizing the other up to prepare for battle.

The Godfather makes his move and chases his challenger into the reeds. There is little fighting that occurs and the challenger is nowhere to be found.

With his head high The Godfather returns to his meal. Swagger intact.

Copyright Julie Yack

Curious about the lions we had seen we head back toward them and find them all sleeping at the river. The males on the big cool rock. The females are waterside on the sand.

Copyright Julie Yack

We decide to head back to camp and on our way see a beautiful roller in the tree and snap a couple of quick photos. The drive as over.

Copyright Julie Yack

It was time for breakfast.

Help me build my new bucket list?

This year has had more travel and more adventures and I have checked off the Africa box and the Ireland box.  I need to make my new list of places I have to see.  Help me?  Tell me where I should visit, give me links, tell me stories?

I need to get to someplace in South America, Asia and (brrr) Antarctica so I can claim each continent on my list, I’ve covered the others.

What do I need to see?  What else does our world have to offer?