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Microsoft’s support of four time cancer survivor’s battle

Mike Thompson blushes a bit when he hears himself referenced as a role model or hero, but Microsoft and the Austin community came out en masse to support his goal to compete in the IronMan World Championship.



Mike Thompson

Mike Thompson

Fourth time leukemia survivor forges ahead

At age 10, Mike Thompson was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer that he battled for many years, fighting through pain, anxiety, fear, depression, two bone marrow transplants, and a 12 hour facial reconstruction procedure that used part of his fibula to replace his jaw after a tumor was removed. Fast forward to today, and “Iron Mikey” is a fourth time leukemia survivor devoted to not only raising awareness about cancer and cancer research, but has become a multi-sport athlete currently training for his next Ironman competition after competing in the IronMan Texas competition in 2011.

Currently, Thompson is participating in a video contest that could send him to compete in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii in October. His video entry, entitled “Love for Life – My Own Finish Line,” has catapulted him into the finals where he will have to place first or second place out of the 15 finalists to secure his space in the competition. Voting (done by clicking “vote for this” under his video) ends on July third and one vote per day is allowed per IP user, and winners are chosen based on unique votes and view counts.

Thompson’s trainer, Steve Blackmon calls Mikey a butterfly, referencing not only his small frame and powerful internal engine, but his perpetual optimism, cheerfulness, and difficulty focusing. Blackmon joked that he often chastises Thompson for missing a training session or not uploading his workout stats because he’s out speaking about blood cancer research, or visiting with children in the hospital, alluding to Thompson’s massive ambition and dedication to the cause.

How Microsoft is helping to launch Iron Mikey into the finals

Three years ago, Albert Springall, a Solutions Manager for Enterprise Accounts at Microsoft joined the Board of Advisors at the Central Texas Chapter at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), and met “Iron Mikey” when he raced to raise money for blood cancer research. Later, Springall joined the Board of Directors of Go Mitch Go, a charity set up by the parents of Mitchell Whitaker who lost his 26 month battle with Acute Lymphyocytic Leukemia in September 2007, at the age of 10.

Go Mitch Go was born out of the Whitaker parents’ efforts during his illness to find ways to help and encourage other children with blood cancers and their respective families by organizing fundraisers, providing supplies, enlisting support, giving encouragement, and participating in many events sponsored by the Leukemia Lymphoma Society (LLS) and the Oklahoma University (OU) Children’s Hospital. Mitchell’s last words were “keep fighting,” which the family says has adopted since his initial diagnosis. The family’s goal is to raise one million dollars during their lifetime for blood cancer research, and are doing so by fundraising for research, supporting children and families battling the disease, and assisting the families in crisis.

According to the LLS, research is critical in light of research that reveals one person in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer approximately every four minutes. Springall consistently raises funds and raises awareness and encourages people to vote for Mikey or donate to Go Mitch Go to help families impacted by blood cancers.

Springall’s involvement in blood cancer research, the LLS, and Go Mitch Go culminated in the organization of a massive voting event in support of his friend, Mikey. On Friday, the new Microsoft Store in Austin, Texas was filled with supporters that were invited to the facilities to use the computers in a round robin type voting, wherein each person would log in to their Facebook account, vote, sign out, then move on to the computer to their right, since each voter is limited to one vote per day, unless a separate IP address is used. The Microsoft Store offered up 50 IP addresses, and all demo devices for attendees to show their support for Mikey’s bid at getting to the IronMan World Championship.

Goosebumps in the midst of so many people present to vote

Looking out over all of the people in the store voting for Mikey, he said it was giving him goosebumps just witnessing it, and was honored not only for their support, but because people were there because they were inspired. “There’s so much to be negative about- your team losing in the NBA finals, politics, and stuff going on in the world, and people don’t focus on the fact that there is so much to celebrate, like having food, and voting parties, or group work outs, or even the ability to watch dancing competitions on tv. These little things should be celebrated every day.”

Microsoft not only opened up their retail location in support of the cause, but offers all employees $17 per hour when they are doing charity work, which is donated directly to that charity, and matches up to $12,000 raised for charities by Microsoft employees, urging all employees to get involved in their communities and to help others, shedding light on a massive corporation’s often overlooked philanthropic side.

When asked if being a triathlete was part of Thompson’s long term plans, he said, “I want to do it for as long as I’m able. More than that though, I just want other people to pursue their goals. It doesn’t have to be a triathlon or run a marathon, or anything like that, it simply has to be something that makes them happy so they’ll pursue it and make dreams out of it, make goals out of it, and accomplish it.”

Thompson added that people should do anything they can to be happy, “because people like Mitchell would do anything to be alive with their family doing those things.” He tells supporters, “I’ve been blessed with an incredible amount of support from this campaign. Your words of encouragement have made me feel more privileged than ever to still be alive, and I’m eternally thankful for you. I love you all, and thank you for making this life worth living.”

Watch the video, go vote

If you would like to support Iron Mikey, watch, vote, and share his video here (or here for mobile viewers) once per day through July 3, 2012.
[ba-youtubeflex videoid=”ostdLIK7Z3c”]

vote for mikey

Photos from the Microsoft Store voting event

flip flop events georgetown
Mikey Thompson, Go Mitch Go

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  1. alex_ion

    July 2, 2012 at 5:59 am

    RT @AmyVernon: “Iron Mikey” 4-time leukemia survivor & multi-sport athlete – raising awareness 4 cancer research

  2. ginidietrich

    July 2, 2012 at 10:40 am

    @AgentGenius I never know which Twitter handle I’m supposed to use for your stuff!

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Business News

Survey indicates that small businesses are optimistic despite COVID-19

(BUSINESS NEWS) Facebook survey captures tumult of spring 2020 on small and medium business, with a dash of optimism going into the summer.



small businesses logo

This story contains information that probably will not evoke shock and awe by now, but is nonetheless upsetting. Stop now and check to see if you need a news cycle break before ingesting more garbage depressive news about the economy – but if you can wade through it, I promise it ends on a high note!

Though Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is running amuck in the political world like one of those signs at restaurants that say “unattended children will be given ice cream and a puppy,” Facebook continues to effectively build an online community of more than 2.6 billion people worldwide – including more than half of the population in the United States. Given their audience and ease of access to business owners, they decided to use their powers for good for once to survey small and medium businesses.

The survey returned responses from 38,078 business owners and managers, 39,104 employees, and 8,694 personal enterprises in the United States (total of 85,876 respondents). Respondents’ industries spanned manufacturing, retail, services, logistics, hospitality, construction, and agriculture. Thirty-three percent of businesses were urban, forty-two percent were urban, and twenty-five percent were rural.

Here’s where it gets depressing: thirty-one percent of businesses reported closing in the last three months, with 71 percent of those closing since March 1. For personal businesses, 52 percent are closed. Of those businesses still operating, 60 percent reported a reduced workload, and 60 percent also report struggling with finances. Employee wages, bills, and rent were the top areas of financial concern.

So how is this important segment of the economy surviving the crisis? Forty-one percent of business owners and managers said they could pull from personal savings, but 45 percent said zero-interest loans were the most helpful option to subsidize lost business.

Unsurprisingly, 79% of businesses say they have made some change to operations to accommodate their customers and keep things moving, like using digital tools and delivery services.

The survey found some interesting geographical differences, for example, that businesses in the Southeast have made slightly more physical adjustments to business like offering curbside pickup and home delivery. They also found differences in strategy by leadership gender: “Businesses led by women are more likely to be using digital tools, particularly with online advertising (43%) and digital payment tools (40%), compared to just 37% and 34%, respectively, of businesses led by men.” And the differences don’t stop at the strategic level. More women owner-managers (33%) reported that managing life in a pandemic at home was affecting their ability to focus on work than men (25%).

Amongst all the chaos, people are optimistic about the future. In fact, 57% of owner-managers are optimistic or extremely optimistic about the future of business. For employees, the results were surprisingly similar. Even though only 45% of SMB owner-managers and 32% of personal businesses reported that they would rehire the same workers when their businesses reopened, 59% of both the employed and unemployed were at least somewhat optimistic about their future employment.

And now for a quote from President Barack Obama’s 2008 New Hampshire Primary speech amidst our last recession, without a smidge of tacky irony or liberal preaching: “We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we’ve been told we’re not ready, or that we shouldn’t try, or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: ‘Yes we can.’”

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Business News

Who will get to work from home once COVID-19 stay-home orders are over?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Many large tech firms review and update their work from home policies. This could be presented as THE biggest work perk of 2021.



work from home

The large tech firms that we all know and use frequently are making big announcements on their timing and policies for their employees to work from home as updates on COVID-19 come in.

Square and Twitter have said many employees will work from home indefinitely – even after states begin to open back up. Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have all extended dates on returning to offices. You can read more details here on The Verge.

Let’s break down some pros and cons – especially if this means that working from home will become the hottest recruiting tool in the future. Like ping pong tables and Friday at 4pm beer carts once were.

Some high-level things that contribute to why people love (or tolerate) their W2 jobs:

  • They like the PEOPLE they work with
  • They have a feeling of purpose, and genuinely enjoy the work
  • There are miscellaneous perks (gym membership reimbursement, free cafeterias, personal development workshops, tuition reimbursement, travel opportunities)
  • Their employer helps to pay for healthcare benefits, and makes 401K contributions
  • Their team rotates, and they get to work from home once in a while*

*This is nice to allow some flexibility. Employees can choose to treat their morning how they would like (maybe wake up a little later, or enjoy their coffee at a coffee shop). It allows them to not rush out the door to sit in traffic, or on the bus or train. They can take the day off of wearing real pants, and work in pajamas. Heck, they can even save time on Saturday or Sunday by doing the laundry on their work from home (WFH) day. It could also be a great opportunity to fit in doctor appointments, or have real quality focus time – missing less of the work day.

This is NOT an implication that people work less that day, in fact working from home, you usually work more because there are not things that force you to break up the day like the commute, meetings, or lunch with your colleagues.

Some high-level things that might contribute to the desire to be an entrepreneur:

  • Your work is a main piece of your identity – usually being a product or service that YOU created, and it leverages a perfect marriage of your talents, skills, and passions
  • You likely get to be your own boss, and make your own creative decisions
  • You constantly have the opportunity to learn, and this can be great for those who love the constant change and challenges
  • It’s just never really worked out for you to work for someone else, or for a corporation
  • Something drives you to build something of your own
  • Working from home* in all its glory

*A common misconception of the entrepreneurship or freelance lifestyle is that you work from home or a coffee shop, and it’s oh so very sexy and freeing, and you get to do whatever you want whenever you want. While arguably, yes, you do have more control over your schedule, and there are perks to your own business; likely you are working 24/7, and wearing every single hat from the Producer to Customer Services to Finance to the Accounting department. This requires you to be really open to learning or knowing what you don’t know, and possibly hiring experts.

So, moving forward, will the “you can work remotely! From wherever you’d like” become the hottest recruiting trend of 2021? Here’s why we predict that may not be the best way to move forward.

  1. People are social creatures. Working from home sporadically vs 100% of the time are two completely different things. You could possibly lose the momentum with your teams if they no longer know and trust one another. Plus, no doubt there will be turn-over, and when there are numerous parts and teams, it can be helpful for them to have in person experiences together.
  2. Does this make sense for the commercial real estate industry, and the leases that have been signed? It’s unlikely that many large corporations just perfectly timed their leases that align with COVID-19. Many will likely want to bring people back just for that fact.
  3. All of this takes an enormous amount of money, additional tech support, and infrastructure, (not to mention mailing costs for all office equipment, etc.) and it’s not possible that only the most profitable firms will prevail and be able to do this.
  4. How would large cities (read: high cost of living) like the Bay Area be able to retain talent, and/or why would you pay to live there if you can live anywhere. This could drastically shift urban planning and development.

We just don’t see it moving all the way to the extreme of all knowledge workers working from home indefinitely. If you want to see how people are feeling about working from home, you have to check out this Buzzfeed article, “Zoom Fatigue is Real, And You Probably Have It If You Relate to These 16 Tweets.”

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Business News

Weight Watchers lays off 4K employees on a brief Zoom call #cold

(BUSINESS NEWS) WW fires thousands of employees over Zoom, no questions asked or answered. So much for Wellness that Works, live up to your motto.



WW homescreen

WW International, formerly known as Weight Watchers, fired thousands of employees on a 3-minute phone call on Thursday, May 14. The call was muted so participants could not ask questions. Employee emails were closed by the weekend.

It is unclear exactly how many employees were let go, with some reporting up to 4,000. WW has declined to report the number. Laid off employees were both part-time and full-time. Some had been working for WW for more than a decade.

WW has been slowly shifting its services online, including building a comprehensive app for users to track their food. Founded in 1963, the weight loss company has come a long way from paper-and-pencil weight tracking. In 2018, the company changed its name from Weight Watchers to WW, adopting the slogan “Wellness that Works,” in a move to fully embrace the trendy wellness and self-care movements that have gripped younger audiences.

CFO Nick Hotchkin said, “It wasn’t practical to have all of the conversations be one on one.”

WW has staked its claim on empathy. They have cultivated a community of people motivated to lose weight, and support others on the same journey to also live a healthier lifestyle. Many WW employees are former customers who were so committed to the mission they wanted to join the community as a coach or meeting leader. The company offered many part-time roles that fit the schedules of full-time mothers, their primary demographic of clients from its inception.

Firing swaths of employees over Zoom calls is the latest form of cruelty in the employment chaos that the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted on the economy. But companies can make choices – especially international mega-companies that bring in more than a billion dollars in revenue annually.

Has WW no sense of irony? Just two days before this call, WW announced a free, four-week virtual experience led by Oprah Winfrey, a WW investor, client, and champion.

“Now, it’s more important than ever to be and stay well and strong. Together, let’s reset, refocus and find clarity in what matters most,” Oprah said of the program. Apparently, thousands of employees are not considered an asset to the togetherness of this occasion.

Of course, WW like many other companies has a right to let go employees in anticipation of changes in business. But if caring for your employees, and conducting layoffs with empathy, grace, and compassion is not on the list of “what matters most,” then WW is sorely lacking mission alignment. It is severely disappointing to see a company driven by a compassionate mission act in such a callous way.

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