“Family is the center of my identity”
After learning others’ stories in a safe space, Blake opened up about—and later advocated inclusion for—a hidden disability that affects other employees and their family members.
Family is at the center of my identity. In Hawaiian, ‘ohana means family, but the concept extends beyond the nuclear to include extended family, close friends, colleagues, and the broader community.
I come from a background made up of Chinese, Japanese, and Hawaiian heritage, and much of who I am today stems from spending summers as a child with my extended family in Hawai‘i. It was here that I cultivated a unique appreciation for ethnic foods, music, and traditions.
Family has also been key in supporting me through some of the hardest and scariest moments of my life. In second grade, I had my first seizure and was eventually diagnosed with epilepsy.
When I started at Microsoft, not many people were aware that I had epilepsy. Epilepsy is often considered a “hidden disability,” as the symptoms may not be immediately apparent to others. I am fortunate that my epilepsy is now controlled by medication and has limited impact on my day to day.
After attending the Microsoft Ability Summit and hearing the stories of others, I decided to share my own experience. I advocated for the inclusion of an epilepsy-focused space within the neurodiverse community and have met with many employees who have epilepsy or a family member who is impacted. It has been an inspiring experience to listen to their stories and share my own.
Microsoft has created a safe space for me to continue to explore and grow. Each day I come to work with a fresh perspective and drive to learn more about topics impacting the AAPI and neurodiverse communities that I identify with. I enjoy that we have the chance to build our own ‘ohana and discover an authentic voice that is driven by those who are a part of that community. It is especially important in today’s climate to celebrate our differences.
—Blake, identifies as Chinese, Japanese, and Hawaiian
Photography by AV Goodsell