Author: Sarah Haase

Corporate collaboration evangelist & librarian | Microsoft MVP | Office 365/SharePoint Enthusiast

Being a strong female technology leader

Women in technology face unique challenges. We’re often outnumbered by our male counterparts and occupy a lower percentage of highly-technical jobs. Silicon Valley reflects this disparity. According to the Huffington Post, women make up 30% of Google’s workforce, but only hold 17% of the technical jobs. Only 10% of tech jobs at Twitter are held by women.

I’m privileged to work with an incredible array of female technology leaders who bring creativity, critical-thinking skills, a diverse life perspective, strong technical & communication skills, an awareness of self, and a strong team-building focus to their jobs every day. But these female technology leaders are often judged differently than their male peers. They’re caught between a paradox of conflicting cultural norms and gender stereotypes commonly referred to as the double-bind dilemma. Leaders are expected to be direct, decisive, and tough. But gender stereotypes call for women to be kind, nurturing, and “nice.” How can a female technology leader be direct and decisive while also being a kind nurturer?

Last month I was part of a conversation on gender in the tech workplace. We had some incredible dialogue, with wide-ranging opinions on where we are and where we’d like to be. Some advocated for a future where we don’t “see” gender in the workplace. Others sought to recognize the unique skills and abilities everyone brings so we can celebrate our differences.

Bottom line: We need to encourage growth and talent across ALL our workforce. Whether you’re a female technology leader, an aspiring mentor, or an ally that wants to support growth and diversity in the tech space, you have valuable insights to share.

Want to know how you can help? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Build mentor relationships. Seek out (or become) a mentor. One of the most powerful mentor relationships I’ve had was with a senior leader who was 15+ years ahead of me in her career. She shared her journey and personal stories of obstacles she overcame and how people helped her career along the way. If you’re a male technologist, seek out a female mentor. Be inquisitive and ask questions about her experiences, background, and strengths.
  • Connect with interns. I’ve participated in high school and college-level internship programs that provide real-world job experience. These interns are just starting out in their careers, and it’s amazing the unique perspectives they bring. Have coffee with these students, ask questions, and see how they view your workplace. You’ll gain an amazing perspective.
  • Support and empower other women. I’ve joined women mentoring circles at several of the companies I’ve worked for, and they’ve provided an amazing opportunity to grow my network and broaden my perspective. Making time to connect with and listen to women’s experiences is incredibly rewarding…and the network connections made can help with future career opportunities.
  • Build alliances & invest in advocates. If you’re focused on advancing your career and getting that next promotion, start forging relationships to help you along the way. Build alliances with other leaders that see your potential and achievements. These leaders can serve as advocates for you in your career growth.
  • Create a strong personal brand. Your personal brand is the impression you leave behind and the reputation you have at work. That personal brand includes both your strengths/achievements and the things your peers say when you’re out of earshot. Gain a clear view of your personal brand by asking others for feedback. Then decide if your personal brand reflects who you want to be. If it doesn’t, you have an opportunity to evolve.
  • Seek opportunities. Take the leap and reach for that tough assignment. Lean into work opportunities that stretch you. Focus on creating value for your customers, and don’t be afraid to share your wins with your peers and leaders.
  • Believe you can do it. Speak up. Raise your hand. Be heard! If you suffer from meeting regret, it’s time to lean in and start sharing your thoughts. If you suffer from negative thoughts, script out positive messages for yourself and repeat them several times a day. Tackle the feelings of imposter syndrome and don’t stop to wonder if your work (or your ideas) have value.
  • Give (and seek) candid feedback. Have you ever received performance feedback that included comments on your strengths but gave you nothing to work on and improve? Many of us find it easy to give positive feedback but hard to give constructive feedback. Seek out peers who will tell you like it is. And give the gift of authenticity to others. We can’t change what we don’t see…and you need people in your life that will tell you the good (and the bad).
  • Call out poor behavior (and then let it go). Many of my fellow female technologists receive blatantly inappropriate feedback. We’re told our clothes were distracting and took away from our presentation. We’re told to stop posting selfies on Twitter because “no one wants to be distracted by that.” We’re given job feedback or speaker feedback that is focused on our looks instead of our content or achievements. And in many cases, we’re told to stop coming off as being “too intelligent.” If someone gives you this type of feedback (or you see it occurring in the wild), call it out. And then dump the feedback in the trash. Don’t let poor behavior go unchecked, but don’t take it on and carry it around with you.


Staying on top of Microsoft 365 changes (an organizational perspective)

Organizations implementing Microsoft 365 need to prepare for a long-term investment that includes weekly or monthly deep-dives into new features and communication models for sharing updates with their employees.

Bottom line: Your M365 governance plans must include an ongoing investment of time and resources to:

  1. Determine how feature changes impact your users and the governance of your tenant
  2. Define effective methods for sharing M365 changes with your employees
  3. Continuously update and evolve your communications strategy to ensure your messages are being seen & heard

Microsoft gives you a variety of resources for staying on top of feature changes, including the Microsoft 365 Roadmap and the Message Center (with a new Planner integration feature). In this episode of the M365 Voice, we share organization-level tips and tricks for staying on top of these changes and sharing them with your employees.

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.


Immediate steps to take if you experience a Microsoft 365 data breach

In this critical episode of the Microsoft 365 Voice, we discuss the steps you need to take if you suspect you’ve had a M365 security breach:

Step 1 – Don’t panic!

Step 2 – Stop the bleeding. Take immediate steps to triage and determine at what level the security breach occurred.

Step 3 – Take corrective action.

Step 4 – Inform key partners, leaders, stakeholders, etc.

Step 5  – Protect yourself in the future.

Don’t miss the end of the episode, where we discuss pivotal steps you should take to prepare for a data breach before one occurs. Whether you’re part of an extensive M365 administrative team or a one-person department, there are steps you should take now to give yourself a playbook for handling any future security breaches.

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.


Helping your users understand Microsoft 365 terminology

As Microsoft 365 practitioners, it’s our job to help information workers and end-users understand how to work with Microsoft Teams, Planner, SharePoint, OneDrive, etc. Having a common set of defined terms helps your users stay on top of M365 feature changes and capabilities. If your organization hasn’t done so already, I recommend coming up with a M365 “style guide.” The style guide should define the way in which you refer to M365 products and features. For example:

  • How will you refer to a Microsoft Teams team? And how will you distinguish that team from the Teams product or from a SharePoint team site?
  • Will you double-up on descriptive terms like “Planner plan” and “Teams team” when you refer to specific M365 groups?
  • Will you use capitalization alone to denote an individual plan from the Planner product?

In this episode of M365 Voice, we discuss the challenge of building our enterprise Microsoft vocabulary. Listen in for ideas on how you can consistently refer to your M365 features and products. Enjoy!

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.


Which Microsoft 365 mobile applications do you use most? And which apps are your favorite?

We went mobile for this episode of the Microsoft 365 Voice, discussing which mobile apps we use most and why. Our top 10 list of apps include:

  • Outlook
  • Microsoft Teams
  • OneDrive
  • OneNote
  • Microsoft 365 Admin
  • Power Automate
  • SharePoint
  • Office
  • Power Apps
  • To-Do

We discussed trends we’ve seen in organizational adoption of the M365 mobile apps, along with differences in our work vs. personal use. (Hint: The OneDrive and OneNote mobile apps win for most-used personal apps…)


Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.


Determining if you should enable Microsoft Self-Service


To drive effective utilization of Microsoft 365, we have to create new Microsoft Teams, Planner plans, Yammer communities, and SharePoint Online sites on a timely basis. But many organizations have gatekeeping reviews or regulatory requirements that require reviews and/or approvals prior to creating new teams, plans, communities, and sites. The tension between quick creation and required governance leads to difficult decisions:

  • What (if any) approvals should be required in order to get a new team, plan, community, or site?
  • How quickly should the new team, plan, community, or site be provided? Is 2 hours quick enough? How about 2 days? 2 weeks?
  • Who should be able to request a new team, plan, community, or site? And should they have to declare a business purpose or specify the type of data (e.g. company confidential, personal information, highly classified, etc.) included?
  • Who will approve the creation of teams, plans, communities, and sites?

You also need to decide what type of self-service model you’d like to leverage. A request and fulfillment model begins with an employee completing an intake request for a team, plan, community, or site. This intake would then be processed on an automated or manual basis. If the request was found to be valid (within appropriate parameters), the new team, plan, community, or site request would be fulfilled. A create and certify model enables employees to create and use their new teams, plans, communities, and sites immediately. Creators would then receive required attestation or registration forms that must be completed within an allotted time period or their new team, plan, community, or site will be deleted. Some companies use a certify and create model where employees complete a required registration process and are then provided a new team, plan, community, or site.

Your organizational culture, regulatory requirements, and governance/auditing needs should drive your decisions on enabling Microsoft 365 self-service. There is no one-size-fits-most model for success. In Episode 24 of the Microsoft 365 Voice, we share ideas for choosing a self-service model, provide examples of what we’ve seen work well, and give some getting-started ideas. We hope you enjoy the episode!

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.


Microsoft 365 is huge. Where should companies start?

In this week’s episode of the Microsoft 365 Voice, we were asked where & how companies should get started with M365. It’s far from a one-size-fits-most answer, as company needs differ widely. Drivers to get to the cloud can include:

  • Need to support Work From Home during COVID
  • Need to support regulatory requirements for data classification, version control, etc.
  • Need to support a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy for a distributed, remote, and mobile workforce
  • Need for stronger employee collaboration
  • Need to move off old hardware that is too expensive to maintain/support
  • Need to drive parity in software versions for all employees
  • An upcoming renewal fee that requires getting off a legacy system

And many more…

We shared our experiences guiding clients through the M365 onboarding process, recommending a start in the identity and security space. From there we examined workloads across M365, sharing how we’ve seen other companies proceed. While many organizations start with email first, we also discussed rollouts of Microsoft Teams (both with and without SharePoint/OneDrive enablement), Stream, and Yammer.

We hope you enjoy the episode!

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.

Getting started with SharePoint home sites

SharePoint home sites provide a landing page and a Microsoft 365 “home” for your organization. An effective home site brings together personalized organizational news for your employees along with events, conversations, videos, and content.

Your home site will be your Microsoft 365 home base. Your tenant admin can configure your Microsoft 365 navigation bar so users are taken to your home site when they click on your company logo. And when mobile users click on the “home” icon in their SharePoint mobile app, they’ll be taken to your home site.

As the new Microsoft 365 landing site for your organization, your home site needs to engage users, reflect your brand identity, and highlight key organizational news and messaging. And if you incorporate SharePoint shy headers and megamenu navigation, your home site can connect your employees with key SharePoint sites and hubs across your tenant. When home sites are paired with company branding, hub sites, and effective site designs, they support your organization’s intelligent intranet.

You can only have one home site in  your tenant, and the home site must be a SharePoint Communications site. Your home site can also be a hub site.

A natural progression
Many organizations already have a de-facto home site within their tenant. The site may serve as their launchpad for Microsoft 365, providing getting-started information for their users. Building a de-facto home site can be a great stepping stone on the path to implementing the intelligent intranet at your organization. Making your de-facto home site a SharePoint Communications site will ensure the site can be promoted to an official home site when you are ready.

Enabling a home site
Your administrator will need to use PowerShell to elevate your SharePoint Communications into a home site. When you designate a home site for your tenant, the site receives several key feature enhancements:

  • It becomes an official organizational news site
  • Its search scope is automatically reset to be tenant-wide
  • It is linked to from the home button on your SharePoint mobile app (enabling 1-click access)
  • It is connected to your SharePoint start page

Want to see sites in action?
Check out the SharePoint look book ( to see some beautifully-built example sites. Microsoft even enables you to provision the sites in your tenant!

More information on home sites

And don’t forget to check out our Microsoft 365 Voice podcast episode on home sites and hubs:

The top 5 Microsoft Teams features every business user should know

20200713_155334454_iOSIn this week’s episode of the Microsoft 365 Voice, we were asked to share the top 5 Microsoft Teams features every business user should know. We couldn’t stop at 5, so welcome to our top 19 Teams features! A quick list of features discussed is provided below. Watch the episode for more details.

  1. Adding apps (e.g. Yammer) to your Teams navigation rail
  2. Live captioning
  3. Integrating key documents into Teams tabs
  4. Using two Teams instances (Teams application and Teams in your browser) when sharing your screen in meetings
  5. Blurred background
  6. Raise your hand
  7. Teams mobile app
  8. Automated permission enablement of files shared in a private chat
  9. Teams command bar
  10. Ability to share conversation history when you add someone to a chat
  11. Meeting notes & whiteboarding
  12. Transcription of recorded Teams meetings (just let everyone know they’re being recorded!)
  13. Creating a well-designed Team (using tabs, adding quick links to key documents, etc.)
  14. Ability to email a Teams channel
  15. Quickly notify team members of a key channel post by typing @team in your post
  16. Using tags in Microsoft Teams to notify key team members
  17. Using the Files tab in your Teams navigation rail to see recently-edited Microsoft 365 files
  18. Teams camera switching (useful if you have multiple webcams)
  19. Pinning a video during a Teams meeting so you can zoom in on a speaker

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.

Microsoft Teams – Insights from the experts!

ShareGate has assembled a new Ebook with expert insights on deploying, managing, and using Microsoft Teams. From deployment to governance to adoption, learn how to make the most of your Teams deployment!

Here’s a sneak peak into some of the topics covered:

  • Leveraging training as a governance best-practice
  • Consumption doesn’t equal adoption (it’s not all about your volume of teams)
  • Review your default Teams settings – and make sure they work for your org
  • Focus on your user’s needs and pain points (not on cool features)
  • Determine how self-service can help drive growth

Don’t miss my recommendations about having authentic dialogue about your Teams data security (page 36). Enjoy your free copy of Win as a Team!