Software Developers Journey Podcast

#260 Sev Huffmann between development at Microsoft and Deaf Culture


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Sev Huffmann 0:00
I think society tends to look at Deaf individuals as a group of people who are going to constantly need help throughout their lives. But I just want to reinforce that that's not true. And we just were individuals who can't hear. But we can fully enjoy life through arts through through creativity through values. Deaf spotlight really highlighted that for me, as you mentioned, we highlight the sign languages through the cultures to the arts. And so it's not just myself but others who are at university who, yes, study deep CS, but they also join theater or they join dance or they just join where other interests may lie, directing it, just really tapping into everything that is being offered. And just, I think that's that I would highlight, take advantage of the time the opportunities while in university, so that when you leave school, the score point on your transcript. It's, it's, it's not going to carry you for very long, you know, maybe for your first job. But I think, more importantly, the hobbies that you discover the friends that you make, the values that you learn about yourself. I think those things will be carried with you for the rest of your life.

Tim Bourguignon 1:30
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey, the podcast, bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers. To help you on your upcoming journey. I'm your host team building. On this episode, I receive a set of Hoffman, Seth graduated from Gallaudet University and the University of Washington. She's now a software engineer at Microsoft from tributing to Microsoft loop. Outside of tech. She is a columnist for pro signer, a Chinese nonprofit advocating for deaf rights, and a board member for a deaf spotlight, promoting deaf culture and sign languages through the arts in Seattle. When she is not in front of a screen like right now, you will find her knitting, baking, swimming, hiking and rock climbing. Serve a warm welcome to the afternoon.

Sev Huffmann 2:20
Hello, and thank you.

Tim Bourguignon 2:23
Dear listeners, you shouldn't notice any difference. But I wanted to highlight it just in case. Our today's interview, as you might have hinted during the the bio will be conducted through American Sign Language. The voice you dress heard is that of an ASL interpreter, who will facilitate this communication between seven weeks since I don't know sign language. And this is an audio show, after all. But as I said, You shouldn't notice any difference. But in our introductions, we're all eager to hear Sam's story. So let's get to it. But before we come to your story, I want to thank the terrific listeners who support the show every month, you are keeping the dev journey lights up. If you would like to join this fine crew and help me spend more time on finding phenomenal guests then editing audio tracks, please go to our website, Dev journey dot info and click on the Support me on Patreon button. Even the smallest contributions are giant steps toward a sustainable dev journey. journey. Thank you. And now back to today's guest. So, as you know, the show exists to help listeners understand what your story look like, and help them shape their own journey. So as usual on the show, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your debt journey?

Sev Huffmann 3:46
Yes, this is self speaking again through an interpreter. I think my dev journey started when I was pretty young. I always had a fascination for math. My dad himself being an engineer, he really enjoyed that area. So he taught me and guided me through math. I grew up hearing. And at the age of 13, I would lose my hearing. And that was really life altering it when I was in the second year of middle school when that happened. After that event. I still did well enough to get into high school. I was living in China at the time, but I knew that there was not much accessibility was very difficult to follow the teachers the school did make some accommodations such as moving me to the front of a classroom, but I've still really struggled following the content. And I knew I wouldn't reach that level of success I wanted to during my high school years. With that happening, my mom had researched different deaf schools in finding one in Nanjing a school for the deaf. And so we relocated there So that I'd be able to attend high school. And I had a combination of deaf education plus some being integrated into mainstream classrooms, but I knew that my education had fallen behind. As compared to my peers. I was registered at the local deaf high school, but I was taking some courses at the hearing school nearby. And because of that, I had a hard time getting into post secondary education. Not only did you have to have the right registration with the right school, you also had to have performed well on the test. I could, I was confident enough in my ability to do the test, but registration would prove to be a problem. So eventually, I stumbled upon Gallaudet University. And for those who may not know, Gail, your day is a deaf university located in Washington, DC. And it's the only it's the only liberal arts university of its kind, cater to deaf and hard of hearing students. So ASL, American Sign Language is the primary language used on campus. Classes are taught through sign language, you may have some instructors who are hearing, but the courses will be accessible through sign language. And so the primary method of communication once again, I tell you, that is American Sign Language. So I enrolled in Gao, you debt coming from China, and it's your teenage years, you're questioning what you want to do with life, what's your future career looks like there was a lot of change. For me at that time, not only myself, but also just figuring out how people viewed me as an individual. Definitely experienced some type of bullying, which comes with school, I feel, but that prompted me to really reflect on myself and my goals and what I wanted to do and what life looking forward look like. I feel like as children, we all have dreams, whether we want to be a doctor, a journalist and an interviewer. But a lot of those fields rely on communication. And so for me, I kind of leaned on my love math, and I thought this would be a really safe area to apply my efforts to. So looking back now I realize applying at Gallaudet University was the right first step for me. I took my SATs. And in China at that time, there was no such thing as an LSAT test. So I had to fly over to Hong Kong to take a specific test there got enough of a score that qualified me at the time, I could read and write English, but I absolutely cannot speak it. But my scores were good enough, again, for Gallaudet University to accept me. And so I kind of started life there and felt very fortunate to have been able to have that as a first step. When I came to Gallaudet University, I started learning American Sign Language. And that really equipped me to be able to approach communication, it was a really good first tool, I met a lot of incredible people. And along the way, they taught me a lot about not only language, not only about culture, but about American culture as well. I also found two Chinese teachers on campus who both had relocated from China as well, and ended up becoming teachers at Gallaudet University, so really formed intimate relationships with them. And they also taught computer related courses. So it all kind of worked out, I already had an interest in that area anyways. So that really helped me along my journey with my major. At the time, I was studying information technology, so not necessarily computer science, but more like tech support. And those kinds of roles, networking hardware, a little bit of coding was involved in that. And that's where I started just not really knowing where the future would lead me. But again, I loved math. So hardware networking, I did well enough in my classes, but I found myself in my free time doing more kind of app or web based things. But those are things that you can take on yourself, right, whether it's GitHub, just self teaching, so I did a lot of research on my own and was able to acquire an internship at a nonprofit. And that was called T d i telecommunications for the Deaf. For Deaf individual was TDI. And I'm not sure if anyone in the audience would be familiar with the TT y. But the TTY was a device that deaf or hard of hearing individuals used using a handheld telephone to be coupled with a TTY device. And from there, a hearing individual could speak into the phone that would then appear as text on the TTY to the deaf or hard of hearing user. And the deaf or hard of hearing user could communicate back typing into the TTY, which connected with a third party operator. And that operator would facilitate communication between text and voice. So that was a device that was used in the deaf community. Historically, now we would have a video phone. So Deaf people use that technology to facilitate communication. But again, going back to my internship with TDI just really helped provide accessibility with different devices such as the TTY. And so during my time there, they would ask me to come up with an app that would push out News Daily to their clientele or their customers to do well. Functionally, it was pretty simple. But I had to read up a lot on what they were asking. And also, again, doing that self teaching with how the app would work. I had another opportunity through Gallaudet University to attend a conference. And this conference was called Tapia t A p i A, and that was located in Boston. I remember it clear as day it was snowing heavily I flew in got stuck at the airport. But at that conference, I was able to share my app and network with individuals there and really get an understanding of the industry. From there, I would have been contacted by a Microsoft recruiter. They invited me to Redmond for an interview. So I think that was really the moment where I felt okay, this is what I want to do. I'm understanding what computer science is I google? Yes, that was the big deal. At the time, I Googled what a Microsoft interview look like, interview would look like. And I think that was the first moment where I realized I don't understand what half of these questions mean, regardless of computer science, you know, there was asking, right of Python program that would generate a Fibonacci Fibonacci series. And from there, I was like, wait, what, and I just found myself scratching my head. But I took that as an as an opportunity to really push myself forward with my learning. And, you know, that kind of became the dream. If I can get my job at Microsoft, I'm for sure gonna be able to advance my career. I think at that age, any kid who, you know, has an interest in computer, who doesn't want to work at Microsoft, you know, I think that's just kind of

Sev Huffmann 13:32
the schema that you work with. And when I'm 10 years old, my my dream job of working with computers is, you know, every time I turn on the computer, you have that Microsoft Windows logo just floating around your screen or icon floating around your skin. So definitely was a big dream of mine. And I felt fortunate to have at least a month to prep before the interview. So I grabbed a book, Introduction to Algorithms. I think everyone who knows computers are familiar with that book. It's a pretty hefty book, a dense read, but I have to be frank, I didn't walk away from that book, Understanding a whole bunch more, but I think it was a really good way of spending my free time and prepping for the interview. I passed the interview. And one thanks to Intro to algorithms to thanks to the program itself called the Explorer program, which is something offered by Microsoft. They they bring you in gently by not asking the most difficult questions. But the Explorer program was designed for freshmen or sophomores who weren't just tapping into computer science field and have a basic knowledge of computer science. And so they found me qualified for that program and I'm also having the teachers at Gallaudet really be supportive of me along my journey. And yeah, thanks to that combination, I really was able to keep moving forward. I also got help from our Career Center, which helped with you know, how to do interviews, and that itself is a skill. So, after my program, I returned back to Gallaudet. Gouda also provides a lot of programs to help students with interests outside of their major, which was really nice. So if you find if I found myself not having interests that lined up with information technology, so what the honors program did was allow me to do my own capstone project. And so I did research on building a website service. And that really prepared me well for my internship. I looking back, I, I did a lot of self teaching, but I have to recognize that I got a lot of support from my teachers, professors along the way. My own department, the honors program, so all of it was a combination to help me graduate from Gallaudet University. And after graduating, I relocated to Seattle, I had a second internship, that would not be the Explorer program that was actually a software engineer internship, very serious. And I realized, okay, I, um, let me Buckle up for this one, my undergrad, I felt like I didn't prepare me enough to land a full time job with Microsoft. So from there, I realized I'm gonna have to get a little bit more education in this area, I found myself not being as competent or as aware of what my peers did. And so here we go, I enrolled at another university to go back and further my education felt very, very fortunate. So Microsoft is very close to the University of Washington. And the University of Washington had a professor who had a really deep connection with the deaf community here used to be on the Board of Trustees, actually, for Gallaudet University, the University I attended. So I knew of this person, this person knew of me. And so I was able to connect with that professor, sent in my application to University of Washington was, which was actually during the offseason, during the winter, so not have applications coming through at that time. And my manager at Microsoft was also very supportive, wrote a letter of recommendation. And so just really having that network of support. I was able to also receive a letter of recommendation from the professor at the University of Washington, so and GAO you debt. So I think just the combination of recommendations plus Mike see your experience, University of Washington accepted me as a student. So I started my undergrad all over again. And that was with computer science related courses. I didn't have to take any of the language classes, English classes, though everything was computer science focused, just started that journey again. And that's where I really focused on setting my career track. And that was with computer science at University of Washington. That was a pretty amazing journey, I got to meet a lot of friends, a lot of supportive professors, a lot of opportunities were given to admittedly it was really hard for me to have gone from a deaf university to a completely hearing University. And when I came here from China, I immediately started interacting with members of the deaf community. So I didn't have much exposure as to navigating the hearing community here in the United States. So University of Washington was really my first exposure to that. And not only that, but University of Washington is very competitive. And I never found myself getting a break, whether it was trying to keep up with academics or keep up with the social aspect of school or keeping up with my hearing peers. So I found myself kind of on a roller coaster with a lot of ups and downs, but I graduated. And no, I didn't graduate with any honors. No fancy awards. I have to admit I barely faded. But I graduated and And I was accepted to a fifth year master's program to follow. Again, barely made it out of their lives. But after that, I came back to Microsoft and I was offered a return offer. And so I have been here at Microsoft since then, last year, I left my former team with Azure, and joined a new team that I'm currently working with. And what that is, is Microsoft loop. I've really enjoyed the work that I've been able to do on this new team and just really enjoy working on this new product. I feel very fortunate to be here at this place at this time, and just where my journey has taken me to now. And I would love to talk to you more about loop and what kind of product that is. It is a Microsoft created product. And what it does is to help with collaboration. I really sincerely believe that loop is going to define the future of the collaborative experience, not only with our customers, but I find myself really enjoying loop and leveraging it to help with my own productivity. So I definitely encourage everyone to check out loop it's probably already incorporated into some apps that you're already using. Like Microsoft Teams hint hint. Yeah.

Tim Bourguignon 21:40
Wow. That's a really insightful and, and enlightening rollercoaster as you call it. I'm not sure where to unpack. I had some some questions at the very beginning. Let's go sequences. When you move from China to the US, you didn't mention it. But I think the American Sign Language The A is for American and you signed with different languages

Sev Huffmann 22:58
Yeah, so in China, I learned Chinese sign language, and it varies by locale. For example, right now, I'm located in Washington State. And in Washington, DC even even though we're both using American Sign Language, you'll find differences. Now, globally, there are over 400 officially recognized sign languages. Probably more than that, but that's at least recognized. Just depending on the area, the nation depth activist laws in place will determine whether or not a sign language is recognized as an official like language. But I use Chinese sign language and American Sign Language but there are also other sign languages such as British Sign Language, Japanese sign language, Korean sign language, they all vary.

Tim Bourguignon 23:56
Do Do they vary? As much as as languages can vary? As languages can vary? Yeah. So not only you change the whole culture, don't also the Chinese for language for Chinese to English, and also saying that a Chinese saying language to American Sign Language.

Sev Huffmann 24:17
Yeah. Yeah, and I'm sure all international students experience some form of language barrier, whether it's through the spoken language or through culture, but being a deaf individual, there's just added layers of barriers with culture and language.

Tim Bourguignon 24:38
Yep. Piggybacking on this, you hinted at it when you were spoken, speaking about the University of Washington, saying that it was it was a very different from Gallaudet. In both in in the in the in the curriculum, but also in the extracurricular activities. How did you create your? Sorry? He did? It's it comes from a very unknown unknown place. How do you manage your life when you you've moved from a university where Deaf culture was the norm to a place where it's basically unknown and all your colleagues, your your older students just cannot sign? Or most of them I assume cannot sign? How did you deal with this?

Sev Huffmann 25:33
Yeah, I thank you for recognizing that. First of all, I think the most difficult part of me was, when I first entered into Gallaudet University, I saw people signing and I thought, Okay, I am going to get to the place where I am fluent in sign language. I'm not as fluent or as native as multi generational deaf families, but I knew eventually I would get to the place where I would be able to communicate with sign language fluently. So I had a level of confidence there. Whereas when I came to University of Washington, no matter how much I excelled in my written, reading English ability, I knew I would never get to the place where I could speak English, like my peers. And so that was a constant barrier in the back of my mind that I knew I was never going to achieve. And so I just, there was a lot of reflecting and a lot of recognizing, okay, this is where the differences are. But I still feel very fortunate having been able to succeed and really having the support along the way and professors who recognize that need and recognize the accommodations that would need to be provided. For example, when I first entered university of Washington, my advisor, email me saying, Hey, we've got a mentor lined up for you, this person is fluent in American Sign Language, it'll be a great fit, I kind of rolled my eyes because you have to understand, we get that a lot. Oh, well, I'm fluent in ASL or I know ASL. And I think the definition of fluid varies from person to person, some people will take one or two courses of American Sign Language and think I've got it, I know how to communicate using sign language. So I was totally prepared to use sim calm, which is simultaneous communication, meaning I'm going to speak and sign at the same time, it's not ideal, because you're not getting the true meaning through using your voice or using timing, which at the same time, it kind of ruins both modalities to use it simultaneously. But it's sometimes something you have to do to accommodate a person who may not know sign language. So back to my mentor. This was a person who was a little bit more advanced in the department, and they had already started taking their second year of classes. But I have to say, I was taken aback, this person really was fluid, which we now are able to call each other best friends, we've really had a great journey together. But yeah, that was another type of support that I had while I was at school. We weren't always in classes together. But this person was able to become my note taker. During class. I was also able to work on projects with them. So if we happen to have the same course, we always teamed up. And so that really helped lessen barriers, because they weren't able to sign language. And so that really helped as well. I also met another friend during university who didn't sign but could type as fast as they could. So after meeting me, they always brought their computer. And, you know, I think we're kids were students. We've always got our computers on us, but it was just so convenient. Like they just knew Oh, says here, let me pop out the computer and just start typing away. So that was really nice. Also became an eventual note taker and a teammate working on projects together. I was able to make a lot of friends along the way and I think that really helped I feel like they carry me through my post secondary education and again, just really having amazing professors prefer professors who not just recognized where I may have frustration, but also what we're proactive in getting accommodations such as auto captioning, or any other type of accommodation, at the same time recognizing my potential my abilities. Really following my grades, my homework, seeing my commitment to the area, and just allowing and trusting me to do the work, I actually had applied to become a teacher's assistant during my time at University of Washington. And I was able to do that from my second year there up until I graduated. And I think being given those opportunities really boosted my confidence, having people recognized my ability and saying, Hey, you're good enough to teach. So I had all of these little things along the way. And I have to commend University of Washington, just their system and allowing students become teacher's assistants because you can be a student in a class and try to follow something and it may not make sense. But the second time around, to be able to teach, it just gives you a whole different type of understanding of the content or the subject. And so that actually, in turn helped me as well. Of course, I have interpreters as accommodations. And so I felt very fortunate having those systems in place quality interpreters, which may be surprising, it's not very common to find great interpreters, you sometimes have to go through multiple interpreters to really find that good fit. And I felt fortunate that one of the interpreters I met, at first ended up being an interpreter I really bonded with and has been able to work with me all the way through graduation into my full time employment. So yeah,

Tim Bourguignon 31:48
this is fantastic. I was I was thinking while you were speaking, or signing, I was thinking about my university time and thinking how would have We accommodated for a student who, who couldn't hear. And arguably, it was 25 years ago. So technology was was a bit different. But still, I'm amazed that all that was, was organized, and how the ways you found to help yourself and really make this happen. And at the same time, I was also thinking about this sentence on the internet, nobody's new knows you're a dog. And so saying, Well, you're in computer science. And so we could also say, well, let's, let's, let's not take this into account, and you're on your side of the computer, and we're discussing or arguing with through code reviews and PRs and, and documents. And then it's everything's fine, but it's not the case, either. So it's really interesting to see your glimpse, a glimpse of your life and disregard. I want to go out at some point into the the modern communication wise, and talk to you about that. But But I would like to come back to Microsoft a little bit for a second. You said, so you had first this the Explorer program? And then the second internship, how did this this network of support project on those two internships at Microsoft? And through the interviews and everything? How did that go? Was it more of the same? Or did you have some more discoveries there?

Sev Huffmann 33:25
Oh, yeah, it was a very different experience. So with the explored prod program, you're teamed up with three people for one project. And so at my time, that was 2015. I'm not sure if the program is run the same. But there were three rules, you had your program, or three roles. You had your program manager, you had a dev, and you had a tester. And so three people would rotate those three roles during the 12 week program. And usually, people don't have very high expectations from the individuals, I mean, a level of expectations, of course, but the Explorer program is really designed to meet freshmen and sophomore where they are at in their respective levels. And so it, it gives the participants, the interns just a taste of the different roles and where they may want to continue on their career track. And so at the end of the program, you really get to reflect on whether you feel more of a pm role or whether you resonate more with a dev role. So the Explorer program is essentially its name, exploring where you are within the tech industry. But as far as the internship and being a software engineer, that experience was completely different because that's something that you've decided yeah, So this is where I want to continue my work. And that would differ then from a pm internship. And so they'll have their specific projects where they're able to work more independently. And so for my software engineering internship, the second internship, that was a lot more difficult, I was doing a lot of the work independently. On my own most of the time, you may be partnered with a pm intern to work with one of my intern ships, I was able to team up with a pm intern. But most of the time you are expected to work on your own on your own project. And you also need to be able to define the space, you need to be able to work with a manager, a mentor and get a level of support. But again, not the level of support you would have received as an explorer. You're more being handheld through projects as an explorer, but with your software engineering internship, those are more for your junior and your senior year students. And so the level of expectation is not, if not equal, it's a little bit less than a full time employee. I also interned at two other tech companies, Tableau being one and Bloomberg being the other. Their software engineering internship programs were similar, there were same level of expectations. I think, just where Microsoft stands out, in comparison to other tech internships is the offering of the Explorer program. That's really giving an opportunity to people who are just learning how to swim in the ocean of the tech industry.

Tim Bourguignon 36:59
Thank you for the for the thorough explanation. I would like to come back then to the to the collaboration tool you're working on that I cannot imagine that you working on collaboration tools on modern criminal collaboration tools is entirely an accident. But this is my my, my idea of things. Did you see a change in the way you interact in teams. After the COVID pandemic, after we the whole world West was was putting things on its head? And how did it change the way you work

Sev Huffmann 37:41
definitely, definitely was a change, in example, to share with you how I would work prior to the pandemic. I'll give you an example of working with classmates, I think when we were assigned to a project, we would always find a person who was willing to type or a person who could sign to team up with and that's how we would, of course, go about our project as being in person and doing that collaboration together. But once the pandemic hit, I had one quarter completely remote, and had to work with my classmates over a screen. And so what we had to do was screenshare. And we would type the code on one window, and then we would have a separate section for any commenting. Just kind of what do you think, and then I would comment and then someone else would comment. And so you could just kind of see the interaction going back and forth between those comments. But it really drove you crazy if you were to have any type of frozen screen or if anything was to get stuck because you can't share your thoughts real time. With hearing individuals. It could be as simple as picking up a phone and giving a person a call. But for me as a deaf individual, I had to start tracking my notes my thoughts elsewhere. And so I found that quickly being a an area of frustration we had to figure out after that quarter, I was hired on full time with Microsoft. I had my interpreters on one screen. I like to joke that my interpreters at the time were 2d, not 3d was my same interpreter, same skill level, but for some reason, just so much more difficult to have that same level of efficiency as you would in person. And so I have my interpreters pulled up on one monitor my meeting or my work on another monitor. And once you're asked to find a document or a piece of code, I then have to make the decision on whether I want to keep following my interpreter or if I want to follow along with where someone is to be Looking to the code. And so I quickly found myself having dozens of tabs just open, scattered across my monitors, and just really trying to keep up with the information as it was coming. And I really had to pick and choose what I left behind. Most people who have both their eyes and their ears are able to follow along in various ways. I just have my eyes. And so I think, once I came onto this team and found out what they were working on, I was immediately motivated to participate and contribute to the project, because like you said, it's a product I get to work on that not only benefit our audience, but it benefits me too. It's real time collaboration. So I can type something as soon as I think it and instantly receive a response back. I use that with my coworkers. And it saves us from having to book unnecessary meetings, you know, we can just chat real time while working on something and everything is recorded or everything is documented, archived somewhere. And so loop really incorporates a lot of different features in one central location, one place, and so when I'm looking at my interpreters, I've got my loop open, I don't have to open up my email or open up my chat history or open up the document or open up my OneNote. Everything is right there in one central location. I thought it was just a deaf person who may have really benefited from this experience, but chatting with co workers and other people using this product, I think you really understand that accessibility or inclusivity doesn't only benefit, the person it's designed for it benefits. Everyone from every type of walk of life. Another example of this concept is my spouse, they are a hearing individual. And so they're not needing the accommodation such as audio auto captioning. But we find out at home watching TV or moving together we have captions on not only to benefit me, but they find that it benefits them as well. And I think just products like that, ideas, concepts in sentence like that. Allow, again, not only a specific user, but users from every type of yeah, it just allows everyone to be able to consume content, if you want to eat potato chips, and, you know, drown out the voice of a movie. While you're chomping away, you have captions right there and to do that exists.

Tim Bourguignon 43:12
You do indeed, it's very interesting in an absolutely true, did you feel like you're able to influence the roadmap of the the software you're working on, due to the feedback that you're you're giving to the team saying, Hey, I this doesn't work for me, oh, this doesn't work so well for me, or this could work even better for, for my usage, and hence probably some others.

Sev Huffmann 43:40
I think myself as an engineer, my biggest contribution to my team is the engineering perspective, I would like to say that I add a cultural perspective to the team as well. But I found myself coming onto a team that was already diverse. And so I think just the joint collaboration, everyone was able to provide a really unique perspective. Within my own team. We have heritage sharing series that we do. And it's just amazing being able to hear everybody's journeys, everybody's perspectives, having people from different countries, whether in Europe, Eastern Europe, or doing a series on the Lunar New Year from someone who's moved here from you know, eastern Asia. Even having American born individuals going into American culture, of course, being deaf, I bring a unique perspective to the plate, but I have to say it really is all of us together that have really been able to influence this product. I've also recognized that my team is because we're comprised of the people that we are, it's really made this easier to share it To share perspectives, it really has been a difference maker of individuals who are willing to listen or willing to understand we've met, Microsoft has a benefit. Actually, if there is an individual who is deaf on a team, Microsoft will support that deaf employee, not only that deaf employee, but their teammates, by providing American Sign languages to help facilitate communication and make it easier between the teammates and the employee, they provide those classes. The benefit is there. It's up to the people to see if they're willing to spend the time to take the classes. And I have to say, my team, not only my immediate team, but the teams that we work with partner teams, everybody was jumping at signing up for the classes. And so we had more than 30 people attending these weekly American Sign Language classes. So yes, I'd like to say I contribute. But I have to say it is the greater group that is able to really progress this type of work forward because of the open mindedness because of the attitude. And I think that's where the majority of the influence comes from.

Tim Bourguignon 46:23
Thank you for reframing this, I would like to, to come back to the very beginning of the of this interview where you say you were a 10 year old person, fascinated by mathematics. And you already had some kind of computer science in mind, did this story come what you thought it would become?

Sev Huffmann 46:44
I think the image of who I am, what I perceive myself to be changes a lot. I don't think I ever thought I would be where I am right now. But I think I'm getting to be where I want to be. I I'm not sure if that makes sense. I think when I was a child, I thought my life is going to look like a, b, c and d. But I also had a different understanding of who I was at the time. And so I know the constant throughout my life has been, I want to show love and I want to be loved, I want to be a person who is skilled in something who is able to do something really good to contribute to the greater good. I think I'm able to achieve those sort of things with the position I have now. But at the same time. For example, I never thought I would move to a different country when I was 10 years old, right. And a big reason why that happened is because I still become deaf, I had to pursue education in another country, because the opportunities for deaf individuals in China was not there. And so I think with all the changes in my life, my idea of who I am and where I would be has changed as well.

Tim Bourguignon 48:15
Thank you. That's a very philosophical questions to insert freely. That's the place where I usually ask for foreign advice through to our guests and and in your case, I would like to to highlight something that you said in passing, but didn't really dwell on longer. You mentioned very briefly that that's I think it was University of Washington give you the opportunity to teach a little bit. And what is the one advice that you would give students as their professional, the one advice that you say, hey, everybody should should hear this.

Sev Huffmann 48:52
People usually think that university is a place that you go and get a four point out that this is the ideal goal. And that's not necessarily true. Your GPA is so quantified. It's easy to use a number to define who you are. But I think the fact is that everyone learns differently. We all come at this differently. One test is not going to define who you are, what you'll be in life, and I think that's something that I learned later than sooner. Think university is a place where I learned that it's safe to grow. It's safe to make friends, and most importantly, it's safe to learn oneself who I am. I found my identity as a deaf person at Gallaudet University. I found myself as an engineer while at the University of Washington. I made some of my closest friends means in both of those places. And also, my time at university, of course, was spent with computer science. But I also found other opportunities like contributing to a nonprofit def spotlight, as you previously mentioned, and I think university is such a diverse place where yes, you take classes, but there's so much else being offered to an individual, whether it's athletics, whether it's extracurriculars, it's not something that should be focused just on academics, I really think that's a time in your life where you take advantage of your youthfulness, your energy, and just don't worry about your 401k. Well, I think it's just really the one last place where you can explore yourself. Before moving on. One thing that I learned while I was at university is I think society tends to look at Deaf individuals, as a group of people who are going to constantly need help throughout their lives. But I just want to reinforce that that's not true. And we just were individuals who can't hear, but we can fully enjoy life through art through through creativity through values. Deaf spotlight really highlighted that for me, as you mentioned, we highlight the sign languages to the cultures to the arts. And so it's not just myself, but others who are at university who, yes, study, do CS, but they also join theater or they join dance or they just join where other interests may lie, directing it, just really tapping into everything that is being offered. And just I think that that I would highlight, take advantage of the time the opportunities while in university. So that when you leave school, the 4.0 on your transcript. It's, it's it's not going to carry you for very long, you know, maybe for your first job. But I think, more importantly, the hobbies that you discover the friends that you make, the values that you learn about yourself. I think those things will be carried with you for the rest of your life.

Tim Bourguignon 52:29
Amen to that that was even more philosophical than the previous question. Thank you very much. It's been fantastic. Listening to your story, following this roller coaster has you described it, seeing your your journey through different languages, different cultures, and always going deeper into computer science? Really fantastic thing. Thank you very much for that. Where would be the best place to continue this discussion with you?

Sev Huffmann 53:04
So you can find my email, it's SEV, s, e v. Huffman, Hu, f f m a [email protected]. You can also find my LinkedIn. Employee, please look up deaf spotlight, learn a little bit more about the organization. You can find me volunteering there, you can look up our events the same time learn a little bit more about Deaf culture. You'll for sure find me somewhere out there within the Deaf community. Oh, and please use Microsoft loop.

Tim Bourguignon 53:42
Anything else you want to plug in before we call it today? Any anything? private or personal? Really?

Sev Huffmann 53:52
I think again, just highlighting Microsoft loop. It really is going to define the future of collaborative experience.

Tim Bourguignon 54:00
Awesome. Then I'll add all this to the show notes. Save. Thank you so much again.

Sev Huffmann 54:06
Thank you so much, Tim.

Tim Bourguignon 54:08
And this has been another episode of developer's journey, and we see each other next week. Bye bye. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you like the show, please share rate and review. It helps more listeners discover stories. You can find the links to all the platforms to show appears on on our website, Dev journey dot info, slash subscribe. Creating the show every week takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. Will you please help me continue bringing out those inspiring stories every week by pledging a small monthly donation, you'll find our patreon link at Dev journey dot info slash donate. And finally don't hesitate to reach out and tell me how this week story is shaping. Your Future. You can find me on Twitter at @timothep ti m o t h e p corporate email info at Dev journey dot info talk to you soon