Tag Archives: road

Are containers on Windows the right choice for you?

It’s nearly the end of the road for Windows Server 2008/2008 R2. Some of the obvious migration choices are a newer version of Windows Server or moving the workload into Azure. But does a move to containers on Windows make sense?

After Jan. 14, 2020, Microsoft ends extended support for the Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 OSes, which also means no more security updates unless one enrolls in the Extended Security Update program. While Microsoft prefers that its customers move to the Azure cloud platform, another choice is to use containers on Windows.

Understand the two different virtualization technologies

If you are thinking about containerizing Windows Server 2008/2008 R2 workloads, then you need to consider the ways containers differ from a VM. The most basic difference is a container is much lighter than a VM. Whereas each VM has its own OS, containers share a base OS image. The container generally includes application binaries and anything else necessary to run the containerized application.

Containers share a common kernel, which has advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is containers can be extremely small in size. It is quite common for a container to be less than 100 MB, which enables them to be brought online very quickly. The low overhead of containers makes it possible to run far more containers than VMs on the host server.

However, containers share a common kernel. If the kernel fails, then all the containers that depend on it will also fail. Similarly, a poorly written application can destabilize the kernel, leading to problems with other containers on the system.

VMs vs. Docker

As a Windows administrator considering containerizing legacy Windows Server workloads, you need to consider the fundamental difference between VMs and containers. While containers do have their place, they are a poor choice for applications with high security requirements due to the shared kernel or for applications with a history of sporadic stability issues.

Another major consideration with containers is storage. Early on, containers were used almost exclusively for stateless workloads because containers could not store data persistently. Unlike a VM, shutting down a container deletes all data within the container.

Container technology has evolved to support persistent storage through the use of data volumes. Even so, it can be difficult to work with data volumes. Applications that have complex storage requirement usually aren’t a good fit for containerization. For example, database applications tend to be poor candidates for containerization due to complex storage configuration.

If you are used to managing physical or virtual Windows Server machines, you might think of setting up persistent storage as a migration specific task. While there is a requirement to provide a containerized application with the persistent storage that it needs, it’s a one-time task completed as part of the application migration. It is important to remember that containers are designed to be completely portable. A containerized application can move from a development and test environment to a production server or to a cloud host without the need to repackage the application. Setting up complex storage dependencies can undermine container portability; an organization will need to consider whether a newly containerized application will ever need to be moved to another location.

What applications are suited for containers?

As part of the decision-making process related to using containers on Windows, it is worth considering what types of applications are best suited for this type of deployment. Almost any application can be containerized, but the ideal candidate is a stateless application with varying scalability requirements. For example, a front-end web application is often an excellent choice for a containerized deployment for a few reasons. First, web applications tend to be stateless. Data is usually saved on a back-end database that is separate from the front-end application. Second, container platforms work well to meet an application’s scalability requirements. If a web application sees a usage spike, additional containers can instantly spin up to handle the demand. When the spike ebbs, it’s just a matter of deleting the containers.

Before migrating any production workloads to containers, the IT staff needs to develop the necessary expertise to deploy and manage containers. While container management is not usually overly difficult, it is completely different from VM management. Windows Server 2019 supports the use of Hyper-V containers, but you cannot use Hyper-V Manager to create, delete and migrate containers in the same way that you would perform these actions on a VM.

Containers are a product of the open source world and are therefore managed from the command line using Linux-style commands that are likely to be completely foreign to many Windows administrators. There are GUI-based container management tools, such as Kubernetes, but even these tools require some time and effort to understand. As such, having the proper training is essential to a successful container deployment.

Despite their growing popularity, containers are not an ideal fit for every workload. While some Windows Server workloads are good candidates for containerization, other workloads are better suited as VMs. As a general rule, organizations should avoid containerizing workloads that have complex, persistent storage requirements or require strict kernel isolation.

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Transition to value-based care requires planning, communication

Transitioning to value-based care can be a tough road for healthcare organizations, but creating a plan and focusing on communication with stakeholders can help drive the change.

Value-based care is a model that rewards the quality rather than the quantity of care given to patients. The model is a significant shift from how healthcare organizations have functioned, placing value on the results of care delivery rather than the number of tests and procedures performed. As such, it demands that healthcare CIOs be thoughtful and deliberate about how they approach the change, experts said during a recent webinar hosted by Definitive Healthcare.

Andrew Cousin, senior director of strategy at Mayo Clinic Laboratories, and Aaron Miri, CIO at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School and UT Health Austin, talked about their strategies for transitioning to value-based care and focusing on patient outcomes.

Cousin said preparedness is crucial, as organizations can jump into a value-based care model, which relies heavily on analytics, without the institutional readiness needed to succeed.  

“Having that process in place and over-communicating with those who are going to be impacted by changes to workflow are some of the parts that are absolutely necessary to succeed in this space,” he said.

Mayo Clinic Labs’ steps to value-based care

Cousin said his primary focus as a director of strategy has been on delivering better care at a lower cost through the lens of laboratory medicine at Mayo Clinic Laboratories, which provides laboratory testing services to clinicians.

Andrew Cousin, senior director of strategy, Mayo Clinic LaboratoriesAndrew Cousin

That lens includes thinking in terms of a mathematical equation: price per test multiplied by the number of tests ordered equals total spend for that activity. Today, much of a laboratory’s relationship with healthcare insurers is measured by the price per test ordered. Yet data shows that 20% to 30% of laboratory testing is ordered incorrectly, which inflates the number of tests ordered as well as the cost to the organization, and little is being done to address the issue, according to Cousin.

That was one of the reasons Mayo Clinic Laboratories decided to focus its value-based care efforts on reducing incorrect test ordering.

To mitigate the errors, Cousin said the lab created 2,000 evidence-based ordering rules, which will be integrated into a clinician’s workflow. There are more than 8,000 orderable tests, and the rules provide clinicians guidance at the start of the ordering process, Cousin said. The laboratory has also developed new datasets that “benchmark and quantify” the organization’s efforts.  

To date, Cousins said the lab has implemented about 250 of the 2,000 rules across the health system, and has identified about $5 million in potential savings.

Cousin said the lab crafted a five-point plan to begin the transition. The plan was based on its experience in adopting a value-based care model in other areas of the lab. The first three steps center on what Cousin called institutional readiness, or ensuring staff and clinicians have the training needed to execute the new model.

The plan’s first step is to assess the “competencies and gaps” of care delivery within the organization, benchmarking where the organization is today and where gaps in care could be closed, he said.

The second step is to communicate with stakeholders to explain what’s going to happen and why, what criteria they’ll be measured on and how, and how the disruption to their workflow will result in improving practice and financial reimbursement.

The third step is to provide education and guidance. “That’s us laying out the plans, training the team for the changes that are going to come about through the infusion of new algorithms and rules into their workflow, into the technology and into the way we’re going to measure that activity,” he said.

Cousin said it’s critical to accomplish the first three steps before moving on to the fourth step: launching a value-based care analytics program. For Mayo Clinic Laboratories, analytics are used to measure changes in laboratory test ordering and assess changes in the elimination of wasteful and unnecessary testing.

The fifth and final step focuses on alternative payments and collaboration with healthcare insurers, which Cousin described as one of the biggest challenges in value-based care. The new model requires a new kind of language that the payers may not yet speak.

Mayo Clinic Laboratories has attempted to address this challenge by taking its data and making it as understandable to payers as possible, essentially translating clinical data into claims data.     

Cousin gave the example of showing payers how much money was saved by intervening in over-ordering of tests. Presenting data as cost savings can be more valuable than documenting how many units of laboratory tests ordered it eliminated, he said.

How a healthcare CIO approaches value-based care

UT Health Austin’s Miri approaches value-based care from both the academic and the clinical side. UT Health Austin functions as the clinical side of Dell Medical School.

Aaron Miri, CIO at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School and UT Health Austin Aaron Miri

The transition to value-based care in the clinical setting started with a couple of elements. Miri said, first and foremost, healthcare CIOs will need buy-in at the top. They also will need to start simple. At UT Health Austin, simple meant introducing a new patient-reported outcomes program, which aims to collect data from patients about their personal health views.

UT Health Austin has partnered with Austin-based Ascension Healthcare to collect patient reported outcomes as well as social determinants of health, or a patient’s lifestyle data. Both patient reported outcomes and social determinants of health “make up the pillars of value-based care,” Miri said.  

The effort is already showing results, such as a 21% improvement in the hip disability and osteoarthritis outcome score and a 29% improvement in the knee injury and osteoarthritis outcome score. Miri said the organization is seeing improvement because the organization is being more proactive about patient outcomes both before and after discharge.  

For the program to work, Miri and his team needs to make the right data available for seamless care coordination. That means making sure proper data use agreements are established between all UT campuses, as well as with other health systems in Austin.   

Value-based care data enables UT Health Austin to “produce those outcomes in a ready way and demonstrate that back to the payers and the patients that they’re actually getting better,” he said.

In the academic setting at Dell Medical School, Miri said the next generations of providers are being prepared for a value-based care world.

“We offer a dual master’s track academically … to teach and integrate value-based care principles into the medical school curriculum,” Miri said. “So we are graduating students — future physicians, future surgeons, future clinicians — with value-based at the core of their basic medical school preparatory work.”

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ZF expands Partnership with Microsoft to Develop Digital Services

Whether in the passenger car sector or for commercial vehicles, ZF is well on the road toward Vision Zero. Autonomous vehicles, innovative safety systems and intelligent mobility solutions contribute to a future of road traffic with zero accidents and zero emissions. This will be accompanied by digitalizing the entire value chain. The technological backbone for these applications is the ZF Cloud based on Microsoft Azure. The closer collaboration with Microsoft allows ZF the development of even more customer focused and tailor-made solutions.

“The strategic partnership with Microsoft will allow us to work even more intensely on intelligent and networked mobility solutions of the future,” explains Mamatha Chamarthi, chief digital officer at ZF Friedrichshafen AG. “This puts us in the position of developing new digital services, on the one hand, and to adapt them perfectly to specific customer needs, on the other.”

Sanjay Ravi, General Manager, Automotive Industry, at Microsoft, adds: “We are excited to expand our collaboration with ZF. Microsoft Azure’s cloud, AI and IoT capabilities enable ZF to deliver highly secure mobility services at a global scale with a faster time to market and respond to the unique needs of their customers and partners worldwide.”

At the CES trade show, ZF will present their initial application options for the expanded platform. These options were developed with various partners and will encompass diverse areas of use:

Comprehensive fleet management

VDL, one of the leading manufacturer groups in the bus sector, uses the ZF IoT platform not only for its fleet management solution being sold to its customers, but also for its own fleet. The platform provides VDL a complete overview of the efficiency of its electric and diesel vehicles. By the end of 2018, more than 300 VDL electric buses had been equipped with the solution. In the process, VDL uses the entire bandwidth of Microsoft Azure services – from the Edge device to the cloud-based platform.

Smart transmissions through predictive maintenance

With the new Predictive Maintenance function, ZF is preparing its successful modular TraXon transmission for the digital future in the commercial vehicle industry. Starting in 2019, vehicle manufacturers and fleet operators can proactively plan vehicle maintenance using the cloud solution.

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Author: Caitlin Karpinski

When you want that job, tell them your story – Microsoft Life

Building your career is a journey filled with challenges, excitement, and forks in the road. And journeys are easier with maps. In this column, job experts answer your questions and deliver advice to help you take the next step.

Question: I feel like my résumé doesn’t really show the real me. How can I help people looking at my resume get a better idea of who I am?

Answer: Humans have relied on storytelling forever to share their experiences and journeys and to connect with each other. Not only does storytelling pass along useful information, but it conveys emotion and helps uncover universal themes that others will relate to. And you can even use the power of storytelling in your job search.

“Your story should reflect your truth, your authentic self, and the great work you’ve done,” said Chris Bell, an executive recruiter at Microsoft. “We’ve all had life and professional experiences that have helped shape our unique perspective on the world and our personal impact.”

Storytelling is a skill in and of itself, he points out. “Through your résumé, LinkedIn profile, and interviews, your communication and selling skills are demonstrated. Plus, when you tell a story, you’re displaying your ability to create an emotional connection.”

Here are Bell’s top recommendations for how to use storytelling techniques at every checkpoint (i.e., résumé, LinkedIn profile, interview) of your job hunt.

Infuse your résumé with narrative

When writing your résumé, don’t rely on keywords and jargon to tell your story. Think of using your skills and background as a starting point and then creating a narrative, Bell said. Avoid speaking in shorthand and relying on sentence fragments.

For example, he often sees experience statements such as, “Drove benefit packages, negotiating multiple options for benefits at a cost reduction of 29 percent.”

“What does ‘drove benefit packages’ mean?” he asked. “Was this person the benefits administrator or the individual selling or selecting benefits packages?”

Take a look at his expanded example, which adds context and answers an interviewer’s potential follow-up questions at first glance:

“I was responsible for the company’s benefit package selection process that entailed driving the RFP process with five vendors. I led a collaborative team that negotiated a multi-option benefit package that exceeded our employees’ needs while reducing benefit spend by 29 percent.”

By telling the job highlights narratively and focusing on impact, job seekers avoid vagueness and open the gates for a deeper conversation about how they approach their work and why it’s successful.

Don’t over-focus on résumé length, Bell said. While the standard recommendation is two pages, Bell believes that focusing first on storytelling will ultimately lead to the most readable version of your résumé. “Write what’s relevant; people will read,” he said.

Tell a story with your LinkedIn profile

Don’t be afraid to show your personality and call out your professional identity with your LinkedIn profile, Bell said. One place you can do this is with your profile headline. Bell shows a bit of personality with his own headline: Definitely a Recruiter | Leader and Learn-It-All.

When crafting your headline, consider the role you seek, relevant keywords, the type of company you see yourself working at, your personal brand, and the story you’d like to tell. Bell calls out that his field is recruitment and that he’s a leader who’s constantly learning and finding ways to improve his craft.

Next, consider the Summary section, which gives people a deeper snapshot of who you are, where your passions lie, and what you bring to the table. This is also a space where you can link to other places online where recruiters and hiring managers can learn even more about you, such as social media platforms, a podcast you run, or a blog that you manage. Keep your bio succinct, personable, and relevant, and continue to create the narrative with first-person phrasing. Tell the story of who you are.

The Experience section of your LinkedIn profile allows you to be more granular about your goals, learnings, and successes in each role. Bell advises that you steer clear of the résumé format in this section and take this opportunity to tell the story.

For instance, rather than say “I managed five events each year,” connect the dots between the work you did and who you are. Here’s an example:

I love processes and data. Yes! I admit it. Plus, I enjoy taking opportunities to train others.

At A-Z Event Planning, I made it a personal goal to create event strategy processes to make my and my colleagues’ lives easier while making our clients’ smiles bigger. While my charter was to run five events per year, I also took it upon myself to use my forecasting experience to develop a more “on the nose” event performance dashboard to predict attendance rates. This allowed us to plan better and make cost-saving recommendations to our clients. I also created an “event in a box” program that we rolled out to our international offices. This not only simplified the overall company’s processes, it also led to consistent, industry-leading programming across the board.

I absolutely enjoyed this job because it allowed me to tap into my hidden talents and learn more about international event planning. Since I spearheaded the programs, I was also asked to train my colleagues across the country and internationally.

In this example, the job seeker showcases their personality, drive, and skillsets. You want readers to feel your passion, enthusiasm, and knack for getting the job done.

Tell your story in an interview

“Everyone should be able to tell their own story,” said Bell. “And it is important to practice.”

When you are asked “tell me about yourself,” this is the moment to tell your truth, but keep it focused on what’s relevant to the job. For example, this is not the moment to explain that you were raised on a farm with five siblings—unless your farming background is relevant to the job you seek (maybe the company you want to work for creates technology solutions for farmers); if so, by all means connect those dots.

Keep your answer under two minutes, he said, but offer details about key roles, learnings, and personal experiences that tie into the role that you seek. Try to use a narrative arc to show your evolution as an expert in your space and to explain how you’ve built on your experience to get you to this point. Again, practice makes perfect.

Also have a narrative ready for anything recruiters or hiring managers might zero in on, such as short stints in a role or gaps in employment. “In any interview, you want to come across as polished, not stumped or appearing as though you have something to hide,” Bell said.

A popular question to anticipate and approach through storytelling is, “Tell me about a time when you failed. How did you handle it?”

“People fail,” said Bell. “But, many people don’t have a cohesive story to explain the situation.”

As with any behavioral question, he suggests that job seekers use the STAR method to talk through their answer. To make the story more interesting and relevant, Bell suggests that you also explain what you learned and what you would have done differently.

Don’t treat your responses as answers, but as stories that support the idea that your unique experiences, passions, and drive make you the best person for the job.

Bring the whole story together

Bell said that through storytelling, you can make an emotional connection that helps position you as memorable and indispensable.

“The right words and experiences help convey your story in a way that emotionally connects with others,” said Bell. “Remember, this is your story.”

Don’t stop dreaming: you’ve got the job, now what? – Microsoft Life

Building your career is a journey filled with challenges, excitement, and forks in the road. And journeys are easier with maps. In this column, job experts answer your questions and deliver advice to help you take the next step.

Question: I landed an exciting job. Now that I’m settling in, I don’t want to lose my momentum. What should I do to keep my career moving in a positive direction?

Answer: You’re right—your career is a moving target, so it’s a good idea to be open and willing to develop yourself for what lies ahead. Whether you’re new to the workforce or have been with a company for years, one role probably won’t be the end of your journey.

Microsoft recruiter Heidi Landex Grotkopp believes that developing your career can be an illuminating trip into self-discovery, skill development, and building strong relationships. Here are some of her top recommendations for staying sharp and ready for what’s next, whenever it might come.

Give yourself time to settle in

It can take about a year to get fully ramped up in any role, Landex pointed out. Before you begin to set your sights on the next gig, give yourself time to get to know your work. Spend time with your peers and managers to learn more about the business, the expectations, and the customers.

As you build relationships in your role, ask for periodic check-ins—with managers as well as with peers—to ensure that you are on track with agreed-upon expectations or areas of improvement. This tactic helps you build a rapport, while gaining visibility within your team and organization.

Landex said that your ramp-up is the perfect window to gain insight from others—and yourself. In this ongoing process, consider what you’re doing in your work and how you’re doing it. This will help you notice how you are evolving in your role, reflect on challenges you have taken on, and figure out how to keep growing, she said.

“Ask yourself, if I had been a bit bolder, what would I have done differently?” said Landex.

Fill in your skill gaps

As you continue to gauge your strong suits and identify areas of development, focus on your strengths, but don’t be afraid to know and publicly acknowledge your areas of opportunity. Those may be the very areas that could lead you into something new and exciting, something unexpected.

“Let’s say you don’t have a specific skillset or it doesn’t come naturally to you, but you love 90 percent of the rest of your job. You might be in the right role, and you should get mentoring and training to ‘skill you up’ on the 10 percent that you are concerned about,” she said.

Go to your manager and have a conversation about the identified gap. Landex suggested communicating about your growth area but that you know it’s a skill you can improve. Then lay out a plan to execute that: a training, a long-term class, or help from a mentor.

“Your manager should be able to help you identify someone in the organization that would be a great help,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a local mentor. It could be someone in a different job or different location than you. The idea is to find someone who you can shadow a bit, in person or virtually, and ask questions about how you can improve within your specific scenarios.”

And remember, Landex said, “You might not be the strongest in a skill, but never look in a mirror and think you’re not good enough.” Everyone can improve once they set their target.

Build connections beyond your role

Landex also believes employees should seek a sponsor or champion.

“A sponsor is not a mentor but someone who can help you in your next career step,” she explained. “Let’s say you don’t have all the right skills or the right technology, but you have the right effort and capabilities to get there. With the right sponsor, they will help you connect with the right people and opportunities to get you to the next stage of your career.”

Be your best data keeper

Having a record of your career path can be surprisingly insightful. Landex said she does this in two ways: by documenting her accomplishments, and by asking colleagues to share their feedback about her.

The personal document is just for you. “It can be 10 pages or no limit,” she said. “Put in all the different roles you’ve had. Write in your achievements and how you managed. Keep it chronicled and make note of what’s relevant.”

Then revisit it about once a year or as your accomplishments happen. Continue to think about how your direction changes, and adjust your entries to showcase relevant details.

This personal document is a great way for you notice trends in your accomplishments and pinpoint new, in-demand skillsets that you’ve obtained. Also, by calling out how you got there, you’re making note of your way of thinking through a problem or project.

Landex also suggests collecting unsolicited feedback. Whether it’s a kind note from your manager about a project you rocked or an appreciative hallway chat with a peer about your work ethic, save it.

“I actually capture my feedback on LinkedIn,” said Landex who feels the Recommendations section of the platform is an underutilized tool. “When I get good feedback from someone other than my manager, I ask the person if they could share their feedback as a recommendation on LinkedIn.”

Understand that your career is evolutionary

With every great role, you’ll find great lessons and potential successes. By chronicling your experience, expanding your connections, and showcasing your well-earned accolades, you are setting a solid foundation to nurture your career development.

Never treat a new role as the “end all, be all.” It’s simply a milestone of your career evolution.

How thinking like a recruiter can open more doors in your job search – Microsoft Life

Building your career is a journey filled with challenges, excitement, and forks in the road. And journeys are easier with maps. In this column, job experts answer your questions and deliver advice to help you take the next step.

Question: I’m interested in a role that I found on a job site. I reached out to a recruiter at the company through LinkedIn, but I didn’t hear back. Did I go about this the wrong way?

Answer:  If you’ve spotted the perfect role on a job site, you may be tempted to run a quick LinkedIn search, identify a recruiter who works at that company, and reach out. Sometimes this approach works, but more often, you never hear anything back. Why?

While LinkedIn is a great way to connect with others during a job search, you may be going about your networking in the wrong way—or even with the wrong person.

Microsoft recruiter Mike Maglio offers a simple approach to using LinkedIn to increase your chance of getting a response and making a meaningful connection. His secret? Think like a recruiter.

It’s no surprise that recruiters use LinkedIn’s search tool to find potential candidates for their open jobs. The trick, Maglio says, is for job seekers to use the same search tool to find recruiters who might be hiring for the jobs you want.

“In their profile, a lot of recruiters will explain what they do and what organizations they cover to show up in searches more accurately,” he said. You can find them by doing your own search.

For example, if you are a software engineer who is passionate about working on Azure technology, search for “Azure AND recruiter AND Microsoft.” Maglio suggests job seekers use Boolean search logic with terms such as “AND” to yield more relevant results with a more accurate listing of recruiters in that space. “Use filters such as current company, location, etc. to get even more relevant results,” he added.

“Even within a product as big as Azure, you still want to get as specific with your search as possible,” said Maglio. “The more targeted you are, the better.”

Check out the profiles of the recruiters you found, and then choose a couple who work with your specific qualifications, such as software engineer, recent graduate, and Azure solutions.

Now that you’ve located the right recruiters, it’s time to introduce yourself. Craft a message that is concise, precise, and offers information that explains who you are. “Recruiters get many messages, so being direct and specific increases the likelihood you’ll get a response,” said Maglio.

Use a warm welcome, such as “Hello [Recruiter Name]” and then be clear about what you are seeking (e.g., referral for a role, connection to a team, information, etc.). A recruiter is going to look at your profile, so you don’t have to send a full resume or  write an introduction with all of your experience.

Do you have a mutual connection? Mention that person in your introduction—or better yet ask your mutual connection to make an InMail introduction between you and the recruiters, Maglio suggested. This gives you an automatic “trust boost” because the recruiters are familiar with the connection who’s referring you.

“If you are reaching out about a role, include the link to the job posting. Let the recruiters know that you’re interested and would like to be considered for the role,” he said. It will also help recruiters connect you with other recruiters or hiring teams, in case that specific role is handled by someone else.

If you are simply wanting more information, be clear about that. If the recruiters can help, they might potentially schedule time to chat with you or even refer you to someone in the organization.

Recruiters need to understand who you are beyond your resume and LinkedIn profile, so use your chance to show them what you can bring to the company or job.

“You should be able to demonstrate your value and show you are a knowledgeable applicant, but be concise,” said Maglio.

“You could briefly speak to a relevant article or press release that ties into your passion. Or—if possible—call out a patent, applications you’ve built, or a slideshow of projects that can be viewed,” he said.

These examples show your passions and interests, beyond just your resume. “But keep it short and sweet,” Maglio said. “The last thing you want to do is bury that kind of info.”

If you’ve followed these steps and haven’t been able to connect with the first set of recruiters you’ve identified, keep applying and refining these steps.

The right connection is out there, along with the role of your dreams.

How to ‘come out’ as an LGBTQ+ ally at work – Microsoft Life

Building your career is a journey filled with challenges, excitement, and forks in the road. And journeys are easier with maps. In this column, job experts answer your questions and deliver advice to help you take the next step.

Question: I want to help my coworkers feel respected for who they really are. But sometimes I’m not sure what to do or say to show that I’m an ally, and I don’t want to mess up or hurt anyone’s feelings. How can I be a better ally?

Answer: The first step to becoming a better ally is wanting to be one—so you’re on the path already! There are many ways to be an ally in your professional realm, including connecting with coworkers to learn what they face and care about, stepping in when someone isn’t being treated with respect, and educating others. These Microsoft employees, who are all allies or members of the LGBTQ+ community, have some advice.

Know what an ally is and why you should be one

An LGBTQ+ ally is someone who respects equal rights, gender equality, and LGBTQ+ social movements; stands up for members of the LGBTQ+ community; and challenges homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. Allies increase protection, safety, and equality.

“Coming out” as an ally in the workplace sends a powerful message of affirmation and support to LGBTQ+ employees, which can help them feel more respected and able to do their work.

Spend a little time thinking about why you want to be an ally—and think about why allies are needed and how you could make a difference, said Andrea Llamas, a senior human resources advisor.

Often, the motivation to be an ally comes from personal stories and connections.

“Everyone has a friend or family member that is part of the LGBTQ+ community,” Llamas said. “To make the world a better place for the people in that community, [we need to get to the place where] sexual orientation or gender identity is not important.”

Once you know why you want to be an ally and what you might want to accomplish by being one—whether it’s as simple as making another person feel comfortable or as big as becoming a vocal advocate for change—you can figure out how to do it.

Set out to learn more

Many people feel unsure of their role as allies in part because they aren’t familiar with the experiences or realities of LGBTQ+ people. Don’t worry if you don’t know what a term means or if you aren’t familiar with an issue. Research is where to start, Llamas said.

“If you don’t have the information you need and if you are curious, ask,” she said.

If you do ask a coworker who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, make sure that you pose your question in a respectful way and perhaps in private. First and foremost, communicate your openness and desire to learn so that you can support.

If you’re worried about saying the wrong thing to LGBTQ+ coworkers—such as using the wrong pronoun—respectfully ask them how they prefer to be addressed or how you should refer to something. You might also ask how they would prefer that people address mistakes when they happen, suggested Michael Tan, a Microsoft manager of a transgender employee.

But don’t rely on LGBTQ+ people to educate you on everything; do your own research. Morty Scanlon, a business program manager, suggests using resources from Straight for Equality, The Human Rights Campaign, and Outstanding to learn more.

Members of Microsoft’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group GLEAM, which stands for Gay and Lesbian Employees at Microsoft, have helped create resources and workshops for coworkers who want to be allies. Find out whether your company has similar resources, suggest that they be created, or even help compile them, said Scanlon, cochair of GLEAM.

“When people have resources at their disposal, they can see a path toward their own allyship to materialize,” he said.

As you do your research, look at your own assumptions. Take the opportunity to recognize and move past bias. Use these questions as guides:

  • What assumptions have you made?
  • Do you know if they are true?
  • How could you find out?

Show support and speak up

Some gestures by allies might seem small, but they can mean a lot. For example, Llamas said, “Don’t hide any relations you have to someone in the LGBTQ+ community, such as friends or family members.” Talking about your gay brother or transgender cousin the same way that you talk about any family member or friend shows that you value people equally regardless of their identities.

You can also communicate your support in simple ways, such as by putting stickers on your computer or signs at your desk, by attending LGBTQ+ support events, or by joining an advocacy effort. These actions show people who have faced challenges or who have previously not been accepted for who they are that they have your support in little and big ways.

“Remember that there are many ways to let people know that you are an ally,” said Llamas, who serves as the GLEAM Mexico lead.

Being an ally also means speaking up when some voices aren’t heard, when someone is excluded, or when something harmful is said. Listen fully to others’ ideas, contributions, and stories. Intervene when someone is being discounted or ignored or if harmful language is used. If someone has been treated with harm, approach them to see what they need and offer support.

And people who need allies themselves can also be an ally to others, Scanlon said.

“In the same way that allies are essential to the LGBTQ+ community, we also have a responsibility to be allies for others. The lessons I’ve learned in working to be a better ally to the transgender community are lessons that I can apply to evolve my allyship beyond my own community and apply more broadly to the workplace: examining my assumptions, listening to understand, identifying and addressing my blind spots, and being brave.”

Let empathy lead

When Michael Tan, director of strategy, learned that a member of his team was transgender and would be transitioning, he set out to determine how he could help.

“My first role was trying to make sure that the work environment would respond appropriately and that people were respectful,” he said.

But he didn’t immediately know how to be an ally.

“I was in the camp initially where you’re so afraid of saying the wrong thing. I saw other people also so afraid of saying the wrong thing or using the wrong pronoun that they took the path of least resistance and didn’t reach out at all.”

Tan invited the Ingersoll Gender Center to talk to his group. The speakers shared firsthand experiences, background about the transgender community in the workplace, common challenges transgender employees often face, and guidance on how to be supportive.

Listening directly to people’s experiences sparked empathy, Tan said. However you can, seek out others’ stories—they will help you feel connected.

Try to understand the emotional journey that someone else goes through, he said. It’s a powerful display of support “to find out, and then do, what they need to feel comfortable.”

What being welcomed at work looks like – Microsoft Life

Building your career is a journey filled with challenges, excitement, and forks in the road. And journeys are easier with maps. In this column, job experts answer your questions and deliver advice to help you take the next step.

Question: I’m part of the LGBTQ+ community, and it’s important to me to work at a place that accepts me for who I am. What’s the best way to figure that out, even before I apply?

Answer: When you choose a job, you’re choosing more than the actual work you’ll do. You’re becoming part of a whole culture: the environment around you, the coworkers and leaders, and the role the company plays in the broader world. Our workplace becomes a significant part of our lives. And how we feel there can influence our focus, our ideas, and our sense of well-being.

As Claudia del Hierro, a senior program manager at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, puts it, “You’re going to live that culture every single day.”

Whether you’re actively seeking a new job or casually curious about what other companies are like, how do you decipher if a workplace is somewhere all employees, including those who are LGBTQ+, feel supported? We spoke with a few employees who have sought that answer for themselves. Here are their tips and advice.

Investigate the company’s track record

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) releases an annual Corporate Equality Index, a national benchmarking tool that tracks corporate policies and practices pertinent to LGBTQ+ people. Checking that index is a good place to start, del Hierro said.

“Is the company you want to work for rated? What’s its score? That alone tells you a lot about the culture. Some companies have jumped on the LGBTQ+ train for marketing or to gain consumers but don’t really live those values,” she said. “HRC digs into policies so you can assess more deeply.”

Don’t stop there, said Sera Fernando, an assistant Microsoft store manager in Santa Clara, California, who identifies as a trans female. Fernando already worked at Microsoft when she made the decision to transition. At the same time, a transgender friend of hers was also interested in the company and was asking her about its culture. Fernando set out to learn more about how the company approached transgender people, employees, and issues. She began to research both internally, where she found Microsoft’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group GLEAM, which stands for Gay and Lesbian Employees at Microsoft and includes the entire LGBTQ+ spectrum and their allies, and externally, where she found helpful news coverage.

“Read news stories. Enter all the search terms. See what comes up. Do the research,” said Fernando, now the community codirector of GLEAM.

See how the company shows up

Supporting and participating in local and national Pride events and parades does not guarantee a welcoming workplace year-round, but it’s a clue, said Dena Y. Lawrence, a pre-sales manager for Microsoft in Dublin.

“When you’re out at a Pride parade, see which companies are showing up. You can see from a public corporate perspective which ones have embraced LGBTQ+ equality.”

Once you know whether a company lends its support publicly to the LGBTQ+ community, look closer, Fernando adds. Does the company advocate for equity, at events and in the public sphere?

“Are all LGBTQ+ groups being represented—nonbinary, genderqueer, transgender, intersex? Are those stories being shown and told? Are there signs that the company is in tune with the message year-round? Are they just rainbow-fying everything, or are there deeper commitments? What is the senior leadership team doing and saying—what is its involvement? Is it involved in the initiatives? How is the company amplifying efforts?”

See how it recruits

Beyond celebratory events, look at marketing.

Pay attention to how and where a company recruits, said Lawrence, who has served on Microsoft’s GLEAM board and has created a talk on how to assess how progressive a company is.

“Has a company taken the time and initiative to find advertising space in LGBTQ+ specific magazines or digital channels?” If so, she said, it’s an indication of a commitment to make those employees feel welcome and supported and to ensure that the company is recruiting all types of employees, she said.

See what it offers

Look as closely as you can at a company’s policies and benefits. Is there equity for LGBTQ+ employees? Are there family benefits and medical benefits that support the needs of LGBTQ+ employees?

“Go into the policies. Ask Human Resources for links to the benefits. Look closely at the language around leave, parental leave—does the language refer only to male and female partners? Updating that language means the organization has already done a lot of work internally to transform,” Lawrence said.

“If there are antidiscrimination policies that call out sexual orientation and—the holy grail—gender identity, then they have the core ingredients for inclusion.”

Talk to employees

If you have friends or networking connections who can put you in contact with employees—especially those who are LGBTQ+—grab the chance to talk with them.

“They live the culture every day. What’s on paper might not be the reality. Sometimes the reality is even better; sometimes it’s not,” said del Hierro, who serves as GLEAM’s Latin American director.

“Do they have an employee resource group that’s active? Could you be visible in that space if you wanted to be? Find people who are thriving; see what that looks like,” said Fernando.

See how the company responds to you

Don’t hesitate to ask directly in an interview about how the company supports diversity and inclusion. Take note of how those questions are received.

“There are so many companies embracing diversity and inclusion—you don’t want to work for a company where you can’t be who you are, in this day and age,” Lawrence said.

And if a company won’t support and welcome you, del Hierro said, you probably don’t want to work there.

“I was the cofounder for the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in Mexico, and I started my college’s LGBTQ+ alumni chapter. It’s on my CV because it’s important to me and relevant to my experience. If someone won’t consider me because of that, then I would not want the job.”