My laptop case is a pretty authentic representation of me — I love music, traveling, and anything reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest. Just like these stickers are a gateway to a conversation about what I love most, so is my writing!

How do you write about yourself?

I’ve been getting this question a lot ever since I decided to write about my experience as a Microsoft intern via LinkedIn and Medium. Because I’ve written a lot of news articles for The Daily of the University of Washington, my school newspaper, and the Center for Neurotechnology.

I’m used to celebrating other people’s work and highlighting communities who are typically overlooked.

That’s why I wrote an article about the STARS program, a program for incredibly bright pre-engineering students who come from economically disadvantaged and educationally underserved communities. When interviewing students or advisers for this story, it became clear that so many people were motivated to make a better life for their families and communities, and engineering was a way for them to do it. I always knew that everyone deserved to have access to a high quality education, but we need programs like STARS to make this possible for everyone. Up until that article, their story hadn’t featured in The Daily, so I was proud to write a story that celebrated this program and everything that its students achieve.

The STARS students (courtesy photo from The Daily)

Contrastingly, reflective writing is an exercise in turning the camera to focus on me and how I’m growing because of the stories that people tell me. That’s what I did in my Medium articles “Working at a tech company as a person of color” and “Creating and fostering a supportive workplace culture,” among others.

I’ve found that reflective writing is a way for me to put my voice back into my work. We often tell stories about who we should be or aspire to become, but when I write, I capture the present.

My writing is pretty vulnerable because I talk about how my experienced is informed by my identity as a Pakistani Muslim woman, and I’m not afraid to highlight moments of self-doubt or impostor syndrome that occurred along the way. I’m so glad that I choose to share my perspective because I’ve received nothing but love and support from my community, but I know it can be hard to talk about yourself in such a public and personal way.

My scribble-laden notebook and calendar!

Through this writing, I’ve discovered that I’m a resilient educator and storyteller who is always pulling from my identity as a Pakistani Muslim woman. Knowing this has helped me tell my own story better. I’ve realized that I lead with resilience and I’m not afraid to share little pieces of myself in everyday conversations. So, when students come into the Writing Center for help on their personal statement, I assure them that I understand the stress of the application process and promise that I’ll impart whatever wisdom I have about that program or major — and I think people are more receptive to my help because of it.

I encourage you to share your truth, whatever it is, because people want to hear it. With self-publishing outlets like Medium, you don’t have to wait for a publisher to pick up your story! It’s a way to re-introduce your voice into your work.

So, what story about yourself can inspire others, and how can you share it? I look forward to seeing your stories manifested in whatever way feels the most genuine.

Writer at Microsoft | Human Centered Design and Engineering Alumna | Lifting as I climb | www.aleenahansari.com