I often tell certain people in my life that “it’s all your fault.”
And with Nancy McSharry-Jensen it is her fault. It’s her fault that I have this beautiful career working in and around Microsoft.
I met Nancy back in 2001 when I was job hunting, and she was the Group Product Manager for this thing I’d never heard of called codename “Tahoe.”
She is the wife of a dear friend, Andy Jensen that I went to UW School of Drama with back in college. I had sent out an email to all my friends after getting laid off from a company that got eaten up in the dot-com bust of the early 2000’s. Andy led me to Nancy.
I drove to Redmond campus, so much smaller than it is now and walked into building 25 at Microsoft. Building 25 is one of the showplace buildings, a partner showcase area where the code name “Tahoe” or SharePoint marketing and engineering teams were housed.
Nancy is formidable, a Bostonian, Irish spitfire with boundless energy. We knew each other socially, but I didn’t know her that well then. She knew of my side hustle — the marketing of many arts companies including my own theatre company at the time, GREX from Andy.
We met in her office and talked awhile about what I had been doing and what I was looking for in a role. She said, “Well, I hear you are a great marketer and writer from Andy. I think that if you are a marketer, you can market anything you just need to learn the lingo and be passionate about whatever it is you market. So how do you feel about technology,” I said “I love it, I’ve been working in tech without really trying, Data I/O here in Redmond and CPU in the International District, I seem to love working with engineers and developers, people who build things. I have been surrounded by maker types growing up, so I worked in offices, instead of the waiting tables route that many in the Arts take.”
She gave me a contract to produce the first 150 case studies on this new startup business that was just coming out of Microsoft. A collaboration platform to help people work better together in one place with everything at their fingertips. SharePoint Portal Server 2001 had recently launched and needed “testimonials” from customers to give it validity in the market. One piece of a much larger marketing program around this fledgling product.
Of course, I said yes. In closing our chat, she said to me, one thing to remember since you are not of the corporate world as of yet, “people relive 8th grade over and over again, so remember all the different groups and how they interacted with each other on the playground, it stands in the corporate world. If you remember that you’ll traverse these waters just fine.”
As much as we grow, we often stay in the confines of how we identify ourselves when we are young, she is and was not wrong about that, and about so many of other things that I learned from her. One project let to another project; I simply said yes to everything she asked me, even if I had no idea how to do it. I was able to learn as I went and gained an inordinate amount of knowledge and an education in a field that I continue to learn from every moment today, which has led to my becoming a Microsoft MVP this year. So Nancy thank you for that.
I then went on to work for Joel Frauenheim, who was the SharePoint Partner Manager at the time and helped him build out our first SharePoint Partner Ecosystem, which is how I met, onboarded and now know so many people from way back in the day. I called this list of 60 companies who all also, for the most part, were fledging independent software businesses (ISVs) and asked them if they wanted to be a Microsoft Partner for SharePoint. It was a huge opportunity for companies to get a logo in a keynote slide, a case study written, a video produced and to be invited to come to a larger event like TechEd as they built their business around SharePoint.
I loved my job and then Joel (it’s your fault too) by the way — said to me, “hey you wanna go to Barcelona and deal with the logistics for this event, you produced theater right?” Heck yes, was the answer to that as I had not been on the continent of Europe yet. And second, I approach most things like I’m producing a play so of course, I could do that. With Microsoft, you just have a bit more money than $2,000 for your entire budget, but the players and the collaboration are the same. TechEd 2003 in Barcelona changed everything for me.
I went on to work with other consultant companies and say yes to every project that came my way. In 2006, I built my own business Creative Maven. With my team of 10 event mavens, we produced presence around the world for the big flagship shows (TechEd US/Europe, MEC, PCD, Envision, WPC, ITForum), third-party shows (Gartner, E2.0), and partner roadshows for Office, SharePoint, SQL Server, and Window Embedded for close to a decade.
I got to see the world and bring my theater creativity to tech — suggesting things like placing a demo theater in the expo, putting all meeting rooms in one place, fire-dancers, Burning Man-esque installations and countless huge Office System/SharePoint Partner parties that led to my maven team and I creating AvePoint’s Red Party. All of that led to so much more. In these early days, Nancy and her boss, Jeff Teper, then and now Corporate Vice President — Office, OneDrive & SharePoint at Microsoft always seemed to say yes as a team of 8 marketers (and so many more, engineers, architects, developers, sales people) helped bring this SharePoint wave to the world at large.
To see Nancy continuing to assist others is not a shocker, it is who she is. And I meet with Joel regularly as he is still an amazing friend and mentor in my life.
Nancy is featured this week in a Seattle King 5 News piece, [VIDEO] she has created a company called The Swing Shift, a destination for women in career transition. The Swing Shift has worked with more than 500 women in various phases of their careers since launching their first enrichment series in fall 2016 (formerly ReBoot Seattle). They help cut through the noise, both the chatter in one’s head and the barrage of information online. They equip women with the essential skills and strategies they need to move into the next chapter of their career, whatever that may be, with clarity, purpose and renewed energy. If you know a woman who is going through a transition, I highly suggest you turn them on to this company.
I know there are many people in the world who will blame Nancy for being a spark in their life, I certainly do.
It’s awesome to see you rocking it like always. Love you so Nance, thank you for so many, many things.
All your fault.