My last blog post talked about 2017 being a year of change. 2018 and 2019 have been ones of intense growth and discovery. It’s felt like a whirlwind, so let’s catch up on the basics.
I’m still living in and loving Seattle. Moving back here proves over and over again to be the right decision for me. I was recently asked if I could live anywhere in the world where would you live? As participants went around the circle answering the ice breaker with exotic locales like, New Zealand, Italy, France, I pondered the question. I’ve lived in 5 cities in the U.S. and traveled to dozens more domestically and internationally, but for me the answer is Seattle.
Plus that house I bought, is amazing. I’ve settled in, made it my own and created a mini indoor jungle in the living room full of tropical plants including my giant Calathea which just bloomed for the first time in two years. The roof deck continues to be my favorite feature of the house. I’ve watched dozens of sunsets up there. I often would rush home from frisbee practice, or being out with friends, climb the three stories to the roof just in time to catch the sky burst into pinks and oranges, staying up there til grays, blues and purples took over and I was ready for bed. The roof deck has also been host to some incredibly fun parties this year, and I’m looking forward to hosting even more now that I’ve finally purchased a grill.
I’m also still working for that little team I joined in Microsoft Research (MSR) back in June of 2017, however we are no longer in MSR and we are no longer so little. In April of 2018 we announced the Azure Sphere project to the world at RSA, a major security industry conference. Azure Sphere is an end to end solution for securing Internet of Things (IoT) devices. It’s a vertically integrated solution including custom silicon, operating systems, and cloud services. It is by far the most full stack project I’ve ever worked on.
Since joining the team I’ve not only architected and implemented the cloud services, but stepped into a role leading the Azure Sphere Security Services team as well. In the past 2.5 years I went from Individual Contributor (IC) to Dev Lead, to my current role as Dev Manager of multiple teams. The team’s grown to include multiple disciplines including Developers, Project Managers, and Site Reliability Engineers. I’ve had the great privilege of hiring everyone on the current Azure Sphere Security Services team with the exception of one developer who hired me :). The services team is a kind, caring, collaborative, fearless, and inclusive bunch of people, and I love working with them.
It has certainly been a wild ride so far on such a fast growing project and team. We are currently in Public Preview, and have customers like Starbucks. Azure Sphere MCUs are currently available from one silicon manufacturer MediaTek, and in 2019 we announced that Qualcomm and NXP will be making Azure Sphere certified chips as well. We ship our services daily, and new features in our operating system quarterly. We are moving fast, and currently working towards our General Availability date in February 2020!
In 2018 I began playing with a Masters (30+) Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team in Seattle called Mint. In 2019 I began my second season with the Minties. The camaraderie and friendships I’ve experience on this team have been truly special. We work hard, have fun, and push each other to be better. We party like we are back in college together, chow down together, and run wind sprints together. Growing up and pursuing Computer Science, I have frequently been surrounded by groups of men, often I’m the only woman in the room. Playing with Mint has been the antidote for the gender imbalance in my life.
Perhaps the most special moment occurred at the end of Nationals this year, played on an incredibly hot weekend at the end of July in Aurora Colorado. We had just won our game to claim 9th place and hold seed. It was a battle from behind the entire game. At one point we were down 9-12. But this team is gritty. We went on a tear scoring a streak of 4 goals to win the game. After the cheers, spirit circle, and dancing to Lizzo’s song Phone, we squeezed together sitting cross-legged under a shade tent for a round of popcorn. Popcorn is an activity where each person picks a teammate and gives them a compliment. This continues until everyone on the team has been praised. Typically this takes 15 minutes, but this session went on for over an hour, as love and admiration for our teammates poured out. A single compliment from a single person wasn’t sufficient. Teammates plus one’d, snapped, and piled on espousing everything from killer lay out Ds and Hucks at the tournament, to loving someone’s laugh and kind spirit, to their mad dance skills. By the end we were all nursing aching stomachs from laughing too hard and wiping tears away from our eyes. My heart felt so full, I could not love this group of women more.
Even though I love Seattle, I’ve continued to fuel my wanderlust resuming my international and domestic travels in 2019.
I traveled back to San Francisco and Northern California twice this year. In February I spent a long weekend practicing yoga, lounging in a cozy cabin, eating vegetarian food, and disconnecting from the internet at a Tibetan Budhist Retreat Center, Ratna Ling Lodge. I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for a decade now, and I always find the time flowing through vinyasas incredibly centering, no matter how long I’ve been away from my mat.
In October I spent another long weekend celebrating my 33rd birthday with friends from San Francisco and Seattle in Sonoma. We spent the weekend wine tasting and lounging at the Carneros Resort and Spa. It was fun to get the two groups together, and to catch up with my San Francisco people.
Galapagos & Peru
In April I set off on a bigger adventure heading back to South America on an REI Adventures Trip. I spent the first week island hoping in the Galapagos hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, and even driving a boat. The Galapagos have been a dream destination of mine for a long time. Biology and evolution have always fascinated me. I even took Evolutionary Biology in college incurring the ire of several pre-med students as I messed up the curve on a course that was required for their major. Traveling to the islands which inspired Darwin’s Theory of Evolution blew away all of my expectations. Being in the Galapagos is like living inside a Nature Documentary. Within an hour of arriving I saw a Darwin Finch perched atop a prickly pear cactus, and then in another moment, a sea lion, a sally crab, and a blue footed booby all perched on the same rock outcrop.
I snorkeled with sea turtles, and sea lions. The sea lions there are just playful water puppies with no fear of humans, and so we dove and swam circles around each other. One even played chicken with me as we swam towards each other blowing bubbles than rolled away to swim to the side or under me at the last moment.
On the second leg of my South America trip I headed to Cusco Peru, to explore the Sacred Valley and visit Machu Picchu. In the scared valley Incan ruins, and alpacas were a common feature of the landscape. The Andes surrounded us soaring towards the sky. The equator allows for giant green covered mountains which tower at 13,000 – 14,000 ft above sea levels. Snow and glaciers were reserved for only the tallest peaks pushing 19,000 ft of elevation or more.
One night before heading to Machu Picchu we stayed at a resort where I had a private casita nestled at the base of a mountain in the Sacred Valley. The rooms were incredibly comfortable but I loved the quiet and the calm even more. The darkness settled in blanketing us. revealing the southern constellations, including the Southern Cross. I’ve been to the southern hemisphere before, but on this trip seeing the Southern Cross made me realize and consider how limited our perspectives are. Something we have always known to be true, what stars are in the sky when we look up, is not quite so universal, and all it requires is a change of location.
Visiting Machu Picchu was everything I imagined and more. We took the train in and spent two days in the ruins. I had seen all the picture, and wasn’t quite sure what it would be like to finally experience this much photographed place in person. It was stunning. Photos cannot truly capture the etherealness of the place. A giant Incan city perched atop a mountain top, with a river wrapping around its base. It is hard to fathom that is was possible to construct, even though the proof of its existence is directly in front of you.
On our first afternoon, we spent our time exploring the city, passing by iconic view points, and learning about the mountain gods that surround the city and the totems the Incans built to honor them. As we wound through the various sections a light rain broke out, and then another Incan god, the Rainbow graced us with her presence. Standing in that city, it was easy to see how the Incans could worship the surrounding mountains, rainbows, and thunder as deities.
On our second afternoon, I headed up Montana Machu Picchu. This is the taller of the two mountains you can climb, and it overlooks the city. The climb is strenuous. You start at 8,000ft of elevation and climb 2,000ft straight up, since the Incans were so kind as to build stone staircases up the mountain. During the trek I could definitely feel the elevation, my breath would become short, and my legs would start to feel wobbly, like Jello. When this happened a quick 5 minute break to catch my breath would make me feel as good as new! It was all worth it though. The views from the top were outstanding. It was a clear blue sky day with almost no clouds, so we had 360 degree visibility of the Andes, and Machu Picchu looking like a doll house tucked next to Huayna Picchu below. We sat and took in the view for 30 minutes or so before heading back, but I could have stayed for hours.
Todos Santos Mexico
In November as the days grew shorter and darker in Seattle, my boyfriend, Will, and I migrated south to spend a week on the Baja Peninsula. We spent the week lounging pool side at Hotel San Cristobal. We had no agenda for this trip besides to relax, and eat all of the tacos of course. We consumed 52 tacos between the two of us from 7 different places and I kept a running log on Instagram of our Tacumentary.
In between consuming tacos we managed to explore a lot of the wonderful things in Baja. We took a day trip to La Paz to snorkel with Whale Sharks and swim in the calm waters of Balandra Beach. We rented ATVs and went cruising inland towards the Sierra de la Laguna mountains using arroyos, dried riverbeds, as our roads. We explored a hidden beach which required a journey down an unmarked dirt road and a short trek through a Palm Tree forest. We watched many spectacular sunsets. One from a restaurant aptly named the Mirador, which sat on a high point looking out over the water. We watched another while sitting in the Hotels hot tub sipping a frozen watermelon margarita and watching a local band play, and yet another from the comfort of our rooms balcony. All of them were stunning.