[The Uptake Podcast] Guest Speaker Spotlight: Chris Gill
Published Apr 29 2020 06:05 AM 1,325 Views
This post by Chris Gill is in conjunction with the Uptake Podcast episode 6, Neurodiversity as a superpower.


My name is Chris Gill -- I am an advocate for mental health and neurodiversity, and I credit my advocacy energy to the openness of members of the Microsoft Tech Community (especially the Humans of IT community)! I fail fast and recover quickly, and have a passion for tech and food.


Opening up about ADHD
In my 18th year as a tech professional, I finally shared that I had ADHD. I spent years working on and perfecting my professional performance, making sure that my tasks, delivery mechanisms, and even habits were architected and organized so that no one would notice that I was frequently overwhelmed, frustrated, distracted, and drained of energy. In all honesty, it was only after a nudge from the community that I realized I could offer my experience as an inspirational story for others.

I formed a plan but had to be very careful as there were many legal and professional considerations to be factored in before disclosing any diagnosis to an employer. In my case, my manager and I had a very real discussion in a casual setting – we found an open area with couches that helped minimize the pre-discussion anxiety. My manager was empathetic, accommodating and asked me what I needed to be successful and continue my performance. I focused on requesting accommodations around how best to have more frequent check-ins to stay on track, regular feedback on deliverables, and help in finding a less noisy/distracting work area. We're still working on that last accommodation, but essentially I found ways to help my boss help me!

An insatiable desire to learn and share
When I'm not in parent or husband mode, volunteering, or honing my chef skills, I'm hustling to learn something new. I'm frequently reading and getting hands-on experience with a new feature/service, or writing an article about what I have learned to do (and not do). Folks frequently ask about my learning path and certifications that I have achieved and how they were achieved - but rarely ever ask why they were pursued. Aside from a touch of Imposter Syndrome, my initiative is to continuously learn-it-all and most importantly, teach-it-all! Seeing that "aha" moment when instructing others is priceless: knowing that the mentee will continue to be better and advance the community from our collective efforts to share knowledge and teach the how and why. Without others sharing what they have learned to build and form the community, I would not be where I am today, and can only hope that my efforts in giving back are just as rewarding for others!


#CommunityRocks is not just a hashtag, it's a way of life
I realized a few years ago that something was missing in my life - I had learned a tremendous amount from my "localized" mentors (those in my immediate workplace and community), but I needed to learn more and be #VolunTOLD to become even more of a community champion. Having the opportunity to be a mentor as part of the Humans of IT community’s Community Mentors app and being invited to present on the Humans of IT stage at Microsoft Ignite 2019 has really opened my eyes and my heart to the importance of sharing with and learning from others in this ever-growing HUMAN community. If you’re interested to be a mentor too, be sure to check out the Community Mentors video.

I was anxious to speak in front of hundreds of session attendees (just as I was anxious to participate in this podcast), but I kept reminding myself that no one knew MY story better than I do. Likewise for you, I encourage you to take the leap and share your story as only you know it, and use that to help grow and foster the community. This is now a huge part of my advocacy and call to action for others - to share what they know and have experienced by letting down their guard, being vulnerable and authentic, so that others can learn from their unique stories. By sharing my own story and putting myself out there, I now have additional lifelong friends as part of a "textable tribe" to celebrate those highs, talk through and cope with the lows, and chat about anything under the sun! I learned (and continue to learn) a ton about raw humanity, and now feel invigorated and safe in a rock-solid compassionate community of humans! If you’re looking to join a “Textable Tribe” of your own, check out the new Community Accountability Groups feature that’s available on the Community Mentors app too!


Learning from my WFH orders during COVID-19…and how it may help YOU (whether neurotypical or neurodiverse)
At the point of the recording, I was in my third straight week of working from home. When I reached out to others, I received an overwhelming response from others who shared that they were now experiencing for the first time what I would normally consider a regular day for me. I found the following tips that are helping keep me and my family mentally stable, even in this time of anguish:

I can move, sit or stand however I feel comfortable, allowing me to be super creative!

  • Plan out your week - use tools like Microsoft To-Do, Azure DevOps Boards, etc. to schedule meetings, and orchestrate your schedule for efficiency.
  • I frequently take calls in a completely different room in my house, just to give me a mental or physical break from my WFH setup (let's be honest, we ALL need those breaks)!
  • Even with family at home, I still have fewer distractions to filter out and am more productive because of it - turning down alerts and alarms on my devices really helped to cut down distractions.
  • Invest time to formulate an activity plan or routine (aside from schoolwork) so that your children feel they have direction, increasing everyone's mental health and engagement. My 10-year-old daughter has created lunches for our family since we have been quarantined, making everyone happy and helping her upskill! I'm finding that art is also very therapeutic for both kids.

I'm constantly reminded that while we're blessed to have tech knowledge to share, we equally have personal experiences to share as it relates to neurodiversity and mental health. As part of this global community, I continue to bring both facets in a buy-one-get-one package, offering mentoring and guidance for both - I encourage you to do the same!





Connect with Chris:

Twitter @cgill

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/cfgill/

Microsoft Tech Community Chris Gill

Blog https://cfgcloud.io

Instagram cfgill

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