Well it has been a busy few months, I have started my dream job as a Power Platform Consultant at QUANTIQ which I am really enjoying. I had my chat with James Philips and the all hands chat with Charles Lamanna which were both epic.
Then the icing on the cake !
I was asked to speak as part of the Connection Zone series for Humans of IT at Microsoft Ignite on 2nd March. This was an amazing honor and I really want to thank Allie Thompson and Kady Riggan for all the support in the lead up to and on the day. It was one of the proudest moments of my career talking about my main two passions - the Power Platform and mental health and then demoing my proof of concept Mental Health Check in canvas app (available for download here)
Over 700 people watched the session live, and there were some amazing comments and questions coming in from all over the globe and I wanted to take a moment to ensure that I have answered these as best I can, so I am going to do that here. If you have not watched my session at ignite, you can do that here:
I will try and break down the questions into a few sections, so that some of the questions and therefore my answer can be grouped together:
Mental Health Awareness
There were a lot of comments from people who said they were suffering with mental health issues and this was probably one of the most amazing parts of doing this for me. Even if one person is able to bring themselves to open up to their partner, counsellor, doctor or someone close to them then this is the primary reason why I have done this.
"I love this.. i too suffer and it's horrible" "I struggle with crippling anxiety, thank you for hosting this event. I am looking forward to your insights" "Usually I'm the rock for my friends and my close ones, but my extraverted personality and the current world situation is not really the best for my own mental health. Also I was COVID-POS, and it left me with pretty bad stamina. I'm getting angry with getting tired so quickly, and very slow recovery is not helping." "It is hard to talk about, but talking helps." "Just showing up to drive conversations like this is so important for awareness and change. Thank you for putting yourself out there and so enthusiastically. It will help so many people and is wonderful to see."
As I have explained before in other posts, talking about it in the past has been very hard for me. It would take the people closest to me to ask me the right questions to get me to open up and even then it could take a long time.
So I wanted to say thank you to every single person who left a comment to say that they too had been feeling anxious, it is a brave first step.
App design/Implementation/further development
"Have you thought about incorporating the CBT best practices into the app?"
As the app is very much a proof of concept, this is an area I would like to look into, I think the app could do with a review of someone who is in the profession. I was basing the app on the experiences I have had with anxiety and always had that in mind when designing and implementing it. I wanted the app to be easy to use, first and foremost, so that anyone having a bad time would be able to jump on it and journalise how they were feeling quickly, right in that moment.
Implementing best practices of CBT is something that I would love to explore.
"Hey Jon! What's the biggest feature you'd like to add to the Mental Health check-in app in future that you think would have a big impact?" "This is a POC - what are you hoping to do next for your PowerApp?" "Amazing work, Jon! This is the perfect start to helping people become more aware of their anxiety. Are there any plans to extend it? I.E. Graphing the entries?"
I would love to be able to tie in some further support mechanisms to able the user to be able to contact help at the push of a button. Mental Health First Aiders for example, or even their company's occupational health. There are some elements of that built in the app, but people using the app may want to further expand into this area. I also would like to utilise the GPS capabilities of the phone, so that when entering a journal entry the GPS points are captured, so that if someone was feeling bad, their last known location would be able to be captured.
All of this could then be monitored by Occupational Health (or equivalent) via a real time Power BI dashboard.
I would also like to build in sentiment analysis that would take the journal entries and check them to see how someone was feeling and if that differed from what they actually clicked in the app (happy, neutral, sad).
People who want to help others
"The Mental Health First Aid program is excellent. I highly recommened it also. We had our school district hold it for staff and community a few years ago." "I love the idea of being a Mental Health First Aider. Our organization is interested in creating more awareness and equiping leaders and employees but we are just getting started. Any tips for getting going on the right foot?" "What is the best way to get technology companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google to actually address issues that raise anxiety? It seems like they all like talking about it, but really do little when addressing issues related to their technology and/or processes? It feels like after years and years of trying to get processes to address issues that they cannot see within their own bubble/reality-distortion-field. I would love to make environments better, but it seems like it is impossible to make any headway in a meaningful way." "You are inspiring! Just one question, as someone with a technical background, how would you suggest to get into mental health counseling for others?"
There were a lot of questions around Mental Health First Aid. I am proud to have done the training and I think it is one of my greatest achievements, and I have been able to lend a listening ear to people who have been in situations where they have reached out for help. I am not a qualified counsellor, although I have studied counselling, but I felt this first aid course was a great way to be able to pay it forward for people who are suffering and need someone to point them in the right direction for help.
I am based in the UK, and here you can do the Mental health first aid course which is developed by the MHFA England, please check their website out here for more info. In the USA, I have done some research and found this website which may be of use for people based there - please check out their website here .
"Any tips for people who can support others who are going through this? e.g. things to look for in others, how to listen, what not to say..." "how do you know if someone close to you is having an anxiety attack and what to do in such a situation? how to support?" "How do you get people to open up about their feelings and be honest?" "Awesome session -- do you have any tips on what to do in times of anxiety?"
These ones are difficult to answer, from a personal experience I know it is very difficult for my wife Katie at times. When I am in an anxious phase, she says it is like looking at someone else. I think the one thing that I have started to do for her is to make sure she knows of any friends that have similar experiences and allow those that are supporting others with mental health issues have a place to talk to each other, to be able to share their experiences on how they deal with it. Doing the mental health first aid course above is also a very good start.
As for signs of anxiety, for me and for others that I have spoken to, I seem to go from this quite bubbly chap to a complete introvert, I shut down the world and just go inward. My wife is now able to see what that looks like as she has experienced it many times and so can see this happening. The trick to all of this is to try and have discussions with whoever is having the mental health problems outside of when they feel anxious or depressed - if that is possible. They will more than likely be able to explain their triggers to you, and that will allow you to build up a picture of what to do and say when the time comes.
An amazing place to start is with open questions, like How are you? It might sound simple, but just that simple question will confirm to the anxiety sufferer that they have seen what is happening and are willing to listen.
Why is Mental Health not discussed enough?
This is a really in depth topic, there was one question from my Ignite talk on it:
"Hard question: Why do you think that mental health is not as readily talked about as opposed to a more "traditional" issue? How do you think we can improve this topic?"
You are right, it is a very hard question to answer. I think there is a lot to be said for why men don't talk about it enough, I think some see it as a weakness and that they need to "man up" - wow, I HATE that phrase.
People in general need to understand that mental health should be treated like your physical health. It is all wrapped up in the same body, but neurophysical issues, childhood trauma, instability of the family home while growing up are just some examples of what can lead to poor mental health and they are very challenging subjects to discuss. It has taken me the best part of 7 years to be able to be confident and articulate enough in my own skin to be able to present what I did at Ignite. Even if you had asked me a year ago to do it, I don't think I could have done, I wasn't ready.
How do I get started in Power Apps?
Wow, there were a lot of you asking this question or similar:
"How should I get started with Power Apps?" "How would you suggest getting started building apps in Power Apps if I don't have access to the full suite?" "I have somewhat above average tech abilities but I'm not really a programmer. How difficult would the anxiety tracking app be to implement? And how much access do I need? I'm not an administrator on my network. " "Advice on the best way to start using Power Apps?" "As a non-technical person without a background in programming, how would you recommend I get started learning and using the Power Platform?"
Thank you for these questions, as I said at the outset, the Power Platform has been a game changer for me in many ways, positives in mental health, I have secured a new job.
I started with the internet, and a thirst for knowlegde. I have never been that technical, always in jobs where I was probably slightly more involved on the business side than the tech side. I am also a massive visual learner and really love what you can do with the Power Platform.
There is so much out there. I suggest you start at getting a community license for the Power Platform. April Dunham's youtube video shows you how to do this:
Following on from that, you should check out these people's channels:
All of these are amazing resources.
If you want to get really stuck into the Power Platform, then have a look at the PL-900 course and exam on Microsoft Docs. This will walk you through all the key components of the Power Platform.
Thank you too !
There were also loads of comments from people just saying thank you. Thank you so much for these, some of the comments were really inspiring and great to read. Thank you very much for taking the time to watch the presentation and comment, it means a lot to me.